As first revealed earlier this week, Marvel Knights is back, in the form of three new miniseries debuting this fall: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Marvel Knights: X-Men, and Marvel Knights: Hulk.
All three of these miniseries feature creators best known for work on the independent scene taking on some of Marvel's very biggest names. For the four-issue Marvel Knights: Hulk, debuting in December, Glory, Hell Yeah and Morbius: The Living Vampire writer Joe Keatinge is paired with Sex artist Piotr Kowalski in a story that takes the Hulk to Paris — hunted by a mysterious character who's similarly transforming into a monster.
Newsarama talked with Keatinge to learn more about Marvel Knights: Hulk, it's Euro-Comics influence, and how Kowalski was the "first and only choice" for the story.
Newsarama: Joe, as a comics fan, what does the Marvel Knights imprint mean to you? Which of the stories under the umbrella have special significance to you?
Joe Keatinge: Marvel Knights has historically been an imprint featuring creators and approaches I don't think you'd otherwise see in the main titles at the time, going all the way back to books like Joe Quesada & Kevin Smith's Daredevil, Jae Lee & Grant Morrison's Fantastic Four: 1 2 3 4 and the Dodsons, Frank Cho and Mark Millar's Marvel Knights: Spider-Man. All of those were great — and I think that it's so hard to choose just one or two favorites is a testament to the decade of extremely strong curation its seen. It's a massive honor to be part of it.
Nrama: Marvel Knights has always been about stories a little different than the rest of the Marvel publishing line, and it looks like the new series coming this fall are no exception. In what ways do you see this story as something different than would appear in a more mainstream, ongoing Marvel title?
Keatinge: First, I just want to mention I'm loving the job Leinil Yu, Walt Simonson and Mark Waid have been doing on Indestructible Hulk. It's one of the best takes on the character in recent memory, in an era with a lot of great takes on the Hulk.
Second, that being said, our approach is very different — stylistically, there's the Euro-Comics influence, sure — but we're undertaking an international thriller, with an amnesiac Bruce Banner waking up with the Seine and seemingly no ability to turn into the Hulk. He's unknowingly at the epicenter of a secret war rooted in Marvel's past in conflict with its future. And how we're going about that is certainly dissimilar to what's going on in Indestructible. That being said, I'd rather remain mum on just what this means for now, as we're a ways out from December.
Nrama: By the Hulk's very nature, it's a character that has encompassed many different interpretations. How do you describe your take on the Hulk in this story?
Keatinge: That's one of the reasons I'm so enthralled with the character. Not only does he work under such a wide variety of interpretations — from Indestructible to Richard Corben & Brian Azzarello's Banner to being mistaken for a robot clown in Jack Kirby's Avengers — but that's something built into the character himself. I feel he represents a lot of things, the most obvious being how we deal with our own inner demons, the side of ourselves we don't understand and what happens when we're unable to deal and control it. That's a major thrust of all four issues — and as it's a physical metamorphosis for Banner, it's very much a metamorphosis for the book itself. Again, just what I mean by that will be more evident as the book comes out in December.
Nrama: Following that same line of logic, Hulk also seems like a character that can work in a variety of different genres — this one is billed as a mystery. From your perspective, what makes the Hulk specifically well-suited for this kind of story?
Keatinge: I think it comes in to what we were just talking about — that the versatility of his character makes him appropriate to work in something whether it's a mass-scale blockbuster like the Art Adams & Walt Simonson New Fantastic Four or the Joe Fixit era. He shares the element through Batman, that he's a tough character to bring in your execution as long as you respect him at it's core.
Nrama: For Marvel Knights: Hulk, you're paired with another creator known for work at Image, artist Piotr Kowalski. In what ways do you see his strengths as a good match for the story?
Keatinge: Piotr was my first and only choice for this, especially after my Euro-Comics approach was approved. He's an European artist with a major influence from American Comics, specifically the Hulk. Furthermore, on a personal level, we've been discussing working together for years, specifically on a project with Fabrice Sapolsky I'm hoping happens sooner than later. The opening double page spread of the book alone shows everything there is into why Piotr was the choice for the book.
Nrama: To dive into things a bit more specifically, this miniseries looks to be introducing a new character in the role of antagonist, one also with Hulk-esque properties. What, if anything, more can you say about this character, and how he or she developed?
Keatinge: I don't want to say much about them at this point. I'm increasingly getting tired of just how much plot is revealed in comics before they come out and I'm personally leaning towards keeping as mum about details as possible, whether it's this or my creator-owned stuff coming. What I will say is Banner's caught in the middle of a secret war between two generations as a super-science Nouvelle Vague emerges. What their deal is, why he's at the center, etc. — you'll find out in December.
Nrama: Also, setting seems to play an important role in the story, as the action takes place in Paris, rather than the more typical Marvel environment of New York City. What motivated the choice to set the story in Paris? And how big of an impact does that have on the story as a whole?
Keatinge: It was a few things. A big part of it is exactly what you mentioned — it's not the typical setting for Marvel books in general, but especially the Hulk, who I think is most associated with walking the American landscape. And it makes sense as why he's so associated with America, in my eyes he represents the American Nightmare as much as Captain American represents the American Ideal. The Hulk is what happens when the American dream is corrupt, when we shift our view from creating a better tomorrow and instead focus on destroying, well, everything.
Nrama: You've been making a name for yourself as a writer on Image titles, but you've also been working an increasing amount at DC and Marvel, on projects like this. How important is it for you to do both — contributing in both the creator-owned and work-for-hire worlds? Do you find them satisfying the same type of creative itches, or is it the differences that make them appealing?
Keatinge: For me, it's essential. I have no less than three series I'll be announcing soon through Image Comics — all 100 percent creator-owned. There's something about it in my DNA as a creator. I was ten years old when Image Comics launched. Spawn #10 was the comic that shifted my perspective from spectator to creator — the comic that made me realize human beings make these things and I wanted to be one of those human beings. In a sense, the creative itches are simultaneously, if not contradictory, similar and extremely different. With creator-owned, there's limitless freedom and it's something I would never, ever do without doing. With Big Two, there's working with these icons nearly anyone on Earth would recognize. There's something special about that — something that scratches an itch that's hard to scratch otherwise.
That being said, I will say that I feel Marvel Knights: Hulk is the closest I've come to doing a Big Two book with a freedom close to what I'd see at Image Comics, resulting in the most "me" thing I've written there thus far.