Sometime not long before the passing of the great Stan Lee last year, the creative leads behind the Marvel’s Avengers video game reportedly had a chance to sit down with Stan the Man himself. It was a chance to go straight to the source for advice on how to reinterpret the heroes they’d be working with — and to pick his brain for tips on how to introduce a new generation to characters who’d shaped their own childhood dreams.
Speaking with Techradar recently, Scot Amos, the head of studio at game developer Crystal Dynamics, said Lee gave the group a piece of advice he’ll never forget — and it galvanized the studio to make sure fans both familiar and new to the Marvel comic book universe could walk away from the game excited about suiting up as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
“The beauty of Stan was that he made these characters because he wants to love them and enjoy them. He had this perception that any comic could be somebody's first — and that stuck with me,” said Amos.
“It's true," Amos continued. "This could be the first time you've heard of Captain America or Hawkeye or Thor, and how do I make sure you don't feel left out or like ‘I don't know who these characters are’ or ‘I didn't read the comics’ or ‘I didn't see the movies.’ I don't want that ever … We want you to fall in love with these heroes for the first time, or want you to fall in love with them all over again.”
Amos alluded to — but didn’t directly address — whether Lee will have an animated cameo in the upcoming game, but he zoomed out from that discussion to take aim at the bigger picture: Just as a cameo can honor Lee’s legacy, so too can crafting an overall experience that would do the late Marvel master proud.
“At the highest level, it's taking the pearls of wisdom from this guy who created an amazing cast of characters and just saying, ‘How we pay proper homage not through one specific quip or even the cameos?’” he explained. “It's more of, how do we take that mantle, and that responsibility, and saying, ‘How do we take these characters to new generations and next generations of fans and players?’”
Marvel’s Avengers features a core lineup of playable characters that includes Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Iron Man — with the recent reveal that, at some point in the story, Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) will show up to stretch her legs as well. “When it comes to Kamala, I'd love for him [Lee] to be around right now to say, ‘What do you think of this?’” said Amos, admitting he was “tearing up thinking about the fact he's not here for that.”
With full encouragement from Marvel, the video game version of each hero reinterprets what we’ve seen on the MCU’s big screen, preserving their Lee-approved traits and powers, while giving them a look that varies mildly (in the case of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner) or significantly (like Captain America and Black Widow) from their movie counterparts. Fans who saw the game’s first trailer at this year’s E3 buzzed for weeks about how they’d adjust to the new lineup, but the Kamala Khan trailer (shown above) that debuted in October was a big hit, one that unified all but the most jaded of gamers in their anticipation for the final product.
Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix are still hard at work to make sure every detail’s just right in time for the game’s arrival next spring. Marvel’s Avengers assembles on May 15, 2020, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC.