Joe Johnston has inked a deal to direct The First Avenger: Captain America, Marvel Studios' take on its classic comic book character. Marvel's Kevin Feige is producing.

No writers are on board, but the studio, which is hearing pitches, expects to hire shortly.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnston first met with Marvel two years ago. When the two parties clicked, general talks turned into Captain America-specific meetings, with much of the project's current direction resulting from those early conversations.

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"This is a guy who designed the vehicles for 'Star Wars,' who storyboarded the convoy action sequence for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' " Feige said. "From 'Rocketeer' to 'October Sky' to 'The Wolfman,' you can look at pieces of his movies and see how they lead to this one."

Created in 1941 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon for Timely Comics, Captain America is the heroic alter ego of Steve Rogers, who is rejected by the Army for being too sickly and undergoes an experiment that takes him to the pinnacle of human form. Paired with an indestructible shield, he became a symbol of the war effort, in and out of comics.

The character disappeared in the 1950s but was revived during the early era of Marvel Comics. He was reintroduced as part of the Avengers, the absence explained by having him being in a state of suspended animation during a war mission until found by the superteam.

Kicking off with Iron Man, Marvel Studios' slate of movies --including Thor and Iron Man 2 sequel -- is building toward an Avengers movie set for release in 2011, in which the characters from the films team for one big adventure. "Captain America" is scheduled for release May 6, 2011.

Captain America will be a World War II-set movie, and the character will appear in the modern day-set Avengers. Executive producing on Captain America are Louis D'Esposito, Stan Lee and Marvel Studios' chairman David Maisel.

The character's last live-action appearance was in 1990's Captain America, a cheap production from 21st Century Films that ended up going to straight to video. The movie starred Matt Salinger as the hero, dethawed in modern times to fight his archnemesis, the Red Skull.

Brian B.