Lately, the angrier the Hulk has gotten, the bigger his "family" has gotten. Skaar, "Rulk", and soon the Red She-Hulk are all new additions to the Hulk mythology since Greg Pak shot him into outer space a few year back, and next year Marvel is going to bring them all together for one big, dysfunctional family reunion in the event World War Hulks.
But before that Marvel will be releasing two prelude specials later this year, subtitled Alpha and Gamma. Newsarama recently caught up with the architects of the event – original World war Hulk writer Greg Pak and current Hulk writer Jeph Loeb - to see what information we could pry out of them about not only the specials, but the event they lead into.
In World War Hulks Alpha, Marvel readers are introduced to a mysterious group known as ‘the Intelligencia’ a secret organization that has been around since the early days of the Marvel Universe. “They've been waiting patiently, studying nearly every battle, defeats and victories, getting ready to make their move,” Loeb explained. “It's been said that the best battle plan is one that wins the war before it ever begins. That is their strategy.”
The Intelligencia will play a key role in the full World War Hulks event, where their years of back-room planning come to the forefront as they take action. But where did the idea come from, and how?
“The Intelligencia grew out of a mini-summit where the "Hulk Group": Greg Pak, myself, Ed McGuinness, Jeff Parker, Fred Van Lente, and from Editorial Mark Paniccia, Jordan White and Nate Cosby, spent a few days in New York working out the big beats to World War Hulks,” said Loeb. “ It was this amazing opportunity for us to all sit together and flesh out all the things the books have been heading toward since World War Hulk. On the last day we brought it before "The Committee" of Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso for their input and blessing. It was awesome.”
Loeb joined the Hulk group in 2008 when he and Ed McGuinness began work on the recent Hulk series which came about in the aftermath of World War Hulk.
“During those discussions, Greg and I hit on this idea ... a kind of "What If?" idea ... where you ask a hypothetical question -- this happened to be about what is the inciting incident with World War Hulks -- and came to the conclusion that much like The Illuminati fit neatly into the major pieces of Marvel Continuity, here was a chance for a different group, made up of established characters who might have been working behind the scenes since very early in the Marvel Universe,” Loeb explained. “This isn't some great big continuity change up -- but it created a way for the battle plan to be drawn up for World War Hulks (by these behind the scenes characters) having studied the defeats and victories of every hero and villain. Who has the capacity to create such a library, much less understand it all and then make us of it?
“The adage is 'Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it,'" added the writer. “The Intelligencia has no intention of repeating the mistakes of the past.
Following up on WWHS: Alpha is WWHS: Gamma, which promises to be the kick-off of sorts to World War Hulks.
“WWHS: Gamma is the actual flashpoint of the War,” Loeb explained. “There is a single stunning incident that will bring everyone into play -- the three Hulks (Green, Red and Son) and three She-Hulks -- (Jen, the new Red She-Hulk and the new Savage She-Hulk). As this family has expanded, this gigantic confrontation became inevitable. “
Pak, who spearheaded the recent revitalization of the Hulk with the “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk” storylines and rejoins the Hulk family with Incredible Hulk #601, said the escalating scope of the Hulk's role in the Marvel Universe was always where his stories were going…
“We had a long term plan that we certainly hoped we'd be able to play out all the way through,” he said, adding his thanks to the “"many, many readers and retailers who bought so many books and allowed the franchise to keep Hulking out!”
“I remember trading excited phone calls with Hulk editor extraordinaire Mark Paniccia as we realized the circulation numbers were actually increasing during the Planet Hulk run. It's been a kick to see the character continue to garner new fans -- and expand his universe in some pretty radical ways. Mostly I feel lucky to have been pulled on board at a time when the Green Goliath was ready to cut loose. It's been a heck of a ride, and it's about to get even crazier.”
In the aftermath of the original World War Hulk, Pak split off from Hulk for a time as Incredible Hulk was renamed Incredible Hercules. Loeb launched the simply named Hulk to continue the green goliath’s story, and while Hercules’ title continues to prosper, Pak has come full circle to bring back Incredible Hulk in it’s original numbering, joining Loeb’s Hulk on the comic book shelves. As it turns out, this too was all part of the master plan.
“Greg, Mark and I starting talking about this during World War Hulk,” revealed Loeb. “We have worked side-by-side establishing new characters -- which is always a daunting task -- with Red Hulk and Skaar. Together we laid the groundwork that built to 600. From there the books would split into two -- Hulk starting with Hulk #13 with myself and my awesome partner Ed McGuinness and Incredible Hulk #601 with Pak and astonishing artwork by Ariel Olivetti.”
Loeb’s Hulk will star the raucous Red Hulk, while Pak’s Incredible Hulk will feature Bruce Banner and son of Hulk, Skaar. This idea of family is one that has been growing for the Hulk since 2006, and something referenced even in Mark Millar’s recent Old Man Logan storyline set in the future.
“Greg took a very bold step in creating Skaar,” said Loeb. “Now there is a Son of Hulk. At the same time, McGuinness and I introduced Red Hulk which allowed us to see a different Hulk who we hadn't seen before. As we all hoped, both characters clicked. While this happening, the stories lent themselves to looking at She-Hulk/Jen Walters and trying to do the same thing -- create new ways of telling stories with the She-Hulk concept. Out of that grew Savage She-Hulk and Red She-Hulk. That's really the core group.”
With the recent additions of the Red Hulk and now a Red She-Hulk to the Green Goliath’s family, there’s still the mystery of who they are exactly. Teased in the pages of Loeb’s Hulk, readers looking for an answer need to stay tuned to World War Hulks.
“Yes, they’ll be revealed in World War Hulks,” confirmed Loeb. “Absolutely. But, Ed and I have always said that The Red Hulk's identity isn't nearly as important as his origin and agenda. Ben Urich says it best in Incredible Hulk #600 by tying it Watergate. If you focus on the break-in, you'll miss the big picture. There is a war coming. MODOK has reactivated the terrorist organization A.I.M. General Ross has committed treason. There's a very real gamma super soldier program now.
"These are not small things to be overlooked. And it all very much tied to the end of World War Hulk!”
But there’s more to a Hulk book than just the various Hulks themselves, said Loeb.
“The supporting cast has been there for years and like many iconic characters, we had no intention of leaving them behind,” Loeb revealed. “Rick Jones, General Ross, Doc Samson are wonderful characters who provide us with different viewpoints and subplots. Having Rick become A-Bomb and Doc Samson dragged into his dark side while Ross has thrown in with some very bad guys tied together the major storyline we've been building. And as it should be, this is a Bruce Banner story. The Hulk began with him. “
The idea of tying it all into the man inside the Hulk is key for both Pak and Loeb, who have made it a major part of their Hulk stories to date. Loeb, who in addition to his comic works has worked on television shows such as Heroes, Lost and Smallville, really enjoys the collaboration with Pak.
“I've got so much respect for Greg and what he accomplished with World War Hulk -- and everything he did that led up to it!,” Loeb said warmly. “Our mission is to match or possibly even top WWH. Fortunately, I have the WWH architect as my partner! “
Although the various Hulks can’t seem to get along, Pak and Loeb seem on much better terms.
“It's been a blast working with Jeph,” Pak said. “He's incredibly supportive, hilarious, and full of insane ideas and a deep love of these characters. What I love about the story we're building with World War Hulks is that it may have more smash than any Hulk story ever told -- but it's also a massive emotional story with world-changing consequences for every member of the Hulk family. We're smashing things up but good in ways that provide massive emotional closure but lay incredibly rich groundwork for the future. In short -- add it to your pull list, baby!”