World War Hulk nearly tore the Marvel Universe apart…and that was when there was just one Hulk running around.  After an eventful year that has seen a Red Hulk, a new She-Hulk, and at least one Hulk-Spawn wandering around, it all comes together in December with the start of…wait for it…World War Hulks.

We had to get to the bottom of this.  And so, we recruited writer Jeff Parker whose involvement was just announced in Toronto at Fan Expo Canada 09, along with artist Paul Pelletier and regular Hulk-book writers Jeph Loeb and Greg Pak, to explain the story behind this hard-hitting tale of people getting hit hard.  And if you’re not caught up on recent Hulk events, don’t worry – we just posted a recap of everything you need to know about Hulk.

Newsarama: World War Hulks!  What is it, when is it, and how many issues is it?

Jeff Parker: The book I'm working on, Alpha , is an oversized story featuring the most intelligent heavies on Earth and begins the reintroduction of them all as very threatening men: The Leader, Dr. Doom, Mad Thinker, Egghead, Red Ghost and MODOK (if you consider MODOK a man, which I do- sort of).

This Intelligentsia, or INTEL, meet to acquire vast sums of secret knowledge, the thing they value most.

Jeph Loeb: Greg (Pak) and I, along with Hulktastic editor Marc “Panic” Paniccia) have been working in secret to get to this place for close to two years.  Starting with the end of World War Hulk, Greg brought the Hulk’s son Skaar into the Marvel Universe, while I introduced the Red Hulk.

The plan always was to take those books to Hulk #600, and then split our stories in Hulk and Incredible Hulk.  The main story then merges into this gigantic blockbuster called World War Hulks, while each title stays separate.  There will be more announcements about that soon.

Kicking it off, there will be two specials, Alpha and Gamma in December.  Hulk#18 (more about that in the near future) is a single, stand-alone prologue story, and then all heck breaks loose in January.

Nrama:  Now, is this going to cross into the other Hulk books, or beyond?

Greg Pak:  The story will be set up in the Alpha and Gamma prologues and told in Jeph's Hulk book and my own Incredible Hulk book.  A few other books will be announced in the fullness of time.

Loeb:  This has all been coordinated to tell our stories side-by-side.  We are going to try and do something that – dare I say it – has never been done, and deadlines willing, we’ll pull it off!

Nrama:  So...by "Hulks," exactly how many Hulks are we talking about?  And how afraid should the rest of the Marvel Universe be about now?

Pak:  The Hulk by himself nearly destroyed the entire eastern seaboard in World War Hulk.  So the Marvel Universe should be absolutely horrified at the prospect of multiple Hulks cutting loose. 

Loeb: Greg and I woke one morning with Hulks on our face.  So there’s Red Hulk, Skaar: Son of Hulk, Red She-Hulk, and Savage She-Hulk.  Whether or not the She-Hulk (Jen Walters) or Green Hulk (Bruce Banner) make it will have to be seen to be believed.

Nrama:  Paul!  We know you can draw the non-human creatures indulging in ultraviolance from the late, lamented Negation and your recent work in the Marvel Cosmic books.  What led you to work on this series, and what have been some of the thrills and challenges so far?

Paul Pelletier: Well, towards the middle of War of Kings, I started to sniff around to see what projects might be available after I was done. This was one of the few times where I was interested in getting a project on a specific book....usually, I just grab the first thing available (hey...a job is a job!).

I've been wanting to work on some Hulk stuff, and fortunately, this project popped up!  So far, working with Jeff has been fun, but it's kinda early in the process for me.  The thrills and challenges are yet to come...except for the fact that I'm working on Hulk related stuff!

Nrama:  Jeff, what's it been like working with Paul?  What's he bring to the book?

Parker: Paul is incredible. I already knew he was good even without Mark Paniccia raving about him, but then when his art starts rolling in, it's hard to not be impressed.

 Not a lot of artists can get across the power he does on a page, you feel like things are really happening on a monumental level. And he is FAST!  The guy is just a real pro in every sense of the word.

Nrama: Okay, the Intelligentsia…or INTEL are the main villains.  Describe how these guys relate to each other.  Do they speak in their own secret language, or compete in such brain-bending games as Simon?  Or do they have...higher stakes?

Parker: They all seem to share the habit of carefully choosing their words when it comes to honoring promises amongst themselves.

That's telling, because none of the Intel think of themselves as rogues or criminals, they all just assume that ordinary laws are for average IQs- and shouldn't apply to geniuses like them.

Nrama: Now, it's been looking like MODOK on his lonesome has been causing a great deal of personal stress for everybody in the Hulk's main book,  but has everybody's favorite large-headed hover-chair-rider been getting some crib notes from his INTEL peeps?

