By Anthony Breznican
February 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM EST

Marvel Studios has a new poster for The Avengers out this morning, joining the seven-member superhero team in a bit of comic book chaos on the streets of New York.

Along with the full image, EW has exclusive interviews about what the Joss Whedon written-and-directed film does with this crew of iconic characters. Tomorrow, a new trailer for the film — out May 4 — will debut online.

For now, we kick off with the man who launched the whole franchise nearly four years ago.

You know the one. He’s encased in iron…

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.’S IRON MAN

Remember, The Avengers is a team movie — and there’s no “I” in team.

There is, however, an “I” in Iron Man, and since we probably wouldn’t have this movie if it weren’t for the charisma that Robert Downey Jr. brought to the original 2008 movie, it’s fitting that Downey lands at center stage in the new poster.

Here we zoom in for a close-up, but the full poster (which you can see at the end of this gallery) shows off Tony Stark’s new look, which Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige confirms will be “a gadget-laden” Mark 7 suit.

“I’m still trying to, without moving backwards, remember the character that [Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director] Jon Favreau and I created, and be true to that,” Downey tells EW.

It’s also important to be true to the original Marvel Comics history, but Downey acknowledges that they’ve had to streamline their vision over the years as the possibility of this movie loomed.

Avengers has always been this kind of hovering [thing]. Is it really possible? I just think that it was an incredibly ambitious notion, and looking back at Marvel and their fledgling years, they always had a vision of this … although not entirely accurately.”

Downey laughs: “In one teaser I say, ‘I’m putting a team together,’ and in the other one I’m like, ‘What do you mean I can’t join the team?’ But aside from that, it kind of really tracks through.”

NEXT HERO:

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MARK RUFFALO AS THE HULK

Mark Ruffalo is taking over Bruce Banner and his furious green alter ego The Hulk this time around. Like all big guys posing for a group photo, we find him in the background – not as the Oscar-nominated actor, but as the full-blown monster.

Ruffalo says Banner is a reluctant part of the team, and said his metamorphosis is as painful to the character as an addiction problem – even if he can sometimes be used for good.

“The rage is something that is like going on a binger — you wake up after a blackout and you did all this f—ed up shit,” Ruffalo tells EW. “Oh God, what did I do? And so we were talking about it like that, actually.”

At the beginning of The Avengers, “[Banner] starts like he’s sober in a weird way. He’s started a whole new life when we find him, and it’s cool.”

Things don’t stay that way, of course.

NEXT HERO:

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CHRIS EVANS AS CAPTAIN AMERICA

We last saw the red, white, and blue do-gooder waking up in the present day after helping stop Red Skull during World War II. Decades trapped in an arctic ice floe preserved the super soldier’s body, but his spirit is suffering.

“I don’t want to ruin anything, but the few people [Steve Rogers knew] who may be alive are probably in their 80s, and, for the most part, everyone is gone,” Evans says. “He never had much family before, but anyone he could possibly consider close has gone by the wayside.”

If there’s one word that describes Cap in The Avengers, Evans says it would be “lonely.”

Despite being photobombed by Thor in this crop from the poster, Captain America has few people he can be close to.

“Who does he have in the world? Nobody,” Evans says. “Rogers is kind of defined by is his morals and values. In the ‘40s there was much more of value on those things. Things are a little more impersonal these days. It just lends itself to his sense of isolation.”

NEXT HERO: Chris Hemsworth’s Thor

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CHRIS HEMSWORTH AS THOR

The point of last spring’s movie about this god-like being from the celestial realm of Asgard was that an arrogant but powerful man had to learn humility to become a true hero.

Thor doesn’t need to be told twice, says Chris Hemsworth. In The Avengers, he returns as someone with a greater sense of responsibility for the world – or worlds – he inhabits.

“There’s a maturity to the character because of the journey he went on, certainly. He was a petulant sort of kid at the beginning of Thor, and by the end of it hopefully you walk away thinking that he is matured and there was a grounded quality to him that wasn’t there before,” Hemsworth says.

One thing the character hasn’t adjusted to is the culture and quirks of Earth life. He’s still very much a weirdo.

“There are certainly moments where Thor says things and there’s a sideways glance from everybody: ‘What the hell is this guy talking about?’” Hemsworth laughs.

It helps to be surrounded by other outcasts.

“He’s not quite the odd one out as much as he was in Thor,” Hemsworth says. “These guys … one of them wears an iron suit, one of them turns into a big, green monster. They all have these crazy personalities, and alter egos. They’re misfits, and that’s how they fit, in a funny way.”

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JEREMY RENNER AS HAWKEYE

One of just a few regular humans on The Avengers team, the superpower possessed by Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is simply innate: He has a natural skill as a sharpshooter. The bow and arrow is his weapon of choice.

“I’m on such the periphery,” the actor says. “By nature of being a sniper on top of a building, the behavior of a sniper is a loner. He gets a call and comes and does his thing.”

The character first turned up on screen in last Spring’s Thor, as a member of the government’s S.H.I.E.L.D. task force, and nearly put an arrow through Thor’s skull before being urged to stand down. He didn’t, and Thor may not have even realized the threat he was facing, but we’ll see if there’s any bad blood between the two.

NEXT HERO: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow

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SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS BLACK WIDOW

Like Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson’s Russian-born agent is also an un-altered human who just happens to be one of the planet’s most fearsome warriors. And a girl.

Johansson said that while Black Widow tries to be just another member of the team, the actress was aware of being the lone female in a cast full of boys.

“Occasionally it does come up where I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m the only girl in a group of 15 stunt men and seven cast,’” she says. “But I’m hanging in there. It’s fun.”

If anything, Black Widow is the least touchy-feely of the gang. “The Widow has no time for romance. She’s a lover of all things. She has a love/hate relationship with I think everyone she meets in some way,” Johansson says.

Those intimidating qualities are key to the character’s appeal.

“Part of what makes her sexy is she takes no prisoners,” Johansson says. “You wouldn’t grab her for a big old bear hug.“

NEXT HERO: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury

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SAMUEL L. JACKSON AS NICK FURY

You have to love how even a small, still image of Samuel L. Jackson in the background can suggest an obscenity.

He’s obviously thinking: “What the f—?”

And he’s pulling that expression off with one eye, people! What Picasso did with oil paints, Jackson does with bad words.

The man is an artist, and even if he doesn’t get to sound off quite as liberally in the PG-13 rated Avengers, it’s good to know that he can still convey the sentiment.

We conclude with Nick Fury because the S.H.I.E.L.D. spymaster is the hub of this group, the man who brought them all together.

Now that we’ve gone through each one, let’s take a look at the whole gang in action.

NEXT PAGE: The full poster for The Avengers!

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Guys, you might want to put on your helmets and masks … there’s a plane crashing on you.

For future updates on The Avengers, follow EW’s @Breznican on Twitter.

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Read more:

Joss Whedon: ‘The Avengers’ is seen through one superhero’s eyes — EXCLUSIVE

Disney announces ‘The Avengers’ converting to 3-D 

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