Indestructible Hulk: Return to Asgard

Indestructible Hulk: Return to Asgard Pt. 3

Walt Simonson digs into his craft, the evolution of his art style, working with the scripts of Mark Waid and more!

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Indestructible Hulk #6 preview art by Walt Simonson

By Jim Beard

True story: Legendary artist Walt Simonson has never worked before with equally-legendary writer Mark Waid. Longtime friends, the two creators waited until the absolute right project came along for them to combine their talents in one titanic tale. That story, years in the making, begins in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #6, out April 3.

However, an illustrator the caliber of Simonson demands more than just a single large personality like the Hulk to draw, so Waid brought in another character his friend’s somewhat familiar with: the Mighty Thor.

We wanted to know how Simonson approached such a massive undertaking like this three-part INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK epic “Gods and Monsters,” so we arranged an exclusive four-part interview to illuminate how he works. Today, learn about the artist’s approach to layouts and his preference when it comes to script styles.

Marvel.com: Walt, has Mark Waid given you full scripts for this INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK story?

Walt Simonson: We’re doing this in what used to be called “Marvel style” [with a rough plot first].

Marvel.com: Overall, what do you prefer?

Walt Simonson: I don’t think Marvel does that [style] anymore, hardly, but back when I got into comics, that’s how everybody was working. That’s changed almost completely at this point. I actually prefer working from a plot. I won’t get into all the ins and outs about that. I have some really good friends who would disagree with that as an approach, dramatically. Mark has done both, and I’ve worked both ways. I’ve worked from full scripts. I’ve worked from plots.

In the old days, I mostly worked from plots back in the 1970’s and 80’s, but now it’s almost all full scripts, and I find that that presents its own challenges, to work like that. But in something like this, especially when I know the character Thor fairly well, Mark was game to try it out this way, and as far as I know, he’s happy with the results. You’ll have to talk to him about that.

Indestructible Hulk #6 preview art by Walt Simonson

Marvel.com: Does “Marvel style” free you up to do more with the layouts, or are you pretty much still working the way you would always work with them?

Walt Simonson: Well, if I’m doing “Marvel style,” the layouts are my thing—that’s kind of what I bring to the table. When you work from a full script, a lot depends on your writer. I found [that with] some writers it was very easy just to take their scripts and create layouts that went wherever I wanted them to go. And I’ve worked with other scripts where I really felt it had come to me to pretty much follow what the writer wanted panel to panel to panel. I tend to enjoy having a little more freedom, just as a storyteller, but I’m cool either way. In this case, Mark was game to try this. I think he does work more full script generally. But as far as I know, he doesn’t have any problem working this way, and I’ve had a lot of fun.

Marvel.com: What’s changed in your profession over the years in terms of the actual art pages that really stands out to you as a definite improvement?

Walt Simonson: Well, one of the things that happens now which was not true when I was doing THOR, for example, is that now an artist can do bleed pages. 30 years ago, that wasn’t true. By bleed pages, for those who don’t know, I mean pages where the image actually goes all the way to the trim, to the edge of the paper. If you go back and look at comics in the 1980s, that almost never happened. I got to do it once when I was doing THOR, in my very first issue, #337. I asked for special permission to do it, and I got permission to do it from [then Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Jim Shooter, and I had to draw it way bigger than the regular page because it was unclear how far out you had to get the image or for the trim to still cut the image off and have it work that way. It was the very first shot of Surtur slamming a big ingot down on the cosmic anvil he was working on, and the sparks from the anvil flew off the page.

Indestructible Hulk #6 preview art by Walt Simonson

Now, anybody can do it. They’ve resized the paper in a way that has a live art area and the trim lines and all that so it’s really easy to see it. Again, if I do a bleed, it’s for a storytelling reason. Because I want a little bigger shot up there, and I want to imply that the picture goes on beyond the boundary, beyond the border.

Marvel: With characters like Hulk and Thor, characters with such a huge presence, do you feel like your panels are bigger or smaller here? And are they breaking out of the panels more?

Walt Simonson: I just did a drawing where one of the characters is running from a lot of big trouble, and she’s actually leaping over the panel border at the bottom of the page, so the thing she’s running away from is actually breaking out of the panel border in the top and the side.

I taught at a school of visual arts off and on for about 10 or 12 years and one of the things I tried to teach was that from my point of view, when you’re doing comics, every decision you make should be about the story. If you have a question, you go back and you say, “Is that going to make my story better? Is it going to make it worse? Is it going to be about the same?” And you try to make it better, so when I make decisions to run panels off the border or take the figures out of the borders, that kind of thing, it’s really because I feel the story is better served by taking that approach.

Indestructible Hulk #6 cover by Walt Simonson

Marvel.com: What about the number of panels on each page; do you find that’s changed with current work of your like INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK?

Walt Simonson: Mark hasn’t given me a hugely complicated plot. A hundred billion years ago and me and Archie Goodwin, we were trying to cram literally 20 pages of comic into eight pages of back-up. So I was doing 10, 12, 13, 15 panels on a page. That’s not happening here. Again, one page I’m doing, I’ve got a couple of large panels top and bottom and then four panels across the middle which are much smaller and much more time-dependent. It’s a moment to a moment to a moment to a moment, and then there’s a big punctuation of what’s happening in a much larger panel. So, the size of the panels is also about the rhythm that you want to create within your story to affect the reader.

Come back tomorrow for more from Walt and pre-order INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #6 now!

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