Parker: In Alpha, MODOK hasn't been as verbose as he might ordinarily- in fact he's creepily quiet. Because he's observing, and processing information. No bit of info, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is being dismissed by MODOK. Everything is useful for his grand plans in some way.

Nrama: Now, Jeff, you wrote one of the great MODOK stories, “Everybody Becomes MODOC” in Marvel Adventures: Avengers.  However, that was MODOC -- Mobile Organism Designed Only for CONQUEST.  This here is Mobile Etcetera KILLING.  How is this MODOK different from your kid-friendly Marvel Adventures MODOC?

Parker: Yes, this MODOK has no problem with killing. No one at AIM had a problem with shoving him against his will into an experiment designed to grow his brain, and he has the same regard for all of humanity.

He sees himself as the Mind of the World, trying to bring it all under control, into his order.

Nrama: The answer to this question should be obvious to most laymen, but what is it that makes MODOK so...MODOK?  I was going to say "awesome," but really, MODOK transcends "awesome."  Possibly even "Airwolf."

Parker: You know, MODOK is very Airwolf, we all agree on that. His head is so big he needs a hover chair to get around, and his brain makes so much energy he's got extra to purge at you with a BRAIN BLAST.

But beyond that, someone with my mere intelligence can't quantify it. Only MODOK could, and he just won't bother to try to explain it to us.

Nrama: Jeph, Greg – how is this going to tie into your books?

Loeb: It starts out very much like the way Hulk and Incredible are currently going.  My cast generally focuses on Red Hulk, while Greg’s has Banner and Skaar.  But very quickly, there’s all sorts of trading between us. 

I’ve been itching to write Skaar, and rumor has it that Greg has plans for Red She-Hulk that are mind-blowingly awesome.

Nrama:  How's Skaar doing?  That's an angry young man right there. He seems to have some daddy issues...

Pak:  I guess being unwittingly abandoned by your father, born in fire, and cut and slashed and stabbed by nearly every living thing you've encountered in your brief life tends to color a person's attitude a bit. 

See Incredible Hulk #601 to get a fuller sense of just how deep those daddy issues go and what Skaar's insane plan of action is at the moment.

Nrama: That Red Hulk has been a right hater lately.  He's bringing everyone down when he's not making the temperature go up.  Might ol' Rulky prove a bad influence on Bruce's wayward offspring, and might his mysterious identity come into play?

Loeb: Rest assured that before World War Hulks is over, all the secrets will be revealed.  We’ve waited just as long as the readers to be able to tell the full origin of the Red Hulk, and now we have the story that will do just that.  All the players are in place.

Nrama: Will the Warbound be back into play, and if so, what are they up to?

Pak:  You'll catch a glimpse of at least one of the Warbound in the The List: The Hulk one-shot coming in November.

Nrama: For that matter, might some other Gamma-players in the Marvel Universe be stepping up to the plate, such as the Leader, Doc Samson, She-Hulk 1.0 or even Madman?  Nickle if you remember Madman.  He might need to change his name these days.

Pak:  Yes to at least two on your list.  I'll say no more.  Also, dontcha dare miss the return of the Harpy in Incredible Hulk #604 in October.

Loeb: I’ll cop to more on Samson.  Check out Hulk#18.

Nrama:  What's the tone of this story?  Because given all the build-up, it seems pretty unlikely to end with someone hitchhiking into the sunset while sad piano music tinkles on the soundtrack...

Pak:  With a name like World War Hulks, it's gotta have smashing.  But heart-rending tragedy and big emotional payoffs have always been a part of the Hulk vibe, so don't throw your hankies away just yet.

Loeb: Everything our cast has done will come at a price.  Red Hulk’s Action in Hulk#600 that resulted in Banner no longer becoming Hulk will start an avalanche of consequences.  

There are surprises in store, both good and bad, for both Banner and Red Hulk.  It won’t be easy for either of them – and they are the strongest there is.  Or was...

Nrama:  What is it with superheroes and offspring they don't know about because of interplanetary disasters/being frozen in time/Norman Osborn intervening/their genetic material getting stolen?  Between Skaar and L'il Lyra, not to mention some unanswered questions in the past, Bruce is ranking up the deadbeat dad points!  Will we wind up with a world like this Zeb Wells video?  And more to the point, will these haunted half-siblings meet and bond over their cruel, prematurely-aged fates?

Pak:  Keep on reading!

Loeb: You have something against kids?

Nrama: Now, there's a number of crossovers going on these days.  What makes World War Hulks such a great story that readers should start setting aside their funnybook dollars?

