It's been fascinating to watch the process that Marvel's been going through as they've been trying to cast Captain America, and now that they've officially made the deal with Chris Evans, they finally have all of the major pieces in place for "The Avengers," which is an unprecedented film event if they pull it off.

What else is in store for the company moving forward, though?  Especially with Warner Bros. announcing at ShoWest last week that they're planning to use the DC superhero properties as their new tentpole franchise to replace "Harry Potter" now that it's wrapping up.  What Marvel's been doing for the last few years is something brand-new in movies, and now that they've proven it works, they're in danger of watching someone else try to beat them at that game.  Warner/DC could well use "Green Lantern" and "The Flash" and Nolan's "Batman 3" and whatever Superman film finally happens to build towards "Justice League," the closest equivalent they have to "The Avengers," and it's obvious that Warner would like to make that film.  They came close once before, then stepped back to try and lay the groundwork a different way.

If you grew up as a comic fan, you got used to the notion of crossovers and team-ups and storytelling that was spread over several different issues or even several different series.  But in the film world, there's almost nothing like this.  Much has been made of the nine-picture deal that Marvel now asks for actors to sign, but I think something like that makes sense if you're trying to build a world that spans several franchises and several sequels.  If I were an actor, I'd want to be part of something like this for the challenge of it and the fun of playing opposite all these different characters.

I only wish Marvel was able to call home all the characters they sold in the early days of the latest superhero craze.  It would be amazing to see Spider-Man and Blade and the X-Men and The Fantastic Four and Daredevil all play in the same sandbox that Captain America and Thor and Hulk and Iron Man will occupy.  That's the one advantage that Warner/DC has over Marvel... because they've always been the same company, they didn't sell off their characters to other studios a little at a time.  Because of that, they can use every one of their signature characters in films in the future, and in any combination they choose.  That's a huge benefit, and one that I hope they take full advantage of.

Still, Marvel's always been my particular preference.  After they complete "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "The First Avenger: Captain America," and "The Avengers," they face a wide-open road.  Obviously they're going to want to make an "Iron Man 3" and sequels to "Thor" and "Captain America," but they're also going to keep introducing new characters to the screen.  Edgar Wright has spoken recently about returning to work on his "Ant-Man" script, and in a recent conversation, Kevin Feige seemed particularly enthusiastic about "Doctor Strange," so if I was a betting man, I'd lay money on seeing him onscreen sooner rather than later.  There are so many characters in the Marvel catalog that could easily support all-new franchises that I'm hoping we are still just in the early days of superhero cinema.

And as casting goes, I think Evans is a pretty great choice for Captain America.  I took some heat over my recent piece about how fanboys make terrible casting agents, but I still believe that.  If it were up to them, Evans would have been disqualified from this particular race simply because he played Johnny Storm in Fox's "Fantastic Four" films.  I disagree with that notion, since (A) that film universe and this one can't cross over, so there's no chance of any conflict in terms of casting and (B) Fox has already announced their intention to reboot that series completely, so Evans has no further obligation to the character.  I really, really don't like those films, but I think Evans demonstrated raw star power as Storm, and an easy charisma that he's exhibited in his other work as well.  He's not a giant muscle-man, but that's never been the way I imagined Captain America.  He's obviously in ridiculous shape, and whatever additional bulk they want to add to him, I'm sure the suit will be able to handle it.

I'm curious now to see Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth in a shot together.  That first image, the first time we see all of them together, will stand as the fulfillment of one of those dreams of fandom that seemed impossible for most of my life.  Avengers Assemble, indeed.

Is it 2012 yet?

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