Comics versus film: ‘The Avengers’Written by Jim Beard | | email@example.com
“The Avengers,” now playing in theaters worldwide, is burning up the box office and pleasing crowds of all stripes — including longtime, die-hard comic book fans, arguably the most demanding crowd of all. What accounts for this strange phenomenon? In large part, comic fans have been well-served by the blockbuster film’s steadfast devotion to its four-color source material, despite several differences between the two.
The comic book team of superheroes came together in 1963’s Avengers No. 1, due to the machinations of the trickster god Loki, a catalyst mirrored in the film, but with the addition of Nick Fury’s covert “Avengers Initiative.” The comic and the film include Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk as founding members, but the comic also sports Ant-Man and the Wasp as originators — Captain America didn’t come along until issue No. 4 in 1964, Hawkeye in 1965 and the lovely Black Widow in 1973. Incredibly, since that first issue, nearly 100 other heroes have joined the ranks of the Avengers.
The prickly atmosphere that permeates the film, leading to volatile disagreements between its champions, reflects a situation that came about in Avengers No. 2. By the end of that issue, the Hulk quit the team in a huff, citing the alleged disdain the other members harbored for him; this paves the way for the green behemoth to become one of the Avengers’ earliest enemies and for one of Captain America’s first missions with the group. As in the film, Loki’s wily manipulations are centered on the Hulk, but the comic lacks the onscreen “Macguffin” of the Tessaract — called the Cosmic Cube in other Marvel Universe titles.
One of the greatest assets of the movie comes in the faithful portrayals of the heroes’ comic book personalities and backstories, a credit to the writers and directors of the Marvel films that have satisfied the hungry masses of comic fans. “The Avengers” proves that a film can retain the essence of what’s most important to the print medium’s admirers and still make sense to — and entertain — the wider public. Now if only a certain other major comic book company and its corporate studio owners would wake up, smell the money and jump on the comic-to-screen bandwagon …