In the Marvel Universe, one individual reigns supreme at smashing: The Incredible Hulk. Whether it's the Hulk on the very first roster of the Avengers, Mr. Fixit or even the newer and more savage Red Hulk, the gamma-irradiated powerhouse has been in more than his fair share of fights. Now fans are going to get some new insight into the Hulk and a super team that continues to get smashed time and time again: The Avengers.
Slated to hit in February 2012, "Hulk Smash Avengers" is a five-issue weekly limited series showcasing five battles throughout the history of both the Hulk and Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Planned by Marvel as a tie-in to the upcoming "Avengers" film and featuring the creative talent of Lee Weeks on covers with five different writers and artists, the limited series ranges from the founding decade of the Avengers all the way through the modern day for five unique issues showcasing both amazing battles and slices of Marvel history.
Issue #1 features Hulk versus the original Avengers line up of Captain America, Iron Man, Giant Man, the Wasp and Thor and will be written by Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz. Jose Casey and Max Fiumara see the Hulk fight Iron Man, Wasp, Vision and Beast in #2, while #3 by Roger Stern and Karl Moline sees the Green Goliath against Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Thor. Jim McCann writes the Mr. Fixit Hulk versus the West Coast Avengers in #4 and Fred Van Lente and Michael Avon Oeming pits Red Hulk against the Mighty Avengers.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Marvel editor Bill Rosemann and some of the creators involved in the smashtastic experience, which was announced at Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" panel Sunday at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Bill, what was the impetus for "Hulk Smash Avengers" and why did Marvel decide to do this particular series for a movie tie-in?
Bill Rosemann: I was happy to have this project assigned to me by Tom Brevoort, who was previously overseeing this with editor Tom Brennan at the helm. Those two sharp gents were smart enough to know that, with the characters starring together in "The Avengers" film, there would be quite a few movie-goers and comics fans who would be interested in seeing how the relationship between the Hulk and Earth's Mightiest Heroes -- which traditionally involves lots of punching and yelling -- has evolved over the eras.
How did you select the eras and lineups of the Avengers for the Hulk to smash?
Rosemann: It was basically a decade-by-decade jump, all the way from the '60s until today. The cool thing is, each leap ahead wasn't done in an arbitrary fashion, but instead allows us to spotlight an evolving mix of character personalities, a distinct creative voice, and a compelling era in Marvel history.
You've got a great core creator pool of writers and artists for this series. How did you go about selecting the creative teams and what was your thought process when matching the writers and artists to the books?
Rosemann: The goal was to mix styles and voices, delivering a fun mash-up of the vintage and the new. We want to capture the flavor of the times, but to deliver that journey using all the modern storytelling tricks of the trade. In some instances we were able to reach out directly to creators who actually worked on the characters during those eras, and in others we cast talents we thought could convey the feel of the time periods while also bringing in their own flavor and viewpoint. We were lucky enough to assemble a mix of acclaimed veterans and rising stars -- just like Earth's Mightiest Heroes themselves!
Since this is a movie tie-in, is it safe to assume these books are new-reader friendly? What will the appeal be for new readers and hardcore Hulk fans alike?
Rosemann: We're always walking that fine line between entertaining and rewarding our longtime, knowledgeable readers as well as welcoming new fans to the show. But, yes, as with any project that surrounds a Marvel movie, accessibility is the key. And by that we don't mean dumbing anything down or talking down to the reader. No, in classic Marvel tradition, we invite everyone to step up, to leap into the deep end of the adventure, but by supplying a clear path of character and situation information along the way.
So if you walk out of the movie and grab this as your first comic, or if you want to give this to someone who enjoyed the movie but hasn't yet tasted our sweet storytelling nectar, everything will be crystal clear. But at the same time, when you have brilliant writers like Roger Stern, Joe Casey, Tom DeFalco, Jim McCann and Fred Van Lente crafting your scripts, and visual geniuses like Ron Frenz, Max Fiumara, Karl Moline and Mike Oeming delivering the eye candy, you know there will be Easter Eggs a plenty for all you lifelong True Believers.
Hulk-a-maniacs know the gamma-spawned goliath has transformed just as often as the Avengers' line-up. He's been sinister, heroic, controlled and a wild engine of destruction. Similarly, Earth's Mightiest Heroes have expanded and shrunk their ranks, their strength levels rising and falling with each change. But through it all there have been key emotional truths and bonds that have brought these two great forces together, either as friends or foes -- and did I mention the smashing?
- "Hulk Smash Avengers" #1: Hulk vs. the Original Avengers written by Tom DeFalco with art by Ron Frenz
Tom, tell us about your "Hulk Smash Avengers" era -- first off, is this going to be one of the same fights with the Hulk we saw in the first couple issues of the "Avengers" or is it a brand new smashathon?
