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Even the most ardent fans of Marvel and its heroes probably haven’t heard of David Maisel. But he is one of the key architects of the studio that turned Iron Man, Thor and Ant-Man into a multibillion-dollar movie universe.

No, he is not Kevin Feige, who has become known as the key creative force behind Marvel’s stunning run of success — including Captain America: Civil War, headed for a massive U.S. opening May 6 — and the issue of who deserves credit for Marvel is a highly contentious one. But Maisel was an essential player in conceiving and executing a plan to transform Marvel Studios from a shop that licensed characters to other studios into a true production company that financed and took creative control of its own films. When he joined Marvel in 2003, the company was valued at about $400 million. Six years later, Disney bought it for $4 billion.

Now, as Maisel attempts to launch another franchise with a movie based on the popular mobile game Angry Birds (hitting theaters May 20), he recalls the dealmaking that made it possible for the Avengers to be united on the big screen. His successes come despite an intense, hyperfocused personality that defies any known category of Hollywood dealmaker. “There is such a thing as a Hollywood guy, and David — he’s not,” says veteran producer Sid Ganis, who sat on Marvel’s board. But given Maisel’s abilities and performance, “not being a Hollywood guy? What the heck. Who cares?”

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