Superhero Shorts: Superman vs. Hulk
Welcome back to another edition of Superhero Shorts where I take a look at a superhero themed short film and ask a few questions of the filmmaker. Today I’m talking with Mike Habjan and his animated fight sequence between Superman and the Incredible Hulk which he has been working on for several years now and still isn’t fully finished. You can watch the most recent section of the fight below, or you can see all of his animations on his YouTube Channel, or through the playlist which I set up.
It’s very interesting to watch this sequence as a whole because the different sections are very different from one another. Even from the very first one, the animation looks very good. I especially like the fact that he used Christopher Reeve as his inspiration for the design of Superman. The biggest problem I had with the earlier episodes is the sound design, which honestly brings down the overall quality with very stock sounding effects and make it look more cartoonish than it should. This problem is solved with parts 2 & 3 which also include an original score and vastly improve the quality of the CG models. There’s really not much to it as far as plot goes, because it is exactly what it says it is: a fight between Superman and Hulk, but there is some great choreography at work here and a very nice back and forth between the two characters where it could really go either way in the end. But enough from me, let’s hear from Mike Habjan himself who is the person responsible for these shorts almost in their entirety, aside from the sound and score from Francois Gratecap.
Bubbawheat: Looking at your videos, you’ve been working on animating this in some capacity for over 5 years now, when you started messing with it back then, did you think you would have stuck with it for this long?
Mike Habjan: Actually I started modeling Superman and Hulk pretty much as soon as I started learning how to 3D model around 2004, and back then just wanted to be a character modeler/rigger as you had to pick one aspect to specialize in to get a job. But once I had a few years under my belt as a modeler/rigger I started getting more serious about animating a fight scene around 2009. I guess I thought naively that I could take five months off work and do a fight scene.
Then it became apparent a few weeks in that I couldn’t animate and I’d have to learn and it would take a lot longer than I thought to do a decent fight scene at a proper length of time that a fight scene between two of the most iconic comic characters should be. But yeah I thought I’d stick with it till it was done, not really knowing how long it’s going to take.
BW: Superman is obviously modeled after Christopher Reeve, and I think the Hulk is inspired by Lou Ferrigno though the resemblance isn’t quite as strong, what are some of the other inspirations for the look of your Hulk?
MH: Inspirations for the look of Hulk throughout the series has always been the movie incarnations, always best to steal ideas from the real design professionals. Originally started with Ang Lee’s 2003 bloated baby Hulk look when I first started modeling but years before I started the fight animations. Then once the 2008 film came out I was into that shredded lean look and that’s the look that I started the animated series with. For part 3 I did obviously borrow from Avengers Hulk look which I love, but tried to put a bit extra of Ferrigno’s facial features in there. I think I’ll go with even more Ferrigno looking Hulk for the next one.
BW: Do you have a general idea of how many more parts before you feel like the fight will be complete?
MH: No I don’t how many more parts before it will be done, but maybe 2 or 3 otherwise it’s liable never to get done.
BW: Since you have been working on it for so long, the more recent parts look so much better than the earlier parts, do you think you’ll go back and update the earlier scenes to make it into one cohesive whole, or do you think you’ll be ready to move onto something new?
MH: Yes once the fight is done I’ll probably want to go back to the earlier parts and and re-do a lot of the animation that I’m not happy with and re-render it with what will hopefully be a final look so it’s all a single cohesive piece.
BW: How successful has this project been in getting you work in a more professional capacity?
MH: The project was never really meant to be something that I use to get jobs at a professional studio, was just something that interests me and wanted to spend time on. I’ve actually had to leave ‘professional’ jobs once I had enough money saved so that I could spend time at home working on it. That being said though, I think the project helped with getting my last studio job working on Jack the Giant Killer as the Rigging Supervisor had seen the first Superman/Hulk fight episode. Hopefully it will help get more jobs in the future should I need it..
BW: Based on the comments, is there a fairly clear consensus on who people think will/should win, or is it a fairly even split?
MH: I think it’s fairly evenly split between who people think should win, maybe a slight preference to Superman. But everyone has different opinions on how powerful each character should really be and how they would perform in a fight. It’s actually pretty funny to read some of the more serious comic fans comments.
BW: I can imagine, personally I think I would give Superman the slight edge as well. And finally, what is your favorite superhero movie?
MH: I guess I would have to say my favourite super hero movie was the first one I saw when my dad brought it home on vhs tape, the original Superman: The Movie, but I also like Superman 3 even though a lot of people hate it.
That one is often a favorite among anyone who’s seen it as a child. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hated Superman 3, but boy, it’s a pretty rough one. Hopefully this next part won’t take quite as long as the third one, I wish you luck with it and am looking forward to seeing it myself as well. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.