Yesterday in Part I of GREEK WEEK, our in-depth look at Marvel Comics' "Incredible Hercules," CBR News spoke with series writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente about the Greek God's long sordid history and how it's affected him. Now in Part II, we delve deeper into Herc's past as we speak with Pak, Van Lante, and assistant editor Nate Cosby about the April one-shot "Hulk vs. Hercules: When Titans Clash."
"Hulk vs. Hercules" came about because Pak and Van Lente wanted to tell a flashback story that was too big to fit into the confines of the ongoing story of the "Incredible Hercules" title. "It's a massive story spanning multiple dimensions that really wanted the room to breathe," Greg Pak told CBR News. "It's also a book that's a great pick up for anyone with even passing familiarity with either of the titular characters -- you don't have to know much at all to plunge in and enjoy this book to the fullest."
While "Hulk vs. Hercules" is primarily a flashback tale, it also contains some present day sequences as well. "There is a present-day framing sequence that takes place between 'Incredible Hercules' #115 and #116 (even though I think the one-shot is published after #116 comes out, I believe)," Fred Van Lente explained. "And it was drawn by the esteemed penciller of the first arc of 'iHerc,' Mr. Khoi Pham, who found time to come down from Avengers Mountain and deign us mortals with his presence once again (I'm smiling as I say that.)."
In recent months, Hercules has had much to be somber about: "Civil War," the death of his friends Captain America and Thor, and the outcome of "World War Hulk." "Hulk vs. Hercules" flashbacks to a time when the Greek Goliath had a more happy go lucky attitude. "Interestingly enough, this story is as much about how Hercules's own attitudes have changed over time-- Since we pick up during his early period with the Avengers in Roger Stern's run, when he was much more of a bon vivant, picking fights with everybody just for the fun of it," Van Lente explained. "In this story, what starts as a light-hearted tussle with the Hulk soon escalates into something much, much more serious."
The Hulk himself has also undergone a number of attitude changes over the years. He's gone from mono-syllabic savage to cunning, calculating tactician. But in "Hulk vs. Hercules," the Greek god faces the Green Goliath at his most savage. Pak hinted the Hulk in this story had a lot in common with the feral Hulk from "The Incredible Hulk" #300, who took out several of the Marvel U's prominent heroes before being banished to another dimension by Doctor Strange.
Herc may be up against an utterly untamed Hulk, but recent issues of "Incredible Hercules" have shown the hero to have a ferocious and merciless side as well. "Given the bloodiness of Herc's own past, it's worth asking if Herc's actually the darker mirror image of the Hulk," Pak remarked. I'll say no more, but anyone interested in these themes will find a lot to chew on in the pages of 'Hulk vs. Hercules.'"
"In many ways, Hercules is even more savage than the Hulk," Van Lente added. "That idea is the crux of our tale."
A fight between Hercules and the Hulk is too big for just one location to contain, so the smashing in "Hulk vs. Hercules" takes place in multiple venues. "It is a truly an epic tale flung across time, space, Earth, but, mostly Olympus -- this being the first we've seen of Herc's home in the 'iHerc'era, since in present-day continuity Olympus has been destroyed by Mikaboshi [which occurred in the 'Ares' mini series]," Van Lente stated. "Using Olympus as a setting was the most fun I had writing this tale, looking at all the different environs, like Tartarus and Asphodel Meadows and such."
"We're having a ton of fun with some very specific Marvel Universe and ancient Greek continuity here," Pak said. "Comics and classical scholars alike should get a big kick out of seeing just how these various worlds collide."
A number of supporting characters both in the past and the present will have reactions to Herc and the Hulk's big brawl. "We're able to include Ares and Zeus, and we bulk up our third main 'iHerc' cast member, Athena, quite a bit more," Van Lente stated. "Amadeus Cho makes an appearance, and there's a certain monstrous winged Elder God who plays an important part in the upcoming 'Sacred Invasion' storyline that has a major supporting role as well."
Hulk and Hercules's slugfest starts off as an old school fight in the Mighty Marvel Manner and quickly escalates into something more brutal. "We're having tons of fun with this tale while simultaneously plunging into some pretty terrifying territory," Pak explained. "It's a high stakes story that shakes up the world in more ways than one."
Van Lente added, "Let's just say the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation [The UCWF debuted in a 1985 issue of writer Mark Gruenwald's 'Thing' series] makes an appearance!"
Leonard Kirk was originally slated to draw "Hulk vs. Hercules" but the artist needed time to finish up his assignment on the "World War Hulk Aftersmash: Warbound" miniseries. "Greggers and Freddo were good enough to build a story that calls for different artists to craft different sequences," Nate Cosby said. "So we've got a super lineup of dudes for this behemoth!"
Those art teams include:
Khoi Pham and Paul Nearly: You might remember them from the regular Herc book. And Mr. Dennis Calero, stepping in for the awesome Stephane Peru.
Reilly Brown: Hoppin' off 'Cable & Deadpool', we're lucky enough to be workin' with him. He gives greatmonster.
Eric Nguyen: You may remember Mr. Nguyen from a bunch of 'X-Men First Class' covers, as well as the interiors for 'XFC' # 9. Good paintery stuff.
Bob Layton: Who doesn't love them some Layton? The legend (and by 'legend' I mean 'very young-looking for his not-so-old age') is stopping by to give us some old-school Herc fightin'!"
Pak and Van Lente are particularly excited to have Bob Layton working on the book. "It's a real treat to see Bob Layton, who really put Herc on the map with his outer space minis in the '80s, return to the character in this one-shot. That's worth the price of admission for me," Van Lente said.
"Absodarnlutely," Pak added. "'Tis a gift, indeed!' (That's a Layton 'Prince of Power' joke, kids. Don't walk, run to your local comic book store and grab those back issues, 'cause they're gold.)"
In addition to the main story, "Hulk vs. Hercules" will also include reprints of some of Herc and Hulk's other match-ups from yesteryear. The stories which will be included are still being decided. "As long as that story from 'Tales to Astonish' #79 makes the cut, I'm happy." Pak stated. "Because Pak love sad Hulk in canyon!"
"Hulk vs. Hercules: When Titans Clash" isn't just a fun one-shot. The main story helps set the stage for the next major story arc of "Incredible Hercules." "The story introduces a major new theme that will resonate throughout subsequent issues of 'Incredible Hercules,'" Pak explained. "And at least one major new player in the series will be revealed in 'Hulk vs. Hercules.'"
GREEK WEEK continues tomorrow as we chat with the new artist of "Incredible Hercules," Rafa Sandoval.
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