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A scene from the film "The Incredible Hulk," which opens July 13.

To be fair, perhaps this week's column should be retitled "Reading Pictures" or perhaps even "Reading Comic Book Pictures."

I've gotten a lot of questions from readers about the recent movie adaptation of the Marvel Comics character "Iron Man" — you know, since apparently I'm some sort of comic book "expert."

For those who are interested in finding out more about the character, Marvel Comics has released a line of "Essential" volumes, phone book-size, black-and-white reprints of past stories, some of them going back to the early '60s.

The first "Essential Iron Man" volume includes the character's origin tale. And from the '80s, both the "Demon in a Bottle" story line (available in a new hardcover) and the "Armor Wars" trade paperback inspired portions of the movie.

Also, I'd highly recommend that new "Invincible Iron Man" monthly title that launched last week.

Here are some other "reading assignments" for those interested in knowing more about the upcoming slate of comic book-related movies:

THE DARK KNIGHT (in theaters July 18).

There are several formats available for Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One," which clearly inspired the "Batman Begins" film.

Likewise, this sequel draws from both "Batman: The Killing Joke" and "Batman: The Long Halloween," the latter from one of the co-creators of TV's "Heroes."


Don't confuse the prose-and-illustrations novel "Hellboy: The Lost Army" as the source material for this sequel. The best place to start is either the "Hellboy: Seed of Destruction" or "Hellboy: Wake the Devil" collections.


"The Essential Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1" boasts the origin tale. But "Incredible Hulk Visionaries: Peter David, Vol. 1" features stories that are arguably the character's best.

WANTED (June 27).

There are trade paperbacks and a hardcover edition collecting all six issues of the Top Cow Comics miniseries.


By the way, I've seen a few erroneous stories about all the comics-related movie projects this year.

While there have been subsequent "X-Files" and "Speed Racer" comics, both of them started as television series. And despite the seeming familiarity of its flawed-hero concept, the Will Smith vehicle "Hancock" (July 4) is a wholly original creation.


I've also gotten a few questions about the so-called "Avenger Initiative" referred to in the post-credits sequence for "Iron Man."

The scene apparently refers to "The Avengers," a superhero team that featured Iron Man and the Hulk as founding members, as well as the characters Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

There is an "Avengers" movie in the works, tentatively scheduled for a 2011 release.

Here's guessing that movie may look a lot like "The Ultimates," a more modern-day take on the Avengers concept.

Coincidentally, the "Ultimate" version of the Nick Fury character looks very much like actor Samuel L. Jackson. And he did play Fury in that "Iron Man" bit. Hmmm. ...

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