Exclusive: Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak On Their New Series, Herc!

Earlier this week, we had an exit interview with Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak, marking the end of their long run on Incredible Hercules. It was emotional, touching, and of course, totally fiinal… Except it wasn’t! Turns out, this chapter in Hercules life is over, but the next begins in April.

Spoilers on for the end of Chaos War #5 here, by the way.

Kicking off in the new-reader-friendly Herc #1, Van Lente and Pak have stripped the Olympian of most of his power, and sent him to the mean streets of New York City. To find out what’s coming up for the Lion of Olympus, we chatted – once again – with Van Lente and Pak. But first, we chastised them.

MTV Geek: Okay, guys, how long has Herc been in the works? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN LYING TO ME???

Greg Pak: Pretty much since we got the greenlight for "Chaos War." MUAAHAHAHAHA!

Fred Van Lente: For so long, that that very pretty John Romita Jr. cover was commissioned by our original associate editor, Mr. Nate Cosby - who is now, I believe, in prison for dog fighting. Or something dog-related.

Geek: Seriously though, tell us a little bit about how the end of Chaos War leads into Hercules' new status quo.

GP: SPOILER ALERT!

For a few brief, shining moments, Hercules was the most powerful god who ever strode the multiverse. But he gave up that incredible power to restore creation after defeating the Chaos King in "Chaos War" #5. And he ended up -- just a man.

As "Herc" #1 begins, our boy's still burdened with some of the responsibilities of a god -- he's hearing the desperate prayers of his worshippers. But he'll face a god's challenges with the powers of a mere mortal. Oh, and the purloined contents of the armory of Ares. Did we mention that before?

FVL: He has the sword of Peleus, the shield of Perseus, the helm of Hades, and a whole bunch of other lethal weapons from Greek myth, and, hey, he invented unarmed combat. Hence the tagline at the end of CW #5: No immortality. No super-strength. No problem.

We wanted HERC to be a complete break from INCREDIBLE HERCULES. It's the kind of book any reader can jump in on the ground floor -- even iHerc fans, because they'll be in the same boat as everyone else. You don't even need to have read CHAOS WAR. We are starting from a clean slate.

Geek: A lot of what Hercules stories are about - yours included - are him learning humility. I'm guessing this title ties into that a wee bit?

GP: Sure. But the lesson seems reeeeeally hard for him to take, doesn't it?

FVL: Again, just to show the contrast with the old series, HERC is kind of about reverse-humility, in a kind of way. Though powerless, Herc still gets prayers from his worshippers -- people he's never met before, but are in Brooklyn to come help them solve a sudden wave of violence (with a very familiar source, to him). So even though he no longer has any god powers, he still has a sense of responsibility to these strangers who believe him. So he arms himself to the teeth and begins kicking ass.

Geek: You're bringing him to "street" level - how much will we see him interacting with other street level heroes?

GP: Might see some street level villains pop up first...

FVL: The biggest street level villain, in fact. Hint: His name starts in "King" and ends in "Pin".

Geek: Will he be leading a band of evil ninjas at any point? Perhaps setting up a dojo called "Chaosland"?

GP: Right around issue #500, I think.

FVL: Centaurs, not ninjas. Greg insisted.

Geek: One of the strongest aspects of Incredible Hercules was his supporting cast - particularly Amadeus Cho. Will we be seeing any returning cast members? Is Herc alone in his fight against the underworld? Will he be getting a new cast?

GP: Amadeus may pop up eventually. But Herc is on his own and will be making brand new friends and enemies during the course of the story.

FVL: You'll meet most of those cast members in #1. Herc needs to get a job, for one thing, since he's no longer a god. Now when you shoot him, he bleeds. A lot. Hospital bills are expensive! This is not an easy task since his only previous vocational experience was as a cattle herder in 1500 BC.

Fortunately, Brooklyn always needs bartenders.

Geek: On the opposite side of things, most of Hercules' villains in the previous run were straight from the Greek myths - how much will we see him developing his own rogues gallery?

GP: He'll vie with villains both mortal and mythic. It's a fun combination -- there are some pretty interesting dynamics to be explored when you combine the two.

FVL: A mixture of longtime Marvel villains -- see our #2 cover for the first -- and some baddies from Herc's mythic roots. Only problem?

They're still godlike. He ain't.

Geek: Talk a little bit about Neil Edwards art - what does he bring to the table?

GP: Neil has a flair and passion for mythic heroes -- which he demonstrated in his recent "Warriors Three" book. Of course, Herc's considerably rougher than any of those Asgardian dandies, but if you take a peek at his concept sketches, Neil's more than ready for the challenge.

FVL: I've worked with Neil already on a soon-to-be-announced top-secret project (#459) and I can say he is the perfect fit for the book. His photo realistic style is ideal for bringing Herc's grittier world to life yet he still has the heroic dynamism any title with the first four letters of "Hercules" requires.

Geek: How much of this title will be Herc trying to get his godhood back, versus trying to find his humanity?

GP: He may have his hands too full with even bigger challenges in the first few issues to think too much about either of those goals.

FVL: He's going to be finding his godhood through his humanity, for doing what he can to fulfill the needs of the people who need him as a regular Joe.

Geek: Now, this certainly seems to be setting up Herc for Fear Itself - how much will we see him playing into the crossover?

GP: Yes. ;-)

Geek: Good, good. And now that he's back in New York, it seems like a no-brainer he might shack up with some Avengers - will we see him show up in those titles at all? Or is he a lone wolf for right now?

GP: All will be revealed in the fullness of time. (That phrase never gets old, does it, Fred?)

FVL: No, Greg. No it doesn't. (Vomits.)

Geek: Final word: in a crowded comic book landscape, why pick up Herc #1?

GP: Because it's your best place to see a seven foot tall god-turned-man tearing up the mean streets of Brooklyn. Because it'll have insane action, dirty romance, crazy big ideas, and the unexpected hi-jinks you've come to expect from a Pak/Van Lente joint. Because yes, the sound effects will continue. And because it's a genuine new beginning that brand new readers to comics should be able to jump onto with no problem at all. Give this one to your civilian friends, comics fans! We'll thank you and they'll thank you!

Herc #1 is on sale April 6!

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