Announced earlier this week, Skaar: King of the Savage Land places the Son of Hulk in a new setting, and as the title implies, he's poised to challenge Ka-Zar for his title at the top of Marvel's dinosaur-filled land that time forgot.
Writing the five-issue miniseries is Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Shadowland: Ghost Rider), with art from Brian Ching (many Star Wars titles for Dark Horse, Incredible Hulks, and no known relation to the author of this article).
With the comic set to debut in April, Newsarama had a chat via e-mail with both Williams and Ching about why they like Skaar, the role of Ka-Zar in the story, some of the other characters set to appear in the series, and their near-collaboration a few years ago.
Cover of Skaar:
King of the Savage
Land #1 by Michael
Kormack.Newsarama: Rob, Brian, what's appealing to both of you to Skaar as a character? He's one with a relatively short history, but has made a pretty big impact on the Marvel Universe in a short time.
Rob Williams: For me, it's the idea that he's basically a teenage version of the Hulk, still growing emotionally. So that means he's going to make a lot of impetuous mistakes - and impetuous mistakes from a Hulk are going to cause a lot of damage - and he's also growing as a character. He's not yet got the 'status quo' of one of Marvel's icons. There's a feeling he can go anywhere and do anything. Maybe be a hero or a villain. There's a lot of scope with Skaar. And you place him against the backdrop of a civil war in the Savage Land and it makes for a morally testing, action packed environment. With really big dinosaurs.
Brian Ching: For me, its all about the visuals of Skaar. He’s the kind of character I always wanted to work on but haven’t had the opportunity to. He’s big, he’s muscular, he’s got tattoos, and he carries a sword. Awesome. It’s like he’s come straight out of a Frazetta painting. Very visceral and very different from the style of characters I’ve worked on in the past. What’s not to love?Nrama: The Savage Land — an area of Antarctica full of prehistoric creatures — is one of those neat, enduring, "only in comics" concepts. Do either of you have any favorite stories set in the Savage Land?
Williams: The Byrne/Claremont Uncanny X-Men story. I remember loving the fact that Wolverine and Zabu seemed to be able to communicate. At the time Wolverine was new and exciting and his background was a mystery, and little teasers like that from Claremont and Byrne were hugely intriguing. And Colossus got lucky in that story too!
Ching: I’m a big fan of the Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men run which takes Rogue and Magneto to the Savage Land. Nick Fury and a bunch of his SHIELD Agents show up with their helicopters, guns and all around high tech gear. I love the visual contrast of all that taking place in a prehistoric style setting. Michael Golden’s take from Marvel Fanfare also comes to mind. I think it’s just a very fun place for creators to play with. It has rules but for the most part the Savage Land is a place where anything goes.Nrama: Rob, to whatever degree you can share right now, what brings Skaar to Savage Land in the first place? Given the title of the comic, it's pretty clear he's going to be challenging Ka-Zar's position at the top of the Savage Land food chain.
Williams: I'm kind of limited in what I can saw for how Skaar ends up in the Savage Land as that's a story Greg Pak's currently telling. But I will say this - Skaar's a long way from home and, in the chaos and unforgiving nature of the Savage Land, he finds somewhere that speaks to him. This is a place where Darwinism rules, and he figures he's the strongest one there is. That may not be the case though. And when a civil war hits, the last guy (or girl) standing is going to be in a position to rule.
Cover of Skaar:
King of the Savage
Land #2 by Ed
McGuinness.Nrama: And speaking of Ka-Zar, what can you say about his role in the comic? He's front and center on the two covers released, almost implying that he has essentially a co-starring role. The title certainly suggests that he'll be in opposition with Skaar — is that a fair assessment? (The covers make it look like they might be working together, but we all know about judging and covers.)
Williams: Ka-Zar's one of our main players here, definitely. He's a character that has the most to lose from our storyline. After all, when we open he's the ruler of the Savage Land, so when the status quo gets ripped up, he's the one taking the gut punches. I feel kind of bad about what I've been doing to Ka-Zar in the scripts thus far. I'm a big fan of Breaking Bad and the first two seasons of that I'd sit there and marvel at just how horrible the writers were being to Walter and Jesse. Just when things seemed bad for them, they'd make it worse. That's filtered into my approach to Ka-Zar here. He's going to get knocked down in a big way. We'll have to see how he responds to that.Nrama: Of course, where there's Ka-Zar, there's Shanna and Zabu. How important are they to the series? Williams: Very. It wouldn't be a Savage Land civil war without them. In fact, without giving too much away, Shanna and Zabu are going to be seen in a way that no one, including Ka-Zar, could expect. The civil war is going to split the country, tribes and families apart. And they're Ka-Zar's family. Shanna's a She-Devil, right? It's about time she started acting like it.
