NYCC 2011: History Repeats Itself in HULK SMASH AVENGERS


Hulk Smash

Avengers #1 cover.

The Hulk may be a founding member of the Avengers, but that doesn't mean that he gets along with them all of the time. Or most of the time.

That long, complicated history is at the forefront of Hulk Smash Avengers, a five-issue weekly miniseries running through February 2012 — just a couple of months before Hulk appears on the big screen in The Avengers film. Announced by Marvel at their "Incredible Hulk" panel Sunday afternoon at New York Comic Con, the book features five different creative teams taking on five different eras.

Things start in #1 with Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz taking on Hulk versus the Silver Age Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp and Thor), Joe Casey and Max Fiumara depicting Hulk vs. a '70s Avengers team (Iron Man, Wasp, Vision and Beast), Roger Stern returning to his era (Captain America, Hawkeye, Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Thor) with artist Karl Moline, Jim McCann and to-be-decided artist on the West Coast Avengers (Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Mockingbird, Tigra and Iron Man) and Fred Van Lente and Michael Avon Oeming tackling recent history with the Red Hulk against the Mighty Avengers (Black Widows, Ares, Wonder Man, Sentry and the Wasp).

Newsarama talked with Bill Rosemann, editor of the series, plus DeFalco, Stern and Van Lente to look more about the series.

Newsarama: Bill, what can you say about the genesis of the Hulk Smash Avengers series? Sure, there's an Avengers film coming out with the Hulk playing a prominent role, but what inspired the historical perspective angle?

Bill Rosemann: As all True Believers know, over the years, the Hulk’s personality and body have morphed as often as The Wasp has changed costumes. He's been smart, dim, conniving, heroic, focused and out of control. Likewise, the Avengers have expanded and reduced their ranks, their power levels rising and falling with the seasons. But through it all there have been certain emotional truths and dramatic tensions that have brought these two great forces together, either as allies or enemies. It's a saga of clashing motivations, tragic misunderstandings and larger-than-life personalities... and don’t forget the smashing!

Nrama: It looks like the series covers a pretty wide spread of Avengers teams, but there's a lot of history there to cover. When planning the series, what was the criteria behind narrowing it down to these five eras?

Rosemann: I happily inherited this project from Tom Brennan and Tom Brevoort, who were smart enough to realize that if you divided each issue by decade (of when the source material was originally published), you hit upon just the right mix of characters, environment and geek out moments.

Hulk Smash

Avengers #2


Nrama: There is a diverse lineup of talent scheduled for the series. What kind of insight can you share on the process of matching up creative teams with Avengers eras? (Though I'm sure some were no-brainers, like Roger Stern returning to the team of his era and Jim McCann writing WCA.)

Rosemann: The casting was largely inspired by the eras. In some cases we went directly to the legends who actually worked on the characters during those periods, and in others we reached out to talents we thought would capture the feel of the time while also bringing in their own artistic viewpoint and unique interests. We were lucky enough to assemble a mix of acclaimed veterans and rising stars...just like the Avengers themselves!

Nrama: With any series like this, there are inevitably going to be some fans wondering where things "fit." Was that much of a consideration, or are the issues just meant to honor the spirit of the era represented?

Rosemann: Our creative crew is a passionate and intelligent team who went out of their way to ensure that not only would these chapters be new reader friendly, but that they’d also slide seamlessly into established continuity as “previously untold adventures” that occur between specific issues. So if you’re a movie fan new to our comics, these are totally accessible… but if you’re a longtime reader, you’ll find plenty sign posts and Easter Eggs that clue you in to where and when each story lives.

Nrama: From your perspective as editor of this series, what's your personal take on the Hulk's place within the Avengers? It's a curious history, since he was a founding member, but hasn't really been a regular presence in the book since. (Other than Red Hulk's current status, natch.)

Hulk Smash

Avengers #3


Rosemann: While the Hulk doesn’t have a huge amount of issues under his (torn) belt as an official Avenger, he has layers and layers of connections to the team through his relationships to other members. Without him, there would be no team – thanks for setting that up, Loki! – and he’s shadowed the squad in one way or another throughout their rich history. He’s the world’s most powerful engine of destruction, they’re Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…together they make magic in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

Nrama: Lee Weeks is on covers for all five issues. What made him the right choice to tie everything together?

