The Avengers have been assembling for nearly 50 years in the pages of their comics series, but May 4 marks the superheroes' first gathering on the big screen.
To get all those newcomers who will flock to the movie "The Avengers" into its own fold, Marvel Comics launches the new series "Avengers Assemble" on Wednesday, offering the main movie stars -- Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and the Hulk -- in a book aimed at the mainstream.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis has been hearing a lot from people wondering where to start in reading Avengers comics before the film opens. "Here's the place," he says of Assemble. "It is a clean-as-a-whistle, come-on-in-the-water's-nice Avengers story."
It isn't the first time Marvel has premiered a title tied to a movie opening. "Invincible Iron Man" launched in 2008, the same year as the release of the first "Iron Man" movie, and there were new Captain America and Thor No. 1's published last year around the time their adaptations arrived in theaters.
Giving new fans an easy entry point into "what can be a confusing world of comics" is a goal for Marvel, says executive editor Tom Brevoort. But that's especially important considering the massive promotion en route for the film.
"People who haven't thought about these characters or ever crossed their paths are going to see them like nobody's business," he says.
However, "Avengers Assemble," drawn by Mark Bagley, is also a key series for longtime Avengers faithful: It features a revamped version of the 1970s supervillain group Zodiac, with all-new characters and all-new powers, and will have a lasting effect in the Marvel Universe continuity.
As more movies have been released, Marvel Studios has worked with the publishing division to tweak as needed, although "they're never going to be in perfect lockstep because they're two separate things," Brevoort says.
While Brevoort says it's "enormously important" to grab movie fans and turn them on to the comics, he and Bendis agree they want to expand the appeal beyond just them.
"Our problem is that people don't read anything, and kids read less and less," Bends says. "That's my focus even more than the movie people. I want to get everyone on the planet into comics."
By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY