When Hulk went missing in Marvel's September solicitations last month, observers were confused as to the status of the Jeff Parker-written series, which didn't appear cancelled but didn't seem to be on the schedule, instead existing in a Schrödinger's cat-like state of being.
Wonder no more: As revealed Thursday during Marvel's "Next Big Thing" panel at Comic-Con in San Diego, it's becoming Red She-Hulk as of October's issue #58, keeping the numbering and Parker, but adding a new main character in the form of Betty Ross — Bruce Banner's long-time on-again, off-again love/Thunderbolt "Red Hulk" Ross's daughter, who became a Hulk herself back in 2009. "Planet Hulk" artist Carlo Pagulayan is joining Parker on the book, which the writer says will be "taking on gender tension in our society" (along with copious amounts of superhuman smashing, it seems).
Newsarama talked with Parker to learn about his plans for Betty, the similarities between this transition and the one earlier in the year with Parker's Thunderbolts becoming Dark Avengers, and the big question of what's going to happen to Red Hulk if he's no longer the star of the book.
Newsarama: Jeff, the natural first question, even though you may likely not be able to say much at this point, is if Red She-Hulk is taking over the ongoing series, what does that mean for the status of the Red (male) Hulk? Is the outcome of Avengers vs. X-Men as unkind to him as some advance solicitations have suggested?
Jeff Parker: He has a very big role to play in a whole other book! It's kind of perfect, too. And it leaves Betty a whole book to rampage through.
Nrama: Moving the focus to Red She-Hulk — what do you like about writing the character? Upon launch, Red She-Hulk will be one of the few solo books with a female lead character at Marvel or elsewhere. How important is that aspect of the series to you, especially given that it's a character who was historically portrayed as frequently in distress (Matt Fraction described her as a "human football and danger magnet") who is now a superhero and a Hulk in her own right?
Parker: The cool thing about her is as Matt said, she's had to be a princess in a tower, someone who's importance was all in her relationship to Banner/Hulk. What if a character like that finally was given a chance to release her rage all nuclear and Hulk style?
Her anger is built up during years that many readers had the chance to watch, being a pawn between heroes and villains. And if you didn't, you'll still be able to relate to the way she goes after what she wants and doesn't settle for compromise — she has Hulk in her name, she doesn't have to. Yes, we'll be taking on gender tension in our society — people freaked out plenty at the Hulk ripping through with unchecked power, but there seems to be an added level of fear now that a woman is in that role.
Traditionally, Hulk has never had many female readers, and I want to invite women to check out the first couple of issues. I think you'll find something you've been looking for.
Nrama: What can you say about Betty's mission at the onset of the series, and who she's targeting?
Parker: She has become convinced of a major threat to humanity though, by a mysterious group. And that threat comes in the form of a new program to make more stable superhumans for national defense.
Nrama: A Red She-Hulk ongoing series suggests that we might see some more familiar Hulk family characters, be it Bruce Banner, the original She-Hulk or her aforementioned pop, Red Hulk. Do you have plans for any of these characters thus far in the series? Or maybe her teammates in Defenders?
Parker: Yes, you should be seeing the big Marvel heroes soon, and they're not there to help her. Because of the way she goes after the superhuman program, the Avengers and others have no choice but to try and stop her. We'll see where her fellow Defenders stand too. She's going to be a polarizing figure in this. Readers may even question if they think she's right, but will want to see the fallout from her actions.
Nrama: Carlo Pagulayan, who you have worked with previously on Hulk, is illustrating Red She-Hulk with you. How is your dynamic different with the change in focus?
Parker: He and the excellent Wellinton Alves are both working on this, with Val Staples (Valuable Val) coloring. They're really pushing to show impact and scale in this, as well as a woman you believe can level your city. Also they excel at subtle acting, of which there is plenty too. I'm very lucky to work with this art team.
Nrama: Earlier this year, another one of your books went through a similar shift as Thunderbolts became Dark Avengers. From your perspective, is this more of a change than that series went through? Less? Somewhere in the middle?
Parker: That has the latest incarnation of Dark Avengers growing organically out of Thunderbolts, like a new sprout making another mighty tree — and in a way this does work like that. The dynamic will be pretty different. Red Hulk in our shift wasn't a menace to the world at large, and Red She kind of is. But as you'll see, she's not a villain like the DA or Bolts. A true rogue character.
Nrama: You've been kicking around the Hulk world for a while now at Marvel, and it was at Comic-Con two years ago that you were announced as the new writer of Hulk — and you've written more than 30 issues in that period. What is it about these characters, and this corner of the Marvel Universe, that has kept you interested and engaged?
Parker: Hulk taps into modern myth, it works that way done right. Even though it's a high action and battle book, it lends itself to touching on a lot of life material. I think we all feel we have this nuclear storm inside that we have to manage to get through life. We may want to be Captain Americas, but we're all closer to Hulks.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!