The Avengers

After dominating movie theaters for the past decade with blockbusters featuring Spider-Man, the X-Men and Iron Man, Marvel Comics is now starting to focus on television. The popular kid-targets series The Super Hero Squad Show begins its second season on Cartoon Network this weekend (Saturday, Oct. 23, 6:30am/5:30c), and news broke last week that a new live-action Hulk series is being developed for ABC.

On Wednesday night DisneyXD premieres the new animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, bringing together iconic Marvel characters Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Wasp and Ant-Man, and, in upcoming episodes, Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther and Hawkeye. The show kicks off (with back-to-back episodes airing at 8:30/7:30c and 9/8c) as 74 bloodthirsty super villains are mysteriously sprung from several high-security prisons. When the various heroes come together to fend off the first adversary, the team begins to take shape.

The heroes will also have to contend with their super-sized egos. "It's not always about going out there and beating the bad guy, more often than not it's about how the team will interact with each other," says Jeph Loeb, Marvel's head of television and a former producer on Smallville and Heroes. "Obviously there will be great fights and action, but there will also be the ongoing challenge of these big personalities trying to work together."

As part of Marvel and DisneyXD's effort to expand the Avengers experience, they've posted "micro-episodes" with back-stories on the heroes at disneyxd.com/avengers. And, of course, this series helps increase awareness of these heroes that will dovetail into Marvel's ongoing theatrical plans. "It wasn't that long ago that Iron Man was not the household name that he is right now," Loeb says. "We want to make kids — and everyone — aware of who Captain America and Thor are [because] we've got two big blockbuster movies coming up next year. And that'll be followed up by what will probably be the biggest superhero move ever, The Avengers, in 2012. This really is the road to The Avengers."

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