Pak Smash

One on one with the World War Hulk scribe

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By David Wiltfong Sitting somewhere between up-and-coming writer and seasoned veteran, over the past year Greg Pak has firmly established one thing: He's one of Marvel's best. Driving "Planet Hulk" and now "World War Hulk," Pak has firmly entreanched himself in the firmament of Marvel's writing elite--yet he remains a humble, soft-spoken and friendly guy who just wants to tell the best stories he can. With WORLD WAR HULK #1 on fire and #2 a few weeks away, we sat down with Pak to get his thoughts on Hulk, writing and making his career in comics. MARVEL.COM: You were at the recent Marvel summit. How did things turn out for Sakaar's Green King? Did things pan out for you as much as you had planned; any new ideas come as a result? GREG PAK: This particular summit wasn't focused on "World War Hulk." But I did score a major Hulk-related coup when I secured a certain key character for the cast of my super-secret "World War Hulk" follow-up project. MARVEL.COM: Going back to "Planet Hulk" for a bit… "Planet Hulk" is something that Joe Quesada came to you about doing. Was there anything that gave you the inspiration of doing the story other than the words "Hulk," "battleaxe" and "alien planet" where you felt you could tell something different from previous stories that had Hulk in a similar situation? GP: I'm a huge fan of the Jarella and Crossroads stories that took the Hulk off-world back in the day. But I knew from the beginning that "Planet Hulk" would allow us to do something distinctive and add something special to the mythos. First, we were given an incredible fourteen issues to tell a truly epic tale, which would be different from the Jarella stories, which tended to crop up one or two issues at a time every few years. And we would spend all of that time exploring our themes and building our epic on a single alien planet, which would be different from the episodic series of mini-adventures the Hulk had on different worlds during the Crossroads saga. Finally, I had this notion of letting the Hulk be the Hulk on this world--this would be a chance for the Hulk to truly find himself. During the Jarella stories, the Hulk frequently had Banner's brain; during the Crossroads tales, the Hulk was a mindless animal without the capacity for reason. "Planet Hulk" would feature a smart but savage Hulk who could truly learn and grow on his own terms, and that would make it possible to tell a huge emotional story that would be the heart and soul of the series. MARVEL.COM: Did you pitch the idea for WORLD WAR HULK or was it always something intended when Quesada came to you about doing "Planet Hulk"? GP: What goes up must come down, so we knew that "Planet Hulk" would end with the Hulk on his way back to Earth. The details of the story came much later, but the germ that became "World War Hulk" was implicit in Joe's initial idea. MARVEL.COM: Being sent to another planet and falling in love there is not something new to the Hulk. For those that have not picked "Planet Hulk" up yet and have the idea that it is nothing new to the character or even for those waiting for the trade. Other than being a great story, in your opinion, what makes this different from all the other stories? GP: Epic scope. The Hulk finding himself on his own terms. Hardcore grappling with the question of the price of anger. The Hulk forming genuine and abiding personal bonds with a group of other monsters--and indeed, with an entire world. And of course, no other tale leads up to the glorious smashfest which is "World War Hulk." MARVEL.COM: Is there a particular part of "Planet Hulk" that you are the most proud of? GP: I won't lie--I'm proud of every single page in the book. Everyone involved in this project went above and beyond every step of the way. MARVEL.COM: As a writer that has given as much attention and emotional character growth to a character like the Hulk, as you have over the past year, how does it feel to you to give him exactly what he has always wanted and then suddenly rip it away from him all at once? GP: Honestly, it was painful. The Hulk earned his happiness on Sakaar through incredible pain and struggle. And Caiera the Oldstrong was really his perfect partner. But just about every great Hulk story turns on the theme of rage--and rage, no matter how justified, has a price. "Planet Hulk" had to end the way it did for the story to ring true. MARVEL.COM: Readers always hear about how during an event a writer is given a list of characters they are allowed to kill. We've already seen a major death at the end of "Planet Hulk." With Hulk's current state of mind, and what we've already seen in WORLD WAR HULK #1, can we expect to see one or more deaths in this event? GP: I can't answer this for fear of spoilers. But I strongly, strongly encourage you to pick up "Incredible Hulk" #110, which will delve into the questions around