The Avengers are on their way to a cinema near you… but before they make it they must battle it out here on the farm. Which Avenger is best? We take a look at our favourites…

The Incredible Hulk

Jools Finch

Name: Dr Bruce Banner
Occupation: Scientist and expert in Gamma Radiation
First Appearance in Print: The Incredible Hulk No.1, 1962
TV and Film: ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV show, 1978 – 1982, Numerous cartoon incarnations, Hulk (2003), The Incredible Hulk (2008).

Of the pantheon of characters in the Marvel Comics Universe who have made it to the big screen, The Incredible Hulk is one of the most iconic and certainly the biggest of them all. So why has his journey to the all-conquering Avengers movie been the most problematic?

Created in what is known as the Silver Age of comics history in the early 1960’s, Hulk was never your normal run-of-the-mill superhero character. A complicated man who could be a villain as much as a hero, Hulk had an enormous angst-filled chip on his shoulder. Of all Marvels characters, he probably popped up in a supporting role in other titles more than any other as he was a great foil for all of the other principles of this overcrowded super world. This has been his problem as a solo artist, and will be the reason he will steal the show in 2012’s Avengers movie.

When Marvel made their first tentative steps to take their stars to the small screen in the 1970’s, it was the Hulk who proved to be their only success. Much tinkering had to be carried out to make him work on tv so that the final product bore little resemblance to the comic’s vision. It is this incarnation which has indelibly seeped into public consciousness so when the big screen beckoned it was always going to be a struggle to translate to a new audience who the Hulk really was, and a bodybuilder in green paint and a dodgy wig was never going to cut it for the cinema-going public. Re-invention was the solution.

Marvel have always pushed the envelope when choosing directors for their movies, and for the Hulk they made a very curious choice. Ang Lee had been making thoughtful and sincere films in all kinds of genres, courting critical success and featuring in awards seasons. Up to this point he had never taken on a big effects movie, never mind the superhero genre. His Hulk had all of the same issues as the comic’s version but, thanks to modern technology, managed to look the part. He was, however, no fun and the spirit of the character was lost. The story was more concerned with the drama and not the action, and the few occasions Hulk did ‘smash’ proved what a wasted opportunity the film was. It made a fair amount of money though and Marvel where determined he would rise again.

The concept of the Avengers movie was a radical idea that had never been attempted before. To bring a collection of superheroes together who had never had any movie exposure and unleash them on the public in the hope that it would have broad appeal was just too risky. Instead the strategy of introducing them one by one in their own potential franchises and building up the hype for the Avengers as its own movie was born. The original comic from 1963 had the following line-up: Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man, Wasp and the only movie veteran – The Incredible Hulk. Captain America was introduced in issue 4 – the same time Hulk was dropped from the title. As Hulk already had a large movie fan base the decision to kick off the cycle of films with him was a no-brainer. This time a faster-paced and more action-orientated story found the Hulk facing off against The Abomination, a much worthier adversary than a shambling Nick Nolte from the first film. This Hulk had elements from his television incarnation as well as the comic and proved to have a much broader appeal. Box office was still only marginally better than the Ang Lee film which re-enforced the idea that he would be better suited to an ensemble piece. A cross-over scene with the much more successful Iron Man of the same year sowed the seeds for the ‘Avengers Initiative’, and set up all that followed.

‘The Avengers’ will mark the third time Hulk has graced the big screen, and it will be the third actor to portray his alter ego – scientist Bruce Banner. Eric Bana and Edward Norton both took themselves far too seriously, but if the trailer is anything to go by, new boy Mark Ruffalo has opted for more humour. Hulk has finally found his place in the world, not as a mindless monster smashing all before him, but as a colourful character putting an unpredictable edge into what should be one of the best superhero films to grace the silver screen. If they mess him up this time then Hulk will definitely SMASH! And the best line from the original teaser for The Avengers? When told what insurmountable odds and firepower they will be up against, Robert Downey Jnr’s sarcastic reply is “We’ve got a Hulk!” Think that says it all!

