Looks like Marvel is really starting to assemble those Avengers, following the news that Robert Downey Jr. has renegotiated his deal with the studio to officially reprise his role as Tony Stark in both Iron Man 3 and 2011’s The Avengers.

Downey is the first piece in The Avengers‘ heroic jigsaw, which will unite Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk (no mention of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, though) in what could quite possibly be the biggest (and most expensive) superhero film of all time. But he wasn’t the only piece added today. Marvel also confirmed that Don Cheadle – who recently replaced Terrence Howard as Stark’s right-hand man, James Rhodes, in the forthcoming Iron Man 2 – has also signed a deal that will see him appear in The Avengers.

And Iron Man director Jon ‘Favreau’ Favs will executive produce the Avengers film. There had been rumours that Favs would direct both Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, but with the schedules clashing, he’s had to settle for a broader role on the mighty Marvel mash-up. Although details of Downey’s new deal were not forthcoming (he had originally only been signed for three Iron Man films – his cameo in The Incredible Hulk seems to have been a bonus), there’s no doubt that, after the first movie made so much money that even Tony Stark would have been impressed, he’ll be raking it in.

I have to say, I’m hugely excited by this news. Downey’s performance as Stark is perhaps the most indelible superhero turn since Christopher Reeve as Superman, and I’m delighted that we’re going to see it a further three times… at least. But I’m also greatly anticipating the Avengers movie – expect further announcements on that over the coming weeks including, perhaps, the identities of the actors who’ll be playing both Captain America and Thor…