[UPDATE – Mark Ruffalo has been confirmed as Bruce Banner/The Hulk in The Avengers]

After the fallout between Marvel Studios and Edward Norton, a lot of potential Hulk-related names were being thrown around in connection with who might play the green machine in The Avengers movie – names including Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo.

Now, on the eve of the Marvel Comic-Con panel, it sounds as though Ruffalo may, not only be in the final stage of negotiations, but could be prepping for a last-minute Comic-Con appearance.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations who spoke with The Wrap, one “sticking point” has kept Ruffalo from officially signing on the dotted line, though Marvel was motivated to have the final hurdle cleared by the end of the day. The last minute contract push is due to Marvel’s hopes of organizing a surprise Ruffalo reveal at the Comic-Con panel, where other Avengers were set to assemble including Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johannssen, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The rumored contract hurdle regards the amount of movies that Ruffalo would be agreeing to, allegedly between four to six Marvel films, which would be a major commitment for a traditionally indie-film guy like Ruffalo. It makes sense that Ruffalo would be cautious of such a significant obligation, having to repeatedly prep for a major blockbuster role – especially one with such a complicated history.

It’s also no surprise that Marvel would love to parade Ruffalo in front of the Saturday Comic-Con crowd – to run serious damage control as well as generate excitement. Yesterday, at the “Visionaries” panel (alongside JJ Abrams) Joss Whedon finally confirmed that he would be directing The Avengers, and while Edward Norton may not have been Whedon’s first choice to play the Bruce Banner – a lot of Hulk fans still think Norton did a great job.

If nothing else, it’s difficult to deny that the constant recasting of the Hulk, not to mention the way the situation was handled with Norton, has caused Marvel a sizable amount of embarrassment – which means they would love nothing more than to publicly showcase their new Hulk-actor.

A last-minute Ruffalo appearance at Comic-Con certainly makes sense.

In the end, considering Ruffalo is reportedly in the late-stage of negotiations, it’s hard to imagine either party wishing to miss the positive buzz of a surprise announcement in San Diego – especially because Ruffalo is a solid choice for the role.

[UPDATE – Mark Ruffalo appeared on stage at the Marvel Studios Comic-Con panel and confirmed he would be taking over the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk in The Avengers. Head over to our coverage from the Marvel Studios Panel for more information.]

The Avengers will be released on May 4th, 2012.

Source: The Wrap