Williams Crowns a New "King of the Savage Land"

In the Marvel Universe the fantastic is a reality. Magic, super powers, high technology and alien races are a regular part of of the lives of many costumed heroes and villains, but there's still a place where even they can be surprised. It's called the Savage Land, and it lives up to its namesake. It's a primeval jungle located in the middle of the arctic. Dinosaurs and primitive human like races call it home. It's also home to ancient high-tech ruins and occasionally the darkest magic.

For years the Savage Land has been ruled and protected by a human named Kevin Plunder aka Ka-Zar. Recently the number of communities that Ka-Zar and his family protect has grown as refugees from the Planet Sakaar relocated to the Savage Land. Several years ago, the Hulk was exiled to Sakaar. The refugees accompanied him when he returned home and have been stranded on Earth ever since. The Savage Land's newest resident is also connected to Sakaar. His name is Skaar, the super strong teenage son of the Hulk and Caiera, a deceased Sakaaran warrior.

This week Ka-Zar, Skaar and the Savage Land's other residents will find their lives turned upside down as writer Rob Williams and artist Brian Ching's five issue "Skaar: King of the Savage Land"miniseries begins. We spoke with Williams about the project, which pits Skaar and Ka-Zar against the Savage Land's malevolent and all-powerful creator.

CBR News: Rob, you've written quite few stories for Britain's "2000 A.D." magazine, and I imagine you've got a love for crazy science fiction stories. It sounds like "Skaar: King of the Savage Land" is a way to mix that love with your affinity for the Marvel Universe.

Rob Williams: The great thing about this series, and the Savage Land in general as a backdrop, is pretty much anything is possible, whether it be fantasy, dinosaurs or mad sci-fi. You're kind of freed from the trappings of gritty realism and prompted to push any idea you come up with further. It's like our opening sequence. I had Skaar punch out a giant, monster T-Rex. Then you stop and think, "How can we make this bigger?" and suddenly he's taking down TWO giant T-Rexs with one punch. There's a lot of fun to be had writing an environment like this.

What do you find most interesting about Skaar? Which of his qualities do you really want to explore in this series?

The great mix in Skaar is the fact that he's a Hulk-strong barbarian who also happens to be just a teenager. Adolescence is such a confusing time. You think you know it all but you really don't. You're pissed off at the world for reasons you don't even understand. Now imagine you've got all that inside you and you have the ability to headbutt a Spinosaurus into submission. Also, I like the fact that Skaar, much like Daken, who I'm also writing at the moment, is a young Marvel character. The status quo hasn't really been set for these guys. There's a lot of storytelling freedom there. They could go bad or good from this point. That's exciting to write.

The title "Skaar: King of the Savage Land" suggests that Skaar will inherit a position of authority. And while he's a a powerful and experienced warrior, like you said, Skaar is still just a teenager. Is he emotionally ready to be a king when this story begins?

No, not at all. And he doesn't want it, either. In fact, despite our title, there's no guarantee he will become king. He's not sure what he's looking for. He's itinerant; doesn't have a home. He sees himself in the Savage Land, in a Darwinian landscape where the strongest survive and prosper and he's the strongest one there is. Or so he believes. That may not be the case, as we'll find out.

When we last saw Skaar at the end of the recent "Planet Savage" arc in "Incredible Hulks" he was walking into the jungle caring for the villainous Miek's newborn children. How much story time has passed when "Skaar" #1 begins? Is Skaar still serving as the protector of Miek's larvae?

The Sakaaran refugees are just one of the disparate tribes spread around the Savage Land when we open our story, and Skaar is their protector. But a major threat will arise that puts everyone in the Savage Land at risk. Skaar isn't willing to fight and potentially die for the Savage Land natives, but the Sakaarans? That could pull him into the civil war.

In terms of plot and themes what is "Skaar: King of the Savage Land" about?

Our theme is how we all define a home, finding out what's most important to us. What we're willing to fight and die for. When we open, Ka-Zar has become so wrapped up in the politics of running the Savage Land that it's taken him away from the place and the people he loves best. He needs to find the savage within himself again. For Skaar, it's the opposite journey. He is the teen who needs to learn responsibility. Needs to grow up, decide what he truly cares about. Then the original designer of the Savage Land arrives, wanting to take back what's his, and suddenly the land is thrown into civil war and the status quo is completely ripped up. The Designer is a threat not only to the Savage Land but to everyone on the planet.

