By Chris Arrant
The Hulk has never been much of a team player, but he shares an inexorable bond with the Avengers as a founding member and, indirectly, their first foe.
The upcoming limited series HULK SMASH AVENGERS covers the Green Goliath’s run-ins with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes through the ages all the way from 1963 to the present day. Set to be released weekly in February 2012, these five issues work as stand-alone one-shots written and drawn by a hand-chosen group of creators that span Marvel’s history going back to its early years.
“With the characters ready to wow the world in the upcoming ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’ movie, we realized that there would be quite a few readers who would be interested in seeing how The Hulk and Earth's Mightiest Heroes' relationship has changed over the years,” explains series editor Bill Rosemann. “And what better way to show that then by inviting unique teams of creators to deliver their personal takes on these combustible characters?”
Although a charter member of the flagship Marvel team, The Hulk has fought the Avengers more often than he’s battled by their side.
“The Hulk has transformed just as often as The Wasp has changed her costume,” Rosemann says. “He's been smart, monstrous, sinister, heroic, focused and a rampaging hurricane. Likewise, the Avengers have grown and shrunk their line-up, their power levels shifting with the seasons. But through it all there have been certain emotional truths that have brought these two great forces together, either as allies or enemies. It's an epic of colliding motivations, shocking misunderstandings and larger-than-life personalities—and did I mention the smashing?”
Each issue of HULK SMASH AVENGERS covers a different, key area in the lives of The Hulk and the Avengers, starting off with the early days. For this period tale, Rosemann enlisted three Marvel veterans: writer Tom DeFalco and artists Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema.
“HULK SMASH AVENGERS #1 is set shortly after Captain America has joined the team, and the Avengers are still learning how to deal with each other,” explains DeFalco. “The story focuses on loyalty and betrayal. Since The Hulk is a former teammate, the Avengers feel responsible for him. He, however, believes they betrayed him. Things get even more complicated when the original Baron Zemo shows up with The Executioner and Enchantress.
“This particular Hulk is the brutal and verbal thug who appeared in the early issues of AVENGERS. He is crafty and vicious.”
Next, Marvel enlisted AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES writer Joe Casey partnered with artist Max Fiumara to show The Hulk crossing paths with Iron Man, The Wasp, Vision and the Beast. For the third issue covering the 80’s era of the Avengers, Rosemann tapped one of the team’s primary chroniclers of the time, Roger Stern.
“I was asked to come up with a heretofore un-chronicled story about The Hulk and the Avengers,” shares Stern. “And because this is how my mind works, I found a place where this new story fits seamlessly with the original comics.”
Stern went above and beyond to fit his tale into existing continuity, with the story settled in-between AVENGERS #227 and #228 as well as INCREDIBLE HULK #280 and #281. But the writer assures us the only thing you need to know he explains in HULK SMASH AVENGERS #3.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but it involves a fighting-mad Hulk, an additional threat, and a crew of Avengers whose lives are in just a wee bit of turmoil,” he reveals. “There are thrills and chills, Sturm und Drang, angst and introspection—all punctuated by some serious Hulk smashing.”
This issue covers a unique time period for the Hulk, as it’s a rare instance where Bruce Banner has full control of his alter ego.
“But don’t think you’re going to see a ‘calm’ Hulk in this story,” Stern assures. “That old Hulk-temper is still lurking just beneath the surface and Banner isn't shy about giving in to his rage.”
After that comes a different kind of rage, as ZOMBIES CHRISTMAS CAROL writer Jim McCann explores the idiosyncratic era where The Hulk worked as a Las Vegas enforcer dubbed Mr. Fixit.
“The great thing about this series is that we get to see both The Hulk and the Avengers at different—and in most cases—the only times ever in these pairings,” says McCann. “I'm so lucky to be writing my dream match-up: Mr. Fixit versus the West Coast Avengers’ original line-up. In Vegas. What's smashed in Vegas sometimes doesn't stay in Vegas, I can tell you that!
“At this point he’s grey not just in skin color, but this is the Hulk in his Fixit persona: intelligent, cunning, living the high-life while everyone else thinks he's dead. And, c'mon, he's dressed to the nines in a pinstripe suit and he has tommy guns! Does it get any better than that?!”
Rounding out the creative line-up, HERC writer Fred Van Lente and POWERS artist Mike Avon Oeming set a different Hulk up against the Mighty Avengers just after the end of Civil War and World War Hulk. With the original locked away in the Gamma Base, the newly-created Red Hulk rampages across the countryside with the Mighty Avengers called in to put a stop to it.
“Over the years with The Hulk we discovered that the savage Hulk had a big heart to go along with the anger, but the Red Hulk seems driven by something else,” Van Lente explains. “The Red Hulk is driven by revenge, and is more calculating than the original Hulk ever was. Seeing the Mighty Avengers play into that is intriguing.”
Seeing the ever-changing Hulk go up against the evolving line-up of Marvel’s flagship team acts as an eye-opening experience, and for Rosemann it became a task and a delight to decide what ground to cover. As the project developed, the team he assembled became as noteworthy as the stories being told.
“First we mapped out the key time periods—choosing the eras that would deliver the greatest amount of drama, surprises and geek-out potential—then the casting of the creators began,” Rosemann recalls. “In some instances were lucky enough to be able to work with the legends who actually crafted the comics during those decades, and in others we reached out to creators we thought would capture the feel of the eras while also delivering in their own specific viewpoint. We were lucky enough to assemble a mix of acclaimed veterans and rising stars—just like the Avengers themselves!”
For continuing coverage of New York Comic Con 2011 including our live stream plus more stories, photos, videos and more, keep checking the Marvel.com NYCC 2011 hub page and follow along on the Marvel Events App as well as our Facebook and Twitter.