Finally! The last of the Avengers Adaptation series!
Also, of note, Adaptations and the Superheroic Setting, which discusses the creation of a separate universe for different media. The Avengers and the movies leading up to it are a good example of creating a separate setting that shares common elements with the original work but still allows for creative interpretations. Otherwise, the nitpicking on minor details will get annoying and detracting.
In 1963, Marvel decided to pull together a team to challenge DC Comics’ Justice League of America. DC’s JLA comprised of the company’s heavy hitters – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, and the Atom. Marvel’s first attempt to counter the JLA resulted in The Fantastic Four. While The Fantastic Four succeeded, the team wasn’t what the publisher wanted. Stan Lee pulled together Marvel’s top tier characters – Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant-Man*, and the Wasp – to create a competitor. The characters came from Marvel’s top books; Iron Man’s Tales of Suspense, Thor’s Journey into Mystery, The Incredible Hulk, and Tales to Astonish, featuring Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The first issue of The Avengers brought the team together. Loki, wanting to exact revenge on Thor, lured the Hulk into attacking a railway car. When the call for help went out, Loki diverted it to Thor, inadvertently sending it to Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp as well. All four heroes converged and, setting the tone for not only the full Avengers run but also spin-offs, misunderstood each other to the point of in-fighting. Thor worked out the illusions and that his brother was behind them, allowing the heroes to team up and assemble as the Avengers.
The Hulk left in the second issue, leading to a fight against the Sub-Mariner. The fight, though, broke a chunk ice free from an ice floe, leading to the return of Captain America, who took the Hulk’s place on the team in issue 4. Hawkeye, who had appeared as an Iron Man villain in Tales of Suspense #57 joined the Avengers in issue 16. The Black Widow, another of Iron Man’s rogue gallery**, joined the team in issue 29.
In 2000, Marvel launched a new imprint, Ultimate Marvel. The original goal was to update backgrounds and clear out continuity snarls*** that caused potential new fans to be locked out from the regular universe’s titles. In the Ultimate line, the Avengers became The Ultimates, a team brought together by the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., one General Nick Fury****. The team comprised of Captain America, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Bruce Banner, and Iron Man; Banner would go on to inject himself with the super-soldier serum to become the Hulk, who the rest of the team stopped with the help of Thor. The second Ultimates series introduced Loki, who arranged for Thor to be put away as an escaped mental patient.
This leads to the movie, Marvel’s The Avengers+. Marvel Studios had an ambitious plan to release a number of movies leading up to one about Marvel’s mightiest team, the Avengers. The first movie in the Avengers Initiative was Iron Man, one that had fans wondering until the announcement of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Iron Man performed beyond expectations, allowing the rest of the series to continue. Each movie in the Initiative acted as the origin story for the title character, allowing The Avengers to get to the heart of its story without having to explain who all the characters were. SHIELD first appeared in Iron Man, although after the end credits, and reappeared in Iron Man 2. Hawkeye, Agent Clint Barton, appeared in Thor. During this, Disney bought Marvel, sending panic among fans. The first movie released with Disney as distributor was The Avengers.
The movie mixes mainline Marvel and Ultimate Marvel continuity. Changes were made to both line’s story on how the group formed and the composition of the team, but Loki remained the element that brought the team together. The heroes are brought to squabbling amongst each other, distrusting, as Loki tweaks each hero’s sore spot. The bickering becomes an all-out brawl on board the SHIELD Helicarrier, allowing Loki’s team of agents on board while the fighting disrupts and almost destroys the vessel. With the death++ of a SHIELD agent, the heroes pull together as a team to defeat Loki and his minions.
The Avengers isn’t a pure adaptation. However, especially in light of Lost in Translation #54, the creators bring in a number of elements from both the main Marvel continuity and the Ultimate line, blending the elements to let the movie stand as its own continuity. The movie also blends together the different themes from previous movies, from techno-thriller to Shakespearean drama to pulp heroism, turning The Avengers into a work of its own. With the exception of Edward Norton, casts from the previous movies reprised their roles; Norton was replaced with Mark Ruffalo as Banner. Humour came naturally from characters and situations instead of being forced. The Avengers felt like both a serious comic book and a step back from the dark grey of the Batman movies without going too far the other direction as seen in Flash Gordon or Street Fighter: The Movie.
Next week, a superhero round up.
* Hank Pym changed his hero code name at the start of The Avengers #2 to Giant-Man. He’d later take several other names. — Scott
** Natasha first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52, five issues before Hawkeye’s first appearance. Fittingly, she first appeared in Marvel’s cinematic universe in Iron Man 2 — Scott again
*** Some snarls include the Summers family tree, which involves time travel, and Spider-Man’s Clone Saga — Yep, it’s Scott
**** General Fury was redesigned early in production to look like Samuel L. Jackson, who gave his permission to use his likeness. Made him the perfect actor to cast as Nick Fury in the movie. — Trivia Scott
+ As opposed to the remake of the TV series that starred Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg. — Still Scott
++ Maybe. We only have Nick Fury’s word on it. — Doubtful Scott