What kind of influence has Greg Pak had on his five-year stint on Incredible Hulk? Look no further than the creation of characters like Skaar and Korg, the 2010 Planet Hulk animated film, and the "Silver Savage" Super Hero Squad figure.Pak has guided the Hulk through both Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, and given him a family, reflected in the recent name change of the title to Incredible Hulks, plural. But you can probably tell where this is going — Pak is ending his run on the character, with a six-issue arc titled "Heart of the Monster," starting in June's Incredible Hulk #630 and running through #635. The story, announced during Marvel's "Next Big Thing" panel at C2E2 and illustrated by Paul Pelletier (who recently worked with Pak on the Chaos War tie-in issues of Incredible Hulks), finds the Hulk finally getting what he wants — what exactly that is, of course, is the crux of the story. Newsarama has the first interview with Pak on "Heart of the Monster," and also got the writer to look back a bit on some of his personal favorite moments of his work on Incredible Hulk. Newsarama: Greg — obviously we'll get into the nuts and bolts of the “Heart of the Monster” story, but first — this is the end of your Hulk run. I think a lot of people are going to be bummed when they read this. What makes now the right time to bow out?
Greg Pak: For the past five years, I've been telling a series of stories following a monstrously angry character who's always said he just wants to be alone — and yet he's made friends, built alliances, and ultimately surrounded himself with an honest-to-gosh family. The consequences of those actions have been playing out with ever-higher stakes over this last year of stories. And now everything's coming to a head. I dearly love the Hulk and all the characters I've been working with for these five years. But as I've hinted for a while now, we're finally arriving at the massive climax of everything I've been exploring.
Nrama: And there's no doubt the huge legacy you're leaving with the character — from “Planet Hulk” to World War Hulk to Skaar, “World War Hulks” and beyond — but if you could indulge us in a little bit of self-reflection, what are some of your particular, personal highlights from your run on Hulk?
Pak: "Hulk slash" in Incredible Hulk #92.
The Caiera marriage in Incredible Hulk #102.
"I want to hear you scream" in World War Hulk #1.
The Korg/Hiroim love story in Warbound #4.
The return of Banner in Incredible Hulk #601.
The Skaar/Hulk showdown in Incredible Hulk #611.
And it hasn't come out yet, but I'm ridiculously excited about the "Spy Who Smashed Me" storyline featuring Hulk and Red She-Hulk that starts with Incredible Hulk #626. I'd been hungry to wrote about the Hulk/Banner/Red She-Hulk/Betty relationship for ages, and it's been an absolute blast digging into this one.
Nrama: After a long run like yours on Hulk, the common thing to expect at the end would be some type of wrapping up of loose ends, sweeping culmination of everything that's happened before. However, this also seems like the kind of story that could have been told at any point in the character's history, and isn't necessarily dependent on your past Hulk stories. Is that a fair assumption to make, or is there some level of “sweeping culminating” in there as well?
Pak: The story stands on its own, so new readers, come on board! But it is indeed also the culmination of the big themes that I've been working with all along, so there are some massive payoffs, rewards, and revelations here that long-time readers won't want to miss.
Nrama: And from what I've heard about the story thus far, it seems like the kind of high-concept idea that you might have had incubating for a while, waiting for the right time — is that accurate at all, or did the concept come to you pretty recently?
Pak: I've been thinking a lot about the concept of wishes and how they play out in stories, myths, and fables. In a funny way, the Hulk himself is a massive wish fulfillment — we love him because we love the smash, that incredible fantasy of venting all our suppressed anger. But what's made the Hulk a genuinely great literary figure is that generations of writers have understood that there's always a price to be paid for that anger. Which is not too far off from the recurring theme you see in multiple cultures and traditions regarding wishes — that you can't get something for nothing; that wishes always come with unintended consequences.
Without giving away too much, I'll just say that everyone in this story gets exactly what he or she wants. And all hell breaks loose.
Nrama: The crux of this story seems to be, the Hulk is in a position to finally get what he wants. To whatever extent you can tell us at this point, what exactly does the Hulk want? His famous old line was that he wanted to be left alone, but that certainly doesn't seem true at this point.
Pak: Or does it? Those are absolutely the key questions here. And for all the answers, you'll want to pick up every last issue of the book! We're delving deep into the big question of who exactly the Hulk is and what he wants, and the answers may shock you.
Nrama: And I'm sure you don't want to give away too much at this point, but it sounds like we're throwing a lot of characters in here — so can you maybe hint at what supporting cast members or villains might play a part?
Pak: As you can see on the covers, we're bringing in some classic Hulk foes, including Wendigo, Bi-Beast, Umar, and Armageddon. And, yes, Fin Fang Foom! I may be indulging in a little wish fulfillment of my own. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Given that, though, it sounds that after turning the Incredible Hulk solo title into the Incredible Hulks team book, in this story the focus is squarely on the Hulk, singularly. Was it necessary to put the focus back on Bruce Banner alone after having an ensemble for so long?
Pak: The Hulk has always been the main character of the book. The spine of the story is the massive emotional journey he started on the first page of "Planet Hulk." So while the cast has expanded, the Hulk's point of view has always been the key throughline.
Nrama: Paul Pelletier is back on art for this story. You've worked with him on Hulk before — how would you characterize the dynamic between the two of you at this point?
Pak: Paul is absolutely amazing to work with. He's a brilliant storyteller and "actor" as a penciller — always getting right to the heart of any given scene and beautifully rendering the big moments, the funny moments, and the small, emotionally resonant moments with power and honest-to-gosh grace.
He also knows how to draw the heck out of the Hulk smashing gods and monsters and villains. I'm cackling out loud as each page of these issues comes in.
Nrama: I'll leave you with this: "Heart of the Monster" is being billed as the end of your Hulk run, but should we interpret that as you being done with these characters for the time being, or might we see you working again with the Hulk family — in some capacity — in the near future? (Which is to say, will your last issue of Incredible Hulk be followed by an announcement of a new ongoing series starring a depowered Bruce Banner fighting crime in, say, Staten Island?)
Pak: Heh. I will have some big announcements pretty soon about other new projects. But this is genuinely the end of the Hulk story I set out to tell. A real ending can be a rare and wonderful thing in serial comics, so I'm thrilled to be true to the story and character and embrace the opportunity. And I'm enormously grateful to my editors, my artistic collaborators, and to all the fans who have been so incredibly supportive. And I highly encourage all of y'all to call your local comic shop today and preorder this final story, because we're going out with a hell of a bang.