Marvel Avenger’s Odd Audience Engagement

21 Nov

By Comic Relief

When the quality of the feature films we receive improves are we required to respond differently to our entertainment?  How do we know there has been an improvement?  It’s a sign of the times that all action films, especially those of the Super hero genre, are now at least partially animation films.  This new reality requires viewers to at least partially reevaluate the entertainment they are receiving.


The Avengers started filming during the summer, and still expects to be finished with all parts of the production by May 4th 2012.  This is full movie production within one year.  It is phenomenal that a potentially two-hour film, likely filled with animation sequences, will be completed in that short period of time.   In terms of feature film production, I would dare even say this is rocket science.  Is this the only standard for innovation in feature films?  No; surely it is unlikely that one can innovate a feature film genre without demonstrating innovations in production technology, the quality of protagonists, antagonists, story structure and content.

Will the industry tell us when these innovation occur; maybe not? Unfortunately by way of the marketing departments of many studios (including Marvel Entertainment) an acknowledgement of this accomplishment has lagged in regard to many current sales campaigns.  Is this an expression of modesty?  Some how we should doubt it.  Since when does business schools teach restraint?  This self-composure has not be seen in history, and in fact when things are going well, it more common that we see the opposite.  Instead it is more likely that this self-control is actually a product of the art department leadership.  Which is also shocking because even in Hollywood, rarely do the art departments receive this much respect.  So we can’t expect marketing to inform us of improvements, does this let us off the hook?

That viewers might receive a fully finished and possibly successful film in the turnaround proposed by Marvel is almost unbelievable.  Do we really gain more by not knowing how the product is created? Despite what we may gain as a result of this wizardry, we should know what benefits we’re receiving. We should understand the innovation so that way we might know how to better support it; should it be successful.  These are some other ways production “Marvels” (pun intended) are being hidden or withheld from us.  To make sure we stay on the same page we have to explore the leadership of the art department, but first let’s review.

Again retaining the illusion that nothing unusual is happening, this movie studio essentially hides how fantastic their proposed production accomplishment is.  They do this by performing a whole range of stunts to keep audiences engaged yet blissfully ignorant of what they are receiving.  But should this surprise us? No, Marvel has been sending signs that they intended to turn Hollywood on its ear for some time.  Here is the creative evidence for that last statement.


First we have to remember that Marvel’s pedigree was earned in the comic book industry. And this was an excellent place to begin from because of the essential nature of the storyboard, a central schematic building block of the feature film production.  Yet even in the comic book industry there were a few clichés that needed to be extinguished to allow that industry to flourish.  How was Marvel going to take Hollywood if they weren’t willing to master and manage all of the kinks in their prior industry?  Though this happened in the comic as well as later at Fox studios, Marvel decided it would first undermine the bedrock of the super hero comic; the secret identity.  Marvel has continuously unmasked their super heroes and both horrified and excited many fans.  Fans are horrified because dismantling this trope has been an essential building block of the super hero formula expressed from the very beginning.   Beginning as a sacrificial commitment, characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had secret identities primarily to protect themselves and loved ones who could be targeted if these relationships were known by the general public.  Narrative wise, this character definition also guaranteed that these heroic individuals could be situated amongst us, not on mount Olympus as the Greek gods were stationed.  Possibly relying on the Biblical example, we were instructed that because of proximity, super heroes could be loved not just worshipped as powerful personalities were previously presented.

Fans are excited by the decline of secret identities for an altogether different reason.  Many comics’ fans are literary fans, so the dispensing with of needless narrative traditions excites a progressive mindset. Despite previous precedent, unmasking proposes that super heroes can live 24 hour lives that were not diminished by less intimate relationships with the individuals they protect.  Does this make the average person more vulnerable. We should wait for the comic industry or DC comics to determine that and present it to us in a provocative manner.

Where have we seen this unmasking occur at Marvel entertainment; basically in every Marvel movie to date.  Though Wolverine wears a mask in the comic this was never presented as essential on the silver screen.  In Ironman one Tony Stark organized a press conference where he notified the public about his secret identity.  Though prone to alternative identities, Black widow who was introduced in Ironman two, was never introduced in feature films as having an essential identity other than her Super Hero guise.  Thor was originally presented as having a secret identity yet it was presented as unnecessary in his movie.  He is purely Thor Odinson, not Donald Blake as he was originally presented in the comic. Hawkeye was also presented in the Thor movie and he unlike his comic book incarnation was never introduced with a mask.  In Captain America, his traditional comic book mask or cowl is presented as more of a protective helmet and no attempt to hide his identity was ever attempted.  Likewise Bruce Banner is presented as the true identity of the Hulk in the comic.  You will notice in the new Avengers posters that were presented last week that a green cast on Banner’s face is supposed to be a subtle reminder of his more volatile though not secret identity.

