After a long, crazy day at Comic-Con, weary fans got a surprise that made all the lines and bizarre incidents worth it: They met their Avengers!
At the tail end of the action-packed day (after a real-life blood bath over a seating dispute), Hall H patrons got their first looks at Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, repping the two officially scheduled films on the Marvel Studios agenda.
Even if all they got was a glimpse of Evans in costume test footage as Captain America, fans screamed their support at the mere sight of the beloved WWII hero in red, white and blue. Director Joe Johnston, demurring that he'd only been in production for about a week, nevertheless played a rough cut of a scene in which Hugo Weaving (as Nazi baddie Red Skull, sans actual red skull) searches for a mysterious item that links Captain America to Marvel's other 2011 property, Thor.
Then, director Kenneth Branagh brought his cast on stage to premiere the first trailer for Thor, which depicts the son of Odin as he embarks on his path from disgraced demigod to earth-bound hero—with plenty of punching, kicking and smashing along the way. Branagh's Thor trailer also included lots of Natalie Portman (as Thor's love interest, Jane Foster, whom Portman described as a "frazzled, down to earth, grounded woman) and scenes hinting at his recruitment into the Avengers.
But wait, the panel wasn't over! Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige played a surprise clip for the capacity crowd featuring a familiar voice and the single, tantalizing image of the Avengers logo. As palpitations rippled through Hall H, the owner of that voice—Samuel Jackson—sauntered onstage, bringing the entire geek collective screaming to their feet.
Jackson, channeling his Marvel alter ego Nick Fury, introduced the members of the superhero team the Avengers, who'll get their own standalone film that brings worlds within the Marvel universe together onscreen for the first time.
Clark Gregg, Scarlett Johansson, Hemsworth, Evans and Robert Downey Jr.. joined Jackson on stage. Downey, a Comic-Con favorite, took the podium to crack a joke about the day's shocking Hall H incident ("Don't stab anyone before I'm done talking," he quipped) and to introduce three more members of the planned Avengers film, a comic book-blending movie that he deemed "more ambitious than Inception."
The entire population of Hall H squealed with excitement (yes, fanboys squeal!) as Downey introduced Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner as Avengers archer Hawkeye. Then, confirming online whispers, Mark Ruffalo joined everyone on stage as the new Bruce Banner/Hulk, officially replacing Ed Norton in the role.
Rounding out the Avengers mania, director Joss Whedon came out to thank fans for their support, and suddenly all of those hours spent waiting in lines wrapped around the convention center didn't seem quite so bad.
Comedy Beat-Down for Downey
Robert Downey, Jr. wasn't the first celeb to make a joke referencing the day's earlier fan incident and arrest. Surprise guest Harrison Ford arrived onstage for the Cowboys and Aliens panel in cuffs, escorted by two beefy guards. Ford's first-ever Comic-Con appearance earned a rousing standing ovation from the geek faithful…who cheered even more after seeing extensive footage from Jon Favreau's currently-filming Western sci-fi adventure.
(Originally published July 24, 2010, at 9:08 p.m. PT)