Marvel Comics has a long, proud history of monster stories. In the ’50s, the publisher spun tales featuring all sorts of menacing, strange and often gigantic creatures. When Stan Lee began creating the Marvel Universe in the ’60s, super heroes became the company’s focus, but many of these heroes, like the Hulk and the Thing, had monstrous appearances.
In 2012, these hulking heroes will be all that stands in the way of a new horde of rampaging creatures out to decimate humanity. This is the premise of “Destroyers,” a five-issue miniseries by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Kyle Hotz featuring an all-star team of Marvel’s most monstrous heroes. CBR News spoke with Van Lente about the February-launching title announced yesterday during the “Pint O’ C.B.” panel at the Fan Expo Canada convention in Toronto.
With Greg Pak’s “Incredible Hulks” coming to an end, Marvel realized two of the title’s main players, A-Bomb (Rick Jones) and She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), would be left without a book. “Mark Paniccia asked me if I had any ideas. He already had the Destroyers name, which I loved, and I thought, why don’t we up the star power and add Ben Grimm and Hank McCoy to the team?” Van Lente told CBR News. “Then, when Bill Rosemann came on board as editor, he had the great idea of using Karkas of the Deviants, who is one of my all time favorite Jack Kirby creations. So this book was definitely a team concept; a team concept for a team.”
The Thing, the Beast, A-Bomb, She-Hulk and Karkas are just the five biggest names on the Destroyers whose ranks will also include other lesser-known and fan-favorite characters. “We’re going to learn that the Destroyers is actually group that dates all the way back the age of dinosaurs, because one of the group’s original members was Devil Dinosaur! Devil is a huge part of this series, as well as his friend Moon-Boy,” Van Lente stated. “We’ll also see Rick Jones’ estranged wife Marlo Chandler who, as readers of Greg Pak’s ‘Hulk’ run know, is the new Harpy. Plus, once our heroes hit the high seas, it will be a challenge to not include a certain Canadian female that is near and dear to my heart — and an aquatic monster.”
Van Lente’s “Destroyers” cast members are all strange and unusual looking heroes, an undeniably an eclectic bunch, and as such, the writer is having a lot of fun examining their different personalities and bouncing them off one another. “A lot of this series is about how monsters feel about being monsters and how comfortable they are with it. Hank McCoy is probably the most comfortable in his furry blue skin. He’s got an analytical mind. In this story, a colleague from his past gets murdered. That sets him on a quest to solve a mystery and puts him on a collision course with the Destroyers,” Van Lente said. “Ben Grimm is someone who, despite all his heroic tendencies and despite being loved by millions, is still bitter over the fact that he’s a giant pile of orange rock. That’s something he’s always going to struggle with.
“Rick Jones, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. He inadvertently created the most powerful monster in Marvel history who, of course, is the Hulk, because Bruce Banner had to rescue him from that G-Bomb site. Even when he wasn’t A-Bomb, Rick Jones still saw himself as a monster in a metaphorical sense,” Van Lente continued. “Karkas is a very sensitive monster. It’s an ironic thing, since his skin is impenetrable. If Beast is the brains of the Destroyers, Karkas is the soul. He has the heart of a poet philosopher and in many ways, he’s the one instrumental in bringing all these monsters together to stop a threat that promises to end all human life on Earth in much the same way Devil Dinosaur’s friends were wiped out millions of years prior.”
As She-Hulk, Jen Walters may not look entirely human, but she does have the ability to transform back into her human form, which gives her an interesting perspective in a team of monstrous heroes like the “Destroyers.” “The thing that’s both great and difficult about Jen is that she really loves being a super hero, and to actually like being a super hero is one of the most un-Marvel things in the world,” Van Lente remarked. “Usually, you’re a criminal, experiencing some form of prejudice, made of orange rocks or whatever, but Jen is a very unique Stan Lee co-creation in that she would be totally happy being She-Hulk all the time.”
At the center of things in “Destroyers” is the character the team gets their name from, the World War II hero known as the Destroyer. “This is the original Destroyer from the Invaders era. He puts this team together to wipe away one of his biggest failures from World War II, where he had the chance to do something that would have kept this current crisis from coming about. In many ways, this is a story of redemption for him,” Van Lente said. “These characters all join the Destroyer’s team because he might have the solution to curing monsters in general and all these guys of their various conditions.”
