'Hulk Vs' is the animation double-shot smashing into stores next Tuesday, the 27th. It's two short films in one as Hulk separately takes on Wolverine and Thor in two titanic tussles guaranteed to get a Marvel fan's heart pumping.
Chris Yost wrote the screenplay for 'Hulk Vs Thor' and co-wrote the script for 'Hulk Vs. Wolverine' with frequent collaborator Craig Kyle. No stranger to the world of Marvel heroes, Yost broke into TV writing with a regular gig on the 'X-Men: Evolution' series. Since then he's lent his pen to numerous animated series and, most recently, wrote the script for the feature-length animated film 'Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow'. He's also currently writing Marvel comics titles like 'X-Force'.
With the new Hulk movie in hand we got on the phone with Chris to talk about bringing the mean, green wreckin-machine into battle with Marvel's heavyweights.
Ken Pasini for Mania: So, the movie is in stores next week!
Chris Yost: It is. I'm very excited about it.
Mania: You've done a lot of episodic TV work and some feature animation with 'Next Avengers'. Now you're doing 'Hulk Vs', which is neither feature length nor TV length. What's challenges does that present?
Yost: It's always a little tricky. I do comic books I do the TV animation, I do the long format ones. This was a new one on me. They want to do a double feature and they wanted them to be 40 minutes a piece which is almost like two-thirds of a movie or two episodes of a TV show.
It was definitely a new thing, but as far as the story standpoint goes, it's all very similar. It's just making sure it fits in the allotted time.
But it was a blast to work on. They were kind of short and sweet, you know?
Mania: They feel like their made very much for Marvel readers. Was it liberating to write that way?
Yost: Lionsgate has done five previous films: two 'Ultimate Avengers', 'Doctor Strange', 'Iron Man'. They were geared towards fans, but also a mainstream audience. There were introductions to characters. They touched on stories from the comic books but they were really introducing those characters, hopefully to a bunch of new viewers.
With the fifth one, 'Next Avengers', that one was really geared towards new audiences.
For this one, Craig Kyle and Marvel and Lionsgate, they wanted to do something for the fans. Just specifically for the fans. The comic book readers have supported us for all these movies and all these years so this was for them. For me, being a comic book reader or fan, it was like "Great! Fantastic!"
In a way it was liberating because you didn't have to worry about every reference being explained. If Lady Deathstrike references her family, if you don't know what that is, it's not a big deal, but if you do it just adds that much more depth to it.
Mania: 'Vs Wolverine' really moves fast and, partway through, the Weapon X bad guys just sort of show up with no elaborate introductions.
Yost: And that's the thing. These bad people show up and if you don't know who they are you're like, "whoa there's four incredibly evil-looking people emerging from the woods."
But if you do know who they are you're like, "Whoa!".
Hopefully you are.
Mania: And...you get to bring Deadpool to animated life. This is the first time, right?
Yost: I believe so. I'm not 100% sure on that but that seems to be the consensus.
Obviously a fan favorite. A favorite of mine and Craig's. Hopefully we did him justice. We made it fun. He's a great character.
The day we recorded that character we probably laughed harder than we'd laughed in years.
Mania: He's a scene-stealer. Did you write his dialogue? Or was that Craig?
Yost: Craig and I wrote the first batch together. Then, actually, the actor Nolan North came in and ad libbed a ton of stuff.
There's a mix of everything that we ended up putting in there but Nolan, all credit to him. He brought that character to life. He did a fantastic job.
Mania: There's a little nod to X-23 in there as well. [Editor's Note: Yost co-created the character X-23 for the 'X-Men: Evolution' series and she's since been integrated in the Marvel Comics universe].
Yost: A subtle little nod.
Again, it's for the fans. The more Easter eggs we can put in there the better.
Mania: I really enjoyed seeing all the classic Thor characters in there...Sif, Valkyrie, Baldur, but the great thing about the 'Vs Thor' movie was the way Banner showed up and really got to be a hero in the story. How challenging is it to bring Banner to the forefront, when the premise of the film is to see Hulk smashing things?
Yost: That's the thing.
With that one, Hulk is possessed by Loki and then he goes crazy. With Thor, we know he's the hero. He's in the realm with the Gods and all the Gods are very Godly. But Banner's just a skinny little guy who gets thrown into the middle of it. Banner is the one that's been keeping the Hulk in check for all these years but... [Spoiler deleted]
For me, he was the hero of the thing.
I'm a big Bruce Banner fan. A lot of people never want to see Bruce. They want to see Hulk all the time. For me it's that balance. Banner is the character and Hulk is a force of nature.
Mania: How do you think it compares to the way Banner shows up in the live-action movies?
Yost: Certainly for any actor, you want to see Bruce Banner. The Hulk is a force of nature. You can have those character moments, but any time the Hulk is showing any kind of emotion, like that bit [in 'The Incredible Hulk] where he's sitting down with Betty in the rain. That's Bruce Banner coming out.
To me it's kind of the same thing. That's Banner's personality pushing through the anger.
Mania: What was the coolest thing you discovered working on 'Hulk Vs'?
Yost: I think the coolest thing was that nobody was saying, "No."
Every step of the way we were working on the script, working on the production, working on the animatics. Everybody was so incredibly supportive.
It wasn't a literal translation of a comic book story, but the spirit of it, I think it was a comic brought to life.
It was just a joy to be able to work on something that felt pretty pure. Not a lot of compromises were made.
Mania: 'Vs Wolverine' especially feels a lot like anime. Were you trying for an anime vibe? Do you think about that when you're writing?
Yost: We knew going that the animation studio was a company called Madhouse, who has a somewhat anime feel to them.
The designs were done by Jeff Matsuda, who is a fantastic comic book artist and designer, has worked in animation. He's incredible. He did the initial designs and kind of put that feel onto it. I thought it was a pretty good mix of feels.
When I'm writing it, no, I don't really think anime. I think, probably, John Byrne. We weren't writing it for an anime studio. We were writing it on the page and whatever translation works best for it, that's what we're going after.
Mania: Do you find there's a lot of writing to do throughout the process, or do you pretty much turn your script in and walk away?
Yost: You try never to walk away because you always want to see it. I'm a fan too and I want to see everything.
With 'Hulk vs Wolverine' we had a situation where they came back and asked for a little more. We were actually able to go back to the script and flesh out some scenes and add in whole new scenes, which was a hole new experience, that I think worked out for the best.
Then you tweak it a little you're recording, go back and do ADR and fill in some of the gaps. But it's a process. You're involved from the draft, hopefully to the final record.
Craig, who is a producer on it, is still dealing with it today.
Mania: 'Wolverine and the X-Men' debuts in the U.S. this week too! You're involved with that, right?
Yost: Just as a writer.
Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle is the masterminds behind that one. I came on board and wrote a few episodes starting with episodes six and seven. I hung out for a few episodes and actually went on to another show.
That show, is, I think gonna make a lot of people happy.
Mania: And you wrote the "Wolverine Vs Hulk" episode of that show, did you not?
Yost: I did! I wrote that episode before the 'Hulk Vs Wolverine' movie. That was a little challenging too. How do you make it different? How do you do something new and take it to the next level? I think, mission accomplished.
Mania: Are they completely separate or could we imagine them taking place in the same continuity?
Yost: You could imagine that it's a rematch. A few liberties are taken here and there. In 'Hulk Vs Wolverine', it's definitely the first time the two of them have met. In 'Wolverine vs Hulk', in the show, we get the sense that they've tangled before.
Watch 'Wolverine and the X-Men' tonight on Nicktoons Network. And be sure to check out 'Hulk Vs' on DVD and Blu-Ray, January 27th.