Throughout the years, the Marvel Universe has seen classic duos like: Captain America and Bucky, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Spider-Man and the Human Torch. The Greek god Hercules and his sidekick, teen genius Amadeus Cho, were well on their way to becoming a legendary pairing but in the most recent issue of "Incredible Hercules" the two ended their friendship and went their separate ways. Is that it for Herc and Cho? Will their paths cross again? And what are they doing while they're on their own? For the answers to those questions and more CBR news spoke with the writing team behind "Incredible Hercules", Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak.
In "Incredible Hercules" #131 Amadeus and Hercules returned from an adventure to the mythical Greek underworld, where the specters of Amadeus’ deceased parents informed him that his younger sister Maddy, was still alive and out there alone in the world. The revelation shook the teen genius to his core and led to the decision to leave Hercules and his other traveling companion, the Greek Goddess Athena.
"I think Amadeus is primarily mad at Athena. Because, as he says in issue #131, if Athena is as smart and all knowing as she acts, then there's no way she couldn't have known about the mystery behind Maddy's disappearance and is therefore keeping it from him. And if she's been keeping that from Amadeus, what else has she been keeping from him?" Fred Van Lente told CBR News. "And long time readers know that Athena has been up to all sorts of curious stuff like arranging for Amatsu-Mikaboshi [A Japanese god of evil] to take control of the deities enslaved by the Skrull gods [which he did at the end of the "Sacred Invasion" arc of Incredible Hercules"] and predicting Amadeus's birth back in ye olden Greek times. So clearly Athena knows a lot more than she's letting anyone in on, especially Amadeus."
Greg Pak added, "Amadeus is still a kid and when faced with terrible revelations he doesn't always know how to process or deal with them in the best of ways. He has all these suspicions and is beginning to learn things about what Athena's doing. He also knows though that Athena is Herc's sister and they have a bond that's lasted for thousands of years. So when push comes to shove, no matter how much he may have bonded with Herc, Amadeus has this fear of being kicked to the curb. So in this instance he did some preemptive curb kicking."
"As always with Herc and Amadeus there's a lot of fun to be had with the fact that these two characters have a lot to learn on an emotional level," Pak continued. "So they're always liable to make mistakes and mistakes are solid gold when it comes to writing drama [Laughs]."
Amadeus may primarily be mad at Athena, but Hercules has been left in the dark. To Herc it seems like Amadeus is suddenly just walking out on him and Athena, and that made the Greek Goliath really angry. "One of Herc's most loveable traits is also the one that gets him into the most trouble. It's that's the fact that he always reacts with his gut," Pak remarked. "He's not a guy who holds it all in; that first reaction always busts out and I think in this case that first reaction is hurt and angry. We'll see how long Herc can hold a grudge."
While Hercules protested Amadeus's departure, Athena just let him go. Long time readers know that Athena is one of the most cunning figures in the Marvel Universe and that it's quite possible by walking out on her and Hercules, Amadeus is doing exactly what the goddess of Wisdom and Warfare wants.
"Athena's whole attitude is I'm smarter than you and I know what's best for you better than you know what's best for you,'' Van Lente said. "That can drive people crazy."
Pak added, "If you knew someone who does that you might be inclined to say that they're playing god. You could make the same accusations of Athena, but she actually is a god [Laughs]. Everybody likes to talk about where Amadeus ranks among the smartest people on the planet, but Athena is certainly as smart as Amadeus himself. She's definitely got a whole plan going on that mere mortals might be incapable of comprehending. You'll find out more about what she's thinking as the next issues roll out."
Hercules and Amadeus going their separate ways might be bad for their friendship but it's good news for fans of their adventures because for the months of August, September and October "Incredible Hercules" will ship twice a month. The twice a month issues will cut back and forth in between the two different adventures of Hercules and Amadeus.
Hercules's new adventures begin on August 12 in issue #132. It's a different kind of myth-tastic exploit that finds him donning a new wardrobe and traversing the realms of another dimension. "The setup of the story, as everybody who's been reading 'Thor' knows, is that Thor has been exiled from Asgard. So when a threat to Asgard rears its head and they need to prove that Thor is still defending them they decide to recruit Hercules to impersonate him," Van Lente explained. "They go to some lengths to perpetuate this illusion and what makes the illusion most complete is that Herc happens to have a Thunder God following him around. At the conclusion of 'Herc' #131, his father, Zeus, was reincarnated in the body of a small child. The relationship between 'Kid Zeus' and Herc forms the spine of the story."
Pak added, "Herc has always had a very contentious relationship with his father. He's always felt the need to prove himself to his father and Zeus always mocked him or disregarded him because of what he perceived to be Herc's mortal weaknesses, or weaknesses he inherited from his time among mortals. Some of those tensions may reoccur in some surprising ways with Herc and Kid Zeus."