Tom DeFalco: Why re-tell an old story when you have the chance to make up a brand new one? This story is set in the early days of the Avengers. Captain America has just joined the team. The original Baron Zemo has recently formed an alliance with the Executioner and the Enchantress. Zemo enlists the Hulk against the Avengers and it's HOO-HA from there!
What was it like for you to revisit the era of the original Avengers, especially considering how instrumental the Hulk was in getting them together?
DeFalco: The fact that the Hulk helped form the Avengers is a pivotal point. This story is all about loyalty and betrayal. The Avengers feel betrayed by the Hulk. He feels betrayed by them. Rick Jones is caught between his loyalty to the Hulk and his loyalty to the Avengers.
Back in those days, the Hulk wasn't nearly as mindless as some later iterations. What's this version's motivation for smashing the Avengers?
DeFalco: We are dealing with a Hulk who was a brutal and verbal thug. He could pummel you with his fists and shred with his sarcasm. He believes the Avengers betrayed him and Rick abandoned him. He wants revenge.
You're teaming up with your longtime "Spider-Girl" collaborator Ron Frenz, who has a very classic Marvel art style, on this book. How do you feel the story you've put together plays well to his strengths as an artist?
DeFalco: Ron Frenz, who originally came up with the idea of using the Avengers' relationship with the Hulk as the central focus of this series -- can draw anything. He is one of the most dramatic and dynamic visual story-tellers this industry has ever seen! He is teamed up with the legendary Sal Buscema on the inks. You want to know how to play to their strengths? Assign them a comic book to draw -- in any genre -- and get out of their way!
What else can you tell us about your "Hulk Smash Avengers" book?
If you're in the mood for some major action and angst in the merry Marvel manner and a done-in-one that stands completely on its own -- while being part of a greater series -- grab a copy and hang on to your seat! It's HOO-HA time!
- "Hulk Smash Avengers" #3: Hulk vs. Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Thor written by Roger Stern and drawn Karl Moline
Roger, you're well known for your work on this era of the Avengers -- how does it feel to get back to these characters for a battle royale with the Hulk?
Roger Stern: It feels good. There's an old saying that you never forget how to ride a bicycle. Writing this story is a lot like that, in that I'm using "muscles" that I'd almost forgotten about, but once I got started, everything began to synchronize. As I was plotting the story, I found myself falling into a very nice rhythm. The various heroes kept making their entrances in this very natural, almost organic way. And since I'd also written the Hulk for a few years, his appearance in the story sort of merged into the mix in a manner that just seemed right.
Where in the chronology does this story take place and where is the Hulk in his development as a character?
Stern: Interestingly enough, the story fits between "Avengers" #227 and #228, which were the first two issues of my original tenure on the book. And it also happens to fit "Incredible Hulk" #280 and #281. Of course, you don't need to have read any of those issues to understand this story. But if you have, you'll see how serendipitously everything fits together.
This all takes place during a period when Doc Banner's mind was in control of the Hulk. He had even been granted amnesty by the federal government. He's trying to adjust to the celebrity of being the world's most powerful green-skinned nuclear physicist, and it isn't easy. Being the Hulk is never easy, even if you have an intellect of a PhD. It can be, shall we say, rage inducing?
And for the Avengers -- The Wasp is leading the team. She's newly-divorced, and is getting over a very brief romance with Tony Stark that did not end well. Iron Man feels no small amount of guilt over that. Thor and Cap, of course, are both trying to balance their own personal lives with their Avengers duties. Hawkeye is back on active duty, She-Hulk is a new recruit, and Captain Marvel -- who had been empowered just weeks earlier -- is still an Avenger-in-Training.
In many ways, this is a classic Avengers roster, with each character having their own unique relationship with the Hulk. This is also the only book where She-Hulk is prominently featured. How does Jennifer feel about fighting her cousin at this point? How does the team as a whole feel?
Stern Who says she's fighting him? [Laughs] And as to how the rest of the Avengers feel about this -- well, you'll just have to read the story to find out.
How does Karl Moline's art lend itself well to the '80s era of Marvel and to the story you have in mind?
Stern: Well, one thing you should keep in mind is that this story doesn't really take place in the 1980s. It may be set in the Avengers' past, but given Marvel's sliding time scale, that's just a few years ago. Aside from the team's line-up, we're not being at all retro here.
That said, I've been really jazzed by what I've seen of Karl's art. Sharp designs, strong storytelling, and he's equally adept at drawing pretty women and terrifying monsters. Hey, works for me!