your question and feature a revelation about the essential nature of the Hulk that absolutely must not be missed. MARVEL.COM: You showed that both Hulk and Banner were in love with Caiera in INCREDIBLE HULK #103. Can we expect to see more of Banner and how he felt about losing Caiera in the pages of WORLD WAR HULK? GP: Dontcha dare miss a single issue of "World War Hulk." MARVEL.COM: Gary Frank, Carlo Pagulayan, John Romita Jr., Zeb Wells, Fred Van Lente, Peter David, Dan Slott, Frank Tieri, Paul Jenkins, Cristos N. Gage, Mark Paniccia--and obviously others as well--are all involved in the event at some point or another. As the writer of both WORLD WAR HULK and INCREDIBLE HULK, the two main titles for this event, how close are you working with the other creators to make sure this is a story that remains together as one story? GP: I typically talk with editor Mark Paniccia and assistant editor Nate Cosby several times a day and trade phone calls and emails with various writers and artists all the time. It's been a huge challenge to figure out all the working parts in this massive storyline--but an enormous amount of fun. MARVEL.COM: In the beginning of INCREDIBLE HULK #106, you make a slight reference to the ending of nearly every episode of the INCREDBILE HULK TV series. Are you a fan of the TV series? GP: That was my all-time favorite show as a kid. And that music might be the greatest theme music for any television show ever. MARVEL.COM: That scene had Bill Bixby's Banner character either walking away from his troubles or hiding himself from the world to signify the end of the episode. Does this scene signify the end of She-Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. or is there something more, like that weight of the world feeling that Bixby's Banner would have at the end? GP: Jen Walters has traditionally had a lot more fun being She-Hulk than Bruce Banner has had being the Hulk--while she's struggled with her big, green alter ego, she's vastly happier and better adjusted than Banner's ever been. The scene was a way to show her getting a taste of how Banner has felt almost every day since the Hulk entered his life. MARVEL.COM: She-Hulk is betrayed by Iron Man in SHE-HULK #18 and in INCREDIBLE HULK #106 you show that she is not on the side of the Illuminati or the Hulk's, but instead choosing a middle ground with the legal system. What made both you and Dan Slott decide to go this route with the character after all that has been done to not only her, but her cousin as well? GP: I think we just tried to be true to her character. Jennifer Walters is a lawyer--she believes in the law and the ideals that form the foundation of our government. At the same time, she understands that the law can sometimes fail to provide justice--and she loves her cousin. Her effort to find her own way to deal with "World War Hulk" reflects these complex commitments. MARVEL.COM: In your opinion, who does the Hulk feel betrayed by the most out of the Illuminati group and what are his opinions on each of the members? GP: Reed Richards is the voice on the tape the Illuminati included on the shuttle that exiled the Hulk. So he'll no doubt be singled out for special attention. The Hulk probably doesn't know about Iron Man's involvement in the Civil War--but that won't stop him from cracking his tin can wide open. The Hulk's dealings with Black Bolt have been limited--it's unclear how much of a personal grudge he holds against him. But he no doubt considers Black Bolt to be the most physically formidable of all his opponents. Finally, of all these heroes, the Hulk probably has the longest and deepest relationship with Dr. Strange, with whom he had years of adventures as fellow Defenders. It remains to be seen whether that relationship will earn Strange mercy--or particularly horrible punishment. MARVEL.COM: That opening scene in WORLD WAR HULK #1, where you have the Hulk yell at Black Bolt during their confrontation "I didn't come here to hear you whisper… I came here to hear you scream". Where did the idea for this come from and is this the non-stop tone readers can expect to see thought WORLD WAR HULK? GP: The idea popped out of my little head. And yes, that's exactly the crank-it-to-eleven stuff of which this series is made. MARVEL.COM: When planning WORLD WAR HULK, was there a moment that you really had to sell to editor Mark Paniccia in order to get the okay? If so, can you give any hints? GP: Mark's my partner in crime--we have the same big vision for the Hulk and tend to love the same crazy ideas. It's a total pleasure working with Mark--typically, when I pitch him a new idea, he's already getting it before I've even finished talking, and he always asks just the right questions to help me make the story as sharp and coherent as it can be. INCREDIBLE HULK #108 is a good example of a story that came together step by step with Mark and me constantly trading notes and getting more and more excited with each