SPOILERS FOR CURRENT ARC OF INCREDIBLE HERCULES AHOY
Cover to Heroic Age: Prince of Power #1As The Heroic Age begins, so does a new quest for Amadeus Cho. In the wake of shattering events, the erstwhile genius/smartass sidekick of Hercules has taken his fallen friend’s place as Prince of Power. What does that mean for one of the smartest young people in the Marvel Universe, and how does it fit in with the post-Siege mentality. We got together with writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente and artist Reilly Brown to get the inside view on the new status quo, and the new limited series [this is a correction of a earlier version of this story that referred to it as a ongoing series - ed] Heroic Age: Prince of Power launching in May 2010.
Newsarama: I think that readers have understood since “Incredible Hercules” began that much of the story is really about the journey of Amadeus Cho. Can you describe your take on his evolution from foil to hero?
Reilly Brown: This question is more up Fred and Greg's alley, since they're the ones who've been with Amadeus for the whole journey,
Fred Van Lente: In many ways I always thought Amadeus was the main character of "Incredible Hercules". He was the learning from his utterly irresponsible teacher Herc. Now, though, we get to learn how good a teacher Herc really was. As a result of the events of INCREDIBLE, HERC: FALL OF AN AVENGER, and, for that matter, WORLD WAR HULKS, Amadeus now wields Herc's adamantine mace, has an all-new power set thanks to his association with Bruce Banner, and is on an adventure across not just the Greek mythological realm, but the Norse, Hindu and Egyptian as well, battling some old-time Hulk foes we haven't seen since Peter David's classic run...
Greg Pak: A trait Amadeus and Herc share is woefully poor impulse control. I think that's one of the reasons they were so fun to pair from the beginning. One uses his brains and the other uses his brawn, but they're both totally nuts. Which is why they ended up hanging out in the first place as two of the only heroes crazy enough to side with the Hulk during "World War Hulk." But while the amount of trouble they've gotten into has exploded exponentially since they joined forces, Amadeus and Herc have always somehow managed to save each other from their worst tendencies. That emotional journey of two cut-ups becoming best friends has been the driving force in Amadeus's development as a character thus far. But now everything's up for grabs as he's forced to make sense of the world -- and himself -- without the Lion of Olympus at his side.
Reilly Brown's design for Amadeus ChoNrama: Where did the visual take on Cho (the floating numbers, equations, etc.) come from initially?
Brown: That's how Takeshi Miyazawa originally drew Amadeus's powers back in Amazing Fantasy #15, and I think it's a really ingenious way of showing all of his calculations in an interesting and dynamic visual way. It's tough as the artist, because now I have to learn all these calculus and physics equations just to draw the comic. They don't teach that stuff in art school!
Van Lente: It's what Greg sees when he calculates his PLANET HULK royalties.
Pak: Back when I came up with the idea of Amadeus for the "Amazing Fantasy" v2 #15 anthology, I was just looking for a way to visualize a big brain at work. I always loved the way writers and artists would sometimes show Daredevil's POV of the world as pure sound. This is kind of the physics variation on the idea. Just for kicks, here's the text from the original script describing the first appearance of the formulae:
Wide panel filling the third row. The biggest panel on the page. Over Amadeus’s shoulder, we see the scene. Amadeus, his back to us, is leaping up onto his table in the foreground, charging forward, running over the tables. The Deputy and the Waitress stand in the aisle (in the midground) -- the door to the diner is on the other side of them (in the background). The scene is overlaid with what look like penciled drafting marks and mathematical formulae -- calculations of velocity and torque and trajectory. This is the inner workings of Amadeus’s brain -- the instant calculations he’s able to perform. The markings put special emphasis on a few details in the scene -- the pie counter behind the Deputy. A point on the wall just above and to the right of the pie counter. The Deputy’s eye.
Nrama: Has this transition (the death of Hercules, the passing of the mace) been in the cards from the beginning, or did this develop over time?
Van Lente: Greg and I figured out what the overall uber-arc of Incredible Hercules was about midway through our "Secret Invasion" arc and it come out to about eight volumes, of which “Prince of Power” is the seventh, combined with “Fall of an Avenger”.
Pak: As Fred says, we figured out the major beats of this giant story arc pretty early in the game. The cool thing is that knowing so clearly where you're going means you're able to incorporate the unexpected opportunities that come up along the way and make them integral parts of the story. The mace is actually a pretty great example of this. It makes perfect sense it ends up where it does in this storyline, but we only realized that when Reilly sent us an awesome concept of Amadeus with the thing on his shoulder. Thanks, Mr. Brown!
