NEW YORK - While "The Avengers" director Joss Whedon was busy working on the heavily anticipated 2012 blockbuster, cast members and producer Kevin Feige were on hand at this year's New York Comic Con to discuss the film and premiere never-before-seen footage.

Moderated by actor/comedian Chris Hardwick, the panel, which included Feige, Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) and Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), spoke before a packed and enthusiastic crowd Saturday night.

The panel provided both lighthearted and serious insight into the film, though fans were most anticipatory about being the first to see the new footage. The 5-minute clip began with Dr. Bruce Banner treating a sick patient when a young girl asks him to see her ailing father. It's quickly revealed that the request was a ruse perpetrated by Natasha Romanoff to meet Banner. "Are you here to kill me, Ms. Romanoff?," Banner asks. "Because that's not going to work out." Banner has been, as Romanoff points out, "two years without an incident," yet his help is needed to track down a stolen item that could cause a "potential global catastrophe." After a brief fit of anger, Banner causes Romanoff to draw her gun before relenting and agreeing to join S.H.I.E.L.D. "Stand down," Romanoff says, apparently to no one. The scene cuts to the building's exterior, revealing dozens of armed men ready to rush the house on command.

The scene showed Ruffalo's take on the classic character, revealing a man fully aware of his condition; the reluctant hero desperate to avoid his rampaging, destructive alter ego. The actor revealed that he will play both Bruce Banner and Hulk, as opposed to previous films which relied heavily on CGI to bring Hulk to life.

Asked how he balanced past Hulk performances with his own style, Ruffalo dropped a word that would come up repeatedly throughout the panel. "It's a more mature Banner who understands what he has under the hood," Ruffalo said. "I had to pay homage, but I definitely had to 'Ruffalize' it."

Hardwick added, "I always pictured Hulk as a raging erection," though you probably won't see that on any Disney marketing materials anytime soon.

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Whedon also assembled a new minute-long clip featuring Tony Stark introducing each Avenger while talking to Loki. The first trailer for the film, released earlier this week, broke the iTunes download record with more than 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours.

Many of the cast members noted the pressure of starring in one of the year's most anticipated films. "It's nice to share the load," Evans said. "It was nerve-wracking going into the process because this could be a franchise."

Added Smulders: "It was extremely intimidating. I'm still pinching myself, though. It's a dream."

Gregg admitted later in the discussion that when he "walked in that first day, I felt like it was the Make-A-Wish Foundation."


Wardrobes were a frequent topic of discussion at tonight's panel. The cast discussed the intricacies and unique challenges to their respective outfits. "Don't get me wrong, I love the [Captain America] costume," Evans said. "But you long for scenes where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt."

Hiddelston quickly replied: "I never got jeans and a t-shirt." Smulders shared how conceptual drawings from the original comic books were used to create the film's costumes.

Goaded by the cheering crowd, Gregg reprised his unique version of "The Avengers" theme song Hardwick had heard him sing backstage before the panel. The actor asked the crowd to imagine "thrashy, East Village guitars" and treated the audience to lines like "We've got muscles so bulky/And we have a Hulky." It's doubtful that'll make the final cut.

A near-riot ensued when fans were finally given the opportunity to ask questions, which ranged from "How long is the film?" (Feige declined to say) to "Who are your favorite male and female superheroes?" (Maria Hill, Iron Man and Bruce Banner all got multiple nods). One fan fulfilled his dream of getting the actors to say "Avengers assemble!" in unison to thunderous applause.

Proving either the popularity of his character or the actor himself, Hiddleston received the bulk of the fan questions. Asked if he drew off Loki's numerous incarnations, the actor replied, "I've stolen and borrowed from them all" before expressing his desire to commit his favorite Loki story — in which the mischievous villain changes every car on a street into ice cream — to film. Hiddleston earned one of the night's loudest applauses with his reminiscence of a night at a club which found all the main cast members dancing. Well, almost all. "Everyone was dancing except for two people," Hiddleston said. "I look in the corner and there's [Chris] Evans asking [muscled 'Thor' star Chris] Hemsworth, 'But how do you get this here?'" and pointed at his bicep.

"The Avengers" and Comic Con have a long, symbiotic relationship. Feige recalled his 2006 appearance in which he first announced plans to move ahead with a live-action version of the film. The producer told the crowd that "Iron Man 3" was still in pre-production, but did call the film the "first of the phase two Avengers Assemble movies," already hinting at an "Avengers 2." It's never too early for the hype.

"The Avengers" opens nationwide in 3-D on May 4.