In "Incredible Hercules" #136, Thor gets wind of Hercules's adventures in Asgard and decides to have some words with the Greek Goliath. "Before the first issue of 'Incredible Hercules' came out the one question consistently heard among Herc fans was, 'When is Thor showing up?'" Van Lente stated. "That makes sense since Herc began his Marvel life as a Thor supporting character."
Pak and Van Lente feel that readers find Hercules and Thor's interactions so compelling because the dynamic between the two gods is reminiscent of a classic film genre, the buddy picture. "I think Herc is kind of the anti-Thor, at least the Marvel Thor. The mythological Thor though in many ways is a bigger drunkard, dumber, and more violent than Hercules is in any of the myths. Marvel's Thor is much more of a Superman type character; he's a noble warrior, but Herc is a totally irresponsible maniac. So it’s kind of like 'Lethal Weapon," Van Lente joked. "Divinely speaking Herc is Mel Gibson to Thor's Danny Glover."
Artist Reilly Brown is drawing Hercules' adventures as the "Replacement Thor" and Pak and Van Lente couldn't be happier with the work he's doing. "Reilly has kicked 12 kinds of ass," Van Lente remarked. "And what I really love about the Asgard story is that it's a satire of the whole Tolkien/High Fantasy genre. It's Herc drinking and screwing his way through it and dragging this poor kid along with him for the ride and Reilly gets that. He's nailing all the Tolkien bashing. He's a really funny artist who drew Hercules before. He was one of the artists on the 'Hulk vs. Hercules' one-shot that we did."
Pak and Van Lente may be poking fun at the fantasy genre in "The Replacement Thor" issues of "Incredible Hercules" but they feel they're doing it in the same way Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright satirized the zombie and action film genres with their movies "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz". "If you're going to make fun of something you sort of have to love it and I think that's what we're doing here," Greg Pak remarked. "We're chuckling at these myths but at the same time I'm a total sucker for these kinds of fantasy stories and epic quests.
"So we're doing our best to convey that feel but at the same time have our own 'Herc' style spin on it," Pak continued. "Reilly has done some amazing stuff and I love his Kid Zeus in particular. There's this one scene of Kid Zeus rolling his eyes while he's trailing after Hercules that's a very funny moment."
In between issues of Hercules' exploits in Asgard readers will also get a story that Pak and Van Lente have described as "The Secret Origin of Amadeus Cho." "Those three issues [#133, #135, and #137] aren't some stand alone Amadeus Cho mini-series," Fred Van Lente said. "All of the events happening in these issues tie directly into what's happening to Herc and vice versa."
Amadeus's adventures feature pulpy action and intrigue as he sets out to find his missing sister and discover the true culprits behind the death of his parents. "Amadeus always had certain assumptions about the way his parents were killed," Van Lente explained. "When Greg first introduced him in 'Amazing Fantasy' #15 [volume two] Amadeus assumed that the government had killed his parents. It allowed him to assist the Hulk during 'World War Hulk' and fight S.H.I.E.L.D. with Hercules in our first story arc. Over the course of the series though, Amadeus has had to unlearn a lot of those assumptions. So now, for the first time, he's going to go straight to the source and figure out what happened to his parents.
"That means going to Excello, Utah; a company town owned and operated by the Excello Soap Corporation," Van Lente continued. "They're the conglomerate that sponsored this internet quiz show that Amadeus won, which resulted in his home and parents, but not his sister, getting blown to the smithereens."
Greg Pak added, "This story will pay off a lot of stuff that was seeded way back in Amadeus’s first appearance. In that little eight page story there were some mysterious details that were dropped and here’s where we’re going to find out what they all mean."
Rodney Buchemi, who drew "Incredible Hercules" #126 as well as some pages in issue #130, is drawing Amadeus's investigation into his past. "We've been really fortunate to have a great stream of artists and I think this book's charm has been the way they've handled all the little character moments, asides, and almost throwaway lines between Herc and Amadeus and all the people they drive crazy. Clayton Henry's Herc thumbs-up panel from the 'Love and War' arc might be the most infamous of all those moments," Pak said. "Every one of our artists has really worked wonders with those details and Rodney is no exception. He's got a really nice clean style that lets character expressions come right through."
Fred Van Lente added, "Rodney really tears it up on the mythological stuff. We really want to give the sense that these are gods moving within the world of men and he really knocks that out of the park."
Rodney Buchemi also illustrates October’s "Incredible Hercules" #137, which finally finds Herc and Amadeus back in the same issue. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the two former friends have reconciled though. "It’s a huge issue. It reveals what Athena’s plans for Amadeus are," Pak hinted. "In the months ahead there will be both major thematic and character payoffs as well as clever and transcendentally hilarious plot payoffs. Everything is building towards a very exciting thing that’s coming up in the New Year."
Van Lente added, "It will be, ‘Dude! I can’t believe you just did that!’ but we did. You thought we wouldn’t go there but we are."