Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. Week 4: All About Ego [Interview]
So far on Hulk And The Agents of S.M.A.S.H., we've seen the team fight a Negative Zone invasion, Hulk busting robots, and god-powerful aliens. But in last weekend's episode, that may have all been topped, as the crew took on Ego The Living Planet. We spoke to series supervising producer Cort Lane again to discuss the what it was like to design a living planet for animation, using villains as metaphors, and what lessons the show can teach kids.
ComicsAlliance: Okay, so this is the Ego episode. First off, let’s talk about designing a planet. That’s a tall task, and by adding things like zits, hair, and snot, you kind of made him a lot more accessible for kids, in a sense, because he seems more human. When doing research, was there anything from the comics that you decided just wouldn’t work? Anything that you liked?
Cort Lane: Ego has appeared many times, and frankly, his look and his motivations have been different over the years, in publishing. So we took a pretty classic look of him, one of the typical portrayals, but then added layers we’d never really seen before, which were the very sort of human qualities on the surface and in the interior of him, and then the reveal of the creepy little Ego inside, which was really a metaphor for the whole story that we wanted to play with.
CA: This is a kids show, and you guys made him a metaphor for bullying, in a sense. When they finally get to the center of Ego, he’s this tiny guy who’s kind of over-compensating. There’s definitely a message there.
CL: Yeah, we definitely think it’s a relevant message. It’s sort of a message about, when kids bully, where that comes from, and how you can react to bullying. And Red Hulk, as a character in the story, has a long way to go toward being a good friend and family member in the show, and so this was an episode that really played that out in a big way, and we start to see the first steps for him toward change.
CA: This is primarily an episode about Red Hulk and teamwork, as his ego keeps him from cooperating for a while. But while this was a big step, it’s not like he’s made a 180 in terms of his personality toward the rest of the group.
CL: No, he definitely still has a long way to go. And he’s never going to be a relaxed, fun guy. He’s just not. But we’ve already set up that he’s just an incredible jerk, and that’s not sustainable throughout a whole season for him to work as a teammate and family member, and we’ll see that play out in other episodes.
CA: As the series progresses, will you deal more with how other members of the team feel about the Hulk, and vice versa? Rick’s feelings are obvious, but Skaar and She-Hulk are definitely characters whose feelings can be explored a bit. Will there be episodes focused on them?
CL: You’ll definitely see the dynamics adjust in each episode. With A-Bomb, Hulk is overprotective, and that creates frustration for A-Bomb and limits his ability to be an effective team member, so they have to work through that. With She-Hulk, she feels like the guys don’t treat her as an equal, so she overcompensates and tries to work too hard to prove that she’s just as tough and capable as they are. With Skaar, there’s definitely a lot to work through. There’s trust of course, but there’s also the reality that he’s just so savage and crude that he doesn’t fit into Earth culture very well, and there’ll be a question of will there be a place that he belongs that is more suited for him.
CA: In this episode, Red Hulk tries to take over as leader of the team, and hands out weapons to all the members to try to get on their good side, and a few of them end up using the weapons, which isn’t something you normally associate with a Hulk character. Will those be sticking around?
CL: They’ll show up occasionally, when it suits the story. The reality is that these are five people who do a lot of smashing, and just hitting things, in terms of plotting out action, is a bit repetitive, and we wanted to mix it up in the series. We wanted to be able to have aerial battles, and we wanted long range battles. We wanted them to be able to fight things that are 100 times bigger than them, and they might need weapons for that. They might be weakened or their powers might be limited, or there might be magical threats. We wanted the action to be really unique and exciting for every episode, and even in this episode they aren’t just fighting other big guys; they’re fighting hair and getting sneezed into outer space, and some of that’s funny but it creates new action moments for the team and that’s something that’s important to us throughout the season, because essentially they all fight the same way, they all have the same powers, and over 26 episodes we want there to be something unique and exciting for kids through each episode as the action plays out. Weapons are just one way of us approaching that, and it makes a lot of sense with Red because that’s his answer to everything.
CA: After an episode with a few guest stars, and a previous one with Iron Man, this one was just Hulks. Was leaving out any sort of guest star a strategy to focus more on Red Hulk? Do you plan on leaving out guest stars when you want to focus more on other team members?
CL: Well, we started off with a few guest star episodes because we thought it was a fun thing to do, and to bring attention to the show, but also to set up Hulk’s dynamic within the superhero world. It also gave us an opportunity to see how the team works together as a group in these situations. And now, with episode five, we’re focusing on the relationships with just a few of the characters. The next few episodes will continue to do that, and then occasionally we’ll get guest stars showing up.
CA: We talked about Ego being a metaphor and a message. The Collector was a metaphor as well, even if that was less of a message and more just having fun. When planning for the series, did you look at some villains or other heroes who could show up and say “Oh, that person would work as a nice metaphor”?
CL: Well, you’re really close in your analysis. We focus first on the character story, and then the villain oriented plot really needs to mirror or contrast that character’s story. In this case, we were trying to tell a story about Red Hulk’s ego and bullying hurting the effectiveness of the team. And this was an obvious one, as Ego The Living Planet seemed a super obvious choice to be able to spell that out. In the case of the Collector, we were making a comment about the fact that most of these heroes are loved, but a few of them are not. And people who love these characters collect figures of them [laughs]. Really, what we’re trying to do is tell character stories, and the villains have to support that character story.
CA: What can you tell us about next week’s episode?
CL: I love this episode, and I love this one because it’s the episode that completes the family, because Devil Dinosaur is introduced and joins the team. And it’s a pretty exciting adventure in the Savage Land, beautifully animated with lots of dinosaurs, and the villain is Sauron.