The denizens of the Marvel Universe have long feared the unbridled physical power of the self-proclaimed 'strongest one there is.' These days, however, it's become abundantly clear that they feared the Incredible Hulk for all the wrong reasons.
There's a new incarnation of the Hulk currently smashing his way through the Marvel U and using the nomenclature of Doc Green. While it might sound like a positive change to have a Hulk whose intellectual might is even more powerful than his physical brawn, that has proven to be far from ideal. Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mark Bagley introduced readers to Doc Green in "Hulk" #5, which also kicked off the current "Omega Hulk" storyline. Since then, they've hinted that the super genius Hulk has a mysterious plan he's enacting, but it might not be one that has the best interests of the Marvel Universe in mind.
CBR spoke with Duggan in a lengthy conversation, discussing Doc Green's ultimate goals, the characters that find themselves drawn into his orbit as "The Omega Hulk" continues to unfold, and just how dangerous the new Hulk's super intellect is.
CBR News: "Hulk" #10 was the final chapter of the first act of "Omega Hulk." How has it been introducing the Doc Green incarnation of the Hulk to the Marvel Universe and to readers?
Gerry Duggan: I was warned that Hulk fans are a little intense, and I sort of laughed. I thought to myself, "I'm writing 'Deadpool.' I hear all kinds of stuff." Plus, people can yell at us on Twitter about anything. So I've been very grateful for everyone giving me a shot after Mark Waid, whose run I loved. That was a really brilliant reinvention of Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
I inherited a smart Hulk when Kieron Gillen and Mark [Waid] finished their "Original Sin" miniseries, and I wouldn't have picked a smart Hulk if I was going to go in with a blank slate. Having that as the centerpiece of my inheritance though, I was very grateful to help collaborate to bring Doc Green into the world because I think he's a pretty interesting and flawed character. He wants to be a Science Hero. He doesn't want to be the Hulk. He doesn't want to run around and punch mountains. He happens to have a very particular mission, and we aren't 100 percent clear on what his motivations are. I like that.
At the end of these first six issues, we find him in kind of a brutalized place. He deliberately threw a fight with the Red Hulk so that he could study him a bit more to get the science he needed to make it so General Ross can't transform into the Red Hulk any more. From here on out things really start to get crazy in a big way. Our exposition is done, and our pages will start to open up. You'll start to see a lot more splashes and double-page spreads from Mark Bagley, who I think is turning in the work of his life. It's just tremendous.
For most of this first arc, we've been left to wonder about the ethics of Doc Green, as well as his motivations. The end of issue #9 features two scenes that suggest we should be worried about the road the character is on and his ruthless methods: his threatening of Betty Ross' life, and the dream he has about becoming the malevolent future incarnation of the Hulk known as the Maestro.
Who Doc Green is, what he might become, and what's he after is something that everybody in the Marvel Universe should be very concerned about. Marvel readers might be concerned, too, because he might be taking aim at their favorite character.
I know whether or not Doc Green is a good guy or a bad guy, but it may not be crystal clear until the end of "The Omega Hulk," so it's not something I want to spoil at the moment. I will say this though: We've already seen Betty laughing tragically as she realized that she's as much to blame for this new Hulk as anyone. She made a monster, and now we have to worry. Is Doc Green a monster? Might he make a monster? Things will get very complicated in a simple and fun way next issue. Something changes in the Hulk universe in issue #11. It's a big, big thing that we've seeded.
We have a real fun end to "The Omega Hulk." I've already written it. It's turned in and Mr. Bagley is almost ready to start drawing it. I think we stick the landing, and I'm really excited to see what people think of the second volume of the storyline.
Following Mark Waid was an intimidating circumstance, but so was writing for Bagley who has not just gotten to draw everything in the Marvel Universe. He's also worked with some amazing writers. I have to say I've been very, very happy with Bags' reception.
On the other side of that, too, he sends me a page a day, sometimes more. The best part of the day is always when I'm at my desk working and I get those e-mails. He's a tremendous talent. His storytelling is phenomenal. He's the best storyteller out there, and he's really motivated on a personal note. It's not just that he wants to draw a great Hulk. I think the story is resonating with him. I told it to him, and he was really excited about where this story ends.
I think that shows on the page. Every page is getting a lot of love. There's just some crazy action scenes with stuff that I don't think we've seen anyone do, and he's drawing it in 70 mm IMAX.
For most of this first arc, Doc Green got exactly what he wanted, and he appeared to get what he wanted from Ross as well -- but did he get more than he bargained for in that confrontation? Did Doc Green expect Ross to give him such a beating?
I think he knew he was going to get beat, but his science wasn't portable from the Beehive. He had to lure Red Hulk back. The Red Hulk was the aggressor and he set the tone. Doc Green had his arm broken for his troubles.
It looks like both of the green She-Hulks, Jen Walters and Lyra, will become involved in this second half of the story. What do you find most interesting about these characters?
What I enjoyed particularly about Jen is that she's smart, she's cool, she's got a sense of humor, and she's a lawyer. My mom was a lawyer, so I sort of identify with her from that side of it. Being a Hulk doesn't define Jen, and that's interesting.
