‘Marvel’s Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.’ Week 2: Hulk Busted [Interview]
Last week we spoke to Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. supervising producer Cort Lane and writer Paul Dini about character development and what to expect in this new series. The latest episode, titled "Hulk Busted," features Iron Man, and is the first guest appearance of another Marvel character in the series. Specifically, it's a character who represents a stark contrast to Hulk. Iron Man is the most popular hero in the animated universe, and the Hulk, even though he has his rage under control, is still an outcast, and there's some very obvious resentment there that makes for an interesting dynamic.
In our continuing interview series with cast and crew, we spoke with Lane again about the relationship between the two heroes, and whether or not there's definite continuity between Agents Of S.M.A.S.H., Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man.
ComicsAlliance: First off, as someone who grew up inexplicably loving Annihilus and Blastaar, thank you for the last 60+ minutes of animation. Okay, so you’ve got another Negative Zone villain at the beginning of this episode. Is the Negative Zone going to be a big part of the show or was this just something you decided to use early on in the series?
Cort Lane: No, it’s going to appear again. The deal is, the Leader has had access to the Negative Zone for a while, and without revealing too much, he’s going to lead them back into the Negative Zone for a massive battle halfway through the season. And that’s why we’re seeing these Negative Zone villains. The Leader has been very busy in the Negative Zone.
CA: What drove the decision to have Iron Man be the first guest star in the show?
CL: If you’re gonna have a guest star, you might as well start with the best, and Iron Man being a character that everybody loves right now made it an obvious choice. On top of that, in the Avengers film there was a great dynamic between Tony and Bruce, so that was something to press on. And finally, for us, they’re just so opposite, with Hulk being seen as this kind of rage character even though he has that under control in this series, and Iron Man being so intellectual, using tech, and really just being an ordinary human under the suit, there’s this great contrast between the two of them. And on top of that, and this is probably the most important thing, the Hulks are seen as monsters by the general public, and in the context of our animated series there is no hero the public loves more than Iron Man.
CA: I wanted to touch on that a bit, because right now Iron Man is immensely popular, both in real life and, as you said, in the show. And you can see the resentment a bit from Hulk, because they’re both geniuses, but the Hulk obviously had a bad break, and I think he looks at Tony and sees what he could have been.
CL: Yeah, there is a weird sort of road not traveled between the two of them. And like I said, one is so loved and the other is so hated, and it just provides a nice contrast so that, because the episode is about trust, and there’s a lack of trust between the two characters throughout the episode, with them coming from such different places underscores the fact that they don’t trust each other. And why should they? They come from different perspectives and very different worlds. But you’re right, they’re both geniuses.
CA: One of the side stories, so to speak, in this episode is about the team trying to work together. That obviously won’t be completely resolved in one episode, but there’s progress. How does that develop going forward?
CL: There will be bumps along the road. They have a really hard time working and living together, because they’re personalities are all just so different. And they’re all big personalities. There was some progress here, but there are a lot of “three steps forward and two steps back” kind of situations. Particularly with Red Hulk, who’ll cause a lot of problems for the team. And obviously with Skaar secretly working for the Leader, he’ll be the source of a lot of conflict. Eventually we’ll have to answer the question of what happens when the rest of the team finds out that Skaar is working for the Leader. Hulk knows, and he reveals it to A-Bomb at the end of this episode, but how will the rest of the team feel about working with a traitor? It’s a really interesting character dynamic.
CA: That’s the biggest development in this episode. Now A-Bomb knows Skaar’s secret, so Hulk has someone else to talk to about it. And we see Skaar hesitating to help the team against the Leader, while Hulk reveals that he wants to turn Skaar into a friend. The Hulk’s whole story in this series is about redemption, and that’s really concentrated in a sense in the story between he and Skaar.
CL: It is really elegant, in a way. He sees Skaar as a younger version of himself. I think he gives Skaar a little too much credit, but with the episode focusing on trust, it’s interesting that Hulk decides he needs to win Skaar’s trust, so one day they can trust each other. That’s a big leap, but it’s interesting to see the Hulk give that approach a shot. But again, I think a lot of it is because he sees himself in Skaar. He’s not very objective when it comes to Skaar, but we’ll see how that plays out.
CA: It does seem like Hulk is leaving himself kind of vulnerable in that sense.
CL: Yeah, it works out nice. And also, we have him revealing the secret to A-Bomb because he felt he needed to tell somebody, but maybe that isn’t the best choice. Hulk’s vulnerability is really important to the show, not just to make him a more relatable character, but for him to develop as a character over the course of the season, so we don’t have Hulk reacting and doing things the same way in episode 26 as he did in episode 1.
CA: One thing you and Paul mentioned last week was about the Hulk’s relationship with other heroes on shows like Avengers and Ultimate Spidey. Is there any kind of continuity between this show and those? Are you trying to build a continuity, or will you just leave it a little vague?
CL: We are leaving it a little vague because we don’t want viewers to connect the dots between episodes. We don’t want anyone, especially our young readers, to feel like they need to watch an episode of Avengers Assemble to know what’s going on in this episode of Agents of S.M.A.S.H. The continuity is lose, but it does exist. In my mind, creatively, when Hulk switches bodies with Spider-Man in the second season of Ultimate Spider-Man, of course it was a mishap, but the intended result was to help him get more control over his rage, and become more focused. And at the end of that episode we did tease that he’s getting there, and Spider-Man notices. In fact he’s the only one who notices, because in a way he’s very close to the Hulk. So we see the result in Avengers Assemble, because he’s more articulate, and then we see him now in Agents of S.M.A.S.H., which we see as being a little bit after that. But, again, we keep it vague, because this version of the Hulk is more open to relationships, and slightly more articulate. So there is a sequential development from season one to season two of Ultimate Spider-Man, then to Avengers Assemble, and now to Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and that was intentional
CA: What can we expect next week?
CL: Well, coming up next week is our first Spider-Man episode, and what’s really cool about it is that it shows the relationship between Spider-Man and Hulk and how it’s so different from his relationship with Iron Man. Spider-Man and Hulk are both outcasts, so they get each other. In fact, they find themselves in an epic conflict with cosmic forces, simply because they are regarded as outcasts on Earth, so it’s just the two of them as a result. So I think it’s interesting to compare it to the Iron Man episode, because as we go through the season and introduce other Marvel characters, Hulk’s relationships to those characters says a lot about his place in the world.
Marvel’s Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. airs Sunday mornings on Disney XD.