An Old Man Hawkeye, a new Doctor Strange series and Ms. Marvel joining The Avengers are just some of the reveals Marvel has unleashed since unveiling its All-New All-Different initiative a few months ago. But with over 60 new titles, there’s still mystery surrounding some of Marvel’s most popular characters — such as the much-anticipated new Hulk that’s going to take over Bruce Banner’s mantle when Totally Awesome Hulk #1 hits stores in December.
So who is the new man in green? He’s different, he’s totally awesome…and he’s none other than kid genius Amadeus Cho.
A fixture of both the Marvel Universe and the Hulk stories for ten years, Cho seems like a natural choice, given that he mirrors his predecessor in a variety of ways — from his smarts to his impulsive nature. But the character serves a more significant purpose: crowning Cho with the Hulk title will mark the first time in Marvel history that the company will have a Korean-American lead character written and drawn by a Korean-American creative team (Greg Pak and Frank Cho, respectively.)
EW chatted with Pak and Marvel’s editor-in-chief Axel Alonso to get details on the obvious — why Amadeus Cho? — and what it means for Pak to return to the Hulk’s story.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All-New All-Different Marvel is full of game changers, and Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk is no exception. So why Cho, and what was it about him that made you believe that he was a perfect fit for this role?
AXEL ALONSO: What happened is, we were at an editorial retreat, and we were talking about revitalizing individual titles and the types of things we could do to do that. As a former Hulk editor, I just felt like…we’ve seen Banner’s story for so long, and the burden that he carries, with the weight of the Hulk on his shoulders. Perhaps the most interesting thing is to see how someone else shoulders that burden, and immediately, Amadeus came to mind for a lot of different reasons. One of them is that physically, he’s like Banner: he’s the 98-pound weakling who’s had everything but the physical aspect to make him seem super cool. And secondarily is that he’s so different from Banner. He shares the monstrous intellect but he’s so different — he’s a teenage kid, who’s hasn’t lived much yet. When Banner inherited the burden of being the Hulk, he was an adult. And I think that it showed in the way that he responded to it. Amadeus is a plucky kid. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, he’s the fifth or sixth smartest guy in the world according to the official rankings, and I think he’s just going to carry himself very differently with that power.
GREG PAK: When [editor] Mark Pannica gave me a call, he said three words: “Amadeus Cho Hulk” and my head popped off. I said “I’m in! Let’s do it!” And Axel and Mark and I sat down and talked it all through, and it was immediately clear that we were all on the exact same page about this. I love Banner, I wrote Hulk stories for five and half years, and I loved writing Banner. Those stories mean a huge amount to me. At the same time, there’s a long tradition in Hulk stories of different people taking on that mantle, and with Amadeus in particular, it just set up a really great dynamic. Like Axel said, he’s going to be a very different kind of Hulk. He’s 19 years old, he’s on top of the world, he thinks he’s right about everything…and he might be. Or he might not be. But this is a kid who’s got a ridiculous amount of confidence. A lot of it has been justly earned, but he may be in over his head, and he’s going to come in here and he’s determined to be the best Hulk there’s ever been. He loves being the Hulk. And that may cause massive trouble for everyone else in the Marvel Universe. It’s just a great recipe.
ALONSO: For Banner, the weight was like a boulder. For Cho, it’s like a feather. And I think that’s the distinction here. He loves being the Hulk: that’s why he’s called the “Totally Awesome Hulk.” But I also want to say that he will be the only Hulk in the Marvel Universe. He will be the Hulk, the green Hulk, that will be him. Just like there’s one Thor in the Marvel Universe and she’s a she, there is one Hulk and it is Amadeus Cho. But I also want to say that there is a story to be told for Banner. Banner’s story is not over. And I don’t want people saying, “Oh, these guys hate Banner, and they don’t like him and they’re sick of him.” No — we love Banner. And in fact, that was one of the things that Greg and Mark and I discussed, how fascinating Banner’s life will become now that he no longer has this weight on his shoulders. What is his story? It’s far from finished. People shouldn’t think that we’re jettisoning Banner — he has a place in the Marvel Universe, and I think it’s going to become more fascinating what that place is in the coming months.
PAK: Yeah, there’s a big mystery of what exactly is going on with Banner and exactly what happened with Banner, and what state he’s in now. And as the series unfolds, that will be a big part of the story.
That was actually going to be my next question: if characters that we’re familiar with from the Hulk world, like Banner and She-Hulk and maybe even a few other new ones, will pop up in this series.
PAK: Amadeus is the main character of course, She-Hulk is right there in the very first issue — she’s got a great and big role to play in the first few issues. [Ed. Note: She-Hulk will appear as one of the leads in A-Force.] We’re also introducing some brand new characters, including one in particular that I’m just ridiculously excited about. It’s a young woman who’s sort of become a favorite very quickly; she’s serving as a really great foil for Amadeus. And Frank Cho, the artist — he’s a tremendous artist and he’s got a million great ideas and characters he’s been working on, and the big villainous of this story arc is a Frank Cho original. You’re going to see a pretty spectacular new villainous in this new storyline.
ALONSO: I just wanted to shout out to Frank Cho as well. When we were putting this together, Frank is extremely selective about what he does, and I called him with total confidence that he would jump on this. I know he loves Amadeus Cho, I know he loves Hulk, and he’s Korean, and I think that one of the things that’s going to be special about it is that in Greg, Frank and [colorist] Sonia Oback, you have three creators who are working on what I would consider to be most high-profile Asian-American superhero you’ve seen. Come December, arguably the strongest character in the Marvel Universe is going to be Asian-American. And I think that the only person who can dispute that is the female Thor, which I think says a lot about our line.
