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Pak & Van Lente Unleash “Herc”

by  in Comic News Comment
Pak & Van Lente Unleash “Herc”

In the opening arc of “Herc,” Pak and Van Lente don’t just give their protagonist a magical arsenal, they also give him a mission. ” Hercules is no longer a god, but he still has some of the responsibilities of a god in that he’s hearing some prayers and is compelled to investigate,” Pak explained. “He winds up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, of all places.”

Van Lente added, “Those streets are being menaced by the Warhawks. They’re old enemies from Herc’s Avengers days. They’re the worshipers of Herc’s brother Ares, and one of their aims appears to be the resurrection of the war god. Herc has to do something about them since he’d like to keep Ares in Hades if at all possible.”

The Warhawks won’t be the only villains keeping Herc busy in his new series as Pak and Van Lente intend to pit their protagonist against some of the Marvel U’s most fearsome street-level villains, like the new Hobgoblin, who pops up in issue #2. “I’ve been doing some co-writing with Dan Slott on ‘Amazing Spider-Man.’ That’s where I was introduced to the new Hobgoblin. I think he’s terrific. He’s got a sword. Herc has got a sword. There’s synergy there,” Van Lente laughed. “You’ll see Herc take on a lot of street-level villains that you would normally see fighting guys like the Punisher or Daredevil, because, frankly, Herc is now at their level. A lot of these guys are very monstrous, though, and a lot of them do harken back to Herc’s mythical days. I think you could definitely describe the Hobgoblin as a monster-esque villain.”

Pak and Van Lente’s longterm plans also call for Herc to bump into street-level heroes as well. “We definitely want the series to stand on its own for the first arc, at least in terms of Herc interacting with other heroes,” Van Lente said. “We are making plans, though, particularly as we move forward and interesting things start happening with the street-level heroes. Greg and I were at the recent creator summit and we heard some stuff where it was like, ‘Oh! We’re stealing that for Herc.'”

In “Herc,” the title character will patrol the streets of Brooklyn without the aid of his former sidekick, Amadeus Cho. The two are still friends, but now that “Chaos War” is over, they’re pursuing their own separate destinies. “Amadeus Cho fans will want to start picking up my ‘Incredible Hulks’ series, if you’re not already reading it,” Pak stated. “Amadeus plays a huge role in ‘Incredible Hulks’ starting with April’s issue #626.”

The supporting cast of “Herc” will be made up of mostly new characters that the former god encounters while fighting crime in Brooklyn. Pak and Van Lente see the borough and it’s residents as an important part of the new series. “Jeph Loeb once pointed out that it’s solid gold every time you have normal people looking up and reacting to the world of super heroes. Things like Mister Fantastic stretching overhead, or the Silver Surfer zooming down the streets of Manhattan. The appearance of these super heroes is just mind blowing, and then when you have these contrasts with everyday life, it becomes really powerful,” Pak explained. “This is a way of playing with that. Even though Hercules is a mortal in this series, he’s also seven feet tall. He’s walking into this street-level world, where he’ll be a huge presence. And if and when you see the gods themselves, it’s going to be mind blowing. Setting it in everyday Brooklyn is a great way to draw those contrasts and let the power of these characters and this storyline really shine”

Van Lente added, “I live in Brooklyn. It’s awesome to make observations about the place you live everyday and put them into a comic. We definitely hope to bring this borough to life in a really important way. This is a different take on Herc. Once you see Neil Edwards’ amazing pages, you will immediately see how this is different from ‘Incredible Hercules.’ The two word description we’ve been using to describe this series is, ‘Urban Conan.’ It’s very gritty. Real is probably the wrong word, but it’s got a much more realistic take on Herc in modern times than you’ve ever seen before. We’re definitely treating the Olympians much more like the way we think of gods in our own world, as being rather enigmatic, nigh-invisible and working in very mysterious ways.

“In terms of tone, this isn’t exactly a ‘fun’ book. I hesitate to use the word fun for a book about a guy with a sword running around Brooklyn attacking criminals,” Van Lente continued, laughing. “He’s literally getting medieval on people’s asses. So while he’s definitely going after people who deserve it, he’s a regular guy who doesn’t have any super powers. He’s got to use weapons and there are consequences to that kind of violence even in the Marvel Universe. So the tone is very different. There’s grim violence, jokes, and sex. We’re the complete package.”

As Van Lente said, “Herc” may be a more grim and violent title than it’s “Incredible” predecessor, but it’s not exactly going to be a bleak and humorless series. “I think that even though this is a new starting point, and a very different status quo for Herc fans, readers of ‘Incredible Hercules’ will be happy to know that the kind of trademark crazy hijinks you’ve come to appreciate if not outright love from me and Fred will continue. Fans know that if Fred and I are involved, there is a chance for some quirky humor and some fun stuff.”

Pak and Van Lente realize “Herc” came about partly because of the dedicated readers of “Incredible Hercules,” and for that they’re eternally grateful. Keeping that in mind, the two plan to make sure the new book will have plenty to offer longtime fans, but they also want to make sure “Herc” is completely new reader friendly and accessible. “You do not need to have read a single word of anything Greg and I have done to enjoy ‘Herc,'” Van Lente stated. “I don’t believe we reference ‘Chaos War’ or ‘Incredible Hercules’ in the entire first issue. So you can come in totally fresh and be right with everybody else.”

Pak added, “I’m definitely making a special effort with a lot of the books I’m doing right now, to write them that way. They’re entirely new reader friendly. If you got friends who are really interested in comics but they don’t know where to jump on, ‘Herc’ is a great book to toss in their laps and say, ‘Go for it.’ At the same time, if you’ve been following these stories, there will be many rewards along the way to longtime readers. So they definitely don’t want to miss this, either.”

“Herc” begins in April with a two issue arc that introduces readers to the title characters’ new status quo, one he’ll have to get comfortable with very quickl because in the second arc of “Herc,” Pak and Van Lente are throwing their protagonist head first into the chaos of the upcoming “Fear Itself” event. “In our ‘Fear Itself’ tie-in, the worshipers of Ares, lead by a Herc villain we haven’t seen since ‘Dark Reign,’ seize control of the fear that’s swirling around Brooklyn and basically takes over the borough. You’ve seen all the various ‘Fear Itself’ tag lines like, ‘Do you fear tomorrow?’ or, ‘Do you fear what you may become?’ Our tag line is, ‘Do you fear civilization’s collapse?’ Suddenly, Herc’s skills as an Urban Conan style barbarian become exceedingly useful in this new environment,” Van Lente summarized, to which Pak added, singing, “Warri-ors, come out to plaaay-ay!”