Marvel Confirms ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Thor,’ ‘Avengers’

Marvel Studios is already reaping the benefits of its first-ever self-financed comic book adaptation, Iron Man. Not only did the near-perfectly-reviewed Robert Downey Jr. film open to the all-time 2nd-best 3-day for a non-sequel with just over $100M, they also announced today that the company has blown out analyst earnings expectations for the first quarter of 2008.

In addition, Marvel also finalized and confirmed release dates for a string of upcoming movies, beginning with an Iron Man sequel. (The company’s next movie, The Incredible Hulk, comes out June 13.)

The Iron Man sequel will debut on April 30, 2010, with Downey Jr.Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard intact, followed by the feature film debut of Thor about 5 weeks later. In the Stan Lee/Larry Lieber comic book version of this character from Nordic mythology, Thor’s alter-ego is a disabled doctor named Donald Blake, and there has been a fair amount of speculation that Marvel wants professional wrestler Triple H or Scottish actor Kevin McKidd, who made an impression in the HBO series Rome, to carry the hammer.

Then in 2011, Marvel will release The First Avenger: Captain America on May 6, which will be the start of that summer’s lucrative box office season. No speculation yet about who might play the square-jawed lead. The final release announced today is The Avengers, which will bring together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and, conceivably, the characters of Ant Man and Wasp for a July 4, 2010, spectacular.

This is a very bold lineup. With the exception of The Incredible Hulk next month, which remains a sketchy proposition given the lukewarm reception for Ang Lee’s version 5 years ago, Marvel has the makings of a box office juggernaut.