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Hulk Smash Avengers

Hulk Smash Avengers: Roger Stern

The longtime Avengers writer tells an untold tale from his classic run with artist Karl Moline!

By TJ Dietsch

The Hulk and the Avengers have a complicated relationship.

Hulk helped found the team in 1963’s AVENGERS #1, but abruptly departed by the second issue following a misunderstanding with his would-be allies. Ever since, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Green Goliath have clashed more than they’ve teamed, and weekly this May, HULK SMASH AVENGERS, a five-issue limited series with a quintet of creative teams and standalone stories set in different eras, will explore the dynamic between the two sides through the years.

Hulk Smash Avengers #3 preview art by Karl Moline

One of Marvel's most prolific writers, Roger Stern not only helmed the Avengers for several years, but also penned some of their most legendary adventures. The Masters of Evil's attack on Avengers Mansion? Him. Hank Pym's trial? Stern. The team's appearance on David Letterman's show? You guessed it. But, one event Stern never got to write gets remedied in the pages of HULK SMASH AVENGERS #3.

In all the time he wrote the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Stern never pitted the team against their one-time member The Hulk, but with the help of artist Karl Moline, that will no longer be the case. How did he decide exactly where to slide this new tale in?

“The answer lies in the heart of the assignment, which was to write a new story about a Hulk encounter with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes set sometime—anytime—during the period when I was writing AVENGERS,” Stern explains. “Now, as it happens, there had been a couple of Hulk/Avengers crossovers during that period, but they'd all taken place in the pages of the INCREDIBLE HULK. With the exception of a brief cameo or two, I'd never really gotten a chance to write the Avengers in conflict with The Hulk—unless you count that time I had them fighting Hulk's pants. No kidding! It happened in AVENGERS ANNUAL #13. After accepting the assignment, I started looking back over Avengers history—and Hulk history—looking for a place where such a conflict could have naturally occurred. It's something I do. I can't help myself. Whenever I write a story set in the past, I always try to make it fit.”

All that research eventually paid off as he found the perfect place in between AVENGERS #221 and #222 as well as a pair of HULK comics.

Hulk Smash Avengers #3 preview art by Karl Moline

“In doing my research, one natural spot jumped right out at me and it just happened to be between my first two issues of the AVENGERS, as well as between two issues of INCREDIBLE HULK,” Stern says. “See, in HULK #280, the Hulk had just survived an attack by The Leader, and in #281 Doc Banner is at Avengers Mansion, and—wait! I shouldn't give any more away. Read the issue, and you'll find out what happens in between.”

Returning to not only the comic he once wrote, but also the team he steered through several adventures, Stern says the experience turned out to be “great, great fun.”

“It was like catching up with old friends,” he reports. “Plus, I got to work with Karl Moline. If there's anyone out there who isn't familiar with his art from X-FACTOR or recent issues of AVENGERS ACADEMY, well, here's your chance to get with the program.”
If you're not familiar with AVENGERS lore from the mid-80’s, Stern says not to worry.

“This story takes place during a period in which Bruce Banner's mind controlled the Hulk—more or less—and he could change back and forth at will,” the writer reminds. “The Hulk had been granted presidential amnesty, and Banner was trying to rebuild his life. So, in his own book, you got to see a calm Hulk, more or less. The reason I keep saying ‘more or less’ is because the Hulk's temper is always tightly wound, and Banner is not without his own rages. He might maintain his intellect and speak of himself in the first person, but he can still turn green and smash things. And he does! For fellow fans of ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ imagine, if you will, a rampaging Sheldon Cooper capable of bulking up and leveling a city. Now, just try to get that image out of your head.”

Meanwhile, the assembled members of the Earth's Mightiest include several founders as well as other characters that can not only hold their own against ol' Jade Jaws, but also have different levels of history with him.

Hulk Smash Avengers #3 preview art by Karl Moline

“In fact, we have four, no, five, founding members of the team: Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Wasp and Captain America,” Stern reveals. “And the final founding Avenger, Hank Pym, is conspicuous by his absence. Plus, there's Hawkeye and the ever-sensational She-Hulk, as well as Captain Marvel, who's still an Avenger-in-training at this point in time.”
Stern also notes that the Avengers and Hulk will not be the only familiar faces appearing in the pages of his story; but don't expect additional heroes, villains or even existing side characters. He integrated two real world folks into the issue!

“Well, I don't know how familiar they'll be to current readers, but there are a couple of characters who act as a sort of Greek chorus to the story,” he says. “They're loosely based upon two talented gentlemen who are no longer with us. Let's just say that I thought they ought to be part of my AVENGERS. Wherever they are, I hope they like the story.”

Stay tuned to Marvel.com over the next several weeks for more HULK SMASH AVENGERS

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