So Ka-Zar will play a large role in this series then? How does he feel now that he's lost his title? And how would you describe his dynamic with Skaar in this series?

Ka-Zar is a major player here. In many ways it's as much his story as it is Skaar's. We've been really horrible to Ka-Zar in this series. Taken everything from him -- his title, Shanna the She-Devil, his son Matthew, even Zabu, his most loyal friend (who just happens to be a sabertooth tiger). He's going to have to dig deeper than he ever has before in order to win back those that he loves, and there can ultimately only be one King -- so that's going to lead Ka-Zar and Skaar into eventual conflict.

From the solicits it looks like this is a series with a huge cast of supporting characters. Who are some of the important players? Will we see the Warbound or any other characters from Skaar's home planet?

The cast was part of the fun in the planning of this series. Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy, Kid Colt and The Phantom Eagle all making their reappearances into the Marvel Universe proper. Then there's Shanna, of course, who is also a major player here. Part of our headache was giving everyone the deserved screen time. Especially when characters like Devil Dinosaur & Moonboy are so ridiculously fun to write. But the mantra throughout from editorial and myself was, "Don't forget this is Skaar & Ka-Zar's' story." You'll see some Sakaarans, yes, and there might just be some nasty fate awaiting them.

You mentioned that "The Designer" was the main antagonist of this series. What can you tell us about this character? What makes him a good foil for Skaar?

The Designer lives up to his name in as much as this is the long-sleeping Beyonder that first designed the Savage Land millions of years ago; a rogue intellect who was imprisoned by his compatriots for the greater good. When he's finally freed, accidentally, he's a very weak spirit whose full powers have not yet returned, so he's forced to possess the first person he comes across -- and that's Shanna. This is a series where the She-Devil will VERY much live up to her name. And The Designer's powers are returning all the time. It's a race against time to stop him before he has the full capabilities of a Beyonder. If that happens, the world will have to watch out.

What do you feel Brian Ching brings to the book as an artist?

Brian's doing a phenomenal job on "Skaar." I've pitched this as a big, widescreen summer blockbuster movie-type storyline, one that would have an enormous budget. Loads of spectacle and big crazy action set-pieces. That all puts a huge amount of pressure on an artist. But Brian's consistently turning in pages that have a huge amount of "Wow!" factor. Plus his storytelling's excellent. All that spectacle's nothing if you don't care about the characters.

It's not just Brian. The rest of our art team -- inker Rick Ketchum and colorist Lee Duhig -- are absolutely killing on this. I've been writing comics for ten years and Lee's colors are some of the best on any strip I've ever worked on. He's really making the Savage Land this vibrant, atmospheric place. I can't say enough about the art on this series. I think people are going to be blown away by how this looks.

The series that takes place in a lost world full of dinosaurs, robots, aliens, barbarians, magic and time lost heroes. Tonally "Skaar" sounds like a gigantic mash-up of several different pulp stories. Is that correct?

Yes. Like I say, that's the appeal of the Savage Land. You can tell all these genre stories in this crazy setting There are a ridiculous amount of toys to play with in the Savage Land. It's manna from heaven for a writer.

If this series resonates with readers would you like to hang around in the Savage Land and tell more tales featuring Skaar or other inhabitants of the lost realm?

There's certainly huge amounts of scope to tell lots more stories in this world. It's occurred to me that the place is like Marvel's version of the island from "Lost." Anything can turn up in those jungles. You just have to come up with some bonkers science or magic explanation. And by the close of "Skaar: King Of The Savage Land" the status quo of the area will be completely different and we'll have a very strong cast. The ones that survive, that is. I'd love to work with the same art team again, certainly.

Any final thoughts you would like to share about "Skaar: King of the Savage Land"?

This is, honestly, such a fun comic. No navel gazing here. It's a "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" in The Savage Land. It looks outstanding and at one point Skaar uses Devil Dinosaur in the biggest "fastball special" you've ever seen. What's not to like.

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