I grew up on comic books. I say that with pride and not shame. Whether they were DC or Marvel I didn’t care. If it had great art and an intriguing storyline, I was hooked. Over the years, I developed a preference for certain characters. Superman, and Batman were givens. The Justice League, The Legion of Super-Heroes were must reads but soon gave way to The Fantastic Four and the Avengers. While I still liked DC, I gravitated toward Marvel. Characters like Spider-Man and Ben Grimm, Reed Richards, Sue and Johnny Storm, they had powers but they also had problems like everyday folks. Peter Parker had the same problems other school age kids had. The Fantastic Four would bicker and argue like most families even though they had special abilities. It made them more relatable.
Soon I was introduced to characters like The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, The Invincible Iron Man and an endless cavalcade of complex characters who also had faults and had to learn to overcome them. I also liked how Stan “ The Man” Lee who was the Editor at the time liked to give his “bullpen” of creators nicknames. “Sturdy” Steve Ditko, “Big” John Buscema, Jack “King” Kirby, “Jazzy” John Romita, “Rascally” Roy Thomas, “Happy” Herb Trimpe, and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott, among many others. Again, it made them relatable. They sounded like people you could have a friendship with. And as much as I liked the creative endeavors of the Marvel Bullpen, I loved their creations more. So when some of them were given TV shows, or maybe a movie, I was all in. My only demand was if you’re going to do the character, make them LOOK like the character. There was nothing I hated more than my favorite characters not looking like I remembered.
For example: 1979’s Captain America with Reb Brown. You remember him, right? He also starred in……something else I’m sure but I hated his look. What the hell are they doing to my Captain America? It’s Captain Knievel! UGH! Then there was Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno in the Incredible Hulk. I actually liked this show although the Hulk’s scale was way off. Couldn’t argue with Lou’s Muscles…I wouldn’t have dared. But to show you how much a stickler for the details I am, they called Bill Bixby Dr. David “Bruce” Banner. He’s Bruce Banner…period. Don’t play around with the man’s name. Ferrigno must have done something right because they still use his Hulk Growl for the current Hulk. Speaking of which, take the time to listen to the interview GVN just had with Hulk 1.0 the Incredible Lou Ferrigno. (We now leave our blatant plug to get back to our story)
So as the years have flashed by, I had pretty much resigned myself that really good Marvel films would not happen. There were attempts, some were not horrible. The X-Men films, Wolverine, some of them were quite good. The first two Fantastic Four movies, the two Ghost Rider films, the first Incredible Hulk film….OK….that one was pretty bad. Then they brought out the next Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton and although it was not perfect, it got my hopes up that things were starting to look up. The Hulk was as big and mean as he should be. Thunderbolt Ross was there, the Abomination…it was a good start. Time to bring it on home Marvel. Finally, in 2008, all my childhood wishes came true. It only took around 35 years of my life but Marvel Studios released: Iron Man. It was great. Directed by Jon Favreau, the suits were just as they should be, including the Original Iron Man armor and the subsequent one that I remembered from my comic book days. Now THAT’S what I was talking about! It was perfect casting as well as Robert Downey, Jr. epitomized not only the look but the attitude of Tony Stark. It was a major success and I looked on with anticipation for the next film on the horizon.
That next film was Iron Man 2. It followed the exploits of Tony Stark and revealed that the same miniature Arc Reactor that has allowed him to live and become Iron Man is also slowly poisoning him. Just as in the comics, these heroes had issues to deal with. Marvel brings in a a new Rhodey with Don Cheadle replacing Terrance Howard in the role and becoming War Machine. It also introduced Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, AKA “The Black Widow.” That reason alone made this film worth watching. Throw in Gweneth Paltrow returning as Pepper Potts, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer and Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and you get a nice next course Marvel. “Good Call. What else you got?”
What they had next was a certain Norse Thunder God. Kenneth Branagh directed Chris Hemsworth, alongside Natalie Portman, ( a scene stealing)Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, and Anthony Hopkins in Thor. This film relied heavily for you to accept the actor playing Thor seriously. Long blond hair and a dramatic turn of a phrase can be seen as silly if not done correctly. Fortunately, they had Chris Hemsworth who carried out the look perfectly and while it was not exactly as I remembered Thor, it was close enough and captured the essence of the character fans knew and loved. They also had a perfect foil to play the role of his half – brother Loki. Tom Hiddleston chewed up scenes and spit them out. I can think of no one but Hiddleston now when I think of Loki. Among the many areas the Marvel brain trust has excelled at is casting. They have nailed Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Loki, Nick Fury and now, they needed the First Avenger.
When I knew they would be doing Captain America, all I could think of was poor Reb Brown. With Marvel’s feet well under them, I knew that would not mess this one up. The couldn’t…it would undo all the equity built up thus far. I needn’t have worried. They started with the perfect choice to portray Captain America: The First Avenger: Chris Evans. It was not Evans first go round as a Marvel hero as he had portrayed the Human Torch in the aforementioned Fantastic Four films. He ably captured the patriotic innocence of the character while still having a rock solid will to get his job done. Impressive CGI was done to show Evans as the proverbial 90 pound weakling with the heart of a warrior before under going the super-soldier experiment and taking on the Nazis, the Red Skull and Hydra. He was supported by more of Marvel’s Gift for casting as Evans was joined by Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, and Tommy Lee Jones. His costume, while mildly different was traditional enough to satisfy those who were sticklers for details like myself. So now Marvel had “assembled” The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and added Captain America. Along the way the had squeezed in Nick Fury, Marie Hill, Phil Coulson, Loki, The Black Widow, and Hawkeye. So what to do with that embarrassment of riches? There could be only one answer, Avengers, Assemble!
For Marvel’s Phase One finale, there could be only one picture to conclude with, The Avengers. Building on all their solo adventures, the Marvel creative brain trust gathered all the heroes together in a battle for the Earth’s survival. By now, Mark Ruffalo has assumed the role of Bruce Banner replacing Edward Norton and the Hulk has been adapted facially to reflect the change. The Hulk looks good and he gets to Smash, his favorite thing to do. We get a look at Shield’s Helicarriers, tensions build as Tony Stark realizes that Shield is trying to develop weapons based on the Tesseract. Loki also covets the Tesseract and he has brought the Chitauri with him. It is only after fighting together as a team that they are able to defeat Loki and the Chitauri invasion. Unfortunately, it is just the tip of the iceberg for the heroes but for now, they are victorious.
So Phase One was complete and the Marvel train is starting to roll. Next time, we look at Phase Two which includes the return of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Avengers as well as the introduction of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. For a traditionalist, it was a joy to behold, and it was just getting started. How did you like Marvel’s Phase One films? Share your opinions with us at GVNation and be sure to watch Avengers:Endgame as it releases tomorrow and officially Friday. See you there…and here for all your End Game coverage.
I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 15 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.