It's been assumed for several years now that Marvel Studios ensemble film The Avengers will follow the continuity of the original comics run; where Loki gains control over the Hulk to unleash his fury on Earth, which causes the superhero team to assemble for the first time. Last night I learned that this may not be the case, and apparently I'm not the only one who's privy to this information. Two fellow entertainment journalists, one being our own DCMarvel_Freshman, were tipped to this information around the same time as I was; and by two other sources close to the production.
The highlight of this insider scoop (DISCLAIMER: which has not been confirmed by the studio itself) is that the shape-changing alien race the Skrulls are being used as the main antagonists for The Avengers. Not only that, but the Skrulls will 'brainwash' and use the Hulk in a similar fashion Loki did in the comics. Don't expect a full on alien invasion, though; that will have to wait for a sequel. The Skrulls' role will be largely clandestine, similar to the way S.H.I.E.L.D. operates.
For those of you wondering who the Skrulls are, here's a brief synopsis courtesy of Marvel: 'The Skrulls are an extraterrestrial humanoid race who have created a vast interstellar empire, the oldest known empire still in existence, within the Andromeda Galaxy.. A Skrull can mentally cause the unstable molecules that comprise his or her body to become pliant, enabling him or her to assume other forms through muscular expansion and contraction. Once a new shape has been assumed (human, animal, alien), it takes a conscious act of will to assume another form or revert to natural.. Although the Skrulls became aware of Earth (due to its nearness to a natural warp-space access point) eons ago, it was not until recent times that they considered Earth’s threat. Their first regular surveillances of Earth began in the 1930s.
To date most of the Skrulls’ excursions to Earth have been extremely small-scale, with no more than a handful of soldier-infiltrators being dispatched at any given time. It is not yet known how the death of the current ruling family will affect official policy toward Earth or the government of the empire in general. '
Apparently, the Skrulls won't be the only alien race to be introduced in The Avengers; their enemy, the Kree, will also have a presence as Earthly allies. This isn't surprising information, considering a young actor by the name of Kevin Pennington has been rumored to portray a character by the name of Noh-Varr; who just so happens to be a Kree. Though I couldn't get confirmation that Noh-Varr is Pennington's role, at his point, all signs are pointing to 'yes.'
That's not all, True Believers, the last bit of information I managed to talk to this source about was regarding comic character film rights, and how Marvel Studios is planning on bringing fan-favorites like Spider-Man, Wolverine and the Fantastic Four back under their umbrella. It seems like the opposite it true. Marvel has no intention of working out deals with neither Fox nor Sony in an effort to use the characters (including the ones mentioned above) in future Marvel Studios projects. Instead, they will simply, "pretend they don't exist in the Marvel Cinema Universe until those companies inevitably grow tired of them."
How on Earth will those studios grow tired of characters that offer them tent pole film franchise opportunities? It may not take as long as expected; after all, there are only so many times you can 'reboot' a character before the general movie going public looses interest. Though it may take another decade or so, that seems to be an acceptable wait for Marvel to bring their heroes home.