email and phone call. Even as we speak, the brilliant Leonard Kirk is penciling the issue, and it's really turning into something special--fans of Rick Jones and Miek definitely won't want to miss it. MARVEL.COM: Judging by the covers to WORLD WAR HULK: FRONT LINE, we will see the Hulk battle Sentry at one point or another. For those die hard fans that love to see Hulk take on Thor, will we be able to expect to see the ruler of Sakaar take on the ruler of Asgard (or at least his clone)? GP: Can't comment on this for fear of spoilers. MARVEL.COM: You seem to be up on your history of events in the Hulk's past and it has been mentioned that Amadeus Cho plays a major part in WORLD WAR HULK. There seem to be similarities between Amadeus Cho and someone else in the Hulk's past by the name of Agamemnon. Is there more to it or just two characters with similarities? GP: Amadeus also shares certain similarities with Rick Jones--both were born in Arizona, both are orphans and both met the Hulk at the age of sixteen. These kinds of similarities aren't entirely coincidental--these different sidekick characters at different points in the Hulk's life help bring out different aspects of the Hulk's character and journey. For an exploration of the similarities--and critical differences--between the sidekick characters of Rick Jones and Miek the Unhived, don't miss INCREDIBLE HULK #108, which features amazing pencils by Leonard Kirk. MARVEL.COM: You created the planet Sakaar completely and worked with Handbook writer Anthony Flamini on the PLANET HULK: GLADIATOR GUIDEBOOK and at the end of "Planet Hulk," destroyed it. Have we seen the last of the planet Sakaar or do you have plans to revisit it? GP: We have not seen the last of Sakaar. Can't say more right now for fear of spoilers, but an insane new adventure is in the works--keep your eyes open! MARVEL.COM: Much like what the GLADIATOR GUIDEBOOK did during "Planet Hulk," WORLD WAR HULK: THE GAMMA FILES will bring readers up to date on characters involved in the summer event as much as possible. Will you be involved with that as much as you were with the GUIDEBOOK? GP: Not as much. I had to be involved with the "Gladiator Guidebook" every step of the way because it was based on a world I'd created largely from whole cloth. In contrast, GAMMA FILES deals with characters from Earth, many of whom have been part of the Marvel Universe for four decades or more. I've traded emails with the GAMMA FILES writers to answer some of their questions, but they don't need me in their hair for the bulk of what they're doing. MARVEL.COM: You've mentioned that you are a fan of science fiction, action movies and alien invasion movies and view WORLD WAR HULK as a combination of them. As the ruler of the planet Sakaar, does Hulk now view himself as an alien in your opinion? GP: The Hulk has always been an alien, in many ways. He's the classic Other--wherever he goes, he doesn't fit in. But on Sakaar, he found a group of similar people--slaves, monsters, rejects--and they created a world together. So the Hulk is coming to Earth very much as a member of the Warbound, as the Green King of Sakaar, as the husband of Caiera the Oldstrong. The puny humans are no longer his people or friends and their crummy planet is no longer his home. MARVEL.COM: "Planet Hulk" and WORLD WAR HULK are only two parts of a trilogy in store for the Hulk. Events from the ending of "Planet Hulk" led to "World War Hulk." Can we expect the same with the third part of the trilogy or will it take elements from both for more of a climatic story? GP: "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" both feed into the third part of the trilogy. I can't say more for fear of spoilers, but we've been planning this from the very beginning and it's gonna be a mindblower. MARVEL.COM: Since you intended to have elements of the various types of movies, and with it being the second part of a trilogy, do you view WORLD WAR HULK as your "Empire Strikes Back," so to speak? GP: Heh. Well, since "Empire" is the best of the "Star Wars" movies, I'll oh-so-humbly call of each part of this Hulk trilogy our "Empire." An overview as to what is to come without giving too much away… Amadeus Cho (a.k.a. Mastermind Excello) gathers a group of those sympathetic to the Hulk over the years while playing a primary role in INCREDIBLE HULK #106-110; he confronts She-Hulk and Doc Samson in INCREDIBLE HULK #106; we see what Namor, the Sub-Mariner, feels about the Hulk's situation in INCREDIBLE HULK #107; we catch up with Rick Jones in INCREDIBLE HULK #108; and Cho and his group of Renegades get a wake up call like never before as they find out Hulk's intentions in INCREDIBLE HULK #109 and #110. In WORLD WAR HULK, the Hulk and his Warbound wage war on the heroes of New York like never before. If readers thought what the Hulk did to Black Bolt [and Iron Man] in the pages of WORLD WAR HULK #1 was jaw dropping… just wait until you see what the Hulk