With the mega-opening of "Iron Man 2" behind us and the release of "Thor" and "The First Avenger: Captain America" coming down the line in 2011, it's time to turn our attention to "The Avengers," Marvel's planned big-screen adaptation of their team of iconic superheroes. Debuting in the early '60s, the comic book's members have at one time or another included Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and others.
"Avengers" isn't set for a theatrical release until May 4, 2012. But details about the project are quickly coming together. Here is MTV News' cheat sheet on the movie: everything you need to know about "The Avengers."
"Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" Get Things Started
At the end of 2008's "Iron Man," Samuel L. Jackson pops up as Nick Fury, the eye-patched head of the superhero-focused spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. who's putting together the Avengers. Not only was it an awesome and unexpected cameo, but it served as notice to fans that Marvel was dead set on weaving together the cinematic universes of their classic superheroes.
Little more than a month later, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark — a.k.a. Iron Man — appeared briefly in "The Incredible Hulk," talking about getting a team together. Again, it was a satisfying cameo and further proof that "Avengers" was most definitely Marvel's long-term — and long-planned — goal.
Further along in '08, "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "Captain America" and "Avengers" got release dates. While all except "IM2" would end up being pushed back ("Avengers" was originally slated for summer 2011), they were all at least officially on Marvel's docket. By early '09, the official release dates for all the films were in place.
The Team Comes Together
In fall 2008, the cast and crew began to fall into place. Downey and Don Cheadle (as War Machine) signed on to reprise their "Iron Man" roles in "Avengers," and "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau shifted into an executive-producer role. Zak Penn ("X-Men: The Last Stand") was recruited to pen the script and delivered a first draft in March. Meanwhile, Edward Norton, who played Hulk in the '08 film, wouldn't commit to reprising his role, even though Hulk is set to appear in the film. Scarlett Johansson, who played Black Widow in "Iron Man 2," hinted at a juicy role for her character in "Avengers." Chris Hemsworth was cast as Thor both for his own movie and for "Avengers," while after a lengthy search, Chris Evans was signed as Captain America for his titular flick and "Avengers." Last month, Joss Whedon nabbed the coveted director job and also got a chance to rewrite the script.
The Remaining 'Avenger' Questions
While the core team is in place, oodles of questions remain. Which other heroes and villains will pop up in "Avengers"? How about Loki (to be played by Tom Hiddleston in "Thor") or Red Skull (to be played by Hugo Weaving in "Captain America")? What other characters will enter the "Avengers" universe, like Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther and Vision?
And then there's the question of who will be the de facto leader of the Avengers. History points to Captain America, but nothing is set in stone. "I don't know if they're going to make him the boss," Evans told MTV News in April. Joked Downey: "I'll clown all of them. I'll just clown those fools."
Check out everything we've got on "The Avengers."