This year the Mayan Calender runs out on December 21, and there are many different beliefs as to what that means. While most believe December 21, 2012 will just be another day, others eagerly await the date and believe a great transformative event will occur and elevate humanity to a higher plane of existence. Another school of thought has a more pessimistic outlook and believes that 12/21/12 marks a catastrophic, apocalyptic event that will destroy the world.
The inhabitants of the Marvel Universe share those fears because their world is home to many beings capable of bringing about doomsday. This year their fears will be justified when the Mayan Gods return to take over the Earth in a “Hulk” arc by writer Jeff Parker and new series artist Dale Eaglesham. Standing in their way are General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, better known as the Red Hulk and star of the ongoing “Hulk” comic book series, and his allies Machine Man, A-Bomb, the She-Hulks, and Alpha Flight. CBR News spoke with Parker and Eaglesham about the story which was announced yesterday at the “Marvel: The Next Big Thing” panel at the WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, CA.
CBR News: Dale, last year you drew an arc of “Incredible Hulks” and you really seemed to enjoy it. How does it feel to come back to the world of the Gamma powered Goliaths? As an artist, what is it about the Hulk characters that you find intriguing?
Dale Eaglesham: Well, I could give you a pretty fine answer about how they are a fascinating look at the nature of duality and the beast that dwells within us; but honestly, I just really like to draw muscle!
In “Incredible Hulks” you drew the Green Hulk and his extended family. For “Hulk” you’re drawing a very different character in the Red Hulk, General Ross. What’s your sense of the character? Which of the Red Hulk’s aspects do you really want to capture and bring forward in your art?
Eaglesham:It’s my first time drawing Red Hulk, so I’m just getting to know the character now. What I want to get across so far, though, is that with his combat experience and his sense of command and confidence, he remains calm under pressure. Ross is a better leader than Bruce Banner, a scientist who might not do as well under pressure.
Jeff, you’re about to give Ross some combat experience with the supernatural in the arc that begins in “Hulk” #50, on sale April 4. And later in 2012 he’s going to go up against the metaphysical again when he runs afoul of the Mayan Gods. What’s it like having Ross bump into the supernatural and the metaphysical? How does he feel about being in situations like this? Does he grasp and understand them or do they frustrate and enrage him?
Jeff Parker: Something we’ve started examining this year is the concept of what a god is — not in the creation sense, but as a form of life. The Eternals just appeared in Hulk and posed the same question; aren’t all these super beings in the world essentially gods themselves? And the returning Mayans see it that way too. It’s also the key for them to return to full power with their own ritual of sacrifice.
How much continuity did you have to work with for the Mayan characters? I see they’ve appeared before as a pantheon called the Ahau. So how much of these characters is actual myth and how much is established Marvel Universe mythology?
Parker: The beings we’re dealing with haven’t been referenced in Marvel before, and that will be more clear later. It touches on how history informs myths.
How powerful are the Mayan Gods collectively? What kind of threat do they pose? And why aren’t the Avengers or another big Marvel super team stepping forward to stop their power grab?
Parker:They are the equals of our super people, and they have a home court advantage in the region of Mesoamerica. There’s a good reason the Avengers have to stay out, and Red Hulk requests that they do. They are at their highest threat level when their chief god is back in action, Kukulcan. And everyone is trying to prevent his return!
General Ross might not be aided by the Avengers, but he will have allies. Helping him fight the Mayan God invasion are A-Bomb, Alpha Flight, Machine Man and the She-Hulks. How did you go about putting this team together? Are these all characters Ross has a past connection with?
Parker: Once [editor] Mark Paniccia said I might be able to work with Dale Eaglesham and that “Alpha Flight” was wrapping up, it seemed a perfect place to connect. We pick right up with what he and [writers] Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente were doing in their series. AF are right out of that story at the beginning of this one.
As for A-Bomb, he’s the catalyst for this whole story, if you were reading the backups in Hulk last year. The Mayans were trapped physically, but able to project their minds out until they found a willing hero to trick in Rick Jones. She-Hulk and Lyra tried to stop him from freeing them, but just aided in breaking the Mayans out. At the start of this arc, the three have been on the trail of the escaped gods for a while.
Dale, how does it feel to return to Alpha Flight?
Eaglesham: I love it. I was really disappointed to see the book end after its 8-issue series. I thought I wouldn’t get to draw them again, so this was a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t even know they would be in this arc; Jeff and Mark Paniccia surprised me with it.
You’re also working with some other gamma powered characters besides Ross in the form A-Bomb and the She-Hulks, Jen Walters and Lyra. What do you find most intriguing about them?
Eaglesham: I like the fact that their humanity persists despite the fact that they are altered and transformed into monsters.
How would you describe the dynamic between Ross and his team? How comfortable is the Red Hulk with leading a team of super heroes? Does Ross have any reservations about playing general to them?
Parker: Once Ross is in a position of calling shots and directing powerful people, he’s completely at home. And now that he’s one of the supers, it just clicks for him. That doesn’t make it easy though.
You have Dale drawing Ross and his army, and as we mentioned he’s drawn Hulk characters and Alpha Flight before. He has more than proven he has a knack for these characters, but what else do you feel he brings to this tale in particular? What do you feel are his strengths as an artist?
Parker: I like to call Dale the Canadian Dave Stevens, and he hasn’t stopped me so I’m going to keep doing it. His work has so much classic adventure built into it that it makes our story lush and sprawling. He draws beautiful people and monsters, and in “Mayan Rule” he’s putting in all these great extra touches like elaborate stonework patterns in his page compositions. Look at the inventive first cover he did, it really sets the comic apart. As I do with most artists, I’m trying to adapt to what he likes, and I’m giving him room to draw BIG. And it’s paying off!
Dale, this story involves strange, otherwordly beings in the form of the Mayan Gods who have their own technology. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of your Marvel work — “Alpha Flight,” “Incredible Hulks,” and “Fantastic Four” — involves crazy sci-fi, and cosmic elements. Coincidence? Or are these some of your favorite stories to draw?
Eaglesham:I definitely enjoy that very much, because you can let your imagination go unfettered. But then I also love history and I’m really enjoying depicting Mayan architecture. I’ve visited several Mayan sites, including Chichen Itza, so I can integrate a lot of that into my art here.
Speaking of drawing, how are you going to handle the art for this story? Will it be similar to some of your recent Marvel work or does the nature of the story call for something different?
Eaglesham: My art changes incrementally with every project. In this one, I wanted to push things in more of a horror direction, casting harsher shadows, hiding things in shadows and often having potentially sinister things going on in the backgrounds that may or may not be significant. I’m including more page framing devices than I ever have in the form of Mayan glyphs.
Overall, there is experimenting going on in this story. Visually, I want to remind people that Hulk is a monster by presenting musculature that isn’t so symmetrical. I’m also giving him more weight by adding more flesh to him in places so he doesn’t look so much like a competitive bodybuilder. That’s not to say there won’t be vascularity and defined muscle, there will be plenty of freakish muscle!
Jeff, when your story and Dale’s art come together, ultimately what kind of tale are we looking at? How would you describe the tone of the 2012 arc? The information we received suggests a huge summer blockbuster style story in the Mighty Marvel Manner.
Parker: I think it shows you can take a lot of the other heroes readers love and build a wild event with them, it doesn’t always have to be the same cast. This has big action, mystery, horror, everything we can fit in it!