It's almost here. Tomorrow, Joss Whedon's Avengers movie opens in UK cinemas.
I grew up reading comic books - getting a weekly issue of Transformers from our local newsagent, delivered with the newspaper. Transformers UK featured a serialised chunk of the monthly Transformers US comic, an original black and white Transformers comic by British creators, and a reprint of something else. For a brief time, it was Iron Man - in his red and silver Centurion armour heyday.
It was my first exposure to American superheroes and I loved it. Eventually Tony was replaced by Visionaries and finally Action Force/GI Joe, but I never forgot the Armoured Avengers. Years later as a college student, I found an American comic shop in Swindon - True Believers. It was during the chaos of the Onslaught saga, but as the dust settled Marvel announced two things that caught my interest. The first was the Thunderbolts - which remains one of my favourite comics fifteen years later. Though, quick aside - damn you Marvel for rebranding it as Dark Avengers in the coming months - that sucks.
The second was Heroes Reborn - the classic Avengers titles, reimagined by Image creators. I loved the chance to pick up an all new Iron Man comic and enjoyed the way the Hulk's origin was linked to Tony becoming Iron Man. Sadly the Heroes Reborn experiment was as flawed as it was inventive and eventually the idea was shelved, replaced by the Heroes Return titles. With Thunderbolt's co-creator Kurt Busiek at the head of both Avengers and Iron Man, this was a golden age for this fan.
Heroes Reborn however, did lead the way to the Ultimate universe and following the success of Ultimate Spidey and Ultimate X-Men, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch brought us the incredible Ultimates book (coming soon - Why Should I Read... The Ultimates!). This arguably gave a fresh modern take on the Avengers that incorporated the Millar/Hitch "widescreen" flavour of comic storytelling. It seemingly became the blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with the incredible Iron Man film.
2008 will always have a special place in my heart. I opened my own comic shop! After years of working for others I was finally my own master. Then Marvel gave us the most amazing superhero film with Iron Man. Managing to be both respectful to the source material and yet forging its own story, the film combined action with real emotion and gravitas plus a great sense of humour.
The post credits scene hinted at a larger shared story to come, with Samuel L Jackson bringing the Ultimate Nick Fury to life. The Incredible Hulk movie a few months later chased the taste of the Ang Lee travesty out of my mouth and continued to show that there was a larger plan behind these movies. After that came Iron Man 2 and that first glimpse of Thor's hammer. At the end of Thor, we saw the cosmic cube (aka the Tesseract) that was a key plot point in Captain America, and at the end of Cap, we find Steve in present day ready for a new mission. Help save the world.
(There are so many more connections between the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, from the super soldier serum in The Incredible Hulk, to the Tesseract in Iron Man 2 and the World Tree in Captain America - it's a wonderfully rich tapestry that reveals the shared universe ethos of Marvel comics transposed onto the big screen.)
So, for me, Avengers Assemble is the most anticipated film of the year. Sure, I've obsessively watched the Prometheus trailer. I've devoured every bit of info on The Dark Knight Rises. And I've championed The Amazing Spider-Man even in the face of that dire Mirror's Edge-style sequence in the first trailer. But Avengers is the one for me this year.
To that end, on Thursday 26th April, Proud Lion will not be opening until 2pm. In the morning, this self-employed smuck with no company or statutory sick pay and no minimum four weeks holiday a year, is taking the morning off. I'll be making a fannish pilgrimage to Cineworld, to see the first showing of Avengers Assemble.
Then as a reward for your patience, I'll be open 2-6pm and there'll be a special bonus.
ALL AVENGERS STOCK WILL BE 20% OFF! FOR ONE AFTERNOON ONLY!
That includes comics, graphic novels, action figures, t-shirts. It also includes Avengers team members' solo stuff such as Iron Man, Cap, Thor, Black Widow and even Spidey and Wolverine. It even includes Reservation Service folder comics. It DOES NOT include back issues from upstairs though. Sorry about that.
So, come on down from 2pm and grab a bargain. Just remember, I'll be closed tomorrow morning. Just this once.
Ben Fardon CAN.NOT.WAIT!