By Kevin Mahadeo
WARNING: MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT HULK #24 BEFORE READING THIS INTERVIEW
After he helped to plot out the Fall of the Hulks, one might think writer Jeff Parker would want a break from gamma irradiation. But the writer of ATLAS and THUNDERBOLTS instead plans on cranking up the juice and basking in that green and red glow as his upcoming run on the HULK with artist Gabriel Hardman begins in September's issue #25.
Parkers and Hardman will continue to follow the Red Hulk, now revealed as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, father-in-law to and longtime enemy of the original Hulk. However, with this week's conclusion to original series creative team Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' stint on the title in HULK #24, Ross now finds himself in an interesting position: one of super hero and Avengers member. Ross must also keep his identity as Red Hulk and the fact that he remains alive following the events of World War Hulks a secret, a position that ironically mirrors Bruce Banner's long ago during the character's early days as the Green Goliath.
Parker managed to step away from summoning his inner red rage while writing to talk about his plans for Ross, the heroes of the Marvel Universe getting some much-needed payback and the power of words.
|HULK #25 cover by Ed McGuinness|
Marvel.com: We know that Red Hulk is joining the Avengers and Bruce Banner is back in all his green glory, so with that, what can we expect to see in regards to the direction HULK will be taking once you hop on board?
Jeff Parker: For once, we're really examining the early years of a character. We realized that we have a whole new Hulk here and in a lot of ways, he is in the same position that the original Hulk was. He has one advantage in that he was part of that history of making the Hulk so miserable. Now he has a unique chance and he can see things from the other side. That's a big part of it. He's starting to see what it was like being Bruce Banner all this time. He never even remotely considered that side of it. And at first, in the Jeph Loeb storyline, he was kind of drunk with power. He finally got the power he had been pursuing all those years handed to him and he wasn't afraid to use it. He was a general used to wartime, so he was pretty much pounding everyone in sight fearlessly. Some things have changed at the beginning of this, and they're getting some payback. Thor shows up. Thor has a long memory anyway-if it had happened 600 years ago, Thor would still be mad about the last time they met, so he lays into him right away. Ross starts to find out, "Man, I didn't make a lot of friends." [Laughs] He's still not overly concerned with making friends, but he is trying to find a place to fit in, in the world. And he's not a villain, despite what people think about him. If there's anybody he respects, it's Steve Rogers, the hero of World War II. That sort of thing impresses Ross and makes him listen. So, he's going along with [Steve's] suggestions. It remains to be seen if he's going to learn, but he's trying to make up for some stuff that he helped bring about.
Marvel.com: When you look at things like this, sometimes it can fall prey to the idea that, "Oh, he beat Thor before. He's stronger than Thor." Is it difficult dealing with these power-level arguments when writing something like this?
Jeff Parker: I don't like to do that. It's a story. I don't have any patience for people who talk about, "If these two power levels get together, here's what happens." It's a story and almost anything can happen. We like to have surprises. But I think it's safe to say that Thor is not caught off guard this time. He's coming in and is aware of who it is. Thor knows the situation and he is not afraid to start hammering on somebody. I'm not one of those people who feel that whatever book I'm writing, my people have to win. To me, it just has to be entertaining. That's all I care about. And I do think that Ross is the type of person who can take a beating and not cry about it. You can deal out a lot of punishment on him and he's not going to whine about it like some characters will. He's going to man up. That's who he is.
|General Ross sketch by Gabriel Hardman|
Marvel.com: So, from what you've said, the title will continue to focus on the Red Hulk, General Ross. But what about the other characters from the Hulk world, such as Bruce and the She-Hulks?
Jeff Parker: We won't be seeing [the She-Hulks] for a bit, but Bruce is in it quite a bit. It's weird. He and Ross and locked in this sort of thing where no matter what they do, it always comes back to them. They always have to deal with each other. In a way, it works like a play. We have a very small cast and they get a lot of quality time interacting with each other. And the one character who always influences everybody whether she's in the book or not is [Ross' daughter and Banner's estranged wife] Betty. Even though it's on a titanic scale-these are characters that can smash mountains-Bruce is still [Ross'] son-in-law. There is this dynamic for Bruce where he can't quite please this guy and vice versa, but yet, he does want to please Betty. He wants to treat Ross in a way that Betty would go for. That's a lot of the reason you'll see to why Bruce is working with him and [trying to] focus him toward more noble goals.
