Jeff Parker is a remarkably busy writer. Responsible for the current iteration of “Thunderbolts” who were recently invaded by a powersurged, hammer-swinging Juggernaut; a storyline in “Hulk” that takes Red Hulk into space in “Planet Red Hulk;” and “Bucko,” a brand new comical murder mystery webcomic that’s growing in readership. Jeff Parker has many coals on the fire.
Parker took some time out of his schedule at HeroesCon 2011 to give CBR News an update on his Marvel Comics titles, how his webcomic partnership with Erika Moen came to be, a much needed status update on his creator-owned “Mysterius the Unfathomable” and what to expect from the writer in the future.
CBR News: You’ve got a lot going on in “Thunderbolts” right now, but “Fear Itself” seems to have really shaken things up with Juggernaut getting his very own hammer. How much did that throw a metaphorical hammer into your plans for the book?
Jeff Parker: Luckily I knew about that for a while, but it was a surprise to me at first, the way he was going to be one of the Worthy hammer-wielders. I looked at it and I thought, “Well, okay, we’re going to destroy the prison and boy this changes a lot of stuff.” I didn’t want to make it so it just snapped back right away. Let’s have it actually change things up so we can morph our status quo yet again, ’cause the nice thing about “Thunderbolts” is that fans are pretty tolerant of you keeping them guessing with it. They kind of expect that because that’s what the first issue years ago sort of taught them; everything’s going to change, it’s not what you expect. Based on some other things I wanted to do, I started following the natural progression of the way that could go down, so it’s created a neat year coming up that’s all going to grow out of that.
One of the cool things that’s come out of all this is the creation of the B-team Thunderbolts, or the Underbolts. Are these guys going to be sticking around for the future?
I can’t spoil anything, but they turn out to be probably more important than you think and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to write. It’s really come in a big way because Juggernaut pretty much trashes the team and the place and everything once he becomes the hammer wielder. It’s also nice to bring in characters that I’ve always liked, like Mister Hyde. Now you’ll start to get more of a chance to see the new character, Troll, shine and Shocker, who got in because he got voted the most on a poll we did online. Everybody wanted Shocker, so I was fine with that. He actually fits the Thunderbolts really well, or the Underbolts, as Moonstone wants to make it clear they’re known as.
You did a short-lived relaunch of “Exiles” a while back and a character from the original “Exiles” run, King Hyperion, recently showed up in “Thunderbolts” — was this because of your connection to the old book?
Actually, I think [editor] Bill Rosemann had suggested using Hyperion because of his recent appearance in a story with Blue Marvel. He just thought it might be neat. I looked at it and thought it would be kind of perfect. I wanted a character to come in who challenges the team and shows that the team has actually come to think of itself as a team. So when he comes in and messes it up, even though these characters didn’t think they were loyal to each other, it turns out that they are and that they’ll all get together and curb-stomp somebody for each other. That was a nice issue and it let Kev [Walker] draw a bunch of giant monsters.
Your other Marvel book, “Hulk,” is currently going through the “Planet Red Hulk” storyline — what should readers be at the edge of their seats in anticipation for?
It looks totally different than what we’re doing, but it’s actually part of the year-long story that’s building right now. That’ll be really obvious in the first few pages of the next issue. Also, it’s a good excuse for Carlo [Pagulayan] to draw cool alien environments and barbarians beating the crap out of each other, which is the kind of thing he really excels at. Sometimes you really have to let an artist go free to do the kind of story they can do.
Has that been part of the fun for you? Designing cool stuff for your artists to draw?
I break down the scenes probably more thoroughly than I have to, but I try not to make the panel count too heavy and try to give them some more room. Of course, they all come back and say, “How about I do this instead,” and I’m usually always fine with it. Kev Walker’s big on that. He’ll give me all these notes about where he moves things around and something they could be saying. Then, I can look at that and not be completely confused and I put the dialog back how they would speak to keep everybody in character. I feel like that kind of collaboration gets you better action scenes. You shouldn’t just hand off a script and say, “Well, I’m done.” It should keep going back and forth until the day of printing.
You recently started in the world of webcomics with “Bucko,” a collaboration with Erika Moen. How did that come about?
Erika Moen is in my studio and I’ve always enjoyed her work, but she was telling somebody on another interview that she’d like to work with me, because she had read “Mysterius” that Tom Fowler and I did. She was really into that and of course like everybody else, I have my egomaniacal Google search for my name, so I went up to Erika and said, “Hey, you wanna work with me on something?” We just gradually started tossing out ideas and based on my hypothetical of “What if you burst into a bathroom that you really had to go to and there was a body in there and you still really had to go to the bathroom,” that sort of was the first hook that it started growing around. It’s been great and there’s been a really good reception to it. It’s also really good for me to do something completely different where everything’s not solved by people hitting each other.
Why did you choose the webcomic format?
Well, I think it’s a good way to build an audience. We’re eventually going to compile it into a book at the end of it. It’ll take about a year and then the story will be done and we’ll have a book. It’s kind of fun doing a webcomic because you can change things up until the last minute or you can refer to something extremely topical because anything you can do that night before the thing goes live [is fair game]. It’s a fun way to write it where everyone comes back Tuesday and Thursday for it, instead of thinking monthly like I normally do.
One of your other books, “Mysterius the Unfathomable,” hasn’t been seen in a while — what’s going on with that?
Wildstorm kind of vanished and the way the rights are tied up with DC, it’s hard for us to do anything, but until we can get something else going with it we may do a little short prose pulp story with illustrations like we did in the trade. A lot of people seemed to like that, so we might do that and put that online somewhere so that people get a little more Mysterius until we can get a TV show or another book or something like that.
Another set of characters that you’re associated with, the Agents of Atlas, are currently appearing in “Fear Itself: The Home Front,” as written by Peter Milligan. Is there a reason you’re not revisiting those characters at the moment?
I don’t really know the whole reasoning behind it, but I felt at the time that I left off at a good stopping point. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to shoehorn the characters in everywhere. Let some other people do it. It’s not actually good for the characters if they can only exist if this one person does them, at least in the sense of a Marvel character. If it were something that I had purely created, yes, it should only be done by me. I think it’s good for them to get out there and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Let fans decide what’s in character and what’s not. I’ve been waiting until [the “Fear Itself” story]’s done so I can go back and read it. Don’t spoil it!
[Laughs] I won’t. Is there any chance that you’ll be coming back to these characters in the future?
Oh yeah, we easily could. I have a lot of story threads that I want to go with in the future. I definitely have some other things there. It would be really easy to revisit the characters because no one killed them.
So, a book you helped launch, “X-Men: First Class,” shares the name of the movie that recently released…
They bought me a car!
No. They didn’t.
I know! They should have bought me a car! No, it’s not as though I created the X-Men. All they used was the title, really. Other than that, it bears no resemblance to our book. So I didn’t get a car.
What’s coming down the line in the future for you?
There are some neat developments in “Hulk” coming up. We’ve had a long subplot where the character The Omegex is coming to Earth because the Watcher did a tricky little thing that sics him on the Red Hulk. I just finished writing the script of that and Gabe [Hardman]’s drawing it right now. That’s something I’m really looking forward to. In the immediate future, Red Planet Hulk — they’re calling it “Planet Red Hulk,” I wanted to call it Red Planet Hulk — and we’ve got a brief two issues that deal with “Fear Itself” that kind of connects to the Avengers as well. There’s a lot of stuff going on and a lot more MODOK coming up. I think everybody’s got something they’ll enjoy coming up in the Hulk. MODOK will also show up with Zzzax. It’s a whole lot of MODOK now that I think about it, actually.