Written by: Terrence Butcher, Special to CC2K
My naïve, anachronistic, Gen X lineup for the forthcoming Avengers film
In late 1976, my dreamy, scrawny nine year-old self had zero interest in comic books. This wasn’t evidence of a general lack of enthusiasm for superheroes, as I did watch Hanna-Barbera’s corny “Superfriends” each Saturday morning, as well as “Wonder Woman” during prime-time, and reruns of the old “Superman” series whenever I stumbled across an episode. Let’s face it, what were Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers but superheroes in civvies, and I watched their respective shows with relish. But I barely knew what a comic book was.
My brother had begun collecting them, in tandem with watching cheesy Flash Gordon serials – from my Depression-born mother’s childhood – on late-night television. As the legend I tell myself goes, I was alone in his bedroom one evening – we dubbed it the “little room” – and noticed some brightly colored little magazines on the floor, costumed crimefighters on the covers. I picked them up and began reading. Among them was Avengers # 158, in which Wonder Man, possibly the strongest man in the world, threw down with The Vision, a vaguely sinister android who could alter his physical density at will, and thus was virtually invulnerable. The die was cast. The vivid colors, lifelike artwork, and soapy drama had “Superfriends” beat all hollow.
I never owned many Avengers issues personally, but my second brother amassed a significant collection in 1978-79, and the characters and stories always seemed more enthralling than the oddball tales of The Defenders, which I read religiously. Needless to say, the Avengers lineup of the disco era is hardwired in my brain, but I was resigned to accept that newer incarnations would likely form the basis of the team in the upcoming film.
Amazingly, however, the producers have decided to delve even deeper into the archives, apparently intent on re-creating the group from the earliest issues, circa 1963! From both an artistic and commercial perspective, the logic of this decision is lost on me, but if you’ve read this far, you’ll now have the honor of digging my plans for the movie. To wit:
- Iron Man
He has to be there. Tony Stark, for better or worse, is the glue holding the team together. Avengers Mansion – their official HQ – is his mortgage, and he’s also the leader. He should be depicted – and Robert Downey has more or less nailed this – as a decadent playboy trying to grow up, and juggling too many balls in the process. He’s running the team, squiring lovely ladies about town, keeping an eye on Stark Industries business, and constantly reminded of his heart condition. All this can only exhaust a man, and we should feel his fatigue. Biting off more than he can chew will also lead to a conflict with Captain America (more on this later).
- Wonder Man
Not played by Kurt Russell(he, he!), but nevertheless he may be the strongest man in the world. Wondy is fascinating because his awesome might doesn’t calm his apprehension and uncertainty in the face of danger. Readers of a certain age will recall how this caused trouble for him in battles with the Lethal Legion and the Atlantean strongman Tyrak, not to mention his admiration for the weaker Ms. Marvel’s fearlessness. He harbors a secret love for Wanda Frank, aka The Scarlet Witch, and this raises the insecurities, and thus, ire of…
- The Vision
The Avenger with the best dramatic possibilities. An eerily humanoid robot with a frightening combination of powers that may make him the most formidable member of the group. He renders his body intangible, wills himself diamond-hard and megaton-heavy, flies, shoots laser beams from his eyes a la the Kryptonian villains from Superman II, and can throw down with the Hulk. In an odd sci-fi twist, he’s married to the Scarlet Witch, and constantly feels unworthy of her affection, as he’s completely artificial. Their marriage should be left on the cutting room floor, IMHO; just seems a bit loopy. Still, he can also feel a vague romantic jones for Wanda, while lamenting, like Pinocchio, that he can never be flesh-and-blood. Please remember that he starts out a villain, dispatched to destroy the Avengers, and his chilly android manners continue to stoke suspicion even after he switches sides and joins the team.
- Captain America
Discovered in an Arctic block of ice, Cap is miraculously revived, and finds himself forced to exist in contemporary times, while retaining the mores and beliefs of a patriotic White American of the World War II era. He remembers, with wistful longing, his exploits with the Invaders, a team he fought the Axis powers with during the Great War. Cap is distinctly conservative, coupled with an old-fangled sense of honor and duty. He came up the hard way, and resents Tony Stark’s callow hedonism. With his military background and war experience, Cap wonders why he shouldn’t lead the Avengers. Additionally, the super-soldier formula given fed to him by ruthless scientists during the 1940s has worn off, and he has to accept, grudgingly, a much lesser level of physical strength.
- The Scarlet Witch
Wanda Frank is the sole distaff member of the group, with mysterious supernatural abilities not fully comprehended by the others. Her paternal heritage is shadowy, to say the least, and her beauty attracts Wonder Man and the Vision. Has a brother, Pietro(Quicksilver), who wishes his sister would leave the Avengers and work alongside him.
Dr. Henry Pym is a brilliant biologist and inventor, whose past work has inadvertently placed the team in grave danger. His ability to shrink to bee size makes him useful in covert operations.
The all-powerful God of Thunder and stalwart of Norse mythology. Keep his screen time to a cameo or two. So powerful he simply unbalances the group, leaving the others in his shadow. Honorable but haughty, he comes and goes as he pleases, and never lingers long. In demeanor and appearance, he should be larger than life.
Ah, Ultron. The homicidal jack o’ lantern-faced robot whose mission is to eliminate the Avengers and his creator. He initially sends his manufactured servant, the Vision, to do away with the team, but failing that, decides that whenever you want something accomplished, you must do it yourself. Think a metallic doppelganger of Carlo Rambaldi’s menacing Alien, but with a creepily detached human voice, HAL9000 with heavy bass. Ultron must be scary, and camera angles and tricks borrowed from horror films could be useful. Every Avenger fears him, and his adamantium shell makes him virtually indestructible. Can he control the Vision again?
Some will detest this list, others will cheer me on, many won’t give a shit. Still, it’s my own idiosyncratic game plan for the Avengers film. A special note to readers: You have my sworn permission to graft any actors you choose onto this list. And if I or anyone believes that the resultant movie will reflect my choices, well, then, maybe you also believe a volcano will erupt in Los Angeles. I’ll keep on dreaming. As the song goes, “When you wish upon a star…"