It's essentially become a movie ritual, where Marvel and DC comic book fans every summer see their favorite characters leap from the pages of their classic source material to the big screen.

As for this summer's offerings, while we've already met nearly every major character in "The Avengers," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises" in different capacities over the years in other movies, the stakes of the genre have been raised to a whole new level.

With "The Avengers" (in theaters), fans are seeing not one or two, but six Marvel legends -- Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)/ Hulk (voice of Lou Ferrigno) -- all together first the first time.

In an interview during the film's production, Hemsworth told me that the assembly of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" by writer-director Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") was no doubt "an iconic moment."

"I was impressed how Joss managed to bring all these characters together and give them and equal sort of story and time," Hemsworth said.

Without question, fans have been giving "The Avengers" more than their fair share of time since the film debuted two weeks ago. With a $200 million-plus opening weekend at the North America box office May 4-6, the superhero extravaganza has since gone on to make more than $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide.

For those who haven't see the film yet, the main villain in "The Avengers" is the God of Thunder's jealousy-enraged half-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who only began to show his evil tendencies at the end of "Thor." In "The Avengers," he comes into possession of the sentient cube known as the Tesseract -- a source of unlimited power -- and he threatens to use it to rule over Earth's inhabitants.

"He's seeing a lot more action and there's a lot more menace," Hiddleston told me of Loki in an interview during the film's production. "In order for the film to work, Loki needs to be much more menacing in order to justify the might of several superheroes coming up against him."

Make no mistake about it, Hiddleston said, Loki has a clear sense of direction in "The Avengers" as opposed to "Thor."

"There's a degree of self-possession to his villainy," Hiddleston added. "In 'Thor,' he was almost a reluctant bad guy. In this, he's knows he's the bad guy."

Marvel's legendary web-slinger is swinging back into action with a whole new cast and director on July 3 with "The Amazing Spider-Man"-- a reboot of franchise after director Sam Raimi took the character to new heights with a trilogy of films starring Tobey Maguire in 2002, 2004 and 2007.

The film stars Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and "The Help" sensation Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter's first high school crush. Sally Field plays Peter's aunt, May Parker, while Martin Sheen stars as his uncle, Ben Parker.

In a post-production interview, Sheen told me he was very impressed with Garfield's skills.

"This young lad is quite sensational. He's a wonderful actor and a lovely guy, too, so I was quite happy to work with him," Sheen said. "He was very generous and very accommodating in all of our scenes."

"The Amazing Spider-Man" follows Peter as her discovers a mysterious briefcase belonging to his father, which prompts him to find out the circumstances behind his parents' disappearance.

The film also stars Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Conners -- the former partner of Peter's father -- the character destined to morph into the villain the Lizard. In the director's chair is "(500) Days of Summer" filmmaker Marc Webb.

"He took a ribbing for having that name," Sheen said with a laugh.

While "The Amazing Spider-Man" will inevitably lead fans to draw comparisons of Webb's work to Raimi's films, the filmmaker undoubtedly under the biggest pressure to deliver this summer is Christopher Nolan, who is concluding his Batman trilogy with the release of "The Dark Night Rises" July 20.

Directed by and co-written by Nolan, the film is the hotly anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed box office behemoth "The Dark Knight," which earned $1 billion worldwide in 2008 and earned Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his haunting portrayal of the Joker.

"The Dark Knight Rises" picks up eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," where Batman (Christian Bale) took responsibility for the crimes of Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart). But as terror befalls Gotham once again, the Caped Crusader is forced to the battle the venom-fueled strongman, Bane (Tom Hardy), the villain responsible for it.

Hardy, who worked with Nolan on the blockbuster mind-bender "Inception," admitted that while the expectations of Batman fans are weighing heavily on his mind, he's certain that the director will deliver.

"I just want it to be successful, and I have every faith in Chris Nolan that it will be a success because he is the Batman franchise," Hardy told me in a post-production interview. "He didn't let anyone down with the last two, so (to be a part of the new film) is really exciting and I just don't want to disappoint anybody. I'm really excited."

"The Dark Knight Rises" also introduces new cast members Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake); and signals the return of Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon).

Like Hardy, Oldman has unwavering confidence in his director.

"I think Nolan is too talented and too smart, really, to make a third Batman film just for the sake of making it, even though he probably had pressure from the studio to do so," Oldman told me in a post-production interview. "I think it was important for him to get the story right. He's a storyteller, and with this, I think he's concluded the trilogy in a very impressive way."