The saga of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and other superheroes seeking to protect the universe from the powers of the Infinity Stones when they fall into the wrong hands reaches its cinematic climax when Avengers: Endgame premieres Thursday.
It has taken 11 years, 22 movies and thousands of people to tell this story set inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their talents run the gamut from on-screen stars to off-screen production assistants.
With so many names in the credits, perhaps only J.A.R.V.I.S. could figure out how many have connections to the Tampa Bay area. But even without Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence partner, the Tampa Bay Times identified these 12 locals who played a role in creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The WWE Superstar turned thespian’s breakout role was as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. The South Tampa resident reprised his part as the muscular, knife-wielding, tattoo-covered alien incapable of understanding sarcasm or metaphors in the sequel, then again in Avengers: Infinity War.
“He’s not this stereotypical muscle head,” Bautista told the Times in 2014 of Drax. “He’s emotional, intelligent and appreciates friendships.”
Drax turned to dust following the “Snap” but still will appear in Endgame and likely will be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, yet to begin production.
In Black Panther, the actor raised in St. Petersburg portrayed Ramonda, the heroic queen mother of Wakanda and the mom of the movie’s title superhero.
There have been conflicting reports about whether Ramonda survived the Snap, though Bassett has said in interviews that she believes the character did. Bassett’s IMDB credits do not include Endgame but she has spoken about returning to Wakanda for Black Panther 2, which has yet to announce a start to production.
The comic book artist, writer and editor now living in the Tampa area didn’t create Iron Man, but he is credited with birthing the version of Tony Stark depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What’s more, Layton was behind Ghost, the lead villain in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Endgame is rumored to be Stark’s last hurrah.
“I am only speculating, but I will guess that (Robert Downey Jr.) is done,” Layton told the Times in 2018. “He has been doing the same role for over 10 years now, and I think as with any actor sometimes, it is time to move on.”
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe called it the Quantum Realm, the dimension that can only be reached by shrinking down to a size smaller than an atom was referred to as the Microverse.
It was introduced into Marvel comics in the 1940s but did not become a mainstay until it was used as the backdrop for the Micronauts comic series brought to life in the late 1970s and early 1980s by writer Bill Mantlo along with Tampa artist Broderick.
The Micronauts were about alien freedom fighters with super abilities who battle the evil cyborg Baron Karza.
“It was a unique universe to imagine,” Broderick told the Times in 2018.
The title of the dimension was changed when it was introduced in Ant-Man because Paramount owns the rights to the Microverse name.
The Quantum Realm is rumored to play a role in Endgame.
Black Panther initially had a short-lived shelf life as a solo series, lasting only from 1977-1979.
He lived on, but only as a player in other hero’s stories, until he was again given solo treatment in 1998 with Palmiotti and Joe Quesada as editors working with writer Christopher Priest on a four-book series.
That work is largely credited with reviving Black Panther, who prior to that was viewed as an unbankable solo character.
New heroes created for the Black Panther comic while Clearwater’s Palmiotti was editor now live on through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most notable are Wakanda’s all-female special forces called the Dora Milaje and CIA agent Everett K. Ross, who also appears in Captain America: Civil War.
Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, will likely play a large role in Endgame given she is featured on the movie poster.
“What you see on screen with all the characters is screenwriters taking from the comic books what works,” Palmiotti said, “and keeping to the core representation of the characters.”
While preparing for the fight scenes in Black Panther, actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed the title superhero, was trained by Crump in Tampa.
Crump, a martial artist and fight choreographer, grew up in Progress Village and later ran 3R Self Defense Academy in Carrollwood. According to his Facebook page, Crump now lives in Atlanta.
As one of Hollywood’s top special-effects makeup artists who uses latex to turn people into mythical beings, the Tampa native’s resume includes the television series The Gifted and Sleepy Hollow and movies such as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
For his Marvel Cinematic Universe contribution, he was employed for Thor: The Dark World that featured an army of genocidal Dark Elves who wanted to destroy the Nine Realms.
The Plant City native has one of the more unique Hollywood jobs. As a set-decoration buyer, Lee scours the country in search of items to complete physical backdrops.
Now living in Atlanta, she was hired to fulfill that job on Spider-Man: Homecoming, Infinity War and then Endgame.
“My job is to make worlds out of strange stuff,” she told the Times in 2018. “Never just see an object only as it is presented to you.”
At that time, she didn’t want to provide any Endgame spoilers, but said that for Infinity War the destruction crowding the interior of Thor’s spaceship in the opening scene, for instance, was mostly chicken processing plant machinery she found in a Georgia scrapyard.
This longtime Tampa resident and University of South Florida graduate may have the longest Marvel Cinematic Universe resume, having worked on Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Infinity War and Endgame.
Gillooly has earned 51 Hollywood credits according to IMDB.com, dating back to 1990’s Edward Scissorhands shot in the Tampa area, is a greens coordinator. That means he is responsible for every plant on set, renting and arranging flowers and making sure all maintain good health.
The St. Petersburg muralist better known as Bask has long had a strong local following. In summer 2012, Robert Downey Jr. took notice of Hostomsky’s talents and wanted his work displayed in Iron Man 3.
“What was cool was that the film wanted me to create my artwork rather than telling me what they wanted,” Hostomsky told the Times in 2013. “They let me be me.”
He designed 13 paintings for the lair of the movie’s bad guy, the Mandarin, plus a 5- by 13-foot piece for Tony Stark’s home that depicts the Morton Salt girl with a massive bomb falling on her.
Speaking of the Mandarin, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans know he was really drug-addicted actor Trevor Slattery hired by the real bad guy, Aldrich Killian, to pretend to be the head of a terrorist organization.
Well, it was St. Petersburg muralist Kekllas who, as an assistant to the set decorator, was charged with making the Mandarin’s Iron Man 3 Miami mansion look like what he called a “warped-out a party zone,” from trashing furniture to tossing empty beer cans around the set.
“Whatever you saw in that sequence,” Kekllas said. “I was a part of.”