Nrama: How do you see the relationship of what you’ve been doing with the characters to the appearances that Hercules and Cho made in Mighty Avengers?
Brown: Well, on the art side, my boy Khoi Pham's been drawing Mighty, and he's certainly familiar with the characters from when Herc hijacked the Hulk's comic way back when, and he's been doing a great job of drawing them as part of the Avengers team.
Van Lente: I think Amadeus' time with the Avengers has been as valuable as his time with Herc because he's learned how to work as a member of a team. And we'll be carrying that ethos over here -- his right-hand woman, Hebe, Goddess of Youth, carries over from the INCREDIBLE HERC series as does his mentor, Athena, Goddess of Wisdom -- who finds herself with an important new role in the Marvel Mythological Milieu.
But Cho has some high profile buddies from the large MU that will also be joining him -- such as Bruce Banner... and a certain Thunder God on the cover...
Pak:: Fred and I were thrilled when "Mighty Avengers" Dan Slott asked if he could use Amadeus and Herc in his book. Dan's done a fantastic job with the characters and the relationships they've built there have definitely reverberated through our other books. Just one tease -- fans of "Mighty Avengers" won't want to miss "Incredible Hulk" #607, which hits stores on February 17, the same day as "Incredible Hercules" #141!
Nrama: I am required by law to ask about the best sound effects on Earth. Do you have any particular favorites? Do you field a lot of reader suggestions? Any chance we could get a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICHHHSLAPP! or a SMACKK-DAÜN! in the future?
Brown: Oh onomatopoeia, where would we be without you? I think SUKKAPUNCH was one of my favorites, and NURP, while so simple, it's so ingenious!
Pak:: Tip o' the hat to letterer Simon Bowland, who actually made the "NURP" purple.
Van Lente: Ooh, SMACKK-DAÜN I'm definitely stealing. But Troy, shame on you -- BICHHHSLAP was in the Hercules/Heracles fight in Hades. Two demerits!!
Hey, any readers who want to recommend SFX of their own, Comment away at the bottom of this article and buy future issues of PRINCE OF POWER to see which ones we rip off! You think it's easy coming up with these things?
Well, actually, it kind of is, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't appreciate the help...
Pak:: My personal best was probably "CRAKKAJAMMA." But I'm very partial to Fred's "PERNN!" in the last issue.
Nrama: For Reilly in particular: You handled the art chores during the “Thorcules” story, which was a pretty rollicking, comedy heavy passage. However, this story sounds more serious from the general description. Does that affect your overall approach as an artist? And how does this story overall play to your particular strengths?
Brown: Heh, I think the main difference is that I'll be making different facial expressions in the mirror this time. Actually I don't think it's going to change my approach too much, because my goal is always to best portray the characters' personalities and attitudes, whoever those characters might be. Last time I was drawing a boastful, powerful god, and this time I'm going to be drawing a frustrated and angry young man. So it'll be the same basic approach, but coming from a different angle.
The one thing that will probably be most different this time will be the panel layouts. For the majority of the "Thorcules" arc I set the scenes like a wrestling match, with the combatants in the center ring, and spectators watching on the sidelines. Prince of Power is more of an adventure story, where the action moves the plot from one place to another, and there are no spectators, only obstacles and more combatants who will be a threat to one side of the fight or the other, this will call for faster paced storytelling, and more dynamic angles. For the most part it will look more like how I drew the first half of Herc #134, and less like the second half of #136.
Pak:: Fred and I have been enormously lucky to have artists like Reilly who have nailed the comedy, the epic action, and the subtle character moments in the book. We're especially jazzed about Reilly coming back for this particular story because he did such an amazing job drawing a certain hammer-toting blondie in the "Thorcules" story. The Odinson plays a big role in "Prince of Power" and we're going to give Reilly every opportunity to bring the thunder.
And I'm really, really excited to see Reilly cut loose with Amadeus. Amadeus is entering an entirely new phase of his life here. He's growing up a little, and Reilly has a phenomenal new look for him that makes even my cold little heart go pitter pat.
Nrama: The book arrives as part of the “Heroic Age”. What’s your take on that title? Is the Marvel Universe experiencing renewed heroism, or is it an age of optimism after a particularly dark chapter? Does Cho at this point even view himself as a hero?
Van Lente: That's a good question. Like a lot of heroes, he didn't actually ask for this calling. But in many ways, despite his smarts, that makes him a better hero -- more able to relate to the people he's saying.
