Did Whedon conceive the franchise mash-up, or was he hired afterwards?
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (and Martin Goodman) conceived the franchise mash-up. The Avengers was the obvious step after they ran through the other main Marvel characters and had to start planning future movies. What does this have to do with your claim that Whedon was middle-level?
Sony spent millions to get the rights to Spider-Man cleared to make the first movie, because they (mistakenly) thought James Cameron was still attached to it.
Which has nothing to do with Disney making the Avengers, so why are you bringing it up?
What had Sam Raimi done at that point?]
As always, you bring up something completely irrelevant to avoid answering:
[quote]But apparently he told Marvel/Disney/Hollywood he was going to direct "The Avengers" and, being the middle-level player you insist he was, they handed over the keystone of the expensive franchise without hesitation.
What, exactly, does Raimi and Sony have to do with your insistence that Whedon was middle-level and had nothing to do with The Avengers until he saw someone else making a ton of money with Iron Man [which had Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury talking about "The Avengers Initiative" after the closing credits]?