CBR News: I wanted to start by asking about the origins of this specific story. I know I’ve talked to Mr. Loeb a few times about how the Hulk line has been coming together…
Jeph Loeb: You talked to my dad?!?
I’ve got two “Jeffs” here! I’ve got to have some way to differentiate! [Laughter] But you’d said that even though people might have assumed differently, the story you’d planned for “Hulk” and the story Greg had planned for “Son of Hulk” were always set to converge together eventually. It happened to a certain extent in “Incredible Hulk” #600, but “Fall of the Hulks” seems to be the place where all threads really come together in a significant way. Back at the end of “World War Hulk,” did you guys have a specific tale in mind, or was it more that you knew eventually that you wanted to bring the pieces back onto the same playing board?
Jeff Parker: Can you tell that the three of us just essentially extrapolated from ourselves? We’re all a bunch of brilliant egomaniacs, and we all related to this so easily that it seemed like a very natural place to start with the villains from the beginning. [Laughter]
Jeph Loeb: Clearly none of us were the strongest. We had to pick something else to be good at.
Greg Pak: We’re very comfortable with the “brilliant get no respect” or “cunning geniuses sitting in our lairs” imagery.
Jeff Parker: You have to like the villains to pull it off, though. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. I think a lot of people like Doctor Doom, so they understand that. But we also really like Leader and M.O.D.O.K. and have to convey that.
Greg Pak: I think one of the great things Jeff has done is that when you see Leader and M.O.D.O.K. or any of these guys interact, it’s very human and believable, while at the same time they’re maintaining their interestingness and their evilness. There’s humor in their interactions that’s very character-based and very real, which makes them even scarier in certain ways. I really had a lot of fun watching the script come together and peering over Jeff’s shoulder.
We’ve all been hearing about how the Intelligencia will kick off what will become the battle of “Fall of the Hulks,” but what does this first phase of the event hold for the titular behemoth – whoever he may be – as the story rolls on?
Jeph Loeb: What’s equally important about all of this is, as you guys know, at the heart of our story, both Red Hulk and Skaar are of questionable moral character and can in some ways also be seen as the villains of the piece. The challenge that was put before us was to have us care about them as well, and really the key of the summit was that ultimately, this was a story about Bruce Banner and what he has to face. Part of the reason why it was important in #600 for the Green Hulk to go away was so that we could really put Banner in a world where the alliances that he would have to form and the choices he’d have to make – particularly with Skaar -Â were going to be completely unpredictable. We got to see a Banner, in what Greg’s been doing in “Incredible Hulk,” that we’ve never really seen before. He’s extremely cunning and very dangerous and, in some ways, more dangerous than when he is the Hulk. It’s dangerous in a different kind of way.
Greg Pak: I’ve really had a ton of fun playing with this storyline and this direction with the character. It was a total blast being able to go to “Planet Hulk” with just the Hulk and have Banner be there on the periphery. Now we’re kind of doing the flip of that, and it’s just as fun for me to write. Hopefully it’ll be just as revelatory for the character in the end. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: “Fall of the Hulks” and “World War Hulks” together, I think, will be the biggest emotional story that has ever been told about Bruce Banner. It really will rock his world to its foundations in multiple ways. It’s big, big, big. It’s Hulk-sized!
Jeff Parker: I think that what people are going to remember about this storyline is that it’s really when we let Bruce Banner define himself. In the past, he always got lost with the other smart guys of the Marvel U. There’s Hank Pym and Hank McCoy…anybody named “Hank” basically. [Laughter] There’s Reed Richards. But this is where for the first time Banner has come into his own. In the past, everybody’s always played with different personalities for Hulk or different takes on Hulk, but you’ve never seen that concentrated focus on Banner. Now it starts to become clear why he’s the Hulk. When you see his actions, you start to go, “Oh, now I see why you turn into a big green monster. A walking atom bomb.” It was always there, and that’s the eternal appeal of Hulk. Everyone can relate to it because everyone has a Hulk side and sees themselves that way, to a certain degree.
Greg Pak: Previous Hulk writers, like Bill Mantlo and Peter David, laid the groundwork so well and established certain facts about Banner’s past and his relationship to his father. It’s a real kick in the pants to be able to take that stuff to the degree we’re taking it now.
Jeph Loeb: And similarly, as we are discovering the other sides of Banner’s personality, it absolutely was a choice that out of #600, after a year of watching the Red Hulk plow through the Marvel Universe without exactly understanding what his agenda was, and having everyone react to the kind of insanity he was going to bring -Â the next issue was narrated by Bruce and was Bruce’s goodbye to the Hulk, leading into “Incredible.” But as soon as we started on “Hulk” #14, I started to include the internal narrative of what was going on in Red’s head -Â the choices he’d made and why he made them. Really, the first year of “Hulk” was about the abuse of power. This was somebody who was given an enormous gift of power, and in the same way that many Marvel heroes face “with great power comes great responsibility,” Red didn’t take that advice. He became this guy running around on Silver Surfer’s surfboard and doing whatever the hell he wanted. When the point at which he crossed the line and did away with the Green Hulk hit, some of that responsibility and the dilemma of what it is to be “The Hulk” has landed on him. You realize, if you’ve been reading “Code Red,” that he does have a very vulnerable side, and not in a weepy kind of way. He’s vulnerable in that there is a way to destroy the Red Hulk, and it’s going to put him in a very difficult, challenging place. What we’re watching as “Fall of the Hulks” begins is the Red Hulk descending in terms of his arrogance and Banner ascending in terms of his confidence. How that’ll play out in “Fall of the Hulks,” and in particular what goes on in “Gamma,” should be pretty surprising.
“Fall of the Hulks: Alpha” hits comic shops this Thursday. Check back to CBR early next week for more with the trio of writers behind the family event from the secret origin of the “Fall” story to a look inside the mind of Doc Samson.