Avengers Movie? You're Welcome.
Now I’m not going to pretend that any of this is the real reason that come May 4th the world will see the sum of Marvel Comic’s best super-heroes on the silver screen in The Avengers, but I will say that in my twisted, alternate Lon-Reality that it just might have been the catalyst. And everything written past this point is one hundred percent true.
It was the summer of 2001 and I was a young, upstart filmmaker with hopes and aspirations of breaking into the film industry. I was also a life long comic book fan, but more importantly a true Marvel Zombie. The Wesley Snipes Marvel vehicle Blade had been out a couple years, director Bryan Singer’s (The Usual Suspects) X-Men was a box office smash and Sam Raimi’s (Evil Dead) Spider-Man was on deck to be a big hit and I wanted to get involved in the whole enchilada.
I had heard of this strange event held every year in San Diego called Comic-Con, and that year they were doing a Spider-Man presentation with Sam Raimi and the screenwriter of Blade, David S. Goyer, was going to be there, too. It sounded like the perfect place for an over enthusiastic wanna-be comic book film creator to be. And lucky for me, I had just the idea to make the next big comic book film.
Being a Marvel comics guy my whole life, I had followed many of their characters and their marvelous stories. Ask my mom, she’ll tell you how the first words I ever spelled were, “Captain America.”
So of course I was going to lean towards Marvel’s collection of superness, the Avengers. Composed of the company's heavy hitters, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and so forth, the Avengers were the publisher’s flagship comic book, aside from Spider-Man and the X-Men of course.
I knew the Avengers. I loved the Avengers. And if there was ever to be a movie version of a Marvel property I could pitch, it would have been them.
So even before I knew about Comic-Con that year, like every young auteur that age, every time I’d share a pint with my mates, we’d discuss what movie we’d make and who we’d make it with. So it was one night that I got to thinking about an Avengers live action movie.
Not to go into the whole premise, but you have to understand first that I thought I was quite a savvy filmmaker, too. I knew back then what it took to make movies and how expensive they were to make. I also understood how Marvel hadn’t successfully translated the costume hero over to film yet and since X-Men was such a hit with basically all of their characters in leather jumpsuits, that for the Avengers to work, they might have to go down that path, too.
So, I tried to think about the Avengers team in a more realistic approach. The team had always sort of had government ties, so I tried to think of them as an elite team of agents. I also tried to focus on characters from the team that didn’t rely too much on big CGI effect like powers and armor. I was kind of thinking I’d write the Avengers movie after the real Avengers movie came out, but with the supporting team members and not the big guns. More like the Avengers B-Squad. Perhaps the West Coast Avengers?
For the sake of your curiosity and for posterity on my end, the gist of my story had the main group of Avengers sidelined by an epic throw down with Ultron and a second team of Avengers hastily assembled to keep up the public appearance of national security and to handle a basic prison transfer of the Radioactive Man to the Vault in Colorado.
My team (and cast) featured The Black Knight (Originally I wanted to make it a hot head like Hawkeye but figured he’d be on the A team), Black Widow, The Black Panther, Falcon and Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. The team dynamic was hot headed blade expert Knight (Think Sean William Scott), Wakkandian King and Martial Arts bad ass Black Panther (Think Michael Jai White) , expert pilot and agent Falcon, Scientist Hank Pym (attempting to redeem himself after creating the Ultron Robot that took out the A team) and his wife Janet all under the leadership of former Russian spy, The Black Widow. Knight and Widow have obvious tension/chemistry and the team is always at odds because of their differences.
Their first and only mission is to just supervise the prison transfer and it’s mainly just a ride along, much to the chagrin of the whole team who thought they were actually being brought on to do much bigger things. Things go wrong however when the transfer convoy is hit by an upstart terrorist organization led by German Nationalist Helmut Zemo and his team known as the Masters of Evil.
Once the convoy is decimated and the Radioactive Man is set free, the B team is reprimanded and benched as the government works to pursue Zemo and his gang. The team assembles on their own to avenge their defeat and discover that not only was Radioactive Man being transferred but the remnants of the defeated Ultron were as well and that now a full scale prison break is being planned for the Vault as Zemo hopes to liberate his allies on the inside.
The Avengers then go rogue and steal a Quinjet to thwart the Masters of Evil before they can assault the vault and revive the Ultron technology.
So yeah, that was basically it.
I was pretty stoked on it, because as a fan myself, I’d read that. I started drawing up character designs, I wrote up a basic treatment and had a step outline written up. I held back from writing an actual spec script because everything I was ever taught about in screenwriting class was to NOT do that.
