With The Avengers mere days away from a UK release – and mere weeks away from a U.S. release – media exposure is at an all-time high, with footage, imagery, interviews, and more hitting the web at an increasingly rapid rate.

Recently, Kevin Feige discussed a great many things with regard to the superhero mash-up film, including the similarities (or lack thereof) to The Dark Knight Rises and the mystery surrounding the identity of Loki’s army.

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD for those who don’t want to know anything about The Avengers!)

Courtesy of Comic Book Resources, Feige talked about The Dark Knight Rises‘ very different tone:

“I haven’t seen ‘Dark Knight Rises.’ [Christopher] Nolan’s tone is very specific and is pretty awesome and we’re very different. I think that while we have, particularly in ‘Avengers,’ very serious moments and [it] is as dark and serious as the moments in any of our films, there’s a sense of humor that goes along with it that Joss is an expert at and that we believe very strongly that Jon Favreau really helped define in the ‘Iron Man’ films, that allows, we believe, the audience to get even deeper into the story.”

On the Marvel movies’ patented sense of humor:

“There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in our movies and we want people to believe in them and we want people to relate to them. When they’re laughing, when they’re cheering, you can suddenly hit them with something else — you open up through humor and that tone, that fine line between the epic, the bombastic, the moving and the humor is to me that favorite part of stringing all these movies together. One of my favorite compliments coming out of many of our films is, ‘I didn’t think it would be so funny!'”

While that may be, it’s worth noting that one of the most common criticisms of Thor was its overabundance of sitcom-y humor, especially once Thor crash-landed on Earth.

On Joss Whedon’s role as screenwriter of The Avengers:

“I would say [he was] more than just filling in. It’s not like we had enough defined that we just needed someone to come in and color by numbers. If that’s all we wanted, [we would’ve hired] very different filmmakers and [our films wouldn’t have been nearly as good],”

What, precisely, did the producers have planned before Whedon came onboard?

“We told him what characters we wanted, we told him how we wanted S.H.I.E.L.D. to be sort of the umbrella organization that tied it all together, we wanted the Helicarrier, and we wanted Loki to be the bad guy and sort of that final, final battle in New York. All of the specifics, all of the dialogue, all of the humor and the emotional states of the characters and the interconnected way the characters relate to each other is from the books, from the other movies and from Joss.”

On the (un)importance of Loki’s alien army:

“Truthfully, they are Loki’s army and what is most important about them is that they are Loki’s army. The notion of Skrulls and Kree and the amount of speculation — the great thing about the fans just want to know everything they don’t know. They wanted to fill in the blank, and that blank wasn’t particularly important of who the aliens were; we revealed Loki a long time ago, he was the main bad guy.”

We recently broke down the most likely suspects for Loki’s army. It has since been revealed who/what they are from people who have seen the film. We won’t spoil that reveal here, but suffice it to say, they were on the list – and their identity is far less important than their role as an army of minions.

On Loki’s role as “the bad guy” in The Avengers:

“It was Loki in the ‘Avengers’ #1 comic who caused them all to come together, so we like the legacy of that all. Why reinvent the wheel when we don’t have to? The order of the movies was very intentional, it allowed us to set up a villain in a deep and meaningful way to really blow it out in ‘Avengers,’ just like they did in ‘Avengers’ #1. [That said], there’s a reveal at the end [of the film] — the notion that Loki has made an arrangement with somebody, that somebody has provided these extremely deadly and creepy and cool aliens to fight alongside him and then to reveal who that somebody was, that’s all Joss and that was sort of the big payoff.”

Fans who have been dilligently following The Avengers coverage already know what that big payoff is.

On Joss Whedon’s take on The Hulk and choosing Mark Ruffalo to play Bruce Banner:

“There had been discussion as to where to take [The Hulk] and where to take the part and Joss had some ideas. He came to us and said, ‘I’d like to think about another actor,’ and we said, ‘Well, much of what we like about ‘The Avengers’ is we’re taking all the actors we had before and putting them together again, so we said it depends on who you’re thinking of — if you’re thinking of A, B or C maybe not, if you’re thinking of Mark Ruffalo, we’d be open to a conversation. And he goes, ‘Holy ****!’ and takes a list out of his pocket, and at the top of his list was Mark Ruffalo. We had [suggested Mark] because he had come very, very close to playing Banner in ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ [but] Joss had no idea.”

On Marvel’s second wave of superhero films in the wake of The Avengers:

“The movies we’ve already announced are the ones we’re working on most heavily and are the ones that are frankly taking up most of our imagination right now; how to bring Tony Stark back in a way that is unexpected and surprises people, how to evolve the Thor franchise and the Captain America franchise in new and unexpected ways to elevate them beyond what they started as. Doing something completely unexpected, outside the box, we’re going to do that on these other Cap movies and Thor movies and Iron Man movies.”

Kevin Feige went on to strongly imply that two of the following films – Ant-Man, The Runaways, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Inhumans – were closer to beginning production than any of us realized. Based on recent talk, Ant-Man is probably one of them, but which of the remaining three (and really, Inhumans is pretty unlikely) is the second film? Runaways or Guardians of the Galaxy?

The Avengers hits (American) theaters May 4th, 2012.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Source: Comic Book Resources