SDCC Exclusive: AARON, SILVESTRI Relaunch INCREDIBLE HULK

 

Though the Red Hulk has been going strong in the Jeff Parker-written Hulk series, the future of the classic green-skinned Hulk has been much murkier in recent months. He's currently transformed into one of the Serpent's Worthy in Fear Itself, and in May news hit that the Incredible Hulks series would end when Greg Pak's run wraps with August's #635.

At their "Fear Itself" panel Sunday afternoon at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Marvel revealed what's next: a brand new Incredible Hulk #1 in October, from the high-profile creative team of writer/Marvel Architect Jason Aaron (Wolverine, Scalped) and artist/Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri (Uncanny X-Men, The Darkness).

As you might expect from major recent developments with the character, the new series isn't just Hulk business as usual. The story picks up with Hulk and Bruce Banner physically split into different beings, and the traditional inner conflict between the two becomes a very literal one.

Newsarama talked with Aaron about what attracted him to writing Incredible Hulk, working with Silvestri, and what we might see — and probably won't see — in the near future of the book.

 

Newsarama: Jason, people might be a bit surprised to hear about you doing Incredible Hulk, given how closely you're involved with the X-Men side of things right now. How did the gig launching the new Incredible Hulk series come about?

Jason Aaron: It's something we've actually been talking about and working on for a while. I've been pretty deep in the X-Men universe for a while now, doing lots of Wolverine and doing more X-Men stuff going forward. I relish the chance to kind of jump into a bit more of the center of the Marvel Universe, and Hulk's the kind of character I like, where it's not a traditional superhero character. He's had a lot of weird, crazy adventures over the years, from going to different dimensions, to other planets, at times he's a hero, at times he's a villain. I jumped at the chance to throw my hat in the ring and try to make my own mark on a character that's been so many crazy things over the years.

Nrama: Yeah, Hulk's a very versatile character in that way, which must be one of the big attractions for a writer. So I'm guessing you're a long-term Hulk fan?

Aaron: Oh, sure, going back to the TV show. I loved the Hulk TV show, I still watch it once in a while. One of the benefits of working from home is that you get to watch daytime television every once in a while.

I've always been a Hulk fan, and like you said, Hulk is a very versatile character. What's cool is that it's not a character you can really pin down. It's not a character with a history you can define in a couple of sentences. Captain America you can boil down, Spider-Man you can boil down — Hulk has been a lot of different things At the end of the day, it always comes back to that dynamic between Banner and this other persona that's inside him, the Hulk. That's what my book will focus on. I'll be trying to kind of turn the tables a little bit and look at that from a different perspective.

Nrama: It sounds like that conflict between Bruce Banner and the Hulk is very literal in your series — they're separate — and you'll be looking at Bruce Banner as the real threat, not the Hulk?

Aaron: Yeah. I did want to flip that dynamic on his head. For so many years, the stories have focused on Banner as a sympathetic character, and Hulk as this monster that he's sort of burdened with. This is very much a Hulk story. Banner is a big part of it, but we're more looking at things from the Hulk's perspective. This is a situation where for years what was an internal tug of war between these two characters is now being played out literally. For whatever reasons, whatever means, they've been split apart, gone their separate ways, but events serve to drag them back together. No matter what they do, no matter how far they go, they still seem to be brought back together, as we move towards a quite literal Banner vs. Hulk confrontation.

 

Nrama: Does this position Bruce Banner almost as the antagonist in the book, or is not quite that cut and dry?

Aaron: It's not quite that cut and dry. I'm not changing Bruce Banner; I'm not suddenly turning him into Dr. Doom. But certainly he's got some issues that are compounded by the events of this book. The Bruce Banner we pick up with in the pages of Incredible Hulk #1 is in a very different place than the Bruce Banner we saw at the end of Fear Itself.

The events of Fear Itself, and everything the the Hulk goes through in the pages of that, and everything the Hulk's going through in the pages of Greg Pak's last arc on the book, that all kind of feeds into the situation we see Hulk and Banner both in in Incredible Hulk #1. We don't initially know what happened, what was the breaking point, how this happened, why it happened — but as things go along, we see how all this stuff kind of fed into creating this strange, new dynamic for Incredible Hulk.

Nrama: The Hulk has a lot of familiar characters surrounding him, and a lot have been added — or altered — in recent years. This sounds pretty squarely focused on Banner and the Hulk, but will we see any other familiar faces?

