This weekend "The Avengers" hit the $1 billion mark worldwide. But long before the film's astronomical success, the 3-D glasses, the action figures and the sponsorship deals, there was the the imagination of one man -- Stan Lee.
The Norse god of thunder makes his big-screen debut in the latest Marvel movie, the first of three heading our way this summer. Portents are good for future developments, but director Kenneth Branagh makes heavy weather of the back story.
"Hello 'true believers,' this is Stan Lee," said the world-renowned comic book creator as he filmed a video segment for CNN.com. His booming voice and magnetic demeanor made jaws drop and eyes widen everywhere in the room.
Mr. Ravenblade, Mr. Xtreme, Dark Guardian and hundreds of others. Some with elaborate costumes, others with haphazardly stitched outfits, they are appearing on city streets worldwide watching over the populace like Superman watched over Metropolis and Batman over Gotham City.
If Stan Lee is the father of the modern comic book super-hero, then Avi Arad is the godfather of the modern super-hero movie - at least those that were adapted from Mr. Lee's creations for Marvel Comics.
You might attribute it to 9/11, or simply blame director Joel Schumacher, whose camp take on "Batman" derailed that franchise for several years. But, lately, Hollywood superhero movies have taken themselves awfully seriously.