Avengers Super Heroes: On Screen Since 1944

Written by Parveen Maghera

For over 70 years, Marvel Studios has undoubtedly produced and developed its characters with great enthusiasm and distinctiveness, of which I must say, should take pride and dignity of its work and showcases. With over 5000 characters in its library, Marvel has never failed to bring to us a complete package of ultimate superheroes, which have made it to the big screens since 1944.

The Avengers superheroes, in particular, have exhibited their spell-binding personalities on-screen for decades, some of which have relived the comic series while others brought in a brand new plot.

Take Captain America for a start. In his first appearance as a film character in the 1944 black and white film series, which comprised of 15 chapters worth of 244 minutes, the world began to anticipate the real action they have always been imagining through his collection of comics. However, the portrayal of Captain America in the series was a far cry from that. As the audience expected a real life Army Private Steve Rogers, blasting through World War II with his mighty physique against the “Axis Agents, 5th Column Sabateurs and soldiers from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan”, what they received was a District Attorney Grant Gardner, with a .38 calibre pistol.

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Nevertheless, it received a 6.7 star rating which is indeed, not bad at all. Dirk Purcell, who starred as Captain America, managed to pull it off well despite being average-sized. The role brought a whole lot of fame to him; after all, he pioneered the first visual character of Captain America. Shortly after the completion of the film, Purcell died of heart attack, due to the strain of filming Captain America, according to historian Raymond Stedman.

In 1979 came the television film version of Rod Holcomb’s Captain America, played by Red Brown.The story, yet again resembled nothing from the original comics except for the name Steve Rogers and his American-superhero apparel. Plenty of reviews claimed the film was unexpectedly entertaining, despite receiving a lower rating.

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The film progressed with another sequel, Captain America II: Death Too Soon, directed by Ivan Nagy, which adapted the least of the comic plot as well and brought in the equivalent response from that of the first instalment.

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Yet, Captain America did not stop here. In 1990, a new film hit the theatres, which credited the comics to a decent extent. Albert Pyun’s Captain America had a wonderful start, with Matt Salinger (Captain America) putting himself against the Nazi’s Red Skull in World War II, ending up frozen until the 1990s and waking up to a whole new mission of saving the President of America from the Red Skulls once again.


The film received a lower rating from that of the previous films, supposedly due to the awkward and abrupt jump from the past to the present.

It was not till 2011 that another Captain America film was produced, Captain America: The First Avenger, which drew a much greater scale of positive responses and of course, what was portrayed was worth a watch.

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Chris Evans, who played Captain America, exemplified what the real-life comic character ultimately was and was creditably acclaimed by a large segment of the audience. Joe Johnston managed to give his audiences what they have always been waiting for – a perfect collection of visuals that made the comics, come to life.

Captain America 2 is due to hit theatres in 2014.

Iron Man, one of the many admired and adored superhero after Captain America, made his debut in 2007 as an animated character in The Invincible Iron Man, directed by Patrick Archibald, Jay Oliva and Frank D. Paur (supervising director). Mark Worden lent his vocals for Iron Man’s character.

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This animated film had the least adaptation of the comic but it sure did showcase a decent display of effects for an animation.

In 2008, Iron Man: Armored Adventures was released as an animated television series which is currently at its second season. Adrian Petriw has been voicing for Iron Man since the series began and has worked with directors Philippe Guyenne from 2008 to 2009 and Stephane Juffé from 2009 to present.

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Well, it was not until the release of the first live-action film of Iron Man that awed the Marvel audience.

Iron Man theoretically made his first live-action debut in Jon Favreau’s 2008 film of the same name, Iron Man, and the man behind the mask is none other than the charming and charismatic Robert Downey Jr.


One of the best adaptations of the Marvel comics, this film scored a whooping 86.5% of ratings on average, with over 250 reviews on multiple film sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Creditably acclaimed for its superb special effects and cinematography, Iron Man ‘marvelized’ our comic characters and made them more believable. A perfect superhero adventure, I’d say.

Following the huge success of the first instalment, it is not to our surprise that a second instalment of Iron Man made its way to the big screens within two years. Favreau produced yet another fantastic superhero film, Iron Man 2, with Downey living up to his title through another Marvel adventure. Of course it couldn’t have been as great as how Iron man was seen previously but with a sequel as such, comprising of an action-packed, effects-laden climax, Iron Man 2 maintained the image and identity of what a Marvel movie can ever portray.

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Accompanying its huge success at the box office, the film won the Hollywood Film Award for the best Visual Effects of the year as well as the People’s Choice Award for Best Action Movie. Apart from that, Iron Man 2 was also nominated for several other awards such as Best Special Effects at the 37th Saturn Awards and Favourite Action Star (Robert Downey Jr.) at the People’s Choice Awards.

Iron Man is still short of one sequel to complete the trilogy as planned with Downey still upholding the title of the film. However, it would be Shane Black this time directing the third instalment, which is due mid 2013.

Hulk, like Captain America, was first seen on screen in two stand-alone movies, The Incredible Hulk and The Return of the Incredible Hulk (also known as The Incredible Hulk: Death in the Family), in 1977.

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These films were directed by Kenneth Johnson and Alan J. Levi, respectively. They were then re-edited into one-hour episodes to fit into the television series of the name The Incredible Hulk, which was aired in 1978 onwards, expanding to five seasons over the period of five years with a team of 17 directors.

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After which, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno reprised their roles from the previous TV series in three television movies: The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988); The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989); The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990). All of which received acceptable audience responses and average ratings, which was not of a bad start after all.

