Announced at the Mondo Marvel panel at Chicago Comic-con, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente will be taking Hercules and Amadeus Cho to the culmination of their travels together, with an "Assault on New Olympus." The story, starting with a one-shot special called simply Assault on New Olympus Prologue, then carrying through the ongoing Incredible Hercules, promises to weigh heavily on the Marvel Universe, featuring a massive strike force of multiple Avengers teams facing off against the gods themselves. It will also include a new ongoing backup feature of Agents of Atlas written by Jeff Parker. We spoke with the writers ahead of the announcement to discuss Herc's future, his tipping point, the implications of this new storyline, and just who it is that comes up with those awesome sound effects!
Newsarama: Before we get to New Olympus, inquiring minds must know: Who is in charge of the best sound effects in all of comics?
Greg Pak: (laughs) It's a group effort!
Fred Van Lente: It really is a totally shared effort. The tradition actually started with Nate Cosby on World War Hulk, right Greg?
PAK: Yeah, exactly. It was Nate having a little fun. I remember opening up one of the issues of WWH and seeing a giant "KRAKABATHROOM" on the entire page, and I was like, "WHHHHAAA?" And he had a lot of fun with it, so when we started the Hercules book, we just kind of kept going. Sometimes Fred and I will write them in, I think Fred's latest was "Bosh" when Herc got knocked across a bosh style background in the underworld sequence. I think my greatest hit was "KRAKAJAMMA." I liked that one a lot.
VAN LENTE: And a tribute to Nate Cosby, cause when Hercules knocked out the main Skrull god, the sfx was "NATECOSBOOM". Now, we need to give props to Jordan White, who took over as Assistant Editor, who gets some of those in; even the interns get involved, it's a very group sound effect schmorgasborg.
NRAMA: Everyone wants to put a sound effect in Hercules, huh?
VAN LENTE: Yeah, it's kind of how you get your feet wet in Incredible Hercules, is by making sound effects.
NRAMA: Up until now, most of Herc's adventures have been focused on him and Amadeus doing their own thing. What's it like to now slap him smack dab in the middle of the Marvel U?
PAK: It is pretty awesome. The book came out of WWH, so the book was smack dab in the Marvel Universe when it began, ya know the first thing they did was take on the Mighty Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., so that was a big Marvel U centric storyline. Then we've definitely taken our time to build the world of the Olympians and the conflicts within the Hercusphere, if you will. But it was always our plan to come around to a few giant climactic story arcs. I think this is the first of three we have lined up here, and they're going to keep increasing, being bigger and more epic, and more impactful upon the Marvel Universe Proper.
Why, some of your very favorite characters might get punched in the face. WITH a funny sound effect.
NRAMA: There's your tagline! Read Incredible Hercules, some of your very favorite characters might get punched in the face.
VAN LENTE: Did we say might? We meant PROBABLY!
PAK: But yeah, it was always the big plan for this giant Marvel Universe cycle to happen. It's gonna pay off some of these things we've been seeping in since the beginning, and it's an insane amount of fun to write. I know Fred and I are cackling cause we've got a few of our favorite Marvel characters that we're gonna be doing some really fun stuff with in the Assault on New Olympus storyline.
The thing about Herc and Amadeus is they're the kinds of characters who, you throw them in a room with anybody, and they'll find something to do to annoy that person with. (laughs) They're the kinds of characters who rub people the wrong way in very entertaining ways, so it's always fun to do that. Right now, we're finishing the scripts for the Herc and Thor storyline. You know, it's solid gold when you put Herc and Thor together. So we're having a lot of that kinda fun putting those characters together with a bunch of other Marvel characters.
NRAMA: It's good to hear you still saying "Herc and Amadeus" because at the end of the last issue, Amadeus "broke up" with Herc; I don't think it's a stretch to say he's become a bit of a fan favorite and we don't want him to just disappear...
