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A Non-Geek's Guide to 'The Avengers'

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Apr 29, 2012 | 5:20pm EDT

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AvengersFor every comic geek and fanboy who will be standing in line for the midnight screening of The Avengers this weekend in a costume so realistic even the real Hawkeye couldn't tell the difference, there are probably twice as many people asking, "Just who in Stan Lee are these Avengers anyway?" Well, here is a handy inquisition that will tell you everything you need to know before seeing Joss Whedon's masterpiece and the culmination of Marvel Studios' movie efforts so far. It's the biggest (and first) superhero movie so far this summer.

What is an Avenger and why should I care about them?

The Avengers are a superhero team often known as "Earth's mightiest heroes," and have been a comic book staple since Marvel first got the team together in 1963. They're basically Marvel's answer to DC Comics' more iconic Justice League of America.

Is that the one with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman?

Yes.

So that's something different?

Yes.

Who is on this team?

The roster has changed significantly over the course of the nearly 50 years the comic has been around. Initially the team was made up of Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. Captain America was introduced in issue #4 and has been the leader of the team ever since.

Ant Man? What's his power? To control Ants?

Yes. And to be small.

What a stupid character.

There's a reason he's not in the movie.

So, who is in the movie?

Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow.

Black WidownThat's a lot of dudes.

Yeah, but they got Scarlett Johansson, so that's the equivalent of like three ladies.

Not the same, and didn't all the other guys get their own movies?

Mostly. Hawkeye didn't. But Black Widow was in Iron Man 2.

You mean the lousy Iron Man? Couldn't they add Gwyneth Paltrow to the team? She was in that too, right?

No, she's basically an assistant and the Avengers have their own assistant. He's a butler named Jarvis.

Great, another dude. Is he in the movie?

Dunno. Probably. Apparently, he's voiced by Paul Bettany.

Just what we need. So, tell me about this Black Widow lady?

Well, in the comic, her name is Natasha Romanova. She was a Soviet spy who the government treated to slow her aging and make her stronger. She also trained as a ballerina, learning skills that she then employed during fighting. She's basically just a really awesome badass. Her signature weapon is a pair of bracelets that shoot a "widow's bite," an electric shock that knocks out opponents.

So there is one female and her super power is basically jewelry?

She doesn't have powers, per se, but she's an enhanced human.

She's still a Russian spy?

No. She defected from Russia and came to America to work for SHIELD.

What the heck is that and why are you shouting about it?

I'm not shouting, it's an acronym. It stands for the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division. It's basically a CIA for the whole world and they use superheros to get the big jobs done. It's run by Nick Fury.

Nick FuryIs he the guy with the Howling Commandos?

Yes, they were a unit of World War II soldiers who had their own comic book. When it ended, Nick Fury went on to be the leader of SHIELD. Samuel L. Jackson plays him in the movie.

Wait. Wasn't Nick Fury white?

Well, he still is, but Marvel launched a comic called The Ultimates in 2002. It was an updated version of the Avengers in modern day America that basically started the whole thing over from the beginning. In that Nick Fury is African-American and bald just like Samuel L.

Who the hell are these other new Avengers?

Let's not get you confused, let's talk about Hawkeye instead. In the movie he's played by Jeremy Renner and he had a cameo in Thor. His name is Clint Barton and he uses a bow and arrow and he can hit absolutely any target.

So, his super power is aim?

That is correct, but you wouldn't be so mean when you watch him shoot someone in the eye with an arrow from 300 feet away.

But the other people have powers, right?

No, Iron Man doesn't have any powers. As you learned from the two Robert Downey Jr. movies, he's just a super rich smart guy who designed a really awesome suit of armor. If you read the comics, you would say his super power might be a very resilient liver. Tony Stark has been known to tie a few on.

You're telling me this is a superhero movie and none of these people have any powers? That's stupid.

They have a Hulk. The Hulk has insane powers. As most people know from the Lou Ferrigno television show, Dr. Bruce Banner was in an atomic accident and now, whenever he gets angry, he unleashes a crazy green rage beast who is huge and strong and totally invulnerable. He's basically like Mel Gibson, but glowing and doesn't hate Jews. That's power.

Nick FuryAnd he's played by Eric Bana?

No, Eric played Hulk in Hulk the 2003 movie. We're still trying to forget about that. Marvel was not happy with Ang Lee's version of the movie and rebooted it and made The Incredible Hulk in 2008.

Oh, the one with Edward Norton! He's in The Avengers?

No. Mark Ruffalo plays him. Marvel and Norton had a bit of a falling out after the movie was released.

This is the third Hulk in three different movies?

Yes, but there has only been one Captain America. He's played by Chris Evans. Captain America, in the comics, was a skinny kid named Steve Rogers who took a "super soldier serum" during World War II and it gave him super strength and speed, near invulnerability, and the ability to lead groups of men into battle. He also has one of the ugliest costumes in all of comicdom. In the funny books he fought alongside other heroes like Namor and The Human Torch to defeat Nazis. The movie followed the comic's plot where, at the end of the war, Captain America fell into the ocean and was frozen in a block of ice, only to be thawed out decades later.

Wait, Chris Evans played the Human Torch, how did he fight with him too?

That's right, Evans was in Fantastic Four, but that's a totally different Human Torch. The characters are totally different and unrelated.

How can you tell?

Evans had a hairy chest as the Torch and a smooth chest as Captain America.

ThorAh, that makes sense.

That leaves us with Thor, who is the son of Odin, the chief of all Norse gods. The comic book has something crazy about a doctor named Donald Blake who find's Thor's hammer, Mjolnir ...

How do you pronounce that?

You don't. Anyway, Blake finds the hammer and transforms into Thor. In the movies there is no Donald Blake. Thor is banished to Earth because of his hubris and has to live among the humans. His father was trying to teach him a lesson, but then Thor had to return to Asgard, where his deity family reigns and save everyone. He's a central character to have because the Avengers first assembled in the comics because of Thor's brother Loki.

Say what now?

Loki is Thor's younger brother and is the god of mischief and illusions. He uses an illusion of the Hulk to lure Thor into battle. This unleashes the real Hulk and they gang up with the other heroes to beat the s**t out of Loki. After the battle, they decide to form the Avengers, a team that can take on the threats that a single hero can't handle on his own. We know that Loki is going to be the big threat in the movie, just like he was in Thor. Hopefully, just like in Thor, Chris Hemsworth will also be compelled to take his shirt off a few times.

Amen, sister!

So, does all this stuff make sense.

I guess so, but what does any of this have to do with Uma Thurman?

Oh man. That's a totally different movie called The Avengers that was based on a British TV show. It has nothing to do with the comic. Any more questions.

Just one: Is this movie gonna be good?

F**k yeah!

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan

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