In 2003, a new Hulk movie emerged in the cinemas with Eric Bana taking on the role of the incredible Hulk.

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Although Ang Lee’s Hulk received average ratings, viewers were pretty satisfied with what was portrayed, with some claiming to be the best adaptation of the comics so far with its brilliant cinematography, art direction and special effects.

In 2008, another Hulk film landed in the theatres. Louis Leterrier directed the film and Edward Nortan was brought in as our new green superhero. The Incredible Hulk (2008) seemed to be more successful than the films before with an above average rating of 7.


This film seemed to be a mixture of what was shown in the previous films, more of which derived from the Ultimate Universe. It was well sought after, compared to the 2003 release.

In 2009, an animated film was released, called Hulk Vs., in which Thor and Wolverine made their appearances as well. The film was a combination of Hulk vs Thor, directed by Sam Liu, and Hulk vs Wolverine, directed by Frank Paur, neatly put together to bring to us a complete package of multiple superhero action, which was indeed, worth a watch. Fred Tatasciore lent his vocal talents to Hulk, Steve Blum’s to Wolverine and Matthew Wolf’s to Thor.

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A year later, another animated film was released, Planet Hulk which unfortunately did not garner as much popularity under Sam Liu’s direction, as compared to the previous film. (Rick D. Wasserman voiced for Hulk.)

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Mixed reviews revealed the film being one of the best Hulk animation movies while some claimed the film could have done more.

Thor made his first debut as an animated character in Hulk Vs. and in 2011, he reappeared in another animated film directed by Sam Liu, Thor: Tales Of Asgard, which was Marvel Animation’s eighth film in a series of its animated films. Matthew Wolf voiced for Thor once again, in this film alongside Loki, voiced by Rick Gomez.

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The animation seemed to be a kid’s film, which many Marvel fans in general may not enjoy since the characters were depicted merely in their younger years.

Thor, then appeared in a live-action move in the same year. With Kenneth Branagh’s excellent direction, Thor (2011) made big money at the box office and Chris Hemsworth nailed the first live appearance of Thor on the big screen.

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Although the storyline was appealing to several audiences, some claimed the film had very little to excite. Nevertheless, Thor 2011 won the awards for Best Male Newcomer (Tom Hiddleston – Loki) and Best Science Fiction/Fantasy at the Empire Awards 2012.

No doubt, with the great success this film achieved, a new instalment will be hitting the theatres in 2013.

Black Widow, one of Marvel’s sexiest and stunning female superhero may not have had any solo movies of her own but her portrayal in her supporting roles in a number of films was, nevertheless, a worthwhile watch. Of course, her confident and sexy demeanour in her roles exemplified what a female Marvel superhero could possibly be.

In 2006, Black Widow appeared in the first animation edition of the Ultimate Avengers, which also starred the other Marvel superheroes like Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Nick Fury to name a few. She was voiced by Olivia d’Abo.

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This film was claimed to be a combination of the stories from the Ultimates and the old school Avengers. Brilliant story, action and suspense, the film was one complete pack of ‘Marvel-ous’ entertainment for superhero enthusiasts. In the same year, the second edition was released, Ultimate Avengers II which brought it almost the same response as the previous film.

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Black Widow made her first live-action appearance in Iron Man 2 (2009), as an undercover spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, it was impossible not to notice the sensual red-haired Scarlett Johansson in her seductively armoured suit.

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In 2010, Black Widow appeared in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, an animated TV series in five episodes so far, voiced by Vanessa Marshall. The film also comprised of the many other Avengers superheroes as well, such as Iron Man, Captain America and Hawkeye.

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The series, portraying the old and new Marvel universe as one, is on its second season and has so far been rocking the TV sets in every home!

And there is good news! Black Widow gained much popularity from most of her films, pushing producers into the idea of a solo film for The Black Widow although no details of the film’s release has been confirmed.

Hawkeye appeared in a 1966 animated TV series entitled The Marvel Super Heroes, which included yet again our prominent superheroes: Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, to name a few.

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In 2008, Hawkeye appeared Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, an animation film which also starred Iron Man, Thor and Hulk. The film had the least to do with the comics but a much interesting storyline, keeping the younger audience entertained most of the time.

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After appearing in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hawkeye appeared in Thor’s live-action movie in 2011 in a cameo role as a spy for S.H.I.E.L.D. which was portrayed by Jeremy Renner.

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Loki also appeared in The Marvel Superheroes, one of the minor roles equivalent to Hawkeye’s. After which he also appeared in the Hulk Vs. Thor portion of the full Hulk Vs. animated film in 2009. In 2011, Loki made his appearance in Thor: Tales of the Asgard alongside Thor.

Nick Fury appeared first in his solo film, Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (1998), starred by David Hasselhoff. Despite the fact that the film received below average ratings, it was an acceptable film throughout.


Much of the excitement derived from its sub-characters, leaving Nick overlooked several times. It could have been better, as supposed. Nick reappeared in Iron Man’s first instalment of the trilogy in 2008. This time, he was portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Samuel continued to star for Nick in the second Iron Man instalment in 2010 as well as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011.

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Nevertheless, Nick could get another chance to shine on screen as news of a Nick Fury film have been reported. The film is still short of a confirmed release date.

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Very well, our Avenger superheroes have wondrously portrayed themselves on-screen for many years and will never stop surprising us as new films emerge as the years go by. Kudos to Marvel Studious for bringing to us an amazing array of kick-ass films. We will never be tired of its ever-lasting enthusiasm for our mighty superheroes!

The Avengers 2012, comprising of all the superheroes here, is currently being screened in the cinemas. Check out our Avengers review!

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