VAN LENTE: Well fear not on that angle, we start double shipping in August, and the even issues of that run for the Fall are a Hercules storyline where he impersonates Thor, like Greg was just talking about, and the odd numbers we pass it over to the quest Amadeus is on, the quest to find his sister and find out who killed his parents, and we basically get the "SECRET ORIGIN OF AMADEUS CHO." What he's all about, what is his direct connection to Hercules, what is his direct connection to Mastermind Excello, and all of that. So he's definitely not going away.
But just because Herc and Amadeus are back together at the end of that, doesn't mean they're necessarily best friends anymore. Their relationship has been put through serious strain in the Underworld arc and will be put through more strain in this coming arc.
PAK: Yeah, it's always the folks you care about the most who can drive you the craziest, and we're about to see some of the payoff of that as these next few arcs kick into high gear. As the action gets huger and bigger, the emotional stakes will get bigger, too.
NRAMA: What's the breaking point for Herc as a character to finally take the fight to Hera? Is it that personal loss?
VAN LENTE: Well Hera, like all good supervillains has this master plan. And Hera's master plan has to do with this Continuum product that was talked about in the Dark Avengers arc and in the upcoming Thor arc we learn exactly what that is, and what that is is a threat to the continued existence of the Marvel Universe.
So when Hera finds out that Hercules knows about it, she decides to unleash it, so everyone's time tables get stepped up. So Hercules has to go out and recruit a bunch of other heroes. Obviously he's a member of the Mighty Avengers, so he doesn't have to go too far to find some of them. This recruitment brings him into conflict with of all people, Spider-man, and in the Prologue, we'll find out what results from that, then the New Avengers end up coming along. So basically he needs the über-hero strike force because Hera is about to unleash an über-godlike threat.
PAK: Yeah, it's all back to the myths, too. Hera has constantly plagued Hercules, his entire life. She's the resentful step-mother who has never cottoned to this lovable oaf. it's interesting though that Hercules has never directly threatened her. But the trials she's put him through have always been personal, and now she's threatening the whole world, so Herc can no longer stand by and be the dutiful son. Plus the guiding hand of his father is considerably smaller, since Zeus has been shrunk to a small child and lost his memory.So all those factors are allowing this big battle to occur
NRAMA: Will any of the other pantheons be involved? It seems like a major power shift in Greece would be an issue for them all...
PAK: No doubt, you've got many folks who will have their eye on this battle, but whether we see them in this story arc remains to be seen.
VAN LENTE: Or one of the other "MAJOR EPIC ARCS" that Greg alluded to.
PAK: So basically buy everything that we write, and all of your deepest fears and wildest fantasies will be revealed.
NRAMA: When choosing the strike force, were you guys given free reign? Did you have anyone on the list you couldn't use, or not have someone on there that was suggested by Mark, Nate, or Jordan?
VAN LENTE: Tom Brevoort, who is Super Mr. Avengers has been really generous to us, and actually just signed off on the entire list we came up with. We internally bandied about the list a bit, the only big one we struggled with was whether to use Cap or USAgent, and you get better jokes with USAgent so that was the decision.
PAK: Yeah, and we've built up some of these relationships for Herc, so some of the characters just made sense, the team kinda formed itself, but we had our eyes on some other big fish, and like Fred said, we got everybody else we wanted.
VAN LENTE: And it's fun to pit the big heroes against their godly counterparts. We have Wolverine against the Immortal Huntsman. We've got Spider-man versus Arachne. We've got Henry Pym against Giants. That's a big theme of the arc is that the Marvel Heroes are the modern day incarnation of these mythical archetypes.
PAK: Which doesn't necessarily make the actual mythological gods very happy.
NRAMA: It seems like it would be difficult working with a new artist (Rodney Buchemi) going into a major storyline. Do you two, after working together as a writing team for so long, find you have to introduce new artists to your combined writing style?
VAN LENTE: Well Rodney's not that new, he actually did Hercules' origin in #126, and he's drawing the Amadeus part of the next arc.
PAK: He also did backups for me in Skaar.
VAN LENTE: And he's AWESOME.
PAK: There's that simple fact, too. It's funny cause we've had a lot of different artists on the book, but each of them has brought their own thing to it and really goten it. We need artists that can deliver that big crazy action, but also have fun with the character beats.
