The Hulk used to be one of Marvel Comics’ most mercurial heroes, with a reputation for… not always playing well with others. The current Hulk, Amadeus Cho, is trying to change that perception, working side by side with a number of Marvel heroes and joining the ranks of the adolescent hero team known as the Champions. In the coming months, the “The Totally Awesome Hulk’s” penchant for team-ups will continue as he joins forces with a real life sports hero and several other costumed and veteran heroes.
The first comes in “Totally Awesome Hulk” #13-14, where writer Greg Pak and artists Luke Ross and Germán Peralta send Amadeus to the basketball courts for a team-up with NBA superstar Jeremy Lin. The latter arrives in “Totally Awesome Hulk” #15, where Pak and returning artist Mahmud Asrar kick off a new arc that finds Amadeus joining forces with several of the Marvel Universe’s most prominent Asian heroes.
CBR spoke with Pak about the team-ups, how the emotional roller coaster that was “Civil War II” will impact Amadeus’ mood going forward, and the fun the writer is having bouncing Amadeus off of heroes like Ms. Marvel, Silk and Shang-Chi
CBR: Amadeus went through a lot during “Totally Awesome Hulk’s” “Civil War II” tie-in, which wrapped with a tearful meeting between Amadeus and Bruce Banner’s killer, Clint Barton. Did Amadeus get any sort of catharsis from his meeting with Clint? What’s sort of his emotional state when you pick up with him in issue #13?
Greg Pak: SMALL SPOILER ALERT!
Yes, Amadeus and Clint had a huge moment at the end of issue #12. But Amadeus has even more on his emotional plate since his sister Maddy basically washed her hands of him at the end of that story. Maddy was working as Amadeus’s mission control, backing him up on all his adventures, but she finally had enough of his dangerous lack of impulse control and took off. But Maddy is Amadeus’s only surviving family member; she’s hugely important to him, as contentious as their relationship can be.
So as #13 opens, Amadeus is kicking around in Austin, Texas, trying to get Maddy on the phone, but she’s not picking up. He’s grappling with that loneliness — and overcompensates by showing off his basketball moves for some kids on a playground –and that’s where our new story picks up in issue #13.
You’re teaming Amadeus with NBA superstar Jeremy Lin of the Brooklyn Nets. How did this come about? Are you an NBA fan?
I became a huge Jeremy Lin fan back in 2012 when he had his breakout season with the Knicks. I never really paid much attention to organized sports before then, but I got totally pulled in by Lin’s amazing story and followed him as a fan to Houston, Los Angeles, Charlotte and now Brooklyn. Now, I actually buy jerseys, study stats, and tweet about basketball games, which can be absolutely shocking to folks who grew up with me.
Along the way, I ended up working on the “Totally Awesome Hulk” book and suddenly started thinking that it would be a huge amount of fun to team up the world’s biggest Asian American superhero with the world’s greatest Asian American athlete. I particularly loved how it could play out in terms of characters and emotion. Jeremy’s a tremendous team player who’s all about teamwork and fortitude. Amadeus is a cocky kid who typically thinks he knows the best solution to every problem. It seemed like we could get some fun sparks and have a great character arc for Amadeus through this kind of team-up. At the time, both Amadeus and Jeremy were sporting the faux hawks, so it just seemed too perfect, right?
I pitched the idea to my editors at Marvel, who loved it, and reached out to a friend who produced the documentary “Linsanity,” who put me in touch with Jeremy’s team. And here we are!
What can you tell us about the adventure Amadeus and Jeremy Lin have together?
In issue #13, Amadeus and Jeremy team up for a mind-blowing charity basketball game that you’d only see in the Marvel Universe. And then things really go haywire. I won’t reveal too much, but we’ve got big basketball and superhero action coming up, along with lots of fun character moments and a hugely surprising cameo in issue #14 that you will not want to miss.
In January, you move from a team up with a sports hero to Amadeus’ fellow superheroes for an arc that teams the Hulk with some of the Marvel Universe’s other Asian heroes. What can you tell us about the type of adventure Amadeus and his comrades will embark on?
The story starts in issue #15 with Amadeus and a bunch of other heroes who happen to be Asian American getting together, hanging out, and bonding. It’s a fun story with cross-generational ribbing, Korean barbecue, karaoke and Asian dads fighting over checks. But things suddenly get hugely serious with the arrival of a massive villain and threat. And our heroes end up in the middle of an incredibly high stakes crisis– wherein they’ll start to figure out just how far their bonding will or won’t take them when the worst things go down. It’s a big story about what holds us together and what doesn’t, and I’m hugely excited about it.
The cover to issue #15 shows off three of the heroes involved in the team-up: Amadeus’ Champions teammate Ms. Marvel, Silk and Shang-Chi. Which elements of these characters have you especially enjoyed writing? And what’s it like bouncing them off of Amadeus?
I love, love, love writing them all. Mark Waid’s done a great job setting up some fun dynamics between Ms. Marvel and Amadeus in the “Champions” book. Shang- Chi and Amadeus are a kick partly because they’re about as different as you can get in terms of temperament. And Silk and Amadeus feel like they synch up in some great ways — I could imagine the two of them getting into a ton more trouble together than either would on their own. I’m also loving how the younger heroes bounce off the older heroes in the story — they come from different generations and have some different angles on things, which is a lot of fun to explore.
Who are some of the other characters involved in the arc? Will S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jake Oh (who played a large part in the “Civil War II” arc) be involved?
Yep, Jake Oh will be there. And Jimmy Woo, head of the Agents of A.T.L.A.S., will play a huge role in the story. He’s the oldest of all of the heroes in the group, and the way his relationship with Amadeus progresses will be something to watch closely.
Earlier you mentioned a massive villain and threat. Is this an established Marvel villain, or a new character?
We’ve got a terrifying new threat. I can’t reveal too much other than to say the threat comes from outer space and it’s hungry. And it’s not what you think.
These next two arcs are being drawn by some very diverse collaborators. Luke Ross and Germán Peralta will handle the Jeremy Lin story and then Mahmud Asrar will return to “Totally Awesome Hulk” for the next arc. Which elements of the Lin story do you think Luke and German are doing an especially good job with? And which of Mahmud’s artistic strengths do you think will be on display in the team up arc?
Luke Ross and Germán Peralta did a fantastic job with the Jeremy Lin issues. Both are great with likenesses, which is really important when you’ve got a real-world person like Jeremy in the book. But they’ve also got great, fluid styles that never let those likenesses feel stiff. And Germán went totally bananas with the basketball and basketball-related action sequences. It’s a huge ton of fun –dontcha dare miss it!
And yes, Mahmud’s back with issues #15 onward. Mahmud’s absolutely slaying it on the book. He’s got such a good feel for the action and the characters and the emotion and the humor. I love it. A Hulk book only works when your artist can nail both the massive action and the emotional beats. And Mahmud does that all, with every panel and page. He does a particularly awesome job with the younger heroes. There’s one panel he’s drawn of Silk doing a fist pump and saying “YUSSS!” that I just love. So much character, so much fun! And his Shang-Chi action is something to behold.
I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who’s been reading the book. It’s been enormously gratifying working on the book and hearing how much it means to folks when I go to conventions or signings. We all hugely appreciate the support and will keep on doing our best to tell the best stories we can!