Marvel.com: This was touched upon a little earlier, but what exactly is General Ross' mind set right now? What's going through his head?
Jeff Parker: This is essentially what a career military person who retires faces. It happens all the time. These guys who are four-star generals who come to the end of their service and they're like, "Okay. Now what?" They still want to be involved and they still have the ability to make things happen, but Ross can never go back to being a general again. That's not going to happen. He was in the White House busting the place up. They're not going to hand him his job back if they knew he was alive. He has to keep his identity a secret. Everybody knows who Bruce is now, but suddenly no one can know who Red Hulk is except a select few. One of the only things he's proud of is his military record. He doesn't want that taken away from him. That's part of the reason he's being more reasonable and working with Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner. But I think that even people who are switching jobs, who have done a career shift mid-stream, will be able to relate to what's going on with him. It's an interesting place to put a cantankerous person.
Marvel.com: When you look at Bruce these days, he's the Hulk again, but he's a smart Hulk. How does this change how Ross sees him and how these two characters interact?
Jeff Parker: Most of the time I have him interacting with Ross just as Bruce rather than the Hulk. But Bruce can only stay Bruce for so long. He's the Hulk. So, that's going to happen. But for right now, at the beginning, that's how he deals with him. And Bruce is oddly more confident now.
|Red Hulk sketch by Gabriel Hardman|
Clearly, as you saw in World War Hulks, he's finally made peace with the fact that he's the Hulk. He's never not going to be the Hulk. You can go into all the psychology of it, but at the end of the day, they're the same person. They're not two different people. One is an extension of the other. It's kind of neat because Ross starts to mouth off and Bruce reminds him, "Look, we can go through this again, but I'm the Hulk and at the end of the day, I always win." I like seeing a little shrimpy physicist say that. It's a little moment when his words carry more power than his body does. And he can back it up because he's the Hulk. He's the strongest there is.
Marvel.com: I also wanted to hit on artist Gabriel Hardman. What do you like about his style and how he draws the Hulks?
Jeff Parker: I like the way that he makes him just this mass. He doesn't play up the muscles a whole lot, but he makes him really solid. You look at him and you think, "Yeah. A battleship is not getting through that character." Normal people in regular clothes and stuff creates this verisimilitude where everything is on an even level. So, it makes something like Red Hulk more believable. Gabe is one of the top talents in the medium. I have not seen anything that he can't pull off yet. And as good as I can describe and imagine it, he always makes it better. It makes me feel like I did something brilliant when really it's Gabe.
Marvel.com: As we mentioned earlier, Red Hulk is also on the Avengers. How much is that going to influence your title? Are you talking with Brian Bendis about his plans and how much will be tying into what's happening in the AVENGERS book?
Jeff Parker: We're trying to keep it pretty close. Brian and I have been e-mailing and we're trying to sync up our stuff and make sure that we're writing the same person. I'm not going to pretend that it's not happening. I'll probably refer to it everywhere it makes sense to do so. And I'll obviously probably show some of the Avengers. But what we're doing is that first we're having him beat some of the guys and later he's going to be working with them.
Marvel.com: Well, as a final question to close out, there have been a lot of different Hulks throughout the ages. We've got Green Hulk, Grey Hulk, Red Hulk, the She-Hulks, recently a Cosmic Hulk, Hulked-Out Heroes. But what's your favorite Hulk?
|HULK #26 cover by Ed McGuinness|
Jeff Parker: My favorite iteration of Green Hulk is kind of where Red is now. I like that early form of the Hulk where he's clearly thinking and plotting and clearly a bit angry, but you don't know what he's thinking because he's not talking all the time. He's not saying a whole lot. Most of what he's communicating is in his eyes and what he does the next second. I just like that because it's very threatening and it's more exciting. He'd show up on the scene and everybody is thinking, "Is he going to help us? Is he going to make things worse? What's going to happen?" I know it's sort of an amalgam of them all, but that's my favorite take on Hulk and that's sort of where I'm pushing Ross. He's just this random x-factor, to use that term, which is of course a comic book. He's this rogue element. [Laughs] I can't use anything that's not another Marvel character or a team. He's a wildcard! Is there a Marvel character called Wildcard?
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