Most of the members of the “Destroyers” have experience working as a member of a super team or a large group, but when this grouping initially comes together, their dynamic will be an uneasy one. “Something else is at work — I don’t want to give too much away,” Van Lente said. “The strange thing is that they’re all used to being the monsters in their particular groups, except maybe She-Hulk. A lot of them don’t know how to react in this situation. Marlo’s reaction is probably the most interesting because she has just gotten her powers and is just getting used to them. She’s definitely the odd woman out, here.”
The “Destroyers” are going to have to find a way to work together quickly, however, if they hope to solve the million year old puzzle at the heart of Van Lente’s story. “The clues to our mystery can be found in fossil records. It involves the first and possibly only battle between two sets of Kirby Characters: Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy versus the Deviants,” Van Lente said. “We’ll see what Warlord Kro was up to at that time. It’s a secret that’s been buried for millions of years and is now being unearthed in the present day. The Deviants in general will be a huge part of this series, as will Warlord Kro, who is another one of my all time favorite Kirby creations.
“If I can put my Kirby-nerd hat on for a second, Warlord Kro is unique among the Deviants in that he’s like the Eternals in that he’s very long lived,” Van Lente continued. “The average Deviant has a life span that’s slightly longer than a human’s. Kro is still around in the present, but reader’s shouldn’t assume he’s behind everything that’s going on in ‘Destroyers.’ He’s a complex character with a complex agenda, and that’s what is great about him. Our villainous mastermind is a long standing Marvel character whose identity will be revealed over the course of the series.”
In addition to this mysterious mastermind, the Destroyers will also find themselves contending with a veritable army of monsters. “The fun part of this in many ways, is going back to that late ’50s, the ‘Tales to Astonish’ and ‘Strange Tales’ giant monster era, which is remembered fondly by lots of Marvel fans, myself included. What Kyle and I are going to try and do is come up with some new and potentially scary monsters for our heroes to battle as opposed to just trotting out old favorites like Googam, Groot and Fin Fang Foom,” Van Lente said. “This is definitely influenced by movies like ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘The Host;’ the more recent modern giant monster movies as opposed to some the cheesier Godzilla era Kaiju, which I also love. It’s really going to be ten tons of fun.
“We start with giant monsters laying waste to New York City, which is always important,” Van Lente continued, describing the Destroyers’ global itinerary. “We make use of some great locations in my hometown, like The Museum of Natural History and Central Park. I think the source of this giant monster will surprise many long time New Yorkers since they have walked over his back numerous times! Then we go globe-hopping. We’re going under water, to the tops of mountains and to different continents.
“This is a mystery formed in the super continent of Pangea, before continental drift shoved all the plates apart. This is Indiana Jones meets Godzilla meets that Thing cartoon where the kid had the rings that turned him into the Thing,” Van Lente said jokingly. “It’s the kind of wonderful thing that only comics can do really well, which is tell a story with gigantic 300million dollar set pieces, heroic characters struggling with their inner demons and giant monsters and other scaly things punching each other in the face.”
Van Lente is having a lot of fun with the giant monster battle scenes, and the knowledge that Kyle Hotz will bring them to life makes writing them even more enjoyable. “It’s awesome writing for Kyle. This is a book that involves awesome things like paleontology and giant blue scaly monsters. I know Kyle’s going to kick ass on it,” Van Lente stated. “As often happens with these convention announcements, he hasn’t drawn anything yet, so I can extoll him without necessarily extolling the work he hasn’t had a chance to do yet. I was really psyched when we landed him. He’s really jazzed and we’ve had a bunch of conversations about reference and the look of everything.”
Because of the current economy the world of comics is in a constant state of election, with fans voting for books with their dollars. If “Destroyers” gets enough votes from readers, Van Lente is ready, willing and able to give them more tales of Marvel’s most monstrous super heroes. “I think the entire theme of monsters punching each other in the face should be an entire sub-genre of comics,” the writer said. “Marvel fans, we need to take Marvel back from the super heroes and give it back to the monsters.”