In 1947, Writer’s Digest commissioned Stan Lee to write an article titled “There’s Money in Comics”—a novel idea at the time. In this article, Stan lists this advice to would-be comics writers:
- Have a provocative beginning
- Use smooth continuity from panel to panel
- Concentrate on realistic dialogue which leads to good characterization
- Maintain suspense throughout
- Provide a satisfying ending
Whether it was overt or not, Joss Whedon and company clearly had this advice in mind while making Marvel’s The Avengers.
A Provocative Beginning
From the mysterious voice telling us the “Tesseract has awakened,” to an all-out evacuation of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, beginnings don’t get more intriguing than this.
While Nick Fury and Doctor Selvig (remember him from Thor?) try to decide what to do, Loki appears, causes mayhem, and turns the doctor and Hawkeye into his minions.
Fury’s left with quite a mess on his hands, but fortunately he’s been sitting on a little project and it might be just the time to start.
One of my favorite trademarks of Marvel Studios films is how seamlessly each scene flows into the next. In fact, even after seeing these films multiple times, I sometimes forget how characters got from one sequence to the next. This is because each scene moves organically into the next.
The first half of The Avengers is a great example. Loki’s appearance inspires Fury to activate the Avengers Initiative. Once assembled, they go to bring Loki in and that’s when Thor shows up to get his brother in line. Every cause has an effect, and that’s just to the third act!
Realistic Dialogue / Good Characterization
We’ve talked at length about the realism Marvel brings to their characters through honest interactions, believable motivations, and real-world problems. But it’s worth mentioning that a big reason The Avengers is so enjoyable comes from the mixture of fantastical plots and grounded characters.
A great example of this happens when the Avengers argue in the Helicarrier. What starts as a debate over the true intentions of S.H.I.E.L.D. turns into an all-out argument where each character reveals their true feelings about the others. It’s honest, cringy, and still kind of funny.
Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
The suspense in this film is two-fold. The over-arching question is “will these heroes become the Avengers?” It’s a good question, and even though you kind of know the answer (I mean, they have to become the Avengers, don’t they?), you still don’t know what path they’ll take to get there.
Marvel Studios films take you on an adventure, and the journey can be just as satisfying as the destination.
The bigger mystery is Loki’s plan. He’s working for someone, but who? If you’re familiar with Marvel comics, you may know Thanos and his intentions, but if you’re new, what’s coming is a complete mystery—one that weaves its way through the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I don’t know about you, but a big ‘ol action sequence is a pretty satisfying way to end things in my book. From the undulating Leviathans that the team must take down to Tony’s heroic near self-sacrifice, this is an ending that will leave you as full of amazement as the Avengers after they eat all the shawarma in the post-credit scene.
The Avengers is a pretty darn perfect example of Stan Lee’s writing philosophy. It highlights what makes these stories and characters so timeless. And it does it all while being a ton of fun.
JARVIS, could you see what’s next on the movie marathon list? Yep, that’s right. It’s time for more Tony with Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3.