Aaron: I did want to do something that would focus more squarely on just Banner and the green-skinned Hulk. The first couple of issues there are references to some of the other Hulks, there's a scene with Betty, but this is the book that kind of comes back to ground and focuses in on getting these two sides of this one persona, Banner and the Hulk. It's not a book where you need to be familiar with the last several years of Hulk continuity. It's a great jumping-on point if you want to check out some Hulk stories, but it's not a reboot. We're not throwing out any of the stuff from recent years, that'll all still come into play. Going forward, I'll be working with Jeff Parker who does Hulk, and we'll be working to create a cohesive Hulk universe. But with this book I wanted to focus in again on the original Hulk, and give people a fresh point to jump on.

Nrama: This sounds like you've got a pretty long-term run in mind.

Aaron: Yeah, what's set in motion in the pages of Incredible Hulk #1 is a dynamic and a new status quo that will play out over the course of several arcs. Certainly this first arc is a direct lead-in to the second arc, which is the quite literal Banner vs. Hulk story.

Nrama: And a very big element of this series is Marc Silvestri on art.

Aaron: Yeah, a guy I've never worked with before, obviously I've known his work for years, been a huge fan. I've been hitting him with a lot of crazy stuff. The first couple issues there are new characters, new threats, a lot of crazy monsters. He's had a lot of big things to draw, and he's just been knocking it out of the park. I've been really thrilled with the stuff I've seen coming in.

Nrama: And it definitely adds to the profile of the book to have an artist like Silvestri on the series, who doesn't take on ongoing series often, and his Marvel work especially has been limited in recent years.

Aaron: It makes it seem a little more special when you've got a guy whose stuff you don't see at Marvel very often.

Nrama: Going back a little bit, you mentioned new characters — is adding to the Hulk mythos one of the priorities of the series?

Aaron: You'll see a new supporting cast emerge. For the most part our cast will focus in pretty squarely on Banner and the Hulk, but outside of that we introduce some new characters, so you can expect some new big, burly creatures for Hulk to punch in the face — all manner of big, burly creatures, I should say. Some new sort-of allies — sometimes allies, sometimes enemies — that will be a part of the Hulk title for the foreseeable future.

Nrama: As a Hulk fan, are there any past runs on the book you're looking to as inspiration, either directly or indirectly?

Aaron: You can't really talk about the Hulk without talking about Peter David's run. I read all that stuff off the rack as it was coming out. I think I first started when [Todd] McFarlane, and then Erik Larsen, were drawing it. Even before that, I loved the short John Byrne run, which I think was the first time we had ever seen Hulk and Banner split apart into two different entities. And then the Bruce Jones run really hooked me on Hulk again. That was a book that really made the Hulk a monster again, it really kind of changed the tone of the book. It wasn't a superhero book, which I liked.

Incredible Hulk

#3 cover.

Then you've got to give Greg Pak big credit. He's taken the Hulk to all-new heights over the course of his long run, and done some amazing, character-defining stories.

It's an imposing legacy to follow — as with most Marvel characters, but Hulk in particular. He's one of those characters that are hard to nail down. He's been a lot of different things, he's functioned within a lot of different kinds of stories, from straight superhero stories — obviously, he was one of the original Avengers, and he was a Defender — but also, look at something like "Planet Hulk," and that's a straight sci-fi story. Or the Bruce Jones stuff, which is kind of espionage mixed with an element of horror. That's the kind of stuff I like, and that's what I've tried to do with Wolverine; mix it up and do different tones, and different genres. Some of the initial stuff on Hulk will be more high-octane, action/adventure stuff, but I look forward to mixing up a little bit more.

Nrama: Between the comics, the old show, two movies, cartoons, and more, Hulk is just one of the most recognizable characters in Marvel's stable, so a new Incredible Hulk #1 means a lot.

Aaron: And Hulk is in this little movie that's coming out next year, so that's not going to hurt his profile any, either.

Nrama: Your schedule's pretty full already — coming in the fall you've got Wolverine and the X-Men, along with solo Wolverine, PunisherMAX and of course Scalped. Are you going to have to maybe step away from one of those for Incredible Hulk?

Aaron: I won't be able to continue doing all of those, but it's worked out to where as I was started to kind of segue off of a couple of titles, I'd pick up a couple. So I'm not having to drop anything against my will.

Punisher from the get-go was one big story, and we're moving to the close of that story. I'm still getting to tell the story I wanted to tell there. There will be a few months there later this fall where I think the shelves at the local comic stores will be overflowing with books with my name on it, so people may start to get a little sick of me. I'm really excited about everything I'm doing. I'm getting to do a lot of different kinds of books.

Hulk is very different from Wolverine and the X-Men, which is very different from PunisherMAX, so I'm just happy I'm getting to mix it up a lot like that.

UPDATED: More Marvel OCTOBER 2011 Highlights (New HULK)

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