Rosemann: All credit goes to Tom Brennan for that inspired bit of creator casting. Lee's art feels both classic and current at the same time, which is one of the goals of this story. We want to capture the essence of these vintage moments with a jolt of the new, and Lee's incredible sense of design and breathtaking line work does exactly that.

Tom DeFalco:

Newsarama: Tom, for your section of the miniseries, you and Ron are taking on the original Avengers team — what made that era one worth exploring to you?

Tom DeFalco: To be totally truthful, Ron and I are taking on the original Avengers team because that’s the one we were asked to do. When Tom Brennan, the original editor for the series, first approached us, he wasn’t sure if we should do the original team or the current one. He eventually decided to put us on the first issue so that we’d have to come up with a thematic spine for the series. The idea of exploring the Avengers’ relationship with the Hulk seemed a natural and Tom agreed. Our story is set in the early days of the Avengers, shortly after Captain America joined the team. This was a period where the Hulk was portrayed as a brutal and verbal thug. His tongue was as deadly as his fists and he had a lot of issues with the Avengers.

Nrama: In your career, you've had extended runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Fantastic Four and Spider-Girl, but not a whole lot of history with Avengers. Was getting a chance to write the Avengers part of what attracted you to the project?

Defalco: I’ve always thought my strength as a writer was to burrow deeply into a character’s head and world — and make that character and that world appealing to readers — a place where they would want to come every month and spend time. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the Avengers as individuals and as a unit and couldn’t resist another visit. I also get the added bonus of working with Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema and telling a HOO-HA done-in-one that can stand on its own and still be part of a great.  As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Roger Stern:

Newsarama: Roger, obviously your Avengers run is held in very high regard by fans — what was the experience like returning to these characters? Was there any trepidation at all, or just excitement?

Roger Stern: Oh, it's always exciting to write about the Avengers. The Avengers was always one on my favorite Marvel comics. And, in fact, one of the very first things that Marvel ever paid me to write was an overview of the team — in the form of an interview with Jarvis the butler — for their old fan magazine F.O.O.M.

Little did I realize, when I turned in that assignment, that I would wind up editing the Avengers… and later, that I would write the book for five years.

But... trepidation? Maybe a little. But that all went away the moment I started plotting the story. It was like picking up a conversation with old friends.

Nrama: The series is all about the relationship between Hulk and the rest of the Avengers, and of course that's a dynamic that changes as much as the Hulk changes (a lot). What's the status of the Hulk in your story?

Stern: The story is set during a period when Doc Banner's mind was more-or-less in control of the Hulk. “More,” in that he maintain his intellect and didn't speak of himself in the third person. And “less,” in that he still had a temper that could lead to building-smashing rages. But because of the former — and despite the latter — he had been granted a presidential amnesty, and was trying to adjust to his new life with all its attendant celebrity.

If you're at all familiar with Bill Mantlo's tenure as writer on the Incredible Hulk, this story fits in between issues #280 and #281… as well as between my Avengers #227 and #228. But if you've never read those issues, don't worry. My story tells you everything you need to know to understand what's going on.

Fred Van Lente:

Newsarama: Fred, while the other issues of the series deal with Avengers teams from many years ago, you're writing the Mighty Avengers team from relatively recent history. So since most readers probably have pretty clear memories of those books, does that give you less room to put your own spin on things? Or is there maybe more to explore than one might expect, since the team wasn't together all that long and there's surely untapped potential there?

Fred Van Lente: Well, I did a lot of books related to this period, so I was pretty comfortable with it. I'm more interested in telling an exciting action story between the Hulk and the Avengers — with the tinge of the political thriller, as Iron Man tries to talk the imprisoned Bruce Banner into revealing the identity of the Red Hulk. It's the interactions of the characters that are center-stage here, and that's the best kind of potential there is.

Nrama: Red Hulk is part of the Avengers now, but this would appear to take place when he was still seen as much more of a villain. In your story, is he more the bad guy or someone whose actions are being misunderstood?

Van Lente: He's definitely the bad guy. He's still working for the Intelligencia at this point and the Mighty Avengers are trying to track him down — with Bruce Banner helping them out as their "Hannibal Lecter." Though does Banner have ulterior motives of his own...?  

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