This week heralds the first issue of HULK under the auspices of new writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman. The duo has worked together previously, on projects ranging from the various AGENTS OF ATLAS series of recent vintage, to the Hulk/Monster of Frankenstein battle in MONSTER-SIZE HULK (which was their first work together). The HULK series will not focus on the green-skinned behemoth Bruce Banner becomes, but instead it will keep its focus on “Thunderbolt” Ross, the man who hunted Banner for years and who has become his own monster, the Red Hulk. I tracked Jeff down some time ago, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his newest project.
DAILY P.O.P.: You and Gabriel Hardman are coming off an acclaimed run on ATLAS. How is working on HULK different from that series?
JEFF PARKER: It’s a much smaller cast, so we can lavish some time and space on character that we couldn’t with Atlas. In a way it’s like writing a play that has expensive special effects and high-profile guest stars.
DP: And one big, red, Hulkish star. Lay us some groundwork. In your words, who is “Thunderbolt” Ross, and what makes him a good character to stand alone as Red Hulk apart from Bruce Banner?
JP: For most readers over the decades, “Thunderbolt” Ross has been the preeminent figure representing the military, and always holding that military role in opposition to super-powered people. But from years of being so close to the fire in essence, he’s been burned–he’s become the thing he fought for so long. And he completely did it to himself, he can’t blame anyone else. It leaves him in a very interesting place for a character.
He’s reached the end of one life and is beginning another, and though we may resent him for a lot of reasons, we can empathize with him at the same time. And he was never evil, just wrong headed. Seeing the world through the eyes of being a Hulk is a big transformation beyond being able to punch through a mountain. I think readers will see some of their friends and family and even themselves in Ross.
DP: In Jeph Loeb’s HULK, the Red Hulk was deeply entrenched in the Bruce Banner Hulk’s corner of the Marvel Universe, with his allies and enemies. Will that be changing when you take over?
JP: It’s transitioning–he’s still in Banner’s world in the first arc, and we examine the two Hulks with that. But then the Red Hulk’s presence starts carving out new territory with wild new threats, and that’s exciting for me.
DP: You’ve written Red Hulk before, in the FALL OF THE HULKS: RED HULK miniseries. How has working on that series prepared you for the HULK gig?
JP: It completely prepared me, it gave a place to find his voice, and Jeph would get me back on track if I was drifting off. It also let me establish some backstory with Rick – now A-BOMB- and I get to continue that in the A-Bomb backups, which will later come into play in the main story. I’m really lucky to have gotten to do that beforehand rather than jumping into the series cold!
DP: Ross hasn’t had very many friends that we’ve seen, and has hardly been shown outside his military life. Will you be fleshing out these aspects of Ross, as well as the fact he’s parted from the military?
JP: Yes. Ross is going to start building up his own world, and because he’s a different kind of Hulk, it will be different than what you’ve seen before. Ross is trying to find a new role for himself, but he’s still a difficult guy. And we’ll see his daughter Betty of course, when she’s ready to see him again.
DP: Will Red Hulk joining the Avengers substantially change the HULK series? How?
JP: Actually, it fits pretty naturally with what I was going to do–Steve Rogers is trying to help Ross find a new outlet for all that power, and the Avengers routinely find things to hit. I just read Brian’s script for his first appearance and enjoyed it. It’ll be fun for me to read him in another book.
DP: Your comics usually feature your unique brand of humor. Will that sensibility be intact in HULK?
JP: Nope, I’m done with funny. Just kidding, of course there’s humor. But I think we’ve refined it to it’s driest form yet so it fits the subject best. I’ll be interested to hear what you think!
DP: Thanks, Jeff!
That’s it for this interview session, folks! But please, enjoy Jeff’s first issue, HULK #25, on sale this Wednesday, September 22, at a comic shop near you!
For now, thrill to these awesome preview pages from the issue!