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Iron Man, portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., left, and Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans, in a scene from "The Avengers" (AP)
Iron Man, portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., left, and Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans, in a scene from "The Avengers" (AP)

Movies

The Avengers: The holy day is upon us Add to ...

Still, with few exceptions, late June has been the go-to time for Warner Bros. to release superhero flicks. Following the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, which has grossed more than $250-million in Canada and the U.S. since its release on June 23, 1989, Warner Bros. has seized on that time of year as the prime launching ground for caped crusaders.

Of the 16 live-action movies based on DC Comics characters that the studio has released, 10 have been released in the narrow window between June 16 and June 28.

Given its huge success, Christopher Nolan’s sequels to Batman Begins have been granted a plum spot in July, where the billion-dollar franchise can stand apart from rivals. But next year’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel? It’s slated for release on June 14.

The pattern for Marvel movies was established a decade ago, when Spider-Man was released on May 3, 2002. Geekdom was hitting its stride in the new millennium, and helped make the movie the first to pass the $100-million mark in a single weekend. Since then, why mess with success?

“May 4 has become the traditional opening of summer, and comic-book movies naturally lend themselves to that big summer spectacle,” says Jonah Weiland, executive producer of ComicBookResources.com.

But with blockbuster movies beginning to crowd the summer schedule, studios are being forced to experiment with other pages of the calendar to find safe havens from the competition. The third Iron Man film might have May 3 already locked up for next year, but the sequel to Thor has been pushed all the way to mid-November. The following year, Captain America 2 will arrive in theatres on April 4. Yes, Marvel Studios has already announced its 2014 release date. Mark your calendar.

THE CAST

Avengers, assemble! The Marvel comic-book superteam of heroes has featured a rotating cast since making its debut in The Avengers No. 1 in 1963. The group’s big-screen debut features a smaller group that will be familiar to anyone who’s been watching superhero movies over the past decade, where they have appeared in individual films. It can take super powers just to keep all of them straight.

Iron Man

Alter ego: Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist, playboy and engineering genius.

Powers: A suit of armour that features a laundry list of weapons and gizmos, including the ability to fly.

Played by: Robert Downey Jr.

Captain America

Alter ego: Steve Rogers, a pipsqueak with a fighting spirit keen to help the U.S. fight the Nazis in the Second World War.

Powers: The supersoldier serum Rogers took gave him off-the-charts strength, agility, speed and endurance. He also has an indestructible shield.

Played by: Chris Evans.

The Hulk

Alter ego: Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a physicist.

Name: After exposure to gamma radiation, Dr. Banner when enraged transforms in to the Hulk, a green giant strong enough to lift more than 100 tonnes. He can also leap great distances.

Played by: Mark Ruffalo.

Thor

Alter ego: In comics he’s Jake Olsen, an EMS technician, but in the movies he’s only the Norse god Thor, son of Odin.

Powers: His hammer, Mjolnir, is indestructible, always returns to his hand, allows him to fly and can summon thunder, lightning, rain and wind.

Played by: Chris Hemsworth.

Hawkeye

Alter ego: Clinton Francis Barton, an orphan who honed his skills at a carnival, where his archery skills made him a star.

Powers: Although he possesses no superpowers, Hawkeye is the world’s greatest archer and has an arsenal of arrows with custom tips.

Played by: Jeremy Renner.

Black Widow

Alter ego: Natasha Alianovna Romanova, a former citizen of the USSR who defected to the U.S.

Powers: An Olympic-level athlete, she has bracelets that shoot electric bolts and a cable called the “widow’s line.”

Played by: Scarlett Johansson.

BATTLE OF THE (COMIC BOOKS)

Comic-book readers may have no trouble distinguishing Marvel from DC, the two biggest publishers of superhero fare. But if you don’t know your Wonder Woman from Wolverine, then use this cheat sheet at the store this weekend on Free Comic Book Day.

FOUNDED AS

Marvel: Timely Comics, 1939

DC: National Allied Publications, 1935

BIGGEST STARS

Marvel: Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man

DC: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern

SUPER TEAM(s)

Marvel: X-Men, The Avengers

DC: The Justice League

SETTINGS

Marvel: Often real places (especially New York).

DC: Frequently fictional (Gotham, Metropolis).

PRESENCE OF ALIENS

Marvel: Minor. Most characters are angsty heroes dealing with everyday problems (e.g. Peter Parker struggling to pay the rent).

DC: Strong. Many characters have some alien connection, whether it’s Superman’s origin or the Green Lantern Corps.

Dave McGinn

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Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn

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