Many people wish for immortality, but like all big dreams, you need to be careful what you wish for, especially in the Marvel Universe. A soldier of fortune, Ken Hale found this out the hard way when, in the early 1950s, he travelled to Africa in pursuit of a legendary Gorilla-Man and the immortality that would be bestowed upon Hale if he killed his quarry. Hale found and shot the Gorilla-Man, and this indeed gave him the immortality he desired, but it came with a decided downside. Hale was transformed into the new Gorilla-Man and has since been destined to live on until someone else kills him and inherits the curse.
Upon receiving his simian form, Hale decided to make the most of his newfound abilities by helping others. Until now, most of Hale’s heroic adventures have been alongside former FBI agent Jimmy Woo and his fellow Agents of Atlas, whose adventures will continue in May with the launch of the new ongoing series “Atlas” by writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman. Also, starting this July, Ken Hale fans will get an extra helping of simian action when the three issue “Gorilla-Man” miniseries by Parker and artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo kicks off. CBR News spoke with Parker about the series which examines Ken Hale’s past and its effect on the present.
CBR News: Jeff, how did this project come about and what made you want to handle Ken Hale’s story as a miniseries instead of in the pages of “Atlas?”
Jeff Parker: I think editor Mark Paniccia worked some magic to get this to happen. We’ve hinted at Ken’s interesting past, and it’s time we showed some of it. The Agents as a team are using all of their new debut book, so Ken gets a mini.
“Gorilla-Man” will explore Hale’s past, and like all of the Agents, I imagine Ken has changed quite a bit over the years. What can you tell us about Ken’s personal growth over the years? Has he always been a hero, or is that something he learned to be?
As you’ll see, he started out as more an adventurer who wasn’t necessarily heroic. But he’s certainly gone that way, and you’re right – it was a process. He was always a decent guy at heart though.
When we see Ken, it’s usually in the presence of his best friends, the other Agents of Atlas. It sounds as though in “Gorilla-Man” we’ll be seeing Ken in solo action. Is he a different person when he’s not around his friends, or is what you see what you get with Ken?
Yeah, Ken doesn’t change to suit others; he’s himself 24-7. But we will get to see him when he wasn’t as confident and full of gorilla-level strength.
Since “Gorilla-Man” involves Ken’s past, when does the series take place? Do the past segments unfold in flashbacks, or does each issue encapsulate certain points in Ken’s life?
They unfold. Unlike the recent “Uranian” mini that walked you through Bob Grayson’s growth as a hero in the 50’s, we’ll be seeing Gorilla-Man in the present and cutting back to his early days.
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of Gorilla Man? Does each issue tell its own self contained sort of tale, does one continuous story run through the miniseries or is it a case of both?
It’s one story, dealing with his past. You saw in brief how he ended up with the Gorilla-Man curse, but you didn’t see how he got to that point.
It sounds like a story where you can have some fun playing around with various pulp genres.
Yes, this in many ways homages work like Roy Crane’s “Captain Easy” and the Caniff/Sickles “Terry and the Pirates.”With a dash of Indiana Jones for good measure.
What types of obstacles and adversaries do you have lined up for Ken in this series?
One of the most fun is what we start off with; the conglomerate cyborg host of the notorious European family, The Borgias! Also, in addition to odd guest stars that you don’t see in modern comics every day, Atlas readers will see “the human side” of our favorite Dragon advisor, Mr. Lao!
How would you describe the look of the “Gorilla-Man” series? What can people expect from Giancarlo Caracuzzo’s visuals?
Giancarlo brings in a lot of classic influences like Hugo Pratt, Moebius and Milt Caniff – all of these giants of adventure comics. So he’s well suited to show us Ken’s days as a soldier of fortune. He drew most of the Atlas story in the “Heroic Age” special and has been sending us gorilla sketches like crazy!