In the Marvel Universe, Bruce Banner is renowned for his intellect and his alter ego, the Hulk, is infamous for his strength. There have been instances where Banner's personality gained control of the Hulk's immensely powerful physical form, but the savage Hulk has never been both the smartest and strongest there is -- until now!
New series writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mark Bagley introduced readers to Doc Green, an Extremis-enhanced Hulk who is possibly even smarter than his "puny" alter ego and is in total control of their shared form. The issue also gave readers hints of Doc Green's grand plan: to eliminate other gamma enhanced heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe. What's caused this newest incarnation of the Hulk to embark on such a scheme? And how driven is he to accomplish his quest? Duggan spoke with CBR News about introducing Doc Green, what that means for Banner and the future of his "Hulk" run.
CBR News: Gerry, in "Hulk" #5 we met the newest incarnation of the title character, Doc Green. Green is not exactly like this character, but if I had to find a past incarnation of the Jade Juggernaut that he's most like I would have to say the "Gestalt" Hulk who led the Pantheon. Is that a fair comparison?
Gerry Duggan: I think so. There have been times that Hulk has displayed some real intelligence. What separates this Hulk, I think, is he's never been as smart as he is now. His intelligence is greater than Banner's. I also think it's safe to question his moral alignment. What is interesting to note is that Doc Green doesn't identify with any previous incarnation of the Hulk, and even dislikes being called "Hulk."
Hulk has always had the power to back up his claim that he's the strongest there is, but does he now have the intellect to stake the claim that he's the smartest there is as well?
For sure. In fact I think he actually says that in an upcoming issue. I think this Hulk is a little scary. It's easy to see why his mission of depowering these other Hulks is a good idea, but if you're a huge fan of one of these Hulks then I think it's safe to say he's not the hero in this story.
I mentioned the Gestalt Hulk earlier, which was controlled by Banner's personality, but Doc Green is different because this is essentially a super genius level Hulk who has locked away Banner's persona. Is that correct?
That is correct. As the first part of our story progresses you'll get to meet Doc Green a bit more. He's dominating the Banner persona in the way that Banner used to dominate the dumb Hulk. Doc Green doesn't go to sleep because he doesn't want to let Banner out. He doesn't want to risk Banner taking the wheel for extended periods of time because this is Doc Green's moment.
He calls Banner his silent partner and he looks at Banner as an antagonist and a captor. So he has no interest in letting Banner out ever again.
Are there traces of the Hulk's gray "Joe Fix-It" persona in Doc Green as well? Like his cunning and ruthlessness?
That's going to be up to interpretation.
I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I know some really smart people. Some of the funnier people I know are some of the smarter people I know. Some of the "Simpsons" writers are giant brainiacs. They have chemical degrees. And Doc Green is by no means a funny character, but I think he's capable of seeing the humor in the world around him. He also likes messing with people. There's a really fun cameo coming up that I don't think people will be expecting to turn up in a Hulk book; several actually. There's something accomplished in that scene, but it's also Doc Green messing with people.
We're soliciting issue #9 soon and Kitty Pryde is on the cover. I really like writing her. I've really only had one other opportunity to do that. I think it will be fun because even though she has seen everything this planet has to offer as well as a good chunk of outer space it's still freaky to be standing with the Hulk, especially this guy who is talking and occasionally walking around with brief cases.
The emergence of Doc Green means the storyline about the wounded Bruce Banner is over, but that doesn't the mystery of who shot Banner is over, correct?
Right. When that unfolds it will unfold very quickly. In "Hulk" #5 Doc Green calls it a personal matter. He knows who shot Banner, but you have to remember he's only free because Banner was shot. So his reaction to confronting Banner's shooter might surprise people. I really value being able to surprise people and I hope this "Hulk" run for what it does, what it accomplishes, and what it doesn't accomplish will surprise people.
As you mentioned, this storyline is about Doc Green's quest to eliminate the other gamma-powered beings from the Marvel Universe. Can you talk about how driven he is in this quest? Is he willing to give the other Hulks a chance to peacefully remove their alter egos? And if they don't want to go peacefully is eliminating them with extreme prejudice an option?
Yes, he's not unreasonable. Once he makes his mind up he's not going to change, but I don't think these characters are excited about losing control. For really all of them the difference between their gamma-powered personas and the Hulk's is there's some level of control.
When Rick Jones became A-Bomb he was a hero. What I think is fun in getting Rick back. Not A-Bomb. Rick. In issues #6 and #7 there are some scenes that Mark Bagley has just done an amazing job on that are very emotional. At a point in the near future Rick discusses what life is like when you have a gamma-monster in you. I'm very happy with how these scenes have landed. It's not all emotional. I think the best action scene I ever wrote is coming up in "Hulk" and it involves lava.
Currently, we don't exactly know why Doc Green is confronting and delivering ultimatums to gamma-powered characters. You mentioned earlier though that it is safe to be questioning the Hulk's motives in this story. Is there a clear moral high ground in this arc?
I'm looking forward to the debate over the morality of the Hulk's actions. He does things that are great and he also does things that are kind of awful. In an issue coming up Doc Green does something that is very extralegal and maybe immoral, but he's doing all of this out of a pure sort of vision. Feelings and human laws are irrelevant. Certainly our morality is also irrelevant. He's going to do what he's going to do and you're welcome to try and stop him. He is doing this for the greater good. We can only hope it's our greater