A new raft of popular comic book characters - sometimes appearing in unison - will be brought to the big screen by Marvel using the same business template first deployed on Iron Man. In return for bankrolling its own adaptations, Marvel is able to retain creative control and license its films to distributors like Paramount for a straight distribution fee.
Leading the pack will be Iron Man 2 on April 30 2010, a widely forecast move that was all but announced by Paramount chairman Brad Grey last Thursday on the eve of Iron Man's global launch. Enthusiastic reviews and the film's $98.6m domestic and $97m international hauls sealed the deal.
Paramount will release Thor on June 4, based on the adventures of the Norse god of thunder and son of Odin who gains his super strength from a mighty hammer.
Marvel and Paramount will present an 'Avengers-themed summer' in 2011 that will kick off with the first Captain America film tentatively titled The First Avenger: Captain America.
The property is based on a patriotic, chemically enhanced US soldier with an indestructible shield that sprung out of the second world war.
Captain America will launch on May 6 2011 and would seem ripe for an updated treatment set in contemporary Iraq or Afghanistan, just as Marvel and director Jon Favreau modernised Iron Man's original setting from the Vietnam War to Afghanistan.
The beauty of Marvel Studios' new autonomy is it can draw upon an extensive library of bankable properties in whichever way it sees fit. No longer shackled by the earlier arrangement with Hollywood that granted studios greater creative control on franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men and kept the superheroes apart, Marvel's creations can now combine forces on screen.
The first significant example of this will be The Avengers, a tag-team of superhero crime fighters that will comprise Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor and is set to arrive in cinemas in July 2011.
In fact the first example of this new era of character cross fertilisation comes next month when Iron Man makes a brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk, which Universal is releasing.
The slate also includes Ant-Man, which Edgar Wright is currently co-writing with Joe Cornish and is attached to direct.