I just figured if I had a blueprint that might help convince them I was the guy to actually write the script. A boy can dream, can’t he?
So I put all my papers and drawings into a big yellow envelope, packed up a travel bag and convinced a couple dopey friends to come with me on this epic adventure to pitch my Avengers script to whoever would listen in San Diego.
That’s how it works right? (It does in the movies…)
2001 was my first Comic-Con and it wasn’t as nearly crazy as it is today. You could actually walk on the floor. Talk to your favorite comic creators and personalities. There were still long lines but the biggest presentations were still held in small panel rooms near the pavilion. There was no such thing as Hall H back then.
We got to see the Spider-Man Panel with Sam Raimi and that was awesome. However, I missed the person I was driving all that way to see, David S. Goyer. I figured, he wrote Blade, he writes movies, he’d help me out. But I couldn’t find him or I missed his appearance time. But all was not lost, because dammit, I went down to San Diego with a purpose and I was going to get it done. So I headed to the Marvel Booth to find somebody, anybody with some pull.
I got to the Marvel booth and looked around. I recognized some comic creators and various people but nobody up the right alley to help realize my dreams. I turned the corner and found the lead I was looking for.
Just casually hanging out in the booth giving an interview off to the side was X-Men director Bryan Singer. This was good because about a year prior I had a friend, let’s call her Stacy, that lived in L.A. and mentioned that her and a gal pal had lunch with this director guy named Bryan Singer. She had no idea who he was but I was going nuts asking her if she had any idea who she was dining with.
So I had my in.
I waited for him to finish his interview and I quietly approached him, told him how much I dug the X-Men film and then ask him if he remembered Stacy. We chatted about who she might be and had a good laugh. Bryan Singer was very cool. Then I got to business. I asked him if he’d look at my package. Cool your jets. I didn’t mean it like that.
I told him I had an idea for an Avengers film and if he’d take a look at what I had written. Bryan politely declined citing that he couldn’t take anything for legal reasons (which makes perfect sense), and not accepting defeat I asked him if he knew anybody there I could talk to. He pointed me in the direction of a gentlemen standing off to the side with his kid and told me his name was Kevin.
I cautiously strolled over as Kevin was finishing his conversation and when he was finished, I politely asked if he had a minute and that Bryan had sent me over. (Hey, it was true!). I mentioned that I tried to tell Bryan about my Avengers movie and asked if I could give him my materials.
Kevin, God bless him, I’m sure just wanted to take his kid around Comic-Con and have a good father/son day, took a minute to hear me out but he just looked at me and said basically to the effect that “there’ll never be an Avengers movie. It’s just too hard to get all the properties together in one film.”
Not accepting defeat, I returned with, “well, I kinda had figured that and that’s why my idea featured second tier characters like the Black Knight and Black Widow…”
Kevin paused for a split second, then reached into his front pocket and handed me his business card and told me to email him on Monday. I thanked him for his time and walked away towards my dopey friends looking at the card.
I went home that weekend feeling accomplished and the eight hour drive home was a victory lap because in my head, I went down with a mission to make a contact and I did.
Of course I emailed the future president of Marvel Entertainment the following Monday and of course, I never heard anything further from him or his people. I never got to show my materials to anyone at Marvel and I never shared my plot synopsis until now.
However, a couple of years later, Marvel Comics came out with their Ultimate line of books, which featured a title called the Ultimates, which was basically a cinematic retelling of the Avengers story in a brave new world. It wasn’t similar to mine at all but it did share the same spirit of my story in the fact that it looked to set the Avengers into the real world with more realistic/real world costumes and identities.
It’s firmly believed by a lot of fans in comics that the Ultimates made the upcoming Avengers movie even possible by laying the ground for a cinematic approach to the property.
Also, a lot of work was being done by Marvel Studios to keep all their properties under one umbrella so that one day… they might put them all in one movie. Something that someone said couldn’t be done.
So, this May 4th, a personal dream will come true, as I will be able to watch an actual live action Avengers film on the silver screen. A lot of credit goes to Kevin Feige and all the hard working people at Marvel Films. And I’m not going to say that I had ANYTHING to do with it. But who knows?
Maybe a seed was planted that day. Maybe if I didn’t say anything to the future president of Marvel Studios that day, the Avengers movie doesn’t get made. I’m not saying you can thank me for the Avengers movie….BUT… you’re welcome.
(Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in slightly different form on Lon's own comedy website MoronLife.com..)