Marvel Animation Age recently talked to fan-favorite writer Christopher Yost, best known for his work on a host of different Marvel cartoons and comic series, about his work on the upcoming Hulk Versus, the animated direct-to-video feature hitting shelves on January 27th, 2009, and much more.
Marvel Animation Age: How did the Hulk Vs project come about and when did you come on board?
Christ Yost: The previous animated feature Marvel and Lionsgate did, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, was aimed at a new, younger audience. It was something that hopefully fans, kids and even parents could enjoy, and didn't require a lot of comic book knowledge going in. But for the next project, Marvel wanted to give something back to the hardcore fans that have supported them over the years. A movie that was more or less the comics come to life. And of course, something with the Hulk in it.
Craig Kyle was the supervising producer and creative head of animation, and of he and I have worked on a number of projects in the past. I did an episode of his Wolverine and the X-Men show titled "Wolverine vs. the Hulk," which turned out pretty well. So when this project came up, it (I assume) seemed like a natural fit. We came up with the story together, and the script came really easily. The Thor project came my way a little later - Craig and director Frank Paur had already come up with the story for that one, and scripting it was a joy.
MAA: How did you approach this project? Since the movie is basically two 40-minute shorts combined into one feature, did you approach Hulk VS as a single vehicle, or two? Please explain.
Yost: We really looked at it as two separate films, each with it's own tone and feel, it's own world. Wolverine's world is a down and dirty black ops kind of thing, where Wolverine is playing the role of the assassin. Thor has a much grander, more epic feel - the Hulk has stepped into the world of the gods. We wanted each movie to feel completely different, even right down to how the Hulk is depicted.
Each one is stand-alone, an experience in its own right. It's a true double feature, with one big green monster in common.
MAA: This isn't your first time writing the Hulk. Why do you find him such an interesting character to pen? Is there a particular version you like, either from comics and the character's history in general or from your own work?
Yost: I've written him in four animated series now, and three animated DVDs. And he's been a bit different in each one. I love the Hulk because he's a hard luck hero, something Marvel's characters are known for. He'll save lives, he'll save the world, but at the end of it, he's always alone, and hunted. People see him as a monster, and they're right... but that monster just saved their lives.
I like kind of a mean Hulk. He'll save you, but he doesn't have to like you, puny human.
MAA: Was it difficult to make sure the Hulk stayed recognizable and in-character in for the whole movie, a movie comprised of the two very different shorts Hulk Versus Wolverine and Hulk Versus Thor?
Yost: Yes and no. The Hulk doesn't get into a lot of conversation in either flick. Hulk vs. Wolverine may have the least dialogue of anything I've ever done. But the Hulk is fun there, because Wolverine has just ticked him off so much. He's going to smash that guy, no matter what. And the circumstances of Hulk vs. Thor made it a little easier to separate it from Wolverine. Let's just say the Hulk isn't his normal self.
MAA: When writing the script, do you assume the viewer already knows Hulk, Wolverine, and Thor, or do you drop us into the middle of things? Do you think it's helpful to "hold the viewer's hand," so to speak, for a project like this, or toss them into it and let them piece it together themselves? Why or why not?
Yost: Not this time. Normally, yeah - we spend some time telling you who these people are, what they're all about... but this time, we're throwing in the viewer feet first. Through the character's actions, you'll find out who they are. There's really not a lot you need to know... Wolverine is bad news. The Hulk is worse. And they're about to collide. Things get a little more complicated in the middle, and we explain a few things here and there, but again... these are for the fans. The fans know.
But let me stress this... even if you know nothing about these character, you get the essence of them. You get the experience. And hopefully it will leave you wanting (and wanting to know) more.
MAA: Is it a challenge to go from writing Next Avengers to doing work on Wolverine and The X-Men and Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Hulk VS all at pretty much the same time. How do you keep yourself straight when tackling so many Marvel projects?
Yost: There's only one thing in this life my brain is able to remember: comic books. I never thought it would serve me in my adult life, but amazingly it turned out okay. I can't say why, but I'm able to keep it all straight, from the five projects listed there to the various comic books I work on... my love for the characters and universe keeps me strong. Although I occasionally forget my children's names. I should probably assign them super-hero names.
MAA: Are there any surprises or references that fans might be surprised to see in Hulk Vs (i.e. comic book references, references to other movies or shows, etc.)?
Yost: Thor vs. Hulk is great because it's the big Asgardian primer. It's like a tour de force of Asgard. Right down to Odin's ravens, it's all in there. And there's a few big surprises in Wolverine vs Hulk that we're pretty happy with... from characters to even visual moments from the books.
MAA: On top of all the projects listed above, you also do writing in the comic field, as well. How is writing for comics different than the animated series? Do you find yourself constrained more in one genre, more free in the other, etc.?
Yost: Animation is a little easier to write for technically because motion is involved. Comic book scripts are a series of snapshots, whereas animation you have an easier time with moving characters around, displaying action in a more fluid, natural way. Comic books are a passion project, because there's a little more freedom in it from a story standpoint... and the audience is a little older.
MAA: While we listed pretty much all the work you have on your plate right now, are there any projects - or even specific movies or episodes - you'd like to let fans in on as we wrap this up. Will you be involved in Thor: Tales of Asgard and Planet Hulk?
Yost: I am hard at work on the upcoming The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series, and it's going to be something amazing. Thor: Tales of Asgard and Planet Hulk are in good hands with Greg Johnson, who wrote the first four Lionsgate/Marvel movies (Ultimate Avengers 1&2, The Invincible Iron Man and Doctor Strange). I've read both and they're going to be a lot of fun.
MAA: So, any last thoughts or teases on Hulk Vs? Why should fans dash out to pick up the Blu-ray (or DVD) release in January?
Yost: Hulk Vs is the Hulk unleashed. No punches are pulled. Claws are used as they were intended. Hammers smash like never before. This is the comic book brought to life. No fooling around, this is it.