Bottom line is he is now what Hercules once was -- a Mythslayer, called to defend the world from the worst monsters of beasties and legends, which are now even more riled up than usual thanks to the approach of the Chaos King -- Amatsu-Mikaboshi, who destroyed Olympus and killed Zeus, whose return we've been foretelling since SECRET INVASION.
This being the Marvel Universe, of course, a lot of the "mythical" monsters are represented by seemingly science-based super villains who find their powers amped up to, well, legendary levels by this coming crisis ... and our book opens with a smack-down, drag-out between the Prince of Power and one such creature -- and we get to see how even though he now wields the adamantine mace, Amadeus Cho is very different sort of champion.
Brown: I don't think Cho would ever expect anyone to build statues of him or monuments in his name, if that's what you're asking. Hercules was the one who'd seek fame and glory and fill out a job application for the Avengers, but Amadeus is more of a rebel, reacting to the situations he's forced into-- which, of course, makes him no less heroic and perhaps he's even more of a hero because he's the underdog. Prince of Power is Amadeus's chance to cut the apron strings and stand on his own, and see if he really is able to live up to the example of his heroic mentor.
Pak:: Amadeus began his career as the Hulk's biggest cheerleader, which reflects a pretty strong belief in the justice of smashing bullies to protect the innocent. But as we'll soon learn, Athena believes that a new age requires a new kind of champion -- a hero of the mind. We're about to learn what kind of hero Amadeus really is. And Amadeus's very soul may be in the balance. (And this being a Herc book, we may not be speaking metaphorically.)
Nrama: Reviews for “Incredible Hercules” have been very favorable, frequently focusing on the “fun” quotient of the book, or the humor. Some have remarked that “fun” is a hard description to promote in today’s market. How do you feel about the perception of the book’s generally light-hearted nature, and how much of a switch is there between our common experience and this particular story?
Brown: Ha! You know, with all the Dark Reigns and Blackest Nights, I think it's good to have a title that's a little brighter, don't you? Personally, I think it's important to portray the full range of human emotions, not just for the characters but for the readers as well. Making someone laugh is a whole lot more powerful when they were crying just a minute before, and vice versa. I think that's something that Incredible Hercules has benefited from.
Van Lente: The tone is the same -- although it's a new #1 and a... minor shake up of the cast, PRINCE OF POWER is the natural continuation of the INCREDIBLE HERCULES saga under a different title.
And who knows? We may not be done evolving yet... (laughs evilly)
Pak:: I'm a big fan of serious stories with tons of laughs and comedies with genuine emotional development. And I think the fans have responded to the book not just for the "NUHCRAK" sound effects, but for the emotional bond between Amadeus and Herc and epic, heroic journey they've been undertaking together.
Nrama: In terms of the whole “Heroic Age”, what is Cho’s place? Will that be clear by the end, or is this just the beginning of a whole new cycle?
Van Lente: The gods have prophesized that Amadeus Cho, the new Prince of Power, will be the greatest hero of the Heroic Age -- not Cap, not Thor, not Iron Man -- for reasons that will be clear before 2010 is out.
Pak:: And the gods can't be wrong, can they? OR CAN THEY??!!??!!
Nrama: How accessible will the story be for new readers? If they’ve never read Hercules, what should get them in the door?
Van Lente: Yes. That is very much our intention with the series -- although steeped in mythology and resting on the foundation of what was set up in iHerc, POP is very much is own book.
Brown: A Thor team-up worked so well the first time, so I see no reason why it's shouldn't work again! Heh, and besides that, like Perseus, Theseus, and Odysseus, it's a classic story of a hero risking everything to stand up for himself against gods and monsters, and seeing if he can survive, let alone win. That's always a powerful story, and one that I think the readers will enjoy.
And I certainly don't think accessibility to be a problem. Fred and Greg always do a good job of catching people up on any essential facts with their famous recap pages.
Pak:: Actually, Marvel editors Nate Cosby and Jordan White should get the lion's share of the credit for those recap pages. Our unsung heroes -- we're singing for you, boys!
Fred and I have made an extra special effort to make Prince of Power new-reader-friendly. Yes, we're paying off some major things we set up earlier in the series and launching an insane new era in the "Incredible Hercules" saga (just wait 'til you see how this baby ends!). But if you've been tempted to check the book out, this is a great place to start.
Van Lente: Remember, kids: If you read one title about a wiseass teen genius billionaire myth-slayer this year, let it be PRINCE OF POWER.More on the HEROIC AGE: