Presumably there will be a lot of people at Marvel and Paramount and several other studios who will work very hard to make sure that, when The Avengers comes out in 2012, it actually fits in with the stories told in the individual Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movies. And pity screenwriter Zak Penn, who seems to be the fulcrum of the whole operation as he writes the Avengers screenplay and meets with the creators of the other movies-- even when Captain America has yet to even be cast.

During a Los Angeles Film Festival panel called "Graphic Explosion" (picked up by Sci Fi Wire), Penn practically seemed to be tearing his hair out right onstage. "I'm taking a meeting next week with the Thor and Captain America people, and we are all going to get together, and I will see what is going to happen. I'll see where they are leaving the characters; it's pretty complicated. ... There's a board that is tracking what is happening. [We'll see] how this movie overlaps in that movie."

And will all this hard work guarantee a good movie? Not a chance, says the man who wrote the third X-Men and The Incredible Hulk. "It's hard to make a good movie. We all have the best intentions, and it still might suck." That's remarkable candor from a guy who has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but probably necessary, given how many comic books he's witnessed being dragged into the ground. Penn's confident about Marvel as an autonomous studio-- "They know how to make a cool movie"-- and obviously willing to work hard to do justice to The Avengers. But don't hold your breath, he seems to be saying. It doesn't take much for these things to go horribly wrong.

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