Iron Man

Rob Hewitt

Name: Anthony ‘Tony’ Edward Stark
Occupation: Genius multi-millionaire who harnesses a high powered suit granting him the ability to fly, weild super human strength, shoot beams and a whole host of other abilities.
Film: Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010).

Anthony ‘Tony’ Edward Stark, also known as Iron Man, is a billionaire playboy, one of the world’s smartest men, and heir to a business that would put Lord Alan Sugar and Donald Trump to shame. If that wasn’t enough, he is also the owner of the Iron Man suit which is powered by a chest plate that keeps an irremovable piece of shrapnel from killing him. Cool, huh? Having created the Iron Man suit to save himself after being kidnapped by a group of terrorists, Stark then uses the suit to rid the world of evil.

Tony is the son of industrialist Howard Stark who unfortunately died in a car accident along with Tony’s mother Maria. After this, he inherited the company from his father at a young age and carried on his work of creating new and more advanced weapons for the American military.

First making his appearance in Marvel comics way back in 1963 it wasn’t until 2008 that Robert Downey Jnr bought the eccentric billionaire to life. It was long awaited and the film did not disappoint. Downey’s portrayal of the self-absorbed industrialist is both entertaining and admirable.

The reasons behind Iron Man being the best of the Avengers are many. He has money, smarts, and a suit that grants him amazing powers. Unlike Thor, Hulk and Captain America, he doesn’t actually have super powers. He is pretty much a regular human who uses his incredible brain to build himself an armored super high-tech suit. Some may say his money and power has made him egotistical but as one of the planet’s smartest and richest men he can get away with it.

Again, unlike the other heroes, he does not hide who he is. The public know who Tony Stark is and what he does, they also know that he is Iron Man and the good he does. What makes Tony stand out so much from the others is his persona and how he carries himself. He has an ego that borders on being both obnoxious and charismatic, something that screams that he is a natural leader. He possesses qualities that men want and women desire: wealth, intelligence and over-the-top confidence.

Captain America

Maxine Brown

Name: Steve Rogers
Occupation: Genetically altered super soldier
Film: Captain America (1990), Captain America: The First Avenger

Born in Lower East Side Manhattan, Steve Rogers lost his parents early on in life. Always a skinny and fragile individual, the audience isn’t really introduced to Rogers until the 1940’s when the US descends into World War 2. Rogers becomes determined to fight for his country against the rise of the Third Reich. He is rejected several times for being in ill health and not being expected to be able to cope with what the war will demand, all because of his physical appearance. After meeting a scientist called Erskine, Rogers volunteers to be part of a programme to build super solders using an experimental serum. This effectively turns him into a super being; fast, built and strong. Initially used as propaganda for the Army, Rogers soon becomes frustrated and wants to be considered a real solider and make his mark on the war against the evil Red Skull.

Early editions of the comic do not focus on his romantic relationship with Peggy Carter, unlike the 2011 film. There is mention of a relationship with a Sharon Carter but that is in the 60’s and 70’s. The history of Captain America is far more vast than what the film could cover – for example, after being cryogenically frozen after defeating his nemesis Red Skull, he is actually found in the 60’s and has links to Nick Fury there, but for the more current concept and bigger picture of The Avengers, this was moved to present day with Nick Fury recruiting him for his team.

Other than a 1944 film serial, there has only been one other film adaptation of Captain America which starred Matt Salinger and was released in 1990. Val Kilmer turned down this role in favour of starring in The Doors, and he is most definitely thankful he did. An all-round flop with no high profile names, the film featured a terrible look and shoddy acting.

The beauty of Steve Rogers is that, unlike the other Avengers, he has known from a very early age what suffering is like, not only physically but also from losing his parents and having to defend himself against everyone who is stronger. He has also known that courage and strength isn’t always on the outside but a power within. He has always been portrayed as the All American Hero -it is then no wonder why the US embrace him as such. His understanding of weakness means he has an insight that the other Avengers cannot understand. Rogers has already learnt many of life’s lessons way before the other’s do. Steve’s strength of character also means that he recognises what it feels like to receive such a powerful gift but not to take advantage of it or to use it for his own gain. He always remains selfless.

 

Who’s your favourite Avenger? Let us know!

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