The old axiom, “The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” is especially true when dealing with the super powered inhabitants of the Marvel Universe, and Red She-Hulk (A.K.A. Betty Ross) in particular.
Beginning in “Red She-Hulk” #58, part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, writer Jeff Parker and artist Carlo Pagulayan’s all-new direction for the title features Betty trying to derail a dangerous super soldier program. Her initial attempt to shut down the government’s new Echelon program ended in disaster: it garnered additional funding thanks to Betty’s attempt at destroying it, a man died by Betty’s hands and the Avengers have been mobilized to apprehend the Red She-Hulk.
CBR News spoke with Parker about where things are headed in the series, who else Red She-Hulk is confronting in her quest to destroy the Echelon Program, upcoming featured tech and more. Plus exclusive artwork by Pagulayan from “Red She-Hulk” #60.
CBR News: Jeff, you’re going with a “Fugitive” or “Les Miserables” approach with “Red She-Hulk” in that you have a noble character with the right intentions being hounded by the forces of law and order. What made you want to thrust Betty Ross into this kind of story?
Jeff Parker: How did you know we have an all-song issue coming up? Anyway, I thought of it as a Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone western — one gunslinger up against the world. I wanted some of that original flavor where the Hulk was this rogue character you can’t know entirely. The Hulk could be a hero or make a bad situation worse; you can tap into vast power by Hulking Out but you also lose a lot of control.
Going into issue #60, how is Betty dealing with killing a member of the Echelon Program, albeit a villainous one? It felt as though she lashed out at Machine Man in issue #59 because she was angry and frustrated over the soldier she accidentally killed.
That’s exactly why she lashed out at Machine Man — he failed to revive the prisoner whose neck she broke. One of the major themes in this book is fear and anger are mostly the same thing, or at least so closely connected there’s no difference. You don’t lash out when you feel safe and in control. Betty fears becoming a killer, and that fear exacerbates things, actually making her one. Though I’d argue you’re really only “a killer” if you keep doing it.
Let’s talk about Betty’s mind set and capabilities in both her human and Red She-Hulk forms. First, what’s your sense of the psychological impact for Betty in transforming into Red She-Hulk? Does the transformation make her more impulsive and more extreme, or is it more like Banner’s Hulk transformation where an entirely different persona emerges?
She’s not a different person; she’s a wilder, much less inhibited form of her basic self. I’ve always thought the appeal of “Hulk” is it acknowledges we’re all capable of being destructive monsters, and the line to cross over into that realm is shockingly close. Take away the inhibition and reserve and a jerky comment that might make in-control-you roll your eyes becomes an insult requiring smashing. When Vin Corsico essentially sexually harasses her by running his mouth, she cut loose in the way she might hit Thor. It’s much easier to push her buttons as Red She-Hulk.
We know how dangerous and capable Red She-Hulk is, but how dangerous is Betty Ross in her human form?
Betty isn’t interested in killing anyone, but she’s even less interested in being caught. Mainly because she’s afraid she’ll Hulk out and seriously hurt decent people. She’s been involved with the military and many super people over the years — she knows how things work and how to get results.
Red She-Hulk attacking Echelon is in part due to a little girl with prophetic powers having a vision of the program destroying the world. The man who alerted Betty to this danger is the Marvel Universe version of real-life scientist Nikola Tesla, who last appeared in Jonathan Hickman’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” series. Is this the actual Tesla, or is there more to this character than what we’ve seen?
Yes, it’s the same Tesla! We wanted to connect to that because we like “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and that level of deep secretive structure works great with what Betty discovers.
I know you have an affinity for Machine Man (A.K.A. Aaron Stack), but why make him the Tommy Lee Jones to Betty’s Harrison Ford?
I felt he earned a place in the book after co-starring with Red Hulk — his brain makes a great balance to her brawn. In a weird way they are very complementary.
Already the Avengers have come after Red She-Hulk, testing her resolve. She knows they’re heroes, but in her mind she’s working to save the entire world. How committed is Betty to her mission, and will she let anything stand in her way?
She never comes right out and says it, but I think she distrusts most super heroes. She hasn’t forgotten these people shot Bruce Banner off the planet, you know! She’s certain if she fails, humanity is on the way out.
Betty’s battle with the Avengers continues into issue #60, and then in #61 some revelations about Red She-Hulk are teased. What can you tell us about the plot and themes of these next two issues?
We find something she suspected about herself is true and she is capable of getting a whole lot worse. I’ll leave it at that for now.
Carlo Pagulayan draws great looking and powerful characters, with a flair for high technology. He’s already drawn interesting tech: from Betty’s flying car, to Machine Man’s merging with a motorcycle and Iron Man. Are you intentionally handing him technical elements to draw?
Carlo and Wellinton Alves both are great with that kind of conceptual design. I feel bad because there’s some really difficult stuff coming up I asked them to draw, but they both knocked it out of the park anyway. And Carlo can simply draw the most powerful women I’ve ever seen. Without bulking her way up, he still makes Red She-Hulk look like someone who can knock a building over. I’m always in awe of that.
Betty’s attacking the institution General Ross, her father, used to be a part of, and Bruce Banner is now an associate of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the Hulk serving as a field agent. Are there plans or interests in pitting Red She-Hulk against her father or Bruce Banner?
I’m thinking of it, but I really want her to have room for a while. So Red Hulk won’t be popping up demanding his book back and you’ll see where we connect in the next story arc with Bruce.
I’m very happy to see Betty and Red She-Hulk striking a chord with our readers. Thanks so much and thanks for telling friends about our book.
Marvel Comics’ “Red She-Hulk” #60 goes on sale December 2012