Nrama: Brian, you've drawn a lot of other worldly stuff in your career — what are some of the challenges involved with both the setting of the Savage Land and a main character like Skaar? Seems like a lot of fun to draw.Ching: Actually, the biggest challenge for me was going back and brushing up on my anatomy. I was drawing Star Wars for years and all the characters I was doing either wore armor or Jedi style robes. This past year with Marvel gave me the opportunity to stretch out into super heroes but still not doing much with portraying musculature. Now with Skaar I knew I had to bring it on show him in that savage, lord of the jungle style. So I studied up on some old anatomy books and after nearly one issue in, I am feeling very comfortable with him. Nrama: Also, when illustrating something like dinosaurs, are you concerned with drawing them in a scientifically accurate way, or are you more looking to have fun and interpret freely? Ching: I’m not too concerned with scientific accuracy or anything like that. I’m just trying to get a certain feel, a certain rhythm to them. I’m starting off with studying the dinos from Jurassic Park. It feels like a legitimate representation of how they looked and moved. I’ve taken that and played around with it a little and trying to inject some comic book style energy into it. Exaggerating the poses and giving the T-Rex far more teeth that it has, that sort of thing. Nrama: Right on the cover of #2 are two more cult favorite characters, Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur — can we infer from that image that they have a pretty major part?
Williams: In all their Kirby goodness! It's funny, Marvel sent me through some of the original Kirby Devil Dinosaur issues and your initial reaction is mild panic and 'how am I supposed to write this?' A red T-Rex whose best friend is a primal chimp character? And then you read it and embrace the sheer fun of the thing and suddenly it's a blast to include them in the storyline. Devil Dinosaur being a key supporting character kind of reminds you that this should be entertainment, not navel-gazing.Nrama: Rob, it seems that there are other, more unexpected characters getting involved in this series — any hints, however oblique, you can give at this point, as to who might be showing up?
Williams: Sorry, I don't want to spoil it. But we've got a few long lost Marvel players showing up as the series continues. The Savage Land is a landscape where it's easy to get lost. It's a land out of time. So if Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy can turn up there, pretty much anyone can.
Nrama: Skaar is a character very closely associated with one writer — his creator, Greg Pak. Rob, have you consulted with him at all while constructing this story, and do you think your take on the character differs in any way?
Williams: Greg's been involved in as much as I know he's read my outline and scripts and is offering notes, so everything's being run through him. Skaar's his baby, so I've got to stay true to view of the character. Hopefully readers used to Greg's Skaar won't see anything that jarring in my interpretation. But Skaar's on a journey here. When we meet him he's an untethered teenager. He's kind of lost. An alien without a home. By the close of our tale he's going to have a definite path before him. But that path is going to come at a cost. And no one's saying the King Of The Savage Land has to be a benevolent and kindly one. This is a land where the strong feed on the weak. Well, Skaar's very strong... It's time for him to choose a side.
Nrama: And it's still very early, but this is (I believe) the first project the two of you have worked on together, so how has the dynamic between you two been thus far?
Williams: Brian and I nearly worked together previously, funnily enough. We were both on the Star Wars books for Dark Horse a few years back. He was drawing Knights Of The Old Republic and I was writing Star Wars: Rebellion. I vaguely recall our editor at the time, Jeremy Barlow, mentioning that Brian may be drawing one of my Rebellion arcs, but Dustin Weaver (now of SHIELD) ended up drawing it instead. Funny that, a few years on, I get offered this Skaar gig and I ask who the artist is: Brian Ching. Small world in comics.
Thus far I've been absolutely thrilled with Brian's pages. I think I've been guilty of thinking, with the Savage Land backdrop, this needs to be really big and widescreen. Like Avatar in the Marvel Universe. That's challenging for an artist. But Brian's delivering some hugely cinematic pages. Great dinosaurs too. And he's able to keep the storytelling tight when all the action's big and visceral. This is going to be a great looking series.
Ching: Our paths nearly crossed a few years back while working on the Star Wars books but it never happened. Which is probably a good thing—because I needed to acquire more experience and more tools before tackling a Rob Williams script! But I’ve been a fan of his for a while. His stories feel like big blockbuster summer movies, the kind of thing an artist kills to work on. Big characters, big action, and great dialogue. I honestly couldn’t be any happier to work on this book.Is SKAAR fit to be king of the Savage Land?