Movie-goers have gotten to know Iron Man and Captain America in Marvel Studios superhero movies in the past five years.
Soon they'll meet Ant-Man and Rocket Raccoon, too.
Marvel's "Phase One" of films ended with The Avengers this summer, according to the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, and now it moves to "Phase Two" with a slate of four movies in active development announced at Comic-Con.
Iron Man 3, which is halfway through filming in Wilmington, N.C. and due out May 3, 2013, returns Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle as Tony Stark and James "Rhodey" Rhodes, respectively, and introduces Ben Kingsley as the Iron Man comic-book villain, the Mandarin.
The sequel Thor: The Dark World, scheduled for Nov. 8, 2013, again stars Chris Hemsworth as the Avengers' resident thunder god and adds director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) and former Chuck star Zachary Levi as Fandral of the Warriors Three.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree) and scheduled for an April 4, 2014 release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier tosses World War II super-soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) into present day. (No word on a plot yet, but if it's called Winter Soldier, it might have to do with the character in the comics: Cap's former sidekick Bucky Barnes, who is found to be brainwashed into being a covert Soviet killing machine.)
And things get downright cosmic with Guardians of the Galaxy, opening Aug. 1, 2014. The panel showed concept art featuring the space super-team of Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Groot and pistol-packing Rocket Raccoon. (It wouldn't be surprising to see Thanos, the big purple guy seen at the end of The Avengers, pop up here to possibly lead into an Avengers sequel.)
Downey flew in from North Carolina to surprise the Hall H audience Saturday, with the Avengers star dancing his way through the crowd – wearing one Iron Man glove - like only a guy would who happens to be in one of the top-grossing movies of all time.
The actor, joined by Cheadle, Iron Man 3 director Shane Black and Jon Favreau – who directed the first two Iron Man films — debuted footage from the new movie, which shows Tony Stark getting a new armor suit but having his collection wiped out in an attack that destroys his palatial home.
"We've managed to remember that to stay on top, you've got to touch bottom," Black says.
Favreau, who is an executive producer on The Avengers as well as the new Iron Man, reprises his role as Stark's bodyguard, Happy Hogan.
"Happy Hogan is so off the chain. The things he says, it's like Swingers after 40," Downey said, referring to Favreau's breakthrough indie movie.
"I never got to have fun with the role because I was always worried about everybody else's feelings" as a director, Favreau said. "Now I get to play with Robert, which I've always wanted to do.
"I feel like a proud grandfather who gets to play with the baby but doesn't have to change the diapers."
Downey found plenty of times to be his humorous self at the panel, like when he mentioned that his Cheadle's deals are up after the new Iron Man movie. "We'll have to figure out which Brinks truck we want to continue," Downey joked.
He also made mention of the after-credits scene in The Avengers, where he and his compatriots engage in an after-battle shawarma dinner. He's not opposed to adding the meaty treat to Iron Man 3.
"Bring the Shawarma," Downey said. "Shawarma sales increased 700 percent. It's good for business."
Marvel did have another movie to discuss, and that was director Edgar Wright's Ant-Man, which the British director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz has been developing since 2006.
"I'm taking the Terrence Malick approach to superheroes," said Wright, who's currently working on Ant-Man with writer Joe Cornish.
Wright has been a fan of the incredibly shrinking Avenger from when he was a boy, and showed the Comic-Con crowd test footage of what Ant-Man would look like in action, running toward a bad guy and then making himself small enough to run on the barrel of a gun.
"Ant-Man will kick your ass," Wright promised, "one inch at a time."