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Monday, October 18, 2010

So many ways to assemble

It's hard to deny that in recent years The Avengers franchise has more or less surpassed Spider-man and the X-men as the main seller of Marvel comics. In one way it's understandable. The team has always been a gathering of some of the company's greatest heroes, and quiet a few off-beat figures as well, and writers generally pit them up against foes that no single superhero could withstand in confrontations that have had comic book readers on the edge of their seats for over 40 years. Readers still speak fondly of such classic storylines as the Kree-Skrull War, Under Siege, Korvac Saga and Ultron Unlimited. With such a strong legacy and premise it was only a matter of time before the franchise ended up on top of the sales charts.

Unfortunately it happened when the title relaunched in a new direction with writer Brian Michaels Bendis at the helm. Personally I'm not a fan of Bendis' writing style but obviously lots of other people enjoy it so I'll save my Bendis rant for some other day. Anyway, with the Avengers selling so good and a new comic book movie poping up seemingly every year nowadays it's logical that people would speculate about an Avengers movie. The main question for such a movie would be this.

How the hell would that work?

Unlike the members of the X-men and the Fantastic Four, the Avengers don't have have a shared or similar origin. They're heroes from all over the Marvel universe that gather together to kick ass and be awesome. So to make an Avengers movie you'd either have to just ignore telling anything else but the team's origin story and leave the non-comic book audience wonder where the hell all these characters come from. Or you tell short versions of each character's origin and that would just be a big mess. So what's the solution?

The most awesome in geek-cinema history yet!

We've already had two Iron man movies, that were both awesome, one new Hulk movie and in 2011 we're going to get a Thor movie and a Captain America movie. There've been hints in the Iron man and Hulk movies for a larger universe and characters have appeared in both movies. All of this is to show that they're in the same universe. Besides being stories in their own rights these movies will lead in to the big event in 2012 when they all join together for the Avengers movie!

In short, the origin of the most important characters, who tend to have the most complex origin stories, will have been told to the non-comic book reading movie goers so that the movies can focus on the gathering and first adventure of the team. Not only is that sort of brilliant from a marketing stand point, I can't think of any other instance in cinema history where a project like this has been attempted.

And it's real. There's a schedule for when each movie is going to be released. The entire main cast has selected and revealed, a few of which we've already seen in the Iron man movies. They all even appeared together for a panel at the San Diego Comic Con International along with the director and one of Marvel Studios film producers.

Who's the director you ask? None other than Joss Freaking Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! ...I should be more excited about that than I actually am. The thing is that at the height of my BtVS fan-frenzy the announcement of Whedon directing The Avengers movie would've been like a god-send for me. But in later years I'm more capable of seeing the flaws in his story-telling skills. That's not to say that I dislike his work. I still admire the guy immensely. I'm just a bit vary about what he might do with the movie.

Then again, with a project like this I have no idea at all who would be able to direct it in a way that would be satisfying to both common movie goers and fans of the comics. At least Whedon has shown great enthusiasm for these characters and he's a fully capable director and a gigantic geek with the full force of Marvel Studios at his disposal. There's a good chance that it'll all end up being awesome as all hell.

But first things first. For now we wait for the Captain America and Thor movies. Those will be very interesting to see next year.

So, am I done with this for now? Hell no! With The Avengers movie coming and Disney having bought Marvel comics you can bet your beepy, whatever the hell that is, that there's a cartoon based around the team coming. In fact, it's going to premiere on October 20 this year. But they've already aired a number of mini-episodes on youtube. I've watched them all and they are awesome.

The quality of both the writing as well as the animation is top-notch and the voice-work is excellent with each actor catching the characters' essence really well. These mini-episodes have served as sort of an introduction to the characters while at the same time introducing several plots that I'm certain will be touched upon during the cartoon's planned 52 episode run.

What amazes me the most is the number of stories that the creative team have planned here. In these mini-episodes I've seen seeds for storylines involving Asgard, time-travel, super-villain prison jailbreaks and much much more being planted. Overall, it just looks great and I can't help but compare the possibilities of the cartoon and the movie.

The target audience for the cartoon will most likely be able to accept the incredibly different places that all the characters on an Avengers comes from than movie audiences. So having the team gather together will probably be easier in the cartoon. And since a movie has to tell one story rather than one it is limited to only one, possibly two, major Avengers villains. The people behind the cartoon on the other hand can just pick any bad guy that they want to build an episode around. And with 52 episode that'll be a lot of villains.

But still, the movie is a much bigger project and I will admit a geeky glee at trying to figure out which villain could possibly be worthy enough for the honor of the Avengers first silver screen adventure.

All in all, I'm excited about both the movie and the cartoon. They carry a long and mostly awesome legacy on their shoulders so they're being handled with care and consideration. Whatever the medium it's a good time to be an Avengers fan... despite Brian Michael Bendis...

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