The Avengers and You – Guest Post by Mark Spalding

With the amazing turnout to view the Avengers, I thought it might be a good time to expand upon what learning possibilities even a summer “popcorn flick” can provide. You may not know the characters as well as the truly devoted comic book fan may, but that doesn’t need to stop you from doling out a few choice tidbits to your superhero –curious child. So let’s take a closer look at some of the main characters of the story;

Iron Man

Tony Stark is now as much of a name in our superhero vernacular as Bruce Wayne is (Batman in case you were stumped!). The two previous Iron Man movies have given us a lot of insight into the man behind the iron mask, but did you know that when the first Iron Man comic came out, Tony Stark’s injuries were due to shrapnel from a landmine he encountered while in Vietnam?! That’s right! His first appearance occurred in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963). Instead of Afghani terrorists, he was captured by Viet Cong soldiers. It’s a little sad that it’s so easy to update a character whose origin revolved around a war of a previous generation with a war of the current generation, but you know what history says about learning from your mistakes.

The Hulk

The green goliath made a triumphant return in this movie and, in my humble opinion, was portrayed wonderfully by Mark Ruffalo. You know about the anger management issues, but did you know that gamma rays (the source of all the hulk-related trouble) are a real thing? While Wolverine’s adamantium claws and Captain America’s Vibranium shield are made up metal alloys, gamma rays do exist in our universe. Here is a quick link to the Wikipedia page for the science behind gamma rays (

One of the more interesting facts about these rays is that, while they react with the human body in a way similar to cancer (destroying cells it comes in contact with), we have learned to use the rays to selectively treat cancer patients (because the rays destroy cancer cells just as well). This relates well to the Hulk, as he’s just as likely to harm his friends as he would his enemies.


If you saw last summer’s Thor movie, you have a slightly better idea of the mythic god of Thunder. But if all you’ve seen is the Avengers, then you know Thor doesn’t go anywhere without his hammer. So what’s the deal with it? The hammer, Mjolnir by name, which literally translates to “Crusher”, was forged by magical means and has been enchanted to always return to Thor at his command. The implement channels his god-like powers of thunder and lightning and also aids in his ability to fly. One other interesting tidbit of info…did you notice when Thor was fighting the Hulk, and the big guy tried to pick up the hammer and couldn’t. There is another enchantment on the hammer. An inscription on the side says “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” No mortal has ever been able to pick up the hammer. No mortal except…

Captain America

The popularity of the Captain America character has ebbed and flowed over the years. The first Cap comic hit newsstands 9 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and It sold over 1 million copies, more than the circulation of Time magazine at the time! He stayed popular right through the war (for obvious reasons), but public interest waned in superheroes by the early 50’s and the comic was axed. Cap didn’t make a return until the 70’s with the Avengers comic. Ever since, he has been the guidepost for doing what is right and standing up for the little guy. His “goody two-shoes” way of doing things has riled as many readers as it has inspired over the years, and this point was actually played out in a recent storyline Marvel did in 2007 called “Civil War”. The government wanted to register all super-powered beings, in effect making secret identities illegal. While Tony Stark and even Peter Parker (Spriderman) agreed with this idea, Captain America chose to fight against this legislation, even though Steve Rogers is known to all as Cap. He felt that it was a person’s right to choose whether they reveal their secret identity, due to the risks to their family and friends if villains found out their secret. This led to superheroes picking sides and essentially fighting a civil war. In the end the govt. side led by Iron Man won out, but this story showed that Cap is at his best when words no longer work and someone needs to stand up and fight for what he believes in.

Hopefully this has helped shed some light on the characters your kids are coming to enjoy. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have them, just drop them in the comments or pop an email out to and I’d be happy to entertain them.   -Mark