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If it's somehow escaped your notice, "The Avengers" is in theaters today. One of the biggest gambles in blockbuster history, it looks to have paid off; the reviews have been hugely positive (read one of ours here), it's already closing on $300 million from the international box office, and stands to break records over this weekend in the U.S. as well.

The media presence has been almost inescapable. With a huge cast, and the verbose Joss Whedon at the helm, there've been more interviews with those involved than you could possibly keep up with. To help you catch up, we've assembled a collection of highlights of what's been revealed about "The Avengers" in recent months and weeks. Some minor spoilers may lie ahead, so if you haven't seen the film yet, keep it bookmarked and check back after the movie.

Joss Whedon Mark Ruffalo The Avengers
Whedon Had Pitched Versions Of "Iron Man" and "Batman" Before "The Avengers"
Although this is writer/director Joss Whedon's first superhero movie, he's always been close to the genre. "Buffy" was essentially a superhero, he's written for "X-Men" comics, and he was famously hired to make a big-screen version of "Wonder Woman" for Joel Silver, which never happened. In fact, when Marvel were first thinking about "Iron Man," Whedon was, according to GQ, asked to pitch for that job too. But the one that breaks his heart is Batman, which he took a stab at for Warners before Christopher Nolan got involved. Whedon explains his favorite scene in the film: "He's like this tiny 12-year-old who's about to get the shit kicked out of him. And then it cuts to Wayne Manor, and Alfred is running like something terrible has happened, and he finds Bruce, and he's back from the fight, and he's completely fine. And Bruce is like, 'I stopped them. I can stop them.' That was the moment for me. When he goes 'Oh, wait a minute; I can actually do something about this.' The moment he gets that purpose, instead of just sort of being overwhelmed by the grief of his parents' death." Warners, sadly, were unresponsive. "The executive was looking at me like I was Agent Smith made of numbers," Whedon says. "He wasn't seeing me at all. And I was driving back to work, and I was like, 'Why did I do that? Why did I get so invested in that Batman story? How much more evidence do I need that the machine doesn't care about my vision?" The same day, his TV show "Firefly" was canceled...

Whedon Wasn't Sure About Directing "The Avengers"
The "Buffy" mastermind had been burned by his experiences on "Firefly" and "Dollhouse," and was increasingly moving towards making things for the web, like his successful musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog." As he told Wired, "I was determined to do my own thing, with the caveat that should the perfect job be dropped in my lap, I might consider it.”  When he was asked to meet with Kevin Feige in 2010, he was only thinking about giving notes on Zak Penn's script, and agreed to write a five-page memo of story ideas. He soon got hooked. "In the process of writing it, I got that bug. I realized, oh, yeah, this would be so much fun." He jokes, "I was young. So young.”

Black Widow Nearly Didn't Make The Cut
Once officially hired, the writer/director didn't have completely free rein, however. Aside from obviously including the main heroes, Wired says that, "Whedon would have just 92 days to shoot, and the postproduction schedule was going to be brutally tight. The company told him the villain had to be the evil god Loki, from Thor. Execs said the movie had to have a big fight among the Avengers. They wanted a set piece in the middle that tore the team apart somehow." Whedon was actually delighted: "I was like, great, you just gave me your three acts,” Whedon says. “Now all I have to do is justify getting to those places and beyond them.” It wasn't smooth sailing, though. The magazine also says that Marvel rejected Whedon's early drafts, and at one point they thought that Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow shouldn't come back, stopped only by Whedon telling them that without her, the film would feel "like a gay cruise."