Gabriel Hardman became an “A-List” artist working on things like Marvel’s Hulk, and now he’s back – with his frequent collaborator and co-writer Corinna Bechko – to write and draw a Savage Hulk story set in one of his favorite eras. Beginning in this week’s Savage Hulk #5 and continuing to next month’s #6, Hardman and Bechko are showing the Hulk at his most savage when he was banished to another dimension by Doctor Strange – revealing that he might have killed an entire civilization, and the Sorcerer Supreme thinks he’s to blame.
Pure magic versus pure muscle – Doctor Strange and the Hulk have fought each other as often as they’ve been friends or teammates, but Bechko promises this will show the Green Goliath at his most animalistic and dangerous – with no trace of Bruce Banner inside him.
Newsarama: Corinna, Gabriel, what can you tell us about your two issue story in Savage Hulk, starting this week?
Gabriel Hardman: It’s a two-issue, stand-alone arc set at a point in Hulk’s history where he was banished to an inter-dimensional crossroads by Doctor Strange. This was a great run from the mid-1980s written by Bill Mantlo and primarily drawn by Sal Buscema. In our story Strange discovers that Hulk may have committed genocide on an other-dimensional planet where he’s been sent. Of course this can’t be true and Strange feels it’s his responsibility get to the bottom of it.
Nrama: The solicitations for this promises that readers will see Hulk “without his humanity”; that sounds familiar to the new Doc Green persona seen in the main Hulk series. Is this tying into the current events of Hulk going on there, or is this something else?
Corinna Bechko: No, not at all, actually. The whole point of the Savage Hulk series is to tell stories outside the main continuity and explore other possibilities. Our arc takes place in an earlier era, when Hulk was fully an animal, with no trace of Banner inside him. At this time Hulk was exiled from Earth for being too destructive and potentially dangerous to humankind.
Nrama: Doctor Strange and Hulk is an odd and enticing mix – how’d it come to you to use Stephen in this story?
Hardman: Hulk and Strange actually have a long history of together, particularly when it comes to their time in the Defenders. It’s that history more than anything that brings them into conflict.
Bechko: Doctor Strange is a lot of fun to write, and the contrast between him and this iteration of Hulk gives a lot of room for drama and surprise. During the original “Crossroads” storyline it was Strange who banished Hulk from Earth, so it seemed natural to have him to be held accountable. In our story he has to face the unintended consequences of his carefully laid plans.
Nrama: And on both the plot and visual sides, how’d you go about balancing the all-muscle part of Hulk with the all-magic aspect that is Doctor Strange?
Hardman: Magic is tricky. I never want to tell a story that lacks solid rules that keep characters from doing anything they want. That’s part of why we set this in a dimension where there are limits on Strange’s abilities. But there is also a rival Sorcerer Supreme to keep him in check. And the book isn’t one big fight. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of big fighting and action sequences, but it’s not just Hulk vs. Strange. It’s just two issues but there are a lot of interesting surprises along the way.
Nrama: What do you think of the opportunity books like Savage Hulk provide, with different creative teams coming in for an arc – like Alan Davis before you?
Bechko: I love books that do this. It keeps the storylines fresh and gives fans the opportunity to dip in and read complete arcs without having to scrounge for multiple back issues to get the rest of the story. And it’s endlessly fascinating to discover how different creative teams handle the same character. I’m happy to see that there are several titles doing this now.
Hardman: This is my favorite way to work on an established character. It’s in continuity but not tied up in the current ongoing situation. We’re able to distill down the things we like most about these characters and present them in the most interesting way we can.
Nrama: Gabriel – last question is for you. You have a storied history with Hulk, both in the green and red varieties. What’s it like returning here to him but now being more involved in the story side of things?
Hardman: I had a great time working with Jeff Parker on Hulk a couple years ago and when the opportunity arose to write and draw a Hulk story, I didn’t hesitate. From the outside Hulk seems like a limited character but when it comes down to it, he’s a monster. And Monsters are a always a great for storytelling because we’re scared of them and we can also relate to them. Fear and pity. You’re not limited to a crime fighting story with Hulk. You can take him nearly anywhere and the character still works.