Look for your self, in their latest poster Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo, second from the left on the top row) is presented as the 7th Avenger)[2].


Yeah the new posters look great but you may be asking what real difference does the poster make?  Doesn’t the trailer sale the movie better?  You would be right, but oddly as we said before the goal is to create stunts that don’t reveal that any innovation is really occurring.  This way it’s possible to take audiences by surprise, only the creative departments would care about this.


Look at the posters; the only visible villain visible is Loki (Thor’s adopted brother), played by Tom Hiddleston (second from the left on the bottom row)[3]. Thor proved to be too strong an opponent for Loki in a previous film; so what gives.  How could Loki be a decent antagonist for the whole group?  What we have heard in minimal press suggestion and seen from the trailer is that the Avengers will likely be fending off an alien invasion but no visuals of this threat have been seen (again because they are likely being produced in CGI studios as we speak).  Also lets not forget marketing and the studio tends to under sale innovation.  Again they believe surprise will better enhance their product.

Who will these other antagonists likely to be or what aliens are these likely to be?  Those familiar with Avengers history speculate on these group and individual threats: the Skrulls, the Kree, Thanos, Annihilus, etc., [4]. It is fair to assume that we may not find out the identity of the extra antagonists until the end.  The studio understands these clues would certainly empower audiences to imagine an ending or development progress that would certainly jeopardize the surprises that Marvel wants to save for audiences.

Though there is reason to fear that computer generated adversaries may prove to be dramatically unpersuasive, we have to hope that Loki’s inclusion signals that acting wise he will likely be doing all of the heavy lifting dramatically.

As long as this information is withheld fans will always wait expectantly.  To improve the entertainment experience, this mystery certainly isn’t a unique marketing strategy, yet it does illustrate how seriously Marvel is taking this film.  If they are this serious about withholding surprises we can nearly assume that the antagonist is intended to be as innovative as other aspects of the film.

We can continue to speculate about the story structure and content. We need the actual film to discern how effective these elements are.  With all of these hidden and obscured aspects of the film we have every little reason to believe we may get a spectacular narrative.  But only time and viewing will tell.

Please join us for a discussion Tuesday, 11/22/2011@7pE/12UTC


References used:





49 Responses to “Marvel Avenger’s Odd Audience Engagement”

  1. littlebells November 21, 2011 at 10:45 AM #

    Wow. 🙂

  2. Open Book November 22, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Let me read and get caught up!

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

      Hi everyone. I will be ready when you are.

  3. Open Book November 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM #


    I agree with LB WOW!

    Q: Traditionally the protagonist and antagonist are played by two different actors. However, Bourne Identity introduced the idea of the Protagonist and Antagonist being one in the same. Do u think this would work in the SuperHero genre or has there been one already?

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

      In the Incredible Hulk his secret identity is frequently the hero and and his more heroic alter ego (the monster) is the villan. The two characters have been known to speak badly of each other.

      • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

        But I’m talking about the comic. The TV Hulk never or couldn’t speak at all.

      • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

        Ahh! So the Hulk is the Antagonist but then becomes the Protagonist right?

        • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:08 PM #


          • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

            What do u think of Marvel putting out this poster instead of a trailer?

            • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

              Well, putting out posters and interviews is their way of stalling. Obviously being this late in the twentieth-first century posters don’t announce as movie like a good trailer does.

              But if you don’t have any more footage, you don’t. Fans will tolerate scraps and faux events if that is all Marvel has.

              • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

                Do u think comic book fans are more demanding than Twihards?

                • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

                  I’m not sure, do twihards have standards?

                  • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:24 PM #

                    Ouch! Hmm!

                    LB do u want to answer this one?

                    • Littlebells November 22, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

                      I would think comic book fans are more demanding and this is why:

                      Twilight fans are relatively new and there history is very short in comparison to story, characters, and years of history. They are also extremely hormonally driven. I don’t know of one fan who loves the series because they want to run super duper fast, see into the future, or shape shift.

                    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

                      Ahh! Great observation LB!

                    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 9:10 PM #


                      are you claiming they’re bound together by being horny? I guess I won’t disagree.

                    • littlebells November 22, 2011 at 9:15 PM #


                      🙂 To a a degree yes. Some love the romance, but look at what has been the hot selling point of BD: the sex. I mean honeymoon.

