Marvel’s “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” may not be the Hulk show that diehard adult Marvel fans are hoping for, but Disney and Marvel are going for a different demographic entirely: the youth.
That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who grew up watching superhero cartoons on Saturday mornings, but nonetheless it could serve as a major wake-up call. Old guard Marvel fans who find Agents of S.M.A.S.H. too kid-oriented have the blockbuster films and the comics to tide them over; meanwhile, the cartoons are designed to appeal to a younger generation. As Seth Green, Ben Diskin and Fred Tatasciore (voices for A-Bomb, Skaar, and The Hulk, respectively) pointed out to Comic Book Resources, hooking kids on the Marvel Universe is just as important as pleasing older fans.
“There’s never been so much superhero stuff on TV, and it’s a different time. There’s been this great evolution of superhero content in our culture,” Green told CBR in a recent chat. He mentioned films like “Thor,” “Iron Man,” “The Avengers,” and “The Dark Knight.” “They told serious, sincere stories about these characters, about these humans that are in this extraordinary situation and sort of forced to deal with it. But you get a very human perspective. They’re all relatable, even if they have superpowers. I think that’s a great direction [and] an important direction for this all to take, because it makes it more accessible to the kids that are reading it, that are watching it. It gives them a little bit of insight, to say, ‘Oh, that could be me!'”
“Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” follows the adventures of Bruce Banner (Tatasciore) and his makeshift family, made up of Rick Jones/A-Bomb (Green), Skaar (Diskin), Red Hulk (Clancy Brown), She-Hulk (Eliza Dushku) and a pet dinosaur. CBR was on hand to observe Green, Tatasciore and Diskin record a short clip for the web in which Hulk, A-Bomb and Skaar go mini-golfing for A-Bomb’s birthday. It’s a lighthearted tone that the cast is on board with.
“They’re really trying to focus more on the youth demographic, and I understand that,” Diskin said. “We want to get the next generation of readers of comic books or, you know, cartoon shows — we want the kids to come in and have this be accessible.”
The version of Skaar Diskin plays in “Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” may not seem very familiar to fans of the “Planet Hulk” arc of comics in which the character was introduced. “He’s kind of like the family dog,” said Diskin, adding that the story in the books was “a little too violent” to translate directly into a kid’s cartoon. “He’s very much like a cave man in this. English is his second language, and you can tell. He eats out of, like, a bowl on the floor and will, you know, wrestle with their pet dinosaur.”
Green’s A-Bomb may be altered from the comics as well. “He’s like The Hulk’s biggest fan,” Green said. In Agents of S.M.A.S.H., A-Bomb documents the exploits of the Hulk family on a video blog. “This is a show that’s all about humanizing these characters,” Green said. “It’s all about A-Bomb’s insistence on following them around, showing the things that are being reported by the media, and then saying, ‘This is what really happened. This is who these people are on the inside.’ It creates a very human family portrait.”
Diskin described what he called the group’s “dysfunctional family” dynamic. “Hulk in this is kind of like a single father trying to like take care of more responsibility than he can really handle,” he said. “She-Hulk is like the teenage sister. Atom Bomb is like the little brother, with super powers. Red Hulk is kind of like that uncle you have that you really shouldn’t trust with anything. You just know he’s a bad role model. And Skaar is, like I said, he’s the family dog. So it’s this constant like, you know, arguing and compromising that you’d find in a normal family, but with superheroes and lots of smashing stuff.”
Tatasciore, who has played The Hulk continuously in cartoons and video games since the 2005 game “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction,” felt comparisons of the animated series to family-oriented sitcoms like “Modern Family” and “Big Brother” were apt. “Throw in ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Addams Family,’ if anyone remembers them,” he said, laughing. “It’s like really well-meaning monsters.”
But the longtime Hulk voice actor emphasized that “Agents of S.M.A.S.H.,” while aimed at a younger demographic, is not just for kids. “I think some of the plot points and some of the scenery is just — it’s so crazy, so psychedelic, so different, that I think older audiences will like it too,” he said. “There’re some villains that come out of the woodwork that you think, ‘Wow, okay, I haven’t seen –‘ unless you’re really into the comics, you haven’t seen those in a while. It’s nice to see them animated, you know? See some life into them. So I think it’s a fantastic creative union [between Marvel and Disney].”
“If you’re an adult and you find the cartoons maybe a little too kiddie,” Diskin said, “don’t worry — you have some really awesome movies.”
“Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” premieres Sunday, August 11 at 11 a.m. ET/PT on Disney XD.