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Drawing on Myth: Pham Talks "Incredible Herc"

When you've been around the Marvel Universe for as long as Hercules has, you're bound to have some big adventures -- adventures that could be described as "Incredible." Those past adventures along with the Prince of Power's present day exploits are to be explored in "Incredible Herc," a "new" ongoing series by writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak and artist Khoi Pham.

"The Incredible Herc" is a new title but the book is also a sequel to the events of "World War Hulk" and "Incredible Hulk," and, as such, is keeping the "Incredible Hulk's" numbering. The first issue of "Incredible Herc," #112, is in stores now and CBR News spoke with Pham about his work on the book.

Khoi Pham wasn't surprised when Marvel offered him a Hulk book that didn't actually star The Hulk. "I figure it was par for the course," the artist told CBR News. "I did a 'What If? Spider-Man' that didn't really have Spider-Man in it. I also did a '1602' Fantastic Four series, which didn't really have the Fantastic Four. So I guess I'm the guy who does books without the title characters! But all joking aside, it's always cool to work on a character that's not mainstream because I think it's a lot more fun to try and make them cool. With Hercules we're taking a guy in a skirt and a tiara and trying to make him look cool and accessible and that's a fun little challenge."

Obviously, one of the first things Pham wanted to do to Hercules was change the way he looks. "I wanted to get rid of his curls but Marvel wasn't having it; it was out of continuity," Pham confirmed. "Herc was just coming out of 'World War Hulk' so I couldn't give him a haircut. I wanted to give him a '300' vibe, sort of like King Leonidas; the short, cropped Spartan look. Even though I couldn't give him a haircut I still wanted to try and relay that type of feel. Hi facial expressions are all sincere. There's nothing corny about them."

Pham hopes his art emphasizes two aspects of Hercules's personality. One is a trait Hercules is known for, his passion. The other is a quality many people don't associate with Hercules, intelligence. "Herc has got a bit of a temper but he needs to be a dignified god. He's not a buffoon," Pham remarked. "He's been around for ages so why is he portrayed as being so stupid so often? That makes no sense to me. Even an idiot who's lived as long as he has is going to learn a thing or two. So I tried to depict him as a guy whose temper gets in the way of his intelligence, so when he's calm he should be intelligent.

"Which is why Hercules fits so well into the Hulk book," Pham continued. "A lot of people probably wondered, 'Why is Hercules taking over the Hulk book?' Well, Bruce Banner is very intelligent until he gets angry and than he becomes this monster. That's kind of what I want Hercules to be, an intelligent guy but when he gets angry, which is often, he's an idiot."

Another cast member of "Incredible Herc" known for being intelligent and impulsive is Amadeus Cho. "Since I was just coming off 'X-Factor,' I wanted to make Cho a little different from Layla Miller," Pham said. "I was becoming the guy who draws wisecracking kids. I expected 'Power Pack' to be on my schedule next. So I wanted Cho to be just as hint more sinister because the kid is a super genius. He's not cute. He's got a lot of power and influence. I wanted to make sure that even though he was in a small body his expressions, mannerisms, and body language indicate a confidence that would go with super genius."

Pham has found collaborating with Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak to be a fun and easy experience. "Their comic timing is just genius," he said. "Which is great because it means I don't have to overact when I draw. So if I draw a serious scene the dialogue is enough to make it funny. Some artists feel the need to exaggerate their acting with stuff like shoulder shrugs. I don't do that. I figure if you look at a scene it will look like a serious story but when you throw in the words it has a lot of humor. It's sort of like a Spider-Man book; the action is still legitimate but the words make it funny.

"Plus they write great action sequences," Pham laughed. "And they don't inundate me with 12 panels per-page, which is always great!"

"Incredible Herc" is a book starring a Greek God and a teenage genius who run afoul of superheroes, supervillains, high-tech spy agencies like S.H.I.E.L.D., and mythological monsters, easily making the title one of Marvel Comics' most diverse books, which is the primary reason why Pham is having so much fun drawing it.

"When I went to Marvel they asked me what I wanted to draw. I was like, 'I want to draw everybody in the Marvel Universe, like John Romita, Jr,'" Pham explained. "So the more diverse, the more characters, the more scene shifts, the better for me. 'Incredible Herc' isn't 22 pages of dialogue. It shifts every few pages and I love that. It's a load of fun. Plus in this book I get to draw Ares and that guy cracks me up."

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