CCI: Preparing for 'World War Hulks'

In real life, one conflict can easily lead to another. Whether it be taking a war of words to a fist fight or seeing an inter-country conflict explode into an international one, violence only begets more violence. It's terrible in real life, but in comics the cycle works well to drive big stories into the hands of fans.

At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel Comics rolled one of their more acclaimed big events of the past few years into an all-new epic as "World War Hulk" writer Greg Pak steps up to organize "World War Hulks" - a January 2010 "mini event" within the Hulk family of titles that will tie together threads from the past few years of gamma-powered stories. While specifics on the rollout for "World War Hulks" remain under wraps, the publisher revealed that the story will launch with two one-shots this December - "World War Hulks: Gamma" by Jeph Loeb and John Romita, Jr. and "World War Hulks: Alpha" by a yet to be announced creative team.

"Gamma is the beginning of the war," Loeb told CBR. "There is a single act that happens. I was always interested in how World War I started with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. That to me is fascinating because it's the assassination of one person that ignited world war. We'll have our own version of that. Marvel stories, certainly 'Civil War,' are most successful when they act as metaphors for real world situations, and we're going to do a world war that involves very highly specialized individuals.

"'Alpha' will be about a group of people who will be secret until we reveal it called the Intelligentsia. The idea is that in a world with the Illuminati and the Cabal, there is another group, and what they've been doing for a very, very long time is analyzing every battle, every conquest and every defeat that's happened to the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. And all of that will go into the battle plan for 'World War Hulks.' These people are extremely dangerous, [but] not because they have powers and abilities beyond those that we've seen before. These are, if not the smartest, among the smartest people in the Marvel Universe."

In fact, brains versus braun will be a central factor in the coming conflict, as the writer explained of Pak's larger plans for the series. "Something that Greg and I have tried to focus on as a difference between what went on in 'World War Hulk' and what's going on in 'World War Hulks.' 'World War Hulk' was so much about power and who was the strongest there is. That's certainly something that we've dealt with with the Red Hulk, but this is now about 'Who is the smartest person playing this game?' Really, war is not about 'might make right.' War is about strategy, and we're going to see a very carefully thought out battle plan. What the Intelligentsia is and who wants it is something that won't be revealed yet, but it's got some great people involved. After you read #600, you know it involves M.O.D.O.K., who is certainly one of the most brilliant minds if not THE most brilliant mind on the planet. Who else has he allied himself with?"

Initially planned and built at a recent Marvel "Hulk Family" creative summit, and in the wake of the revelations at the heart of "Incredible Hulk" #600 including the fact that Bruce Banner had his gamma radiation powers sucked from his body. "The idea always was that 'Skaar' would exist for twelve issues, and then the Red Hulk's primary story of who he is would drive up to #600," said Loeb of he and Pak's behind the scenes planning. "At that point, the two books would split because we knew Banner was no longer going to be the Green Hulk. That left us with our two major characters, which are Skaar and the Red Hulk. Those first stories ran concurrent to each other, and once we get up to next January, we will pull the trigger and see whether or not Banner comes back.

"One of the things Marvel learned was that by giving one of your iconic characters in Steve Rogers a rest, two things happen. The character of Bucky in Brubaker's capable hands became, in some ways, as popular as Cap, and it also built to 'Well, when is Steve Rogers coming back?' The question our readers will be faced with is 'When is the Green Hulk coming back?' And he might not. The new future of the Hulk may either be the son, Skaar, who happens to star in a book called 'The Incredible Hulk' or maybe Red Hulk, who stars in the other one."

But with a title emphasizing the plurality of Hulks, there will be plenty of big angry characters to smash around, including the aforementioned Red Hulk and Skaar. "What's fun for me is that, a little over a year ago, neither one of those characters existed. They are the brainchilds of myself and Greg after 'World War Hulk.' The ultimate plan was to expand the family after what really to that point had been the biggest Hulk event ever. He took down everyone in the Marvel Universe. And so in some weird ways, he begat two sons in Skaar and the Red Hulk...that's not to say Red Hulk is his son. Ooops! I may have made a mistake."

Including Romita as the artist on the event-launching one-shot came as a boon to Loeb, who was keen on playing this relatively smaller "family of titles event" much like the artist's last foray with the Green Goliath. "This is not an unusual thing for the Hulk group, because the 'World War Hulk' story - and this is something I so admire about what Greg did with JR Jr. - is that, it's this enormous battle that takes place with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans, but all the other books continued. It's reflected in 'Avengers' because of what happened to Doctor Strange, but one of the things we always smile about is that they took down the Avengers Tower, and it didn't mention that in any of the Avengers books. In a weird way, Greg and I like that.

"The comics we grew up reading didn't have a continuity that was so tightly wrapped around itself that you needed to know where everyone was. When you're dealing with a character like Wolverine - who's appearing in 'Avengers' and 'X-Men' and 'X-Force'...and he has his own book - you're continuity starts to get spread a little thin. You still do stories about what's going on in this time period, but it's in many ways better storytelling if you can follow the adventures of a group of people rather than everyone else. The Hulk 'group' is able to share characters like Iron Man and She-Hulk...it's possible to have a cohesive universe that's not necessarily tied together. We're going to have this incredibly epic battle, and we're going to involve everyone in the Marvel Universe, but you can just read our books and anyone who gets hurt or dies will have that reflected in the other books. But the idea is to tell a story of this magnitude that takes place over a short period of time."

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