Indestructible Hulk: Return to Asgard

Indestructible Hulk: Return to Asgard Pt. 1

Walt Simonson preps for his run with the Hulk, talking how he approaches new characters and old favorites alike!



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. In part one, the artist discusses his visual approach to the characters themselves and juggling their distinct personalities and incredible powers. Walt, is this the first full Hulk story that you’ve done since RAMPAGING HULK in the 1970’s?

Walt Simonson: As far as I remember, yes, that’s true. There was a calendar probably back in the 70’s or early 80’s with the Hulk and Spider-Man, and I drew him in AVENGERS #300. That was the origin of the Avengers that Ralph Macchio wrote, and because it was the original Avengers, the Hulk was in that. [But] as far as stories with the Hulk, I think this probably is the first time I’ve done him since those old days. So, they came to you to do the story, and they said “the Hulk.” What were your initial thoughts?

Walt Simonson: I’ve got a lot of friends in the industry. Mark Waid’s one of them. And there were a number of people I’ve always wanted to work with but never had a chance to, [like] Brian Bendis and Mark and other folks; a little while back, I got a hold of some of my friends and said, “Hey, look. Do you wanna do a story?” And I didn’t really expect Brian to give me six issues of AVENGERS [Laughs].

Indestructible Hulk #6 preview art by Walt Simonson

That was really more than I was looking for, really, but it worked out fine. But, [then] I talked to Mark, and he said, “Come and do the Hulk story. It involves the Frost Giants and Jotunheim.” And I said, “All right. That’d be kind of cool. Sure! Yeah! Let’s do it!” So that was really the genesis of my working on the Hulk. What’s important to you to get across when drawing the Hulk in this story?

Walt Simonson: I would say power. I mean, one of my interests in super hero comics goes back to my reading days of the [Stan] Lee/[Jack] Kirby material back in the comics in the 1960’s. That’s when I was in college. And I came to Marvel Comics really because of the work that Stan and Jack were doing and Steve Ditko and some of the other guys that were working at Marvel at the time. And one of the things about Jack’s work that I completely loved is that I thought he brought a sense of power and energy that really surpassed anybody else’s work. He had a lot of other gifts as well that were often overlooked because the power and energy was so great, but I thought that was really cool, and so one of my goals when drawing super hero books is to reinsert that life energy into the character, as well as maybe some characterization.

That was something that Jack did that people maybe don’t appreciate as much as they might the power. He often had body language and gestures and things of that sort that really bespoke of the character in a way that was subtler than the energy but was nonetheless communicative of what those characters are about, so all that stuff’s the stuff I try to grab a hold of. He’s the Hulk; of course, you want power [and] you want energy. And the way Mark is writing Bruce Banner in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK, he’s using his brains, so I want Banner to be a guy who’s always self-assured, you know, definitive body language.

So, I haven’t gone back and tried to draw a Jack Kirby Bruce Banner. You know, characters change over time and I just tried to use the most recent edition as I could. At the same time, as I go along, I’m drawing more and more of my own Hulk. When I was young, I would get a book and I would say, “Well, I’ll do an issue, and by the end of the issue, I’ll know what I’m doing.” And then later I would say, “Well, by the time I’ve done three issues, I’ll have gotten a feel for what I’m doing.” Then later it was, “Oh, maybe by six issues, I’ll know what the hell I’m doing.” But essentially, the more you work on a character, whether it’s drawing or writing, the more you kind of discover the character. So that’s part of the ongoing process, even in just these three issues.

Indestructible Hulk #6 preview art by Walt Simonson Are you drawing any visual link between the two, Banner and the Hulk?

Walt Simonson: Not much. Really, the Hulk has his own face and Banner has his own face, and I haven’t really tried to link the two of them together that much. Partly because I kind of feel, while that worked really well in the [Avengers] movie, in the comic I kind of liked the idea that the Hulk is really this other being. It really is the Jekyll/Hyde idea. And going to a different being, I don’t want it to look that much like Bruce Banner as a visual. Also, the Banner from the early issues has a pretty pointy chin, and it’s kind of hard to draw The Hulk with a pointy chin [Laughs]! Your cover to INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #6 really illustrates that energy and power you talk about, with Hulk straining to lift Thor’s hammer…

Walt Simonson: It was fun! That cover went through several iterations. In fact, even as we speak, I’ve got a big drawing taped up to my wall in my studio. It’s that drawing in pencil. It was really the under-drawing for the whole thing before I went to the cover. I tried just to get the hands right and kind of get the sense of really trying to lift the hammer—the gesture actually goes back to the Lee/Kirby stuff, it might be JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #112…you should have somebody look this up so I sound intelligent… No need—you are correct! JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #112 and AVENGERS #3!

Walt Simonson: There’s one which was essentially a Thor/Hulk fight, and I seem to remember that in the course of that, [at] some point, the hammer’s on the ground. The Hulk gets to it first and tries to lift it, and can’t. But he gets the handle off the ground. He’s not able to get the head of the hammer off the ground. So I was using that memory of how that was handled once before to approach this cover. How has the character of Thor changed for you?

Thor by Walt Simonson

Walt Simonson: I’m an old guy. I’ve got to draw a character of a kind I do best. I’ve gotten to draw the more recent Thor because I did several covers and then, of course, he was in some of the AVENGERS stuff that I drew for Brian Bendis. So I have drawn that guy, which was fun, but it was very nice for me to be able to go back and kind of draw the Thor that I knew more from the old days.

In a sense, there is, but I’m just drawing…I mean, I was on THOR a long time ago now, so on some drawings, I just catch it. On other drawings, I really have to work to try and catch the face again, but there are some things—sort of more gestural and more in terms of attitude—that might be a little different from what I did before, but they’d be pretty subtle. And they’re really related to the story and the nature of the story. What other characters in the story really stand out in your mind that maybe you enjoy drawing more than others?

Walt Simonson: Well, there are Banner and his several assistants. They’re pretty straight-forward civilian characters who get to wear S.H.I.E.L.D. jumpsuits. And, because I’m the guy that I am, I went back and looked at a little of the old Jim Steranko jumpsuits from the early days on S.H.I.E.L.D. a long time ago. I haven’t tried to draw those suits straight, but they provided some of the inspiration. And because of the nature of the story, the suits are also designed to provide perhaps a little more armor protection than the jumpsuits would’ve initially from Steranko’s issues.

I do actually have a scene coming up, in fact, on the page I’m drawing right now with one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Maria Hill. So I have a crack at drawing her, and she’s pretty much a kick-ass, take-charge type, which is kind of cool. And honestly, I’m having a lot of fun drawing the Frost Giants. That is one thing I’m really doing differently than what I did [before].

Indestructible Hulk #6 cover by Walt Simonson

Marvel: Are these “your” Frost Giants, or are you changing them up?

Walt Simonson: Well, we’re really making them out of ice more than when I drew the Giants back in the old days. I think Mark and I talked about maybe drawing a little inspiration from the Thor movie. I didn’t go back to the movie and try and draw those Frost Giants, but I did draw Frost Giants that were really more made out of ice and snow—spikey hair and stuff like that. And they’re really all different. Some of them almost have horns or protrusions on their heads, and a lot of them have almost like a Bob Marley haircut. They have all these ice spicules that go out from behind their head. But, I wanted them to be fairly wild in the way they looked. That’s kind of how I think of them at this point. And that’s the approach to them visually.

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

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