VAN LENTE: Yeah those two things are really essential.
PAK: And those are things we definitely see in Rodney.
VAN LENTE: Plus he draws a mean Spider-man.
PAK: Yes he does! He also gets to draw a lot of new gods that we haven't seen before in the book.
VAN LENTE: It's been fun to flip through all the mythology books we've accumulated while doing this series and kinda go, "Who would best punch Spider-woman in the face?" So we've got a whole host of Olympian badguys, MOST of whom have appeared in various marvel comics throughout the past. But Hera has her own strike force, and some of the members are people we haven't seen before.
NRAMA: So it sounds like your teamed writing style starts with a list of people you want to punch in the face.
VAN LENTE: Wait... are you telling me Fraction and Brubaker, when they worked together, don't start that way? Well, to each their own, I guess.
NRAMA: I think Fraction and Brubaker it was kick to the face...
VAN LENTE: Oh, alright, well that's great!
NRAMA: The other surprise part of this announcement is the ongoing Agents of Atlas back up that will be coming out alongside a full length series by Parker at the same time. Are you two writing that as well?
PAK: Oh no, we would never presume. Agents of Atlas is Parker's baby, and we're thrilled to have it there. I think Agents and Herc are two great tastes that taste great together, though, and will complement each other well.
The neat thing too is there's a lot of organic crossover between the characters. Namora, one of the Agents also played a huge role in the "Love and War" arc. And there are other little connections between these characters. one of the principal characters runs around calling herself Venus, which makes the real Aphrodite unhappy.
VAN LENTE: So Jeff will actually be seeding what's going on; the initial story will actually cross into Assault on New Olympus, as mysterious forces are going after Venus.
NRAMA: To be clear, you guys will occasionally cross over the stories, but that won't be the case all of the time?
PAK: Right, right.
VAN LENTE: Yeah, we want Jeff to have the freedom to do what he wants. And we don't necessarily want to have to constantly play off of him. We both need our space.
VAN LENTE: These relationships are about boundaries.
NRAMA: Herc has been a deeply involved member of the Marvel Universe and the Avengers before, but seems to have had more success being on his own, so to speak. With him being firmly in the Marvel Universe again, will we be losing some of his own adventures?
PAK: Oh no, we've got I think another year of stories lined up already.
VAN LENTE: At least. And the shocking climax of New Olympus will have a major radical shift in status quo for Hercules that will tie in even closer to the mainstream goings on of the Marvel Universe...
PAK: But it's totally a Hercules story as all the plotlines we've been doing throughout our whole run will be coming to a head. From the very beginning we planned out a huge arc for Herc and Amadeous, and it's all leading up to this huge climax. But it's all part of the master plan here in telling a story that really matters for these characters.
NRAMA: Can each of you give readers one specific moment from an upcoming issue that they should really look forward to?
PAK: I'm gonna heavily plug the moment when Hercu-Thor meets Thor-cules. In Incredible Hercules #136. Just imagine the hijinks that will ensue. We've got Hercules on a mission posing as Thor, and at the climax of this mission, a guy who looks remarkably like the real Thor shows up in a Hercules costume. Hijinks a plenty will be there, and perhaps some "THRAKADOOM"s as well.
NRAMA: You realize how ridiculous that sentence was: "Hercu-Thor meets Thor-cules."
PAK: (laughs) Yeah! That's the tools of our trade, my friend, ridiculousness and improbable word play.
VAN LENTE: That's the fun thing about Hercules; you have the hijinks, but we try to work in the high drama as well. But I will say my moment will be when Amadeus finally confronts the man who killed his parents. That's a scene we're really proud of, and it's an important development in that character. And Rodney really kicked ass on that sequence.
PAK: If I can throw one last thing in there, EVERY issue from the next one on will be chock-a-block full of revelations. Everything we do is always to be accessible to new readers, but for those who've been following it, there are big payoffs in every issue.
VAN LENTE: And you get to see Wolverine stab Satyrs. Also known as Fauns.