COMIC-CON 2010: Marvel stages a superhero panel, and a rock concert breaks out

July 25, 2010 | 4:58 a.m.
Avengers

If Comic-Con aims to give fanboys and superhero junkies a taste of heaven on earth, Saturday evening’s session transported them there directly.

Robert Downey Jr., and a host of actors from Marvel’s “Avengers” — including new Hulk Mark Ruffalo — made an unannounced appearance on the Comic-Con stage. Landing somewhere between a tent revival and a Who concert, the event elicited 6,000 flashing cameras and almost as many high-volume cheers. “I’ve had a dream all my life, and it was not this good,” said director Joss Whedon as he took the microphone.

The fans whooped loudest for Downey and gave plenty of love to unannounced Comic-Con guests Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson. The reaction was more muted — at least comparatively — for Ruffalo, who replaces the fan-approved Edward Norton. Earlier in the session, fan disapproval of Marvel’s decision to split with Norton was evident when Marvel production chief Kevin Feige downplayed the move and elicited some catcalls from the crowd.

Downey, who took the mike by jokingly asking that nobody stab anyone else while he was on the stage, did try to placate nervous fans about Ruffalo’s casting. “I demand a most warm welcome for the man reprising the role of Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo,” he said, in the voice of Tony Stark, as he introduced the newest actor to the Avengers fold.

The Comic-Con hero also threw down the gauntlet to “Dark Knight” director Chris Nolan, whose Batman movies are, of course, part of the DC Comics stable, with a reference to the filmmaker’s hit movie. “I thought ["Inception"] was the most ambitious movie I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘Marvel is going to put all its superheroes in one movie — that’s the most ambitious movie I’ve ever seen.’ “

Fans also cheered loudly for Whedon, who refreshingly deviated from standard “I feel blessed” Comic-Con cliche with a joke at his own expense. “I am going to blow it,” he said amid the cheers. “I’m not up to it.”

The presentation followed the promotion for two more imminent Marvel movies, “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor.”

Joe Johnston pulled the wraps off “Captain America,” a World War II movie starring Chris Evans as the title character and Hugo Weaving as a German villain. Although the film has just begun shooting, Marvel did bring some early footage. “Comic-Con has been about showing things that are very polished and very finished,” Feige said. He paused. “So you want to see what we shot last week?”

Meanwhile, Kenneth Branagh, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth and others working on “Thor” turned up to promote their May 2011 movie. Branagh, known for art house dramas and period pieces more than superhero vehicles, is an unconventional choice to direct the film about the Norse God in modern-day America, but he strove to make the connection. “My first movie was ‘Henry V,’ ” Branagh said, “and it contained an epic battle and a man with a very dysfunctional family.”

–Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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Photo: From left, Robert Downey Jr., Clark Gregg, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, director Joss Whedon, producer and Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige from the motion picture “Marvel Studios’ The Avengers,” in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury and Agent Coulson together on screen for the first time. Credit: Marvel Entertainment.

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