The following was originally posted on WizardUniverse.com:
Incredible Hulk is doing the incredible. Since Greg Pak’s debut on the book, he began an epic story called “Planet Hulk.” Instead of buzz tapering off after the first two issues, the buzz continued to grow on the project, with sales drifting upwards and fans clamoring for more (Wizard magazine chose it as its September Book of the Month).
Pak sat down with Wizard Universe to talk about how he got the gig, why the book has grown in popularity, and let something slip out about a huge guest-star for the upcoming issue #100 that will have fans buzzing.
How’d you get the Hulk gig?
PAK: While working with “Incredible Hulk” editor Mark Paniccia on an entirely unrelated project, I ran my yap at every opportunity about how much I loved the Hulk and all the great ideas I had for Hulk stories. So when it came time for him to pick a new Hulk writer, I guess it wasn’t hard for him to remember my name.
Were you a fan of the book before?
PAK: I’ve loved the character since I was a kid. In particular, I can remember reading and re-reading that Hulk-Submariner fight from Origins of Marvel Comics. And the television show blew my little mind.
Who are your favorite Hulk creators?
PAK: Probably Bill Mantlo and Peter David. I love Mantlo’s “Crossroads” stories. And Peter David’s “Future Imperfect” and “Hulk: The End” are classics. And of course, I have to give it up to Stan Lee for creating the character, and for developing the intelligent, surly Hulk in those first few issues. That version of the Hulk has definitely helped inform the way we’re depicting the character in “Planet Hulk.”
What drew you to the character of the Hulk?
PAK: On that fundamental, visceral level, I love the Hulk for losing his temper. There’s huge vicarious pleasure in watching the Hulk. He does what we’d all like to do when things or situations or stupid puny humans get in his way: he smashes! So that’s all kinds of fun. But Hulk stories become great when they explore the effects of all that smashing on a real emotional level. Is the Hulk a monster or a hero? Is his smashing just plain wicked or is it sometimes justified or necessary? Can he ever find a place where he can belong, or does his inability to control his anger, righteous though it may be, doom him and the people he loves to tragedy? Those are the compelling, dramatic questions I can’t get enough of.
Who’s idea was it to put Hulk in space?
PAK: I first heard it from Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, who told me of his vision of the Hulk in armor with a big battle axe fighting monsters in an arena on an alien planet. And I said, “Yes, please!”
How did that expand into the “Planet Hulk” event?
PAK: Joe and the other editors tossed a few plot points at me and I went into my dark cave to work my magic. My job was to fill in all the story details, develop the big themes and emotional arc, create the supporting cast and the political, historical, social, mythological and zoological reality of the world itself. It’s been a huge kick in the pants, particularly since editor Mark Paniccia has been an amazing story collaborator and pencilers Carlo Pagulayan and Aaron Lopresti and cover artist Ladronn have been nothing but amazing to work with.
But why put Hulk in space?
PAK: It was time for the Hulk to cut loose, time for the Hulk to smash. And an adventure on an alien planet would give us the time and space to have him really discover himself in all his destructive glory without having to shake the Marvel Universe to the core. There’ll be time for that later...
Did you always envision it being this big and epic?
PAK: At first, the story was only going to be about half the length. But after the editors saw the scope of the outline I submitted and mulled over what was happening in the Marvel Universe as a whole, they gave us a full 14 issues. It’s an incredible opportunity. As a result, we’ve been able to open up the story, delve deeply into all of our supporting characters, and build a whole mythic subtext to the Hulk’s giant emotional storyline which is going to pay off in a huge way as the tale comes to its climax.
Tell us about the characters that jumped on board the story in the first arc
PAK: Miek is the six-limbed insectivorid slave who attaches himself to the Hulk as a sidekick. As the story progresses, we’re going to see that Miek has a huge emotional storyline of his own, he’s suffered horribly from the Empire’s oppression, and he’s learning from the Hulk never to stop making them pay. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen: don’t miss issues #97 and #98 in particular if you’re interested in find out!
