Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Avengers: Another product made in Detroit

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 4:22 PM

I'm a mainstream comic book guy, specifically and mainly Marvel Comics. I grew up on Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Marvel Universe. Don't get me wrong, I have collected my fair share of DC books, and I dabble in the independent stuff when it catches my eye. But I'm a Marvel guy, always have been, I suspect I always will be. And I thought I had the mythology down pat. But recently I discovered a little known fact about the origin of Marvel's esteemed supergroup, the Avengers, that was shocking even to a professional dork such as myself.

Did you know that the Avengers assembled for the first time right here in Detroit? That's right, true believers, the first ever battle between the World's Great Heroes and their arch nemesis, Loki the God of Evil, took place in our fair city. I, for one, did not.

Last year Marvel published a group of collected reprints appropriately titled Marvel Firsts, with the initial installment focusing on the classic comics of the 1960s. I can't tell you how many re-imagined origin stories I've seen over the years, so it's fun to read these stories in their original glory. Especially the books of the ’60s, which brought us classics like the Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Silver Surfer, Iron-Man, the Fantastic Four and even some lesser known Stan Lee creations like the Rawhide Kid and Kazaar the Jungle Master. And while I expected to enjoy the stories and the awesome retro art, I never expected to find out anything I didn't already know. But lo and behold, one aspect of the Avengers’ origin jumped off the page and punched me right in the kisser. The Avengers joined forces against the evil sorcerer Loki for the first time ever right here in Detroit!

The origin story is familiar to comic fans. It goes like this: Loki, the evil half brother of Thor, has been banned by Odin (their dad and king, well, of pretty much everything) to the Isle of Silence for his crimes, where he of course has set his mind to plotting his revenge. His plan: manipulate the rampaging mindless behemoth Hulk into destroying Earth for him. Everyone knows that the Hulk is too much for one hero to handle, so the call is put out to the FF (that's the Fantastic Four to you amateurs out there). But they are too busy with another case. So now what? Luckily, some other Marvel heavy hitters were listening in. Soon Thor is joined by Iron Man, the Wasp and Ant-Man, and the chase is on.

Ant-Man and Wasp track the Hulk down to a circus where he is hiding out disguised as an elephant-juggling clown. Worst disguise since Clark Kent's glasses, by the way. He escapes, but Iron Man is hot on the trail. When he asks the captain of an in-flight jetliner if they've seen the Hulk he responds "He just whizzed past us! Looked like he was heading toward Detroit!"

Next thing you know the Hulk is rampaging through "a huge auto factory." Ford? GM? Who knows. What matters is that this is where all of our heroes come together in battle for the first time. Loki's spell over the Hulk is eventually released, and the original, classic Avengers line up of Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant Man and Wasp is born. Loki is defeated, and they all go out for coney dogs and beers. OK, I made that last part up, but the Detroit thing is legit!

The timing of this revelation couldn't be better. On May 4, 2012, fan-boys and fan-girls everywhere will be lining up in droves to watch one of the most anticipated comic book adaptations to hit the big screens yet. Simply put, The Avengers looks awesome. As with every comic book movie, it's all about striking the balance between faithfulness to original material and making a modern, kick-ass action adventure movie.

Easier said than done, and I, for one, think that most attempts have failed miserably, though Marvel yarns have done well in recent years with Captain America, Thor and the Robert Downey Jr. takes on Iron Man. But can one movie contain all of the overblown egos and muscles of the Avengers? Can 90 minutes of explosive action and carnage do justice to legacy of this group of characters?

And will The Avengers movie stay true enough to their roots to include the epic battle in Detroit? My guess is that it won't. For one thing, the movie apparently won’t even use the original Avengers cast, giving us Iron Man, Hulk and Thor, but trading Ant Man and Wasp for Captain America, Hawk-Eye and Black Widow from a later lineup.

But whatever Hollywood does with the story, now you know the truth. The Avengers are another classic that was made in Detroit.

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