What else can you tell us about your "Hulk Smash Avengers" book?
Stern: You know, I don't like to rest on my laurels. I'd rather look ahead to new challenges. But sometimes it can be very satisfying to take a quick look back at where you've been. I mean, the Hulk and the Avengers -- how can you not have fun writing about them?
- "Hulk Smash Avengers" #4: Mr. Fixit vs. West Coast Avengers written by Jim McCann
Jim, you've had the opportunity to work very closely with Hawkeye and Mockingbird in recent years. How does it feel to get to explore their roots on the West Coast Avengers?
This is the only "Hulk Smash Avengers" title to feature Mr. Fixit -- how is his relationship with the Avengers different than that of the jolly green giant we're all used to?
McCann:That's the cool thing about Fixit -- he's such a unique take on the Hulk and Peter David created such an awesomely fun character to write. At the time, everyone believes the Hulk is dead -- no one in MU (except Wolverine) knows that the Hulk is back and has this new life. Sooooo, what does happen when the West Coast Avengers are called to Vegas? (Hint: a lot of smashing.)
Speaking of the Avengers, what's their team dynamic like at this point? How is Hawkeye settling in as leader of the group?
McCann: It's pretty early on. Tigra's wrestling with her Cat-People nature and also questioning her place on an Avengers team, Mockingbird is new to the gig as well, Tony's just back in Iron Man armor, Wonder Man is a glory hound, and Clint -- He's as brash and brazen as ever. Hawkeye has his own team now! FINALLY! How do you think he'd act?
With Iron Man on the roster, this is pretty early in the team's history. When does the team take on Mr. Fixit and what makes it so significant in the lives of both the team and the Hulk?
McCann: The great thing about this series is that question about what's significant in the lives of the Hulk and the Avengers through the years is at the central core. There is a real, honest moment that is a pivotal moment between Fixit and one of the Avengers. And there's a moment when I wish I could use Sad Walking Away Hulk music -- but not for the Hulk!
What has working on "Hulk Smash Avengers" been like for you?
McCann: Does this have to end? Ever? I am writing probably the biggest, most bombastic scenes ever, really cutting loose -- and I LOVE it!
- "Hulk Smash Avengers" #5: Red Hulk vs. The Mighty Avengers written by Fred Van Lente with art by Michael Avon Oeming
Fred, you're the only writer for "Hulk Smash Avengers" who is writing the Red Hulk. Every other installment features some form of Bruce Banner -- what's so significant about Red Hulk in this fight?
Fred Van Lente: Well, Bruce Banner is in my story too, he's just been imprisoned after "World War Hulk." Tony Stark visits Banner for advice on defeating Red Hulk and gets more than he bargained for.
You've worked in the Hulk universe pretty recently. How did your work in that sphere of the Marvel U help inform and develop this installment of "Hulk Smash Avengers?"
Van Lente: It's a period I'm pretty familiar with, yeah. We already had the Mighty Avengers appear in "Incredible Hercules" which sprang out of "Hulk" so it's fun to be writing Ares, Wonder Man and Black Widow again.
This is also the most modern of all the books, bringing us to the post-Civil War era. There was a lot going on during this time, including the lead-up to the Secret Invasion -- when exactly does this fight take place and are there any nods to what's going on in the greater Marvel U?
Van Lente: The Red Hulk is rampaging through America, defeating Avengers Initiative teams in every state. Can Iron Man's Mighty team defeat him, even if advised by the original Hulk himself, Bruce Banner?
Michael, you're depicting the epic fight between Red Hulk and the Mighty Avengers. Why do you think your art lends itself particularly well to the story Fred Van Lente has set up?
Michael Avon Oeming: Fred and I have worked together on the "Chaos Wars" series when I did my issue of Ares, although then we were working as writers. Im hoping my art will bring some heavy, powerful images that make the Hulk feel so strong even amongst other strong characters. I mostly do creator-owned work, and my work with Marvel has mostly been through writing, so Im really looking forward to drawing the Marvel characters.
What have you most enjoyed so far about getting to draw this fight?
Oeming: Hulk Smashing!
What has been your biggest artistic challenge about drawing a book like this?
Oeming: Drawing a lot of characters on a single page or in a single panel. Lots going on and only a limited amount of pages to do it. This single issue could easily fit into two, but we have to do it in one.
Any specific goals you wanted to accomplish with your art in "Hulk Smash Avengers?"
Oeming: I'm really excited to get to play with Marvel's toys -- visually. Lots of characters to draw here, I'm going to do my best to make an artistic statement with just this one issue. I'll be doing my best!
"Hulk Smash Avengers" ships weekly in February.