Korg is the brick of the Hulk’s crew, a Stone Man from Kronan whose quiet moral authority might help the Hulk fulfill his real heroic potential. Hiroim is a Shadow Warrior whose strategic expertise may help the Hulk and his crew survive against the Emperor’s armies. And perhaps the most important supporting character of all, Caiera the Oldstrong, is another Shadow Warrior, the Emperor’s bodyguard, who has been sent to kill the Hulk. As our story progresses, she’s going to become an absolutely key player: look for her story to pick up major steam in issue #98.
How worried were you about how fans would react to such a drastic change in storytelling?
PAK: Old-time fans know that the Hulk has a tradition of periodically heading out for science fiction adventures in other worlds, most memorably, in the Jarella tales and the Crossroads stories. So I was pretty hopeful that folks would at least give the storyline a shot. But what gave me the most confidence was that we all knew it was time for the Hulk to be the Hulk, for the Hulk to have the chance to cut loose, and “Planet Hulk” would be a great place for him to do just that.
And how has fan reaction to the story been so far?
PAK: We’ve been pretty overwhelmed. The fans have been enormously generous with their praise, and for that we’re as grateful as can be. It’s been exciting to see the book actually gaining readers; it’s a very rare thing for a book to climb from month to month without a major change in writer, artist, or storyline, but the fans are spreading the word about “Planet Hulk” and I can’t thank them enough.
Tell us about the book’s artists.
PAK: Aaron Lopresti is penciling issues 96 to 99, the “Anarchy” arc. Aaron’s doing an incredible job. Career-best work, in my opinion. Wait ‘til you see the battle scenes in Issue #98 and the climactic moments of Issue #99: they’re gorgeous and powerful and tragic and heroic and monstrous and everything else you could want for an epic Hulk story.
Carlo Pagulayan penciled issues 92 to 95, the “Exile” arc, and returns with issue 100 for the “Allegiance” arc. Carlo’s got an exquisite sense of dynamism and detail and he keeps topping himself with every issue. Carlo also designed most of the characters and buildings and technology in the story: he has an incredible eye and has done a tremendous job of making this alien world come to life.
Finally, Ladronn, the cover artist, deserves a huge amount of praise for the amazing images he keeps producing. The Hulk/Silver Surfer cover to #95 is my favorite comic book cover of the year, bar none.
What’s coming up in the 100th issue?
PAK: It’s the first issue in the climactic “Allegiance” storyline, featuring incredible action and some shocking emotional developments for the Hulk and his key allies. There’s also a 10-page backup story that gives us a glimpse of what’s happening on Planet Earth. And I’ll go ahead and spill the beans. Issue #100 will feature a few surprise guest stars, including Reed Richards and Amadeus Cho, a.k.a. Mastermind Excello. Who the heck is that, you ask? He’s a character I developed for the Amazing Fantasy #15 anthology issue, and he won the online contest Marvel.com ran to see which character from the anthology would get his or her own miniseries. In the Amazing Fantasy story, Amadeus Cho is a genius kid on the run who has an unexpected encounter with our big green friend. As we’ll see in Incredible Hulk #100, Amadeus may end up playing a very important role in the Hulk’s future...
Any hints as to what else is happening?
PAK: Major twists and shocking developments and smashing galore. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think it’s safe to say that “Planet Hulk” and the story arc that follows it will have more emotional impact on the Hulk than anything we’ve seen for years.
How long are you planning on staying on the book?
PAK: As long as they’ll have me! Editor Mark Paniccia and I have a couple of years worth of good story ideas already. My fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to stick around and write ‘em all.
What do you hope fans remember from “Planet Hulk” years from now?
PAK: Wow. That’s a tough question. I’ll just be honest, we’re telling a hugely ambitious story here. We’re shooting for wildly entertaining epic adventure, mind-blowing action and non-stop smashing, fully-formed, three-dimensional characters, genuinely mythic storytelling, enormous emotional development, and, in the end, a revelation of fundamental human truth. (Did I mention we’re ambitious?) If any fraction of all of this comes through and is remembered with fondness, I’ll be thrilled.
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