When you think "Marvel" and you think "Destroyer," you very well might think the enchanted suit of armor that's appeared in comics for decades and this summer's Thor feature film. But that's not the only Destroyer in Marvel lore — or even the first.
There's also an unrelated character dating back to 1941 and Marvel's predecessor Timely Comics, one that's managed to stick around in current continuity and, as announced Saturday at Fan Expon in Toronto, is starring in a five-issues miniseries starting in February 2012 titled Destroyers.
In the series, the Destroyer unites a team of Marvel monsters including The Thing, She-Hulk, Karkas, A-Bomb and The Beast to tackle a mysterious threat — and given the raw strength of that lineup, one can reasonably assume it's a rather formidable threat.
Fred Van Lente (Herc) is writing the book with Kyle Hotz (The Hood) on art, and Newsarama chatted with Van Lente about the series to learn about how the appeal of the Destroyer, his take on each team member, working with Hotz and word on which T-Rex/ape-man pair makes an appearance early on in the book. (Which probablly narrows it down considerably.)
Newsarama: Fred, let's start with your use of the Destroyer, a relatively obscure World War II character with a fairly complicated background. What attracted you to him?
Fred Van Lente: Editor Bill Rosemann really sold me on him. Bill edited some of those Timely anniversary one-shots a while back and the Destroyer one was a real stand-out, with art from a frequent collaborator of mine, Steve Ellis. That tale really captured the Destroyer, who, as his name implies, is a relentless pursuer of the Axis — as one might suspect someone who survived a death camp might feel. A Golden Age Punisher, is what Bill likes to call him.
But not all of the Destroyer's WW2 missions were successful. One of them took him to a certain island in Japan, where he suffered his biggest failure — and now unstoppable creatures have erupted all over the world, poised to deliver an extinction-level event … The truth can now be told of what really killed the dinosaurs.
And the same thing is about to happen to humanity, unless it can be stopped — by a team that is also made up of Destroyers.
Nrama: Let's look at the main team starring in Destoryers. The Thing is a part of the cast — he's the highest-profile of the primary characters, but is he also one of the main focal points?
Van Lente: He is. If the Destroyer is the team owner, Ben is the manager/coach. He's been at the game longest, he's the most loved — and he knows what it's like to be hated and feared by the very people you're constantly trying to save.
The Destroyer has, in fact, dangled before Ben a real possibility of becoming human again. Ben's been down this road before, but this is the best chance he's ever had — though will he do it at a cost of destroying all monsters?
Nrama: She-Hulk is also in the comic, though that doesn't necessarily narrow it down these days. Which She-Hulk is in Destroyers? (Guessing it's Jen Walters, but that is just… a guess.)
Van Lente: Ha! Yes, that is indeed Jennifer Walters. I'm very psyched to returning to writing her again. She's the most human of our various monsters, the most connected to everyday reality.
But remember Nietzsche's old dictum — not to fight against monsters unless you want to become one yourself. Constant battle against the destroyers threatening the globe may cause Jen to lose more and more of a grip on her humanity, and see a savage side to She-Hulk that's been dormant since "Avengers: Dissassembled."
Nrama: I said (well, typed) the word "obscure" earlier, and I think it's fair to put Karkas in that category, despite being a Jack Kirby creation. How did Karkas end up in the comic?
Van Lente: The threat to humanity I've described dates back millions of years to when the Deviants ruled the Earth, and planned to take down the mysterious beings who created them, the Celestials.
In fact, the entire series opens with a heretofore unseen battle between Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy with Warlord Kro at Earth's infancy that will truly blow your minds.
Karkas, being a Deviant himself, holds great insight into the Longtime Marvel Villain who is behind all this destruction. And despite his fearsome appearance, he's always been something of a philosopher.
If Beast is the brains of the Destroyers, then Karkas is the soul.
Destroyer #2 cover. Nrama: Even though A-Bomb has been in his current form for a few years now, there's still a lot of novelty in Rick Jones being an Abomination-like monster after decades of the being the token human. How fun is he to get to write here?
Van Lente: He is fun, but due to events in my pal Greg Pak's Incredible Hulks finale there's a lot of poignancy as well. Before he was ever A-Bomb, Rick Jones was responsible for the creation of one of the worst monsters the world has ever seen — The Incredible Hulk. He still feels like he has to atone for that, and serving in The Destroyers is a way to do that.
But when the opportunity arises to destroy all monsters — Rick may not be as hesitant as Ben Grimm to take that opportunity.
Nrama: Beast rounds out the main cast members. He's not as powerful as his mates, but certainly make up for it in brains. How does he fit in with the rest of the gang?
Van Lente: Beast has been brought into the group by the murder of one of his oldest friends, a paleobiologist that was one of his advisors in college. So he has a deeply personal stake in unraveling this million-year old mystery — even beyond the fact the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
Nrama: Of course, there wouldn't be much of a point to assembling that crew if they weren't up against a force just as formidable. What can you say about the threat that prompts Destroyer to bring the team together?
Van Lente: Kyle and I are taking a page from The Host, Cloverfield, and other great modern monster movies to send The Destroyers into battle against a new and terrifying series of creatures that menace cities around the globe — all controlled behind the scenes by a Longtime Marvel Character with connections to all of them.
Nrama: You're taking on this miniseries with Kyle Hotz, who my vast research told me you worked briefly with in the past in an Origins of Siege 1-pager. The book doesn't start for about six months so it's probably very, very early in the process, but what can you say about what he's bringing to the book visually?
Van Lente: This book is pretty much all visuals, as one might suspect a book about a team of big monsters punching even bigger monsters in the face, and it's going to be a feast for the eyes. Sure, movies have horned in on a lot of superheroes' territory lately, but this is something only comics can do really well — massive, awe-inspiring battles that even with CGI would take millions to produce. This is some eye-popping beauty from Mr. Hotz, and you're not going to want to miss a minute of it.
Nrama: Last question! Though obviously you have plenty of experience with ongoing series (and are co-writing a couple right now), it seems that you've shown a real flair for writing miniseries starring lesser-known Marvel characters, from last year's Taskmaster to all the way back to Super-Villain Team-Up. As weird as it may sound to characterize in this way, do you see this type of territory as somewhat of a niche for you?
Van Lente: It is definitely something I enjoy very much. When I was kid, I always enjoyed getting in on the ground floor of something, I wanted to see unusual characters in situations I hadn't seen before. That's what I picked up oddball titles like Alpha Flight and The Defenders and really dug them. I was sort of spoiled because my parents got me reprints of the original Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics so I when I was buying books off the spinner rack myself I didn't necessarily go for the A-listers first because if I wanted my Spidey or FF fix I could just go back to what I already had on the shelf. I wanted to be taken to places I had never been to before, with characters I thought I knew, but didn't.
That is exactly the sort of experience I guarantee readers of Destroyers. I hope folks can check it out.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!