Pak:  It's the kind of insanely huge, no-holds-barred smashfest that could only be done in comics.  For sheer, visceral, fun action, it's gonna be tough to top.  But what really makes me excited is that this is the culmination of multiple huge, emotional through lines for our characters.

All mysteries and character development of our biggest characters pay off in the hugest ways imaginable during this story.  It's absolutely critical for Bruce Banner, the Hulk, and every member of the Hulk Family -- and it'll set up an incredibly rich dramatic arc for future stories.

Loeb: This is the story that Greg and I have been building toward.  If you came on board during Planet Hulk were wowed by World War Hulk, enjoyed Red Hulk and are digging what’s going on with Banner and Skaar, all roads lead to this one kick-ass adventure.

Similarly, if you haven’t been reading either Hulk book (and the Hulk knows who YOU are), this is a great time to jump on.  The Alpha and Gamma books will be an excellent entry point, and we’ve created something that is purposefully accessible for everyone.

Nrama: Assuming there's any survivors from this, you've now had World War Hulk and World War Hulks.  Can this conflict possibly be topped?

 Pak:  World War Smurfs.  I think licensing is working on the clearances now.

Loeb:  Well, my daughter Audrey has been writing a certain Blue Hulk in the Mini-Marvels Hulk stories at the end of every issue.  Like we said, this has been planned for a very long time.

Nrama: Hey!  Almost forgot.  Is any of this going to affect Norman's Dark Reign?  He seems to have his goblin-y fingers in an awful lot of pies lately...

 Pak:  See The List: The Hulk for Norman's latest angle on the world of the Hulks.

Loeb:  The Intelligentsia has a very definite opinion about Norman Osborn and how he will or won’t affect their plans.  Check out Alpha in December.

Nrama:  What's Bruce's state of mind coming into this?  As of late, he seems to be pretty petulant about not Hulking out.

Pak:  All will be revealed in Incredible Hulk #601, which hits comic book stores on August 26 (Newsarama Note: In stores NOW, as this interview was conducted prior to the book's release; click here for a preview).  Let's just say that we're about to meet a whole new Bruce Banner who has a very specific mission in mind that will serve as the catalyst of some critical elements of World War Hulks.

Loeb: Love, love, love what Greg is doing over in Incredible.  My first instinct is to say that Bruce is a little more than petulant about Hulking out since Hulk#600, because he can’t do that any more.

That’s not to say there won’t be a green Hulk…oops, maybe I said too much there.  Pak no smash Loeb!

Nrama: What's the deal with that Hiro-Kala?  He MIGHT have some Banner-genes in him as well, but he's clear on the other side of the universe at the moment...

Pak:  You'll have to read the awesome Son of Hulk book from writer Paul Jenkins to find out just what's up with Hiro-Kala.  I'll just say that at least two members of the Hulk family have made their way across the universe to Earth so far, so you never know!

Nrama: And will Herc and that ultra-smart delinquent Amadeus Cho be getting involved in this gamma-powered fracas?

Pak:  At least one of the two will play a major role.

Nrama: You know, the Hulk has appeared in many types of stories over the decades, ranging from psychological drama to interplanetary adventure.  And yet, somehow, it always comes back to smashing.  Why do people love to see the Hulk Smash?

Pak:  Everybody on the planet gets annoyed on a daily basis -- it's just part of the human condition.  But for civilization to endure, we've been conditioned to control our anger as best we can.

 So Hulk stories give us a huge amount of vicarious pleasure -- maybe we can't cut loose ourselves, but we sure as heck can enjoy it when the Hulk does.  But what really makes the stories resonate on the deepest level is that there's always a price for that anger -- just as there is in the real world. 

Loeb: This is one of the many reasons why working with Greg is so much fun.  We have a chance in this story to take the action to a new level, but never at the expense of our drama. 

By and large, the best Hulk stories are tragedies – starting from the first appearance, when Banner’s life was essentially ruined.  When World War Hulks is over, the lives of all our Hulks will be significantly different.

Nrama:  Anything else you'd like to say about World War Hulks?

Pak:  Working with all of the creators and editors in the Hulk brain trust has been a huge kick in the pants.  Everyone's bringing an enormous love for these characters, a ridiculous mastery of Hulk-related esoterica, and a wild-eyed willingness to take the kinds of big risks that can pay off with insane thrills and real emotional resonance. 

Loeb:  We’re swinging for the fences with this one.  We not only want to tell the best Hulk story we can, but we have a chance to advance our supporting characters as well.

One of the joys of this includes what Jeff is doing in Alpha, where those villains in the Intelligentsia can be elevated to the most dangerous men in the Marvel Universe…

World War Hulks smashes its way into comic shops this December.

Zack Smith (zack.zacharymsmith@gmail.com) is a regular contributor to Newsarama

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