I will say that the Jen Walters issue is very much the axis upon which Doc Green will spin. What happens to Jen will sort of define how people think of Doc Green. How about that for a teaser?
[Laughs] That's nice and ominous! Issue #12 also features an appearance by the fan-favorite Gamma Corps team. Are their ranks made up of previous members of the Corps, or are you creating a whole new incarnation of the group?
This group has been sort of tucked away and I think you'll see some familiar faces. When Doc Green's life gets complicated in issue #11, those complications carry over into issue #12 and cast a dark shadow over everything. The poor Gamma Corps are sort of caught in the middle.
Looks like these next few issues will also be packed with guest stars from around the Marvel Universe. Iron Fist guest stars in "Hulk" #12, Deadpool makes an appearance in issue #13, and we already discussed Jen Walters.
If you notice the structure in the 12 issues of "Hulk" that make up this storyline, I've basically took three pages off the top of every chapter to almost make it hopefully feel like a bigger comic, like a "Marvel Two-In-One," where we're getting a short story at the top of every one. We had Doc Green interact with Kitty Pryde. We'll see him interact with Danny Rand, and it's how we had Doc Green check in to make sure Doc Samson was still dead.
I thought that was neat. It almost made it feel like a cinematic experience where we're getting the end of one adventure as we begin another.
Seems like the scope and scale of Doc Green's adventures are going to get a lot bigger in this second act as pretty much the whole Marvel Universe reacts to him.
We are going to have some pretty big guest stars at the end of this story. It's a good bet that a certain group of people that Jen and Doc Green have in common might show up.
Doc Green's presence in this book means Banner's activity in "Hulk" has been kept to a minimal, but your run has featured just as much science and high tech stuff as Mark Waid's run, where Banner was building devices. How important will science and Doc Green's intellect be in part two of your story?
It will be integral. Hulk's muscles on his physique are not his strongest muscles anymore. His strongest muscle is his brain, and he intends to flex that throughout.
So, "The Omega Hulk" is just as much a cautionary tale about intellectual might as it is about physical might.
The cautionary tale we're exploring is, be careful what you bring into creation via science. Science is already running amok in the "Hulk," but I think when you finish issue #11 you're going to put the book down and say to yourself, "OH SHIT!" There's another problem that emerges.
I'm not sure if that problem is the Doc Green A.I. that the new Hulk created, but the emergence of that being has me apprehensive.
The A.I. is unpredictable. We have minds like Stephen Hawking warning us about the potential of A.I.s right now. The thing I think Doc Green has in common with Banner, and he may or not figure it out, is there is a lot of hubris with these creations. You're right -- I would be concerned about a new life form in Doc Green creating an even newer life form in the A.I.
He does have very good reason to do so, though. Doc Green is trying to dominate Banner in the way that Banner dominated him. Instead of Banner drinking tea and doing Yoga and breathing techniques to control his anger, we have Doc Green staying up drinking pots of coffee and doing who knows what else to stay alert, angry and present, to keep Banner from reemerging. The A.I. plays a part in that as sort of a failsafe, as we've seen.
Earlier you mentioned Mark will soon begin drawing the end of "The Omega Hulk" storyline. So this is a two-act story?
Yes. It's definitely a two-act story. There will be more "Hulk" after that, but this story is 12 issues. I thought twelve 20-page issues was exactly what this story needed, and I'm really excited about it. It's going to be a fun time to be a Hulk fan this spring.
I am writing more "Hulk" beyond this story, but "The Omega Hulk" is a self-contained event. Then you'll see some things change, but that's good, because this story definitely has a beginning, middle and end. We're going to make a fast rush to the end with some big "Oh crap!" moments and a lot of action. Hopefully a few more surprises, too. The one thing I do appreciate is being able to surprise people, and I think this Hulk has surprised people -- I hope!
Change is an integral part of the Hulk. Acclaimed Hulk writers like Peter David, Greg Pak, Mark Waid and I'm sure a number of others that I'm forgetting all embraced changing the status quo a number of times during their run.
Yeah, it's fun. None of us want to "play the hits." I think the Hulk can be a somewhat difficult character sometimes to get your head around. This was one of the blue chip ideas on my laptop, and I was really glad that [Marvel] went for it. I had other ideas, but I didn't have anything I loved as much as this one.
I'm a fan of a lot of the different Hulks. I grew up reading the Peter David stuff. That's tremendous. Greg obviously left his mark on the character, as did Jason Aaron, who I thought had a smart and fun run. Then Waid went in and figured out how Bruce Banner would really operate. He managed to smartly redefine the way we see Hulk. That was brilliant, and post-"Original Sin," obviously Extremis gave us not just a new Hulk, but a new character who doesn't like to be called Hulk.
If you're into "Hulk" for the Jekyll-and-Hyde horror aspect, you're going to have a real fun winter and spring. If you're in for the punching, you'll have that, too. I look forward to making some people angry, and hopefully making many more people very happy. [Laughs]
"Hulk" #11 is on sale Feb. 4 from Marvel Comics.