                  • Littlebells November 22, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

                    *snort*. Depends on which spectrum you are looking.

                    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

                      The ones who where fangs to the midnight showing of Twilight.

                    • Littlebells November 22, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

                      Holy fudge suckers. That is…Oh my…*walks away from the monitor*

                    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

                      Yes! I saw all this without coffee in my system.

            • Littlebells November 22, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

              I realize I am in the minority when I say this: Honestly, I am so overstimulated with media, trailers, etc…a poster is fine advertising for me. I have already been sold on the movie. I don’t need anymore push. For right now, less is more. For me.

              • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

                ITA! It can get to be to much. However, it seems they do it to keep people talking about it. Do u think this strategy works well or not? Do u think it will get more people to see it if they continue to push it?

  4. Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

    Do u like the poster CR? What does it reveal if anything about the film?

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

      It reveals they haven’t finished all of the CGI Ironman, Hulk or any of the secret alien enemy.

      It also seems to reveals Thor will not be wearing his helmet and Black Widow won’t be using her wrist revolversin this movie.

  5. Littlebells November 22, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

    Hi OB and CR

    Sorry I am late. Getting dinner, but I am here. Let me get caught up. 🙂

    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

      No problem LB. Nice to see u!

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

      Hi LB.

  6. Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

    U mentioned in your article Loki not being an adequate Antagonist for The Avengers. What about Captain America? He really got off the hook.

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      I did not say he was inadequate. Thor beat Loki in “THOR.” Now Thor has at least 6 other teamates. Some how I’m pretty sure he will win again. Without the alien menace we really don’t know what we are getting. Fans were not unsatisfied because hey were excited to see the team assembled.

      May I ask what you meant by Captain America got let off the hook?

      • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

        Captain America got let off the hook because his menace died. Then he gets transported to the future. Where is his adversary?

        • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

          Well that’s true, but Loki makes a better group adversary.

          • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:46 PM #


            • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:53 PM #

              Choosing Hiddleson seems to hint that he has the acting chops to make Loki a formidale adversary. In Thor he was complicated hard to predict, and had a suprising back story.

  7. comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:36 PM #

    Actually, Loki was the best chosen, and the least 2 dimensional of any of the villians in the other movies. I believe audiences really felt for him, in Thor.

    The other villians; Red Skull, Adomination, and Whiplash would have been difficult to extend into this film.

    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

      Why do u think Red Skull and Whiplash would be difficult to put into the Avengers?

      • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

        As seen in Captain America(TFA) and Iron man, they were fairly predicatble adversaries which made sense in their respective movies.

        Choosing Hiddleson seems to hint that he has the acting chops to make Loki a formidale adversary. In Thor he was complicated hard to predict, and had a suprising back story.

        The Red Skull and Whiplash had typical grudges, no surprise there.

        • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

          As for less predictable, as I said in thr article Marvel entertainment is doing things with their protagonists that are less expected;

          Tony stark announcing he is Iron man:

        • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

          See I think Loki is my favorite Antagonist because u care about him. I feel he has real motivation for being angry. I think u want to try and humanize antagonist instead of just making them so black and white all the time. It makes them more realistic when they are grey IMO!

          • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM #


          • littlebells November 22, 2011 at 9:09 PM #

            I agree. I think he has more.depth and motivation to be a Villan.

  8. comic relief November 22, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

    Here’s Tom earning himseld another movie.

    • Open Book November 22, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

      What is it about this scene u like?

      • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 9:05 PM #

        In this scene he tell’s us he’s actually a frost giant. The antagonist and villians of that film.

        He did not know he was adopted and not related to Thor or Odin as he thought.

        The audience did not agree with him but understood his anger.

  9. comic relief November 22, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

    Obviously they will spend some period of time in the new movie telling us why he did not die in the last film. PLEASE,PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE,PLEASE,PLEASE,
    ….forgive the bootleg footage.

    It’s completely unfogiveable.

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 9:06 PM #

      Sorry, “Unforgivable.”

  10. Open Book November 22, 2011 at 9:07 PM #

    I think we lost LB!

    CR-I have to go. I will come back and comment tomorrow as well.

    • littlebells November 22, 2011 at 9:12 PM #

      Sorry! I will be back as well.

      CR, you always give us such great information and I hate when I’m unable to give your article the attention it deserves. I will be back tomorrow afternoon with more questions.

    • comic relief November 22, 2011 at 9:14 PM #

      That’s cool.

      I’m going to head out too.

      Nice seeing you LB.

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