SPOILER WARNING: This article may contain spoilers for “World War Hulk” #5
“World War Hulk” is over and the Green Goliath has fallen, but Marvel Comics isn’t ending his “Incredible” adventures. They’ll continue but instead star another one of the Marvel Universe’s legendary powerhouses. Starting this December with what would have been "The Incredible Hulk" #112, writers Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak and artist Khoi Pham will bring readers the adventures of “The Incredible Herc.” CBR News spoke with Van Lente about the new series.
“The Incredible Herc” was originally envisioned as a series starring Hercules and his fellow Renegades members – Amadeus Cho, Scorpion, and Namora – but Marvel decided there were too many team books already. “So we thought we’d try something a bit different and do more of a buddy book, with Hercules and Amadeus Cho going on adventures together,” Fred Van Lente told CBR News. “Greg’s schedule was pretty crazy at the time this was being developed with ‘World War Hulk’ and everything else, so they asked me to come aboard and it’s been a lot of fun.”
For Van Lente, part of the fun of “Herc” has been the chance to collaborate with Pak. “Greg and I live about two subway stops from each other, so we hang out in restaurants and bars and shoot around ideas,” Van Lente said. “He’ll write half a script and I’ll write half than we pass the drafts between each other and tweak each others work. So it’s a real genuine collaboration.”
Van Lente and Pak’s collaboration is keeping the Incredible Hulk’s old numbering system instead of launching with a new number #1, which would seem to be rather conspicuous. “It’s partly because the functions of the Hulk will be in the new adjectiveless ‘Hulk’ series that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are doing,” Van Lente explained. “So I think it’s neat that Herc is kind of keeping Hulk’s seat warm. The good news is we keep getting renewed with story arcs so right now there’s no definite end to ‘Incredible Herc,’ so maybe ‘Hulk’ will continue on as well.
“The other reason it’s appropriate for Hercules to occupy the Hulk’s book is that ‘Herc’ is a complete continuation from the events of ‘World War Hulk,'” Van Lente continued. “We actually begin moments after ‘World War Hulk’ #5 ends. So we sort of hit the ground running.”
Before Herc and Amadeus Cho’s adventures begin in “The Incredible Herc” #112, they’ll have one more “World War Hulk”-related story with their fellow team mates in the Renegades. “Hulk #111 is a story by Greg Pak and Leonard Kirk where the Renegades go off on their own adventure that I believe falls between “World War Hulk” #4-5,” Van Lente stated. “So it sort of establishes what happens to Herc and Cho.”
Hercules may be best known as a member of the Olympian Gods, but Van Lente plans to showcase the Prince of Power’s human side in the new series. “Herc is a great everyman hero and I think that’s been the secret to his popularity over the past 3,000 years,” Van Lente explained. “This assignment allowed me to go back and reread the actual Greek myths and I was reminded, since I hadn’t read them since I was a child, why they had been so popular over all these thousands of years; particularly Hercules because he’s such a fallible and human god.
“He’s been treated in comics as sort of a buffoon but he’s really more of a screw-up,” Van Lente continued. “He’s someone who follows his heart more than his head. Low impulse control would be a good way to describe him.”
During “World War Hulk,” Hercules’s weak impulse control lead him and his fellow Renegades to throw their lot in with the Hulk and his Warbound allies, who themselves were duped into going to war under false pretenses by their comrade Miek. “So now, like he’s had to do so many times in his life, Herc’s got to atone for what he’s done,” Van Lente said. “The most famous case of Hercules having to atone for something is the Twelve Labors, which he undertook to atone for murdering his wife in child while in a rage induced by Hera.”
The Twelve Labors may seem like a cakewalk compared to what’s asked of Herc to atone for his part in “World War Hulk.” “The person who pushes to the head of the line to make sure Hercules atones in the most public and humiliating way possible is his arch-nemesis and big brother, Ares, who’s now an Avenger and has lots of political clout,” Van Lente explained. “So, Hercules quickly moves from atoner to fugitive since he and Amadeus Cho end up being the only unrepentant members of the Hulk’s cadre, which leads to S.H.I.E.L.D. and more specifically the Mighty Avengers hunting them down.”
Herc and Cho may be on the run but the teenage super genius has his own plans for those looking to imprison them. “Cho’s got some impulse control problems of his own and he decides he still blames Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. for ‘World War Hulk,'” Van Lente said. “His solution is he’s going to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s the quest he embarks on and how he drags Herc into it and how he actually plans to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very insidious and clever scheme that will play out in ‘The Incredible Herc.'”
It won’t be just the events of the present day causing chaos in “The Incredible Herc,” incidents and enemies from the Prince of Power’s past will come back to haunt him as well. “Another fun thing about the series is its constantly flashing between things that happened in mythological times and the present Marvel Universe,” Van Lente remarked. “On top of that we bring in a whole bunch of Herc’s history from the Champions and the Avengers and we bring a lot of the mythological stuff from the past, like some adversaries from the Twelve Labors, into the present.”
Mythological monsters and Mighty Avengers are just some of the characters that will make life interesting for Hercules and Cho. “We all know this is an also sort of an ‘Incredible Hulk’ book so there will be a lot of Hulk characters appearing. For example we’ll see a group associated with the Hulk that has a similarity to Hercules, because their members of The Pantheon! Hint . . . Hint,” Van Lente explained. “We’ll be seeing more of the Renegades and more of Namora. She’s a member of another super team which apparently also has a mythological member. So that team will show up as well. Plus there will be even more surprises and maybe a Skrull or two.”
Like it or not, we’re stuck with our family and in addition to Ares some of Hercules’s other family members from the Olympian Gods will play supporting roles in “The Incredible Herc.” “The other sort of major character is Athena. She’s always been the patron goddess of mortal heroes and she’s continuing that role in this series,” Van Lente said. “Plus we’re continuing something that Frank Tieri and Mark Texeira established in a Hercules miniseries from ’05, which was after the destruction of Asgard all the Greek gods relocated to Earth. So that gives us a lot of rich and fun characters to play with because all of these Olympian Gods are here on Earth and doing things in unusual and surprising ways.”
With all the gods popping up in “The Incredible Herc,” some might wonder if Van Lente and Pak have plans for a reunion between the Prince of Power and he’s newly resurrected friend, the mighty Thor. “That’s definitely something I want to set up for the third arc,” Van Lente confirmed. “Script-wise we’re wrapping the last issue of the first arc this week and we’re going to start on the second arc shortly.”
Van Lente and Pak want the story arcs of “Incredible Herc” to have a tone similar to the epic and ancient tales of the series’ title character. “The series will be fun but it’s got the weight of myth and tragedy as well because Amadeus has had a rough life with his parents being killed and Hercules has had a lot of tragic things happen to him in his past,” Van Lente explained. “The destruction of New York City during ‘World War Hulk’ weighs very heavily on his conscience but so does defiance of Iron Man and the whole Registration regime, which neither he nor Amadeus have any interest in pursuing and Amadeus is utterly trying to destroy.”
Van Lente has been thrilled with the way Koi Pham has brought all the myth-tastic action of “The Incredible Herc” to life. “What’s great about him is he’s just as good doing giant monsters and mythological creatures like the Hydra as he is depicting things like the S.H.I.E.L.D. cape killers,” Van Lente stated. “Because he does both so well he’s really a perfect fit for this series.”