has in store for everyone else. Onto some questions from Marvel.com message board posters… frisky dingo asks: Is there a character from the Marvel Universe whom you wanted to use (either friend or foe) for the WORLD WAR HULK event but, for whatever reason, couldn't make it work? GP: The Deathlok cyborg and Morbius, the Living Vampire. No joke--I had a story with those guys in mind, but the stars didn't quite align this time 'round. I love both of those characters, though, and would love to work with 'em some day. Hulksmash! asks: Are there any Marvel characters that you HAVE to write before you die? GP: Magneto, Storm and Dr. Strange. I've had the chance to write each of them as supporting characters in various books, but I'd love to spend more time with all of those characters. Kazekun asks: Greg, how do you feel about an event for the Hulk, & you being at the helm of it seeing is how you get to write Hulk's main title? GP: It's pretty much the coolest gig I can imagine right now. Piccolo1906 asks: How will this transform Hulk back into a major player in the MU? GP: By reminding the world exactly who is the strongest one there is. anoddity asks: Hi Greg. First off I want to thank you for reinvigorating my interest in the character after more than a decade away from comics! For that I thank you. GP: No, thank you! anoddity: f I could use your knowledge of MU people/groups, what views, if any, do they have of the Hulk (the 198, Hellfire Club, Dr. Doom and J.J. Jameson)? GP: The 198 and the Hellfire Club have their own mutant-related issues--what happened to the Hulk was a problem created by homo sapiens, not homo superior, and I imagine many mutants may be willing to sit this one out. Dr. Doom is glad no one sent him an invite to the first Illuminati meeting. J. J. Jameson hates the Hulk, but the Hulk smashing stuff sure can sell papers, can't it? CAmbm asks: Thank you so much for making a great Hulk story and rekindled my interest in the character. My question is very simple: Will many of the Hulk gamma allies (Dr. Samson and She-Hulk) or Gamma foes ( Abomination or the Leader) play BIG roles within WORLD WAR HULK? GP: Dontcha dare miss WORLD WAR HULK #2 for more on Doc Samson and She-Hulk. W0rldBr3ak3r asks: Who is your favorite Warbound ally and why? GP: I love 'em all. Korg's probably the easiest to love--he's a brick with a heart of gold. But in recent months, I've developed a particular interest in Hiroim, who's going through some pretty huge changes and who will play a big role in WORLD WAR HULK #3, in particular. The Brood is also one of my faves--I really felt for her when I saw Carlo Pagulayan's brilliant art from INCREDIBLE HULK #105 when she wept while saving the Imperial child during the destruction of Crown City. Fabio813 asks: Do you feel any pressure being put on yourself by both fans and co-workers by taking on a major part of the crossover "World War Hulk"? GP: Of course there's pressure--but that's true of every comics project I've ever undertaken. In the end, you just have to do your darnedest to tell the best story you possibly can and let the chips fall where they may. Fortunately, I have John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Jansen and Christina Strain and Gary Frank and Jon Sibal and Leonard Kirk and Scott Hanna and Carlo Pagulayan and Jeff Huet and Chris Sotomayor and Mark Paniccia and Nate Cosby and one big, angry, green goliath backing me up on this one, so confidence is high. matthewaos asks: Will we ever see more Banner? I liked Bruce Jones' Hulk, with Banner on the run, and I think that he has been put aside, like he never existed. GP: Banner fans take note--INCREDIBLE HULK #103 provided a brief but hugely significant glimpse of Bruce during the "Planet Hulk" run--which we're absolutely going to follow up on in the pages of "WORLD WAR HULK. MARVEL.COM: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. In closing, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans in general about WORLD WAR HULK and INCREDIBLE HULK? GP: I'd just like to say thank you, thank you and thank you. "Planet Hulk" actually gained readers during the course of its run, which is pretty darn rare in comics and due largely to great word of mouth from fans and reviewers and bloggers and retailers. You guys are the best. If you've enjoyed watching the Hulk's previous destructive rampages through the Marvel Universe… you haven't seen anything yet! WORLD WAR HULK will show a vicious side of the Hulk like never before. WORLD WAR HULK PROLOGUE: WORLD BREAKER #1, INCREDIBLE HULK #106 AND #107 and WORLD WAR HULK are currently on sale. Look for WORLD WAR HULK #2, HULK #108 and other tie-ins during the month of July! And don't forget to pick up your copy of WORLD WAR HULK: THE GAMMA FILES which will not only bring readers up to date on the main characters involved, but cover characters from the Marvel event itself and more!

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