Greg, can you talk about returning to the Hulk in this way and what it means to be able to work on a character that’s so close to your own heritage?
PAK: I actually co-created Amadeus back in the day, 10 years ago — it’s coming out around the 10th anniversary of the character’s first appearance. [Ed. Note: Cho’s first appearance was in Amazing Fantasy Vol 2 #15, January, 2006.] And Takeshi Miyazawa was the artist and I was the writer, and we introduced this Korean-American kid into the Marvel Universe. It’s been a blast to write ever since. We did a lot of stuff with him over the years in the Hulk universe. This is also a character, by the way, who has a long history with Banner and the Hulk. He basically started out as Hulk’s number one fan because he’s a crazy teenager with as little impulse control as the Hulk, so he kind of identified with him. But the character always meant a huge amount to me. When I had the opportunity to create this new character, I realized there aren’t specifically that many Asian-American characters at this time in the Marvel Universe, and it was sort of a niche. I also wanted to write a character who talks a lot. I was writing a lot of Hulk stuff, I was writing very closed-lip surly characters. But it’s been tremendous. I go to cons and people come up to me dressed as Amadeus Cho, and that blows my mind. And then the character’s also been picked up in some of the cartoons that Marvel puts out, and in one of the DVD movies they did. It’s kind of tremendous when anything you work on kind of resonates with people and goes on to be used by other creators as well.
The other thing is that this felt like a natural next step for both the Amadeus and the Hulk stories. It wasn’t what we imagined 10 years ago when we created the character, that this is exactly where he would end up. But just given the character’s history, it makes total sense. And the story is totally true for both the Hulk story and the Amadeus story, so it’s a lot of fun when those kinds of things can naturally come together for something this big.
ALONSO: Who hasn’t asked themselves at some point, how cool would it be to have the power of the Hulk? What we don’t always come to terms with is what the flip side of that would be — the monster in the trunk, so to speak, that you have to learn to control.
PAK: I remember reading a quote from Bill Bixby, years ago, when he was being interviewed about The Incredible Hulk TV show. And he said that wherever he went, the incredible range of people who love that show always blew him away. Because everyone has that experience of being serious and that fantasy of being powerful. It’s fun to be able to play with this with a younger character, who is almost ludicrously optimistic about his chances of doing a huge amount of good with this power. And we’ll see how that all pans out.
Let’s go back for a minute to Frank Cho and talk about how it’s been working with him, because his style is so specific. How has his work inspired your scripts?
PAK: I’ve admired his work forever and have been hungry to work with him forever…he’s got such a gorgeous, clean, confident mind, his characters feel so alive. He’s got that energy. Everything he touches just comes to life. And what I love about Frank is, he’s able to draw incredible action. Big, fun comic book action, in that visceral, mind-blowing comic book way. But at the same time, he’s got this great subtle sense of humor. It’s easy to think about Frank in terms of big slapstick humor, and he does that so well. But he’s incredible with just subtle, small emotion. And I think that’s so important. Particularly in a book like this…there’s a lot of humor in this book, but I can write a little moment in there and Frank totally gets that. He understands that in his bones, and just brings out the subtleties without overselling it. It’s like working with the greatest actor in the world: he’s able to bring all those different levels.
ALONSO: And the design he brought to the character, the way the character looks now — from the board shorts, the MMA-inspired board shorts, which any self-respecting hip-hop influenced 19-year-old genius is going to wear — to the K-Pop hairstyle…those are the things that Frank shows. Frank isn’t the type of artist that you can say, “Shut up and draw.” He’s a storyteller. Any editor hopes that you’ll great a great script and it’ll get ever greater once the artist is drawn, and I think that’s what we’re looking at.
PAK: We like to pretend we’re all geniuses, but it’s a bunch of people working together who make these things really pop. So having collaborators who really bring you that extra something is really something special.
Just how hard has it been keeping this reveal a secret from everyone?
PAK: [laughs] It’s been excruciating, because I just wanted to scream it because I was so excited about it. But it’s also been a blast. That’s one of the fun things about comics, right? The teases, and people have fun thinking it through and guessing and imagining different possibilities…that’s part of the fun of comics, the suspense and the big question of what happens next. It feels like it’s all in that tradition.
Aside from the fact that we know Amadeus is going to be TOTALLY AWESOME as the new Hulk, what else can you tease about the series?
PAK: The story is working on three levels: we’ve got the big crazy action level — the big monster hunt — that’s what our big story arc is. Which is also up Frank Cho’s alley, because if you know Frank Cho, you know he draws monsters like nobody’s business, and he’s going nuts with this. So, we’ve got the monster hunt, we’ve got the mystery of what happened to Banner and what’s going on with Banner, and then there’s an emotional story, of course. My favorite kinds of stories are the ones that have these big crazy genre hijinks and then a real honest, meaty, emotional story where we’re watching a character grapple with some real things. And we’re going to see if Amadeus’ dream of being the greatest Hulk ever and his total confidence of that is really warranted. And we’ve got some great supporting characters that are going to be challenging him in some interesting ways.
ALONSO: The link to what happened to Banner, of course, is how did Amadeus get the power? The first arc is going to tell two stories: one is going to take place in present time, which is going to be Amadeus being totally awesome as the Hulk, and kicking ass and getting a threat that is scaled to his power. And I’ll also tease that there are seeds in this story of something larger, that will be relevant to the entire Marvel Universe sometime toward the end of the year. So there are seeds there for something much more interesting. The other story told in flashbacks will tell you how he inherited to power and what happened to Banner.
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