‘Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.’ Week 5: ‘Savage Land’ [Interview]
After one week off, Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. returned, and this time the team headed to the Savage Land to take on Sauron. While they're battling dinosaurs and pterodactyls, A-Bomb is resisting Hulk's overprotective ways, Red Hulk takes on a mentor role (no, really), and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. get a new team member: Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur.
Once again we talked to supervising producer Cort Lane about the episode, including A-Bomb's development and the decision to give the team a pet dinosaur.
ComicsAlliance: First, I wanted to talk about A-Bomb. A few weeks back we discussed A-Bomb's development and how there was an episode coming where there was tension between he and Hulk, because Hulk is kind of overprotective out of guilt in his role in turning his best friend into what he's become. How did you take a character that isn't traditionally known as a leader or teacher, and use him in a way that's effective in that manner?
Cort Lane: Oh actually that's a good question, and this episode does deal with that a little bit. I mean you know there's a tension between Hulk and Red Hulk over who's the better leader and Hulk has never lead a team before, and he lets his personal relationships sort of color his leadership and you see here he's not giving A-Bomb the room to develop his skills and become a better hero and that's a mistake. Rick resents him for it and Red's able to seize that opportunity to encourage A-Bomb, but of course his methods are not all that. So Hulk has to learn something about being overprotective, about being a leader to this team rather than being Rick's friend. This is a real opportunity to grow for him, and Rick also sees he's got a long way to go.
CA: It's not only an episode where you see Rick develop. You see Red Hulk develop in a sense too. In a way he's being sincere. He's being a jerk because that's his character, but he's trying to help Rick and trying to show Hulk that he's being overprotective. Before this, Red Hulk and A-Bomb -- and this was a point driven home a lot -- didn't exactly get along. How does this affect their relationship going forward?
CL: There's always sort of a belief on Red's part that he should be A-Bomb's mentor. A-Bomb doesn't really feel the same. The change here really is that A-Bomb learns that, you know, Red will lead him astray. Red will teach you things that aren't really the right things to learn. So, he continues to take him less than seriously throughout the rest of the series after he gives Red this shot here. But Red grows into becoming a better friend, a better team member, kind of a better family member through the course of the season, so their relationship get's better.
CA: A-Bomb is definitely the entry character for your target audience of young kids. He's the most relatable one and we've talked in the past about these episodes having lessons for younger viewers. Is it easier to do stuff like that through Rick?
CL: Yeah, I think Rick is easier, because he doesn't quite know how to use his powers that well yet, he doesn't have a lot of experience, you know fighting monsters and villains and such. He has to learn lessons about knowing when you're ready and about doing the right thing and Hulk has to learn lessons like an older brother about being overprotective, about giving Rick the opportunity to not just fail, but also succeed. He won't have those opportunities to succeed if he's never allowed to do anything. So their relationship is, for me, the most fun relationship in the series because they're really like brothers. They're like best friends and that gets in the way of them being on a super hero team.
CA: As I was watching this episode I pictured a kid and his older brother watching it together and the kid is nodding vigorously hoping he's taking the message, which is nice. Okay, so let's talk about Savage Land. Sauron's the villain in this one. In the past few episodes the villains served as a metaphor of sorts. You've taught a lesson through them. But with Sauron that's not necessarily there. Was putting together this episode as simple as saying, "Hey, you know what would be a lot of fun? If we had five Hulks fighting dinosaurs."
CL: That was part of it. There are really three reasons for going to the Savage Land and having the story there. There is a frontal message in terms of Sauron's power about controlling others. The sort of struggle of control of A-Bomb between the Hulk and Red Hulk and Hulk being too controlling of A-Bomb. Very subtle but there is sort of a connection there. Usually the villain’s power will relate to our story in some way. Then lastly, it was our opportunity to introduce Devil Dinosaur, who becomes the new member of this family, and will live with the Hulk and be an important character for the rest of the series.
CA: That's my segue to talk about Devil Dinosaur! You've got Devil Dinosaur on the team now, a favorite amongst a lot of Kirby fans. If a team like Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. is going to have a pet, it would probably have to be a dinosaur, frankly.
CA: What drove the decision to give them a pet in the first place?
CL: There was some discussion. Did it fit the family dynamic? Is a character that is like a pet something of interest? What would that add in terms of story and character development for the Hulks themselves? And there is a lot that can be done with Devil Dinosaur. It comes with advancing the character stories for each of our heroes. So, we thought about a pet. I confess that I am the one who suggested Devil Dinosaur. But the concept quickly became a favorite for Paul Dini. He got very attached to it and started to think about how he could be used in interesting ways, and the relationship that Devil Dinosaur would have with different characters. So that became something special for him.
CA: I’m glad you mentioned it that it was your idea, now everyone reading this will know who to thank.
CL: [Laughs] Or who to blame! We just got to introduce Devil Dinosaur here, we don't get to see the relationships play out but clearly he has a really affectionate relationship with A-Bomb. He and Skaar develop a very interesting relationship because they can actually relate to each other in a lot of ways. Then Red and Devil Dinosaur have a very contentious relationship and that leads to some really interesting and funny story moments.
CA: Yeah, that's definitely hinted at, at the end. He doesn't seem like the type of person who can enjoy having a pet anyway.
CL: No and we actually did an episode around their relationship and I won't give away too much but things go horribly, horribly wrong [Laughs]. A fight between them ends up involving Dr. Doom and it becomes a big story. So, there is a lot of fun to be had. It's not just that he's a pet; he's also really valuable in battle. He's a massive T-Rex. He can have shoulder cannons, and they can actually ride him. He works in so many different elements in the series and because he's so big, and clumsy he can smash things just like the Hulk just running around their headquarters. So, he really does add a lot, and over the course of the season they all develop a lot of affection for Devil Dinosaur. Even Red.
CA: All right, I think that's about it. What can you tell us about next week’s episode, "The Incredible Shrinking Hulks."
CL: This one was a lot of fun. We get to see the Leader again and we get to resolve to a large extent the question of whether Skaar is on the side of the Hulks or the Leader. There's betrayal, there's some shocks and surprises and there's also mini-golf and a birthday party.
CA: I think that's all you need. You have shocks, betrayal and surprises. That's enough, and you throw in mini-golf and a birthday party. It's like sweeps week. You just need a baby.
CL: Everything a boy who is watching this show could want, yeah. It's a really fun episode, actually. It has a lot of twists and turns, that's what I love about it most. It really plays out what everyone has been wondering since the end of episode two where we reveal that Skaar is working for the leader. We've been building up to that ever since. There are moments, for instance in the Iron Man episode, that have carried that story along. But here we get to see it come to a head.