‘Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.’ Week 3: ‘The Collector’ [Interview]
The latest episode of Marvel's Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. has a lot going on. It features the first (but not last) appearance of guest star Spider-Man, as well as a cameo by the Thing, as Spidey and the Hulk square off against The Collector, who in this instance is the same god-like being he is in the comics but with the added twist of being the personification of every obnoxious fan ever: The Collector kidnaps every hero in the Marvel universe to add to his collection, but leaves Spider-Man and Hulk out, which is about as insulting as you can imagine.
This week, we spoke to supervising producer Cort Lane about Hulk's various relationships with other heroes in the Marvel universe, how often certain villains and heroes will show up, how guest stars are chosen, and the brief (but glorious) appearance of Howard The Duck.
ComicsAlliance: I know this was an episode with Spider-Man, but I’d like to start off talking about the villain, because I think The Collector was pretty great. You used him as a a parody/metaphor here, for the stereotypical extreme collector kind of fan, and it's a metaphor that was maybe always present in the comics.
Cort Lane: Yeah, we definitely play that up in the episode. There are a lot of cute little references. For instance, at one point he refers to the Agents of S.M.A.S.H as the gamma colored variants, including a very rare female variant. We threw in some cute stuff like that
CA: That’s what I loved about it. It wasn’t subtle at all. It was over the top in a way that seemed like it was a lot of fun to write, and maybe even a little therapeutic!
CL: Right. I think with these shows we make it very clear that our audience is children, but we as fanboys try to insert stuff that will appeal to other fanboys, who may be watching with their children or even watching on their own. I collect minibusts and original art myself, so parts of this episode definitely made me chuckle. And I’m a big Howard The Duck fan, so having a Howard cameo in here too was great.
CA: I was going to mention that, because Howard the Duck is probably my favorite Marvel character.
CA: Oh yeah. I’m a big Gerber fan. So his brief cameo was the most important part of the episode for me.
CL: That was the most important part? Okay. [Laughs]
CA: It’s true. But in general, is that the kind of thing you guys plan to do more often, have random Marvel guest stars make cameo appearances? I like the idea of kids learning about various Marvel characters through cartoons like this, the same way so many kids in my generation learned about so many mutants from the ‘90s X-Men cartoon. That got so many people I know into comics. Is one of the goals of this show to do something similar?
CL: Well, yes and no. First and foremost, we want to make sure the show is very accessible for its core audience, so introducing characters they learn about and care about in different stories but who are not primary to the series can weigh it down for young viewers. At the same time, the opportunity to play with characters that we as fanboys love, either in cameos, or using someone like Ego The Living Planet or, in a few episodes, Devil Dinosaur, and other characters that we love adds a certain nostalgia for fans about those characters. That’s a great opportunity and definitely something we can do, especially with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. as opposed to Avengers Assemble, which is very focused on the biggest villains in the Marvel universe, and Ultimate Spider-Man, which is very focused on a story that features villains who have a personal connection to Peter Parker. With the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. we can go farther up field, and have fun with more obscure Marvel characters.
CA: Okay, this is an episode that features Spider-Man, and he’s almost as cool as Howard, so we should probably get around to talking about him. We’ve talked about this previously, but this episode serves as a very nice contrast to the Iron Man episode, because the Hulk has very different relationships with the two characters. Also, this is the first time you see that the Hulk has friends outside of the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. You see the Thing early on as well, and they’re all hanging out at the Baxter Building playing Poker, just relaxing. Can you talk a bit more about Hulk’s relationship with Spider-Man, and the need to have him occasionally socializing with other heroes?
CL: On the one hand, Hulk is an outcast in this universe, which is why they’re trying to prove to the world that they’re not outcasts, they’re heroes. So he has to have that outsider status, but you see how that colors his relationship with Iron Man, as opposed to the Thing, who’s the type of character who really doesn’t care what other people think. And then you have Spider-Man, who can relate to the Hulk, because they’re both outsiders, they’re both treated as menaces, and they have that relationship. In a way Spider-Man can be a little brother to the Hulk. The dynamic between the two of them is fun, with the bickering and the back and forth. That relationship is something that we’ll touch on again, and it’s nice to give that contrast to what a character like Iron Man thinks of the Hulk. And the relationship with the Thing that you mentioned we’ll be using again in the series as well.
CA: I was going to bring that up. So far you’ve had Iron Man and Spider-Man be guest stars, and often in shows based on super hero comics it seems like you have a guest star show up once and then never again, but you’ll be having characters come back, which is maybe bucking a trend, in a sense. Is that going to be the norm?
CL: It’s certainly something that we can do. We do it with Spider-Man and the Thing because of their relationship with the Hulk, not just because it’s a fun and promotable thing to do with the series. We’ll see Thor and other characters, but those two come back because of their personal relationship with the Hulk.
CA: Speaking of the Thing, this episode starts off with all of them hanging out at the Baxter Building playing poker, but after the Collector kidnaps them you don’t see Thing again, but you do introduce that relationship, however briefly. Is that the kind of thing you’ll do in the future, in terms of introducing various Marvel characters briefly, to maybe give kids a broader view of all the characters in the Marvel universe?
CL: Well, not actually that much. The next time the Thing appears, it’s more of a team-up situation. And when Spider-Man appears again it’s the same thing. In this particular episode we just needed The Collector to capture all of the Marvel universe heroes, and the Thing is just the first one we see, so it was convenient for the story. We picked somebody that the Hulk would be hanging out with.
CA: Similar question, but focusing on villains. Will you have villains like the Collector reappear, or will most of them be one and done?
CL: We have a bit of both. And just because they appear in this season doesn’t mean they won’t show up again in another. As you said, we do have a lot of one and done villains that drive a specific story. The Leader is behind a lot of what’s happening in these stories, and much of that won’t be revealed until later on in the series, so characters like Blastaar and Annihilus, who are associated with the Leader in the show, will be coming back. And that’s all I can say today!
CA: No problem. Okay, want to talk about the next episode?
CL: Well, I can tell you that it features Ego The Living Planet, and that’s definitely another fanboy thing, but he makes for a great menace because only the Hulk can go up against something that large. It’s also a really funny episode and very focused on flushing out the relationships within our cast. For Red Hulk in particular, there’s a real source of conflict within our little family, and some of that gets resolved in the next episode.