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A Non-Comic Reader's Guide to Marvel's Avengers

If you're only familiar with superheroes like Iron Man and Fantastic Four because you saw their movies, you may be a little puzzled about all the buzz going around about the Avengers. You may have sat through the credits of Iron Man 2 and been baffled by the giggling and cheers you heard while looking at a hammer on the ground. This is your chance to catch up on the Avengers.

What is the Avengers?

The Avengers are one of the most popular and powerful super-teams in comics. Published by Marvel Comics, the team began its run in September 1963.

How did the Avengers get their start?

The team came together by accident; supervillain Loki tried to kill Norse god Thor by luring him into combat with the Hulk. However, the conflict also drew in Iron Man and two lesser-known superheroes Ant-Man and the Wasp. In typical superhero fashion, the five of them fought each other before joining forces to defeat Loki. They decided they worked pretty well together as a team and called themselves the Avengers.

Who are the Avengers?

One of the things that makes the Avengers so popular is that, unlike teams like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers have no set members. All the original members of the Avengers have left and returned multiple times, and new members are recruited often, only to leave after a few issues. Really, the Avengers consist of whatever superheroes the writer decides to put in. They often will enlist the most popular Marvel superheroes to boost ratings.

A partial list of prior members are heavyweights like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Mister Fantastic, and Wolverine. The Avengers have more often included less popular superheroes like the Vision, Hercules, the Black Panther, and Ms. Marvel. The Avengers has even included former villains among its ranks like Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. One member who has frequently been included in the Avengers is Henry Pym, who has changed his superhero identity multiple times from Ant-Man to Giant Man, then Goliath, Yellowjacket, the Wasp, and even his real name. However, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Henry Pym, and Iron Man are the superheroes that are most identified with the Avengers.

Where's the connection with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury?

In 2002, Marvel re-booted the Avengers as a new comic series called the Ultimates. In the Ultimates, the team is assembled by General Nick Fury, leader of the super-secret government agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. The Ultimates consist of Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man, and the Wasp. It seems that the Avengers movie is going to be modeled after the Ultimates, but called the Avengers.

What's the big deal about the big-screen Avengers movie?

The big reason comic fans are so excited about the Avengers movie is that it will be the first time that major superheroes from different comic series have appeared in the same movie together. Fans have been waiting for movies based on other famous team-ups like Batman and Superman for decades. The Avengers looks like it will actually happen.

What leads fans to think the Avengers movie is coming?

Besides the behind-the-scenes action like the drafting of scripts, hinting of directors, and the release date set, Marvel has done a great job of foreshadowing the Avengers movie by including hidden clues in many of their movies. It's also become popular to include scenes after the credits, which started with Samuel L. Jackson's appearance as Nick Fury in Iron Man. The Ultimate's Nick Fury was originally designed to resemble Samuel L. Jackson, so it made the geeks go crazy when Jackson actually agreed to play the role in the movies. In The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark shows up after the credits to talk to General Ross, connecting Iron Man and the Hulk. In the end of Iron Man 2, we see a huge crater with a hammer in it clearly modeled after Thor's. The appearance of Captain America's shield in both Iron Man movies also connects them together.

So why haven't they released the Avengers movie yet?

Marvel wants to introduce the individual superheroes in their own movies before they combine them into the Avengers. That means we have two more movies before they can get there: Captain America and Thor. Both origin movies are scheduled to be released in 2011, which means the Avengers movie is coming in 2012.

Are you all caught up with the Avengers now? Looking forward to the Avengers movie?

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