[NEW Update: Reports are now coming in that Whedon WILL direct The Avengers!]

Jon Favreau helms the Iron Man franchise; Kenneth Branagh is directing Thor; Joe Johnston is directing The First Avenger: Captain America and Louis Leterrier directed The Incredible Hulk. Who will direct the film that brings them all together, The Avengers?

Since Jon Favreau won the hearts of fans and critics with Iron Man, kickstarting Marvel Studios’ big entrance into the industry, it was long-speculated that he would take the gig helming the large-scale project, but he pulled himself out and will be producing instead while he focuses on the Iron Man franchise and other work. Out of the other directors already working with the studio, Louis Leterrier has revealed twice that he’s on the shortlist for the job as well but continues to point out that he thinks he’s at the bottom of the list and that it contains some very talented folks.

Now, according to IESB, geek icon Joss Whedon is topping the list of the contenders to direct The Avengers.

To be clear, this is not some sort of April Fool’s joke. The news is coming from a reliable source of IESB, the same source who help them break news of the trouble behind the scenes at Sony with Sam Raimi and Spider-Man 4 and the delay which others denied. That turned out to be entirely accurate and the project was canceled entirely shortly thereafter.

Getting back in topic, while Whedon has not worked on such a large-scale project before, he is more in-tune with the comics than most other director and is responsible for writing some of the best Marvel Comics runs in recent years, notably his work on Astonishing X-Men and Runaways.

Even though his latest stab at television in Dollhouse didn’t turn out well, Whedon is riding some very positive buzz at the moment from the geek world with the success of personal pet project, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which is buried in anticipation and excitement from fans awaiting a sequel which may come in the form of a feature film.

While I didn’t expect Joss Whedon’s name to come up in talks about The Avengers, I am quite fond of the idea. Joss Whedon knows comics and more importantly, he knows characters. I think if anyone can take such strong and unique characters and personalities, and throw them all together to work as a team and make all them standout and keep true to what they’re all about, it’s definitely Whedon. He wrote Toy Story, Titan AE and of course, brought us Firefly and its movie, Serenity.

For that same reason, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Whedon was also being looked at by 20th Century Fox as a replacement director for X-Men: First Class for Bryan Singer who had to pull out and will only produce due to previous contractual obligations to direct Jack the Giant Killer for Warner Bros.

[UPDATE: The LA Times Blog Hero Complex confirmed that Joss Whedon is on the short-list to direct The Avengers and that he has been in conversations with Marvel.]

[Re-Update: Now Deadline is backing IESB‘s original scoop, claiming that Whedon is in fact in final negotiations for The Avengers directorial duty.]

What do you think of Joss Whedon directing The Avengers?

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The Avengers is scheduled to debut May 4, 2012.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes

Source: IESB

Re-update Source: Deadline