‘The Avengers,’ the super hero mix-up film, has been planned by Marvel Comics for years, producing the biggest comic book movie to date.

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This should be Marvel Comics’ finest moment. Like throwing chum to sharks, fanboys around the world will crowd theaters during the next few weeks to engage in a movie extravaganza that we have never seen before.

Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America will be in one movie at the same time. Stars of their respective films unite for the greater good to entertain geeks and make a lot of movie executives rich.

Multiple heroes and villains have been in Marvel movies before, most notably in the “X-Men” films. But they never had top billing, the demigod, green monster, super soldier and Robert Downey, Jr. have.

Marvel Comics have made bank at the box office. Summertime is comic book movie time and Hollywood executives know it. Nerds rule now — they fork over tons of cash to watch movies, buy merchandise and keep the perpetual cycle of comic books alive. For every “Ghost Rider” or “Elektra” that’s made, an “X-Men,” “Iron Man” or “Spider-Man” more than makes up for that monetary dud.

I don’t buy Loki as a major bad guy … If Thor can win by himself, why does he need the other heroes on his side?

There was once a time when comic book films didn’t equate to instant money. DC Comics’ “Superman” (1978) was the first major Hollywood comic book movie that was actually good and did well with ticket sales (more than $300 million worldwide). The inclusion of Marlon Brando, a major Hollywood actor, as Jor-El and a story by “Godfather” author Mario Puzo gave “Superman” instant credibility among serious film critics.

A sequel of “Superman” came out that was actually better than the first, but didn’t make as much money. Lesser “Superman” sequels followed that simply sucked ass. Tim Burton’s “Batman” movie hit the theaters in 1989, turning a healthy profit. Then watered-down “Batman” sequels were made that were so ridiculous and campy, it set back the comic book movement for years.

Marvel Comics entered the mix with “Blade” in 1998. The Daywalker began the comic book trend, but it was Marvel’s next film, “X-Men,” that solidified summer blockbusters’ biggest characters began life as artwork and catch phrases.

In 2005, Marvel took the big step of branching out when it declared independence after securing a loan from Merrill Lynch. Marvel would produce the films while Paramount Pictures would distribute them. “The Avengers” became the top priority for Marvel, however, a series of films needed to be created to ease the transition to the big team-up.

That meant a reboot of “Hulk,” a couple of “Iron Man” movies, and individual films showcasing Captain America and Thor. The goal of summer 2011 wasn’t met (“Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” came out last year along with “X-Men First Class” — yeah, it was a busy summer), but now all of the pieces are in place.

“The Avengers” kick off the summer season by being the first major blockbuster to come out in May. How big can this get?

Marvel’s fattest cash cow was the atrocious “Spider-Man 3” which web-slinged its way to more than $890 million. That movie sucked, I don’t know why so many people went to see it. In fact, “Spider-man” films have done incredibly well, how is that, Peter Parker is nowhere near as badass as any of the Avengers or the X-Men?

The gold standard of comic book films remains “The Dark Knight,” the gritty Batman tale that earned critical acclaim and the deceased Heath Ledger an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He was a scary-good Joker.

“The Dark Knight” became a mega-hit at the box office, making more than $1 billion in 2008.

It is doubtful Marvel’s biggest movie can match that. “The Avengers” comes out at the beginning of the movie season, the theaters will only get more congested as the weeks go by. “The Dark Knight” came out at the end of July 2008, paving the way for it to annihilate any competition that premiered in August.

What super villain could possibly match the might of Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (yes, I know Hawkeye and Black Widow are on the team too, but come on, we know who’s going to do the heavy lifting)? The strange answer is Loki, who was beaten single-handedly by Thor in last year’s film. I don’t buy Loki as a major bad guy. He just doesn’t seem fit enough. I hope the film beefs him up somehow. If Thor can win by himself, why does he need the other heroes on his side?

I expected

* Spoilers ahead *

Dr. Doom or Thanos to take charge. However, there is a hint of Thanos in the film, expect him to be the ultimate bad guy in the sequel. Thanos is hard core enough to take on the Avengers.

* End of spoilers *

There is no doubt that “The Avengers” will deliver mindless action. Like any comic book movie, don’t go for its intricate plot, see it for the mind-numbing special effects. And this film should have plenty of it; this will be unheard of to see the Hulk and company kick ass for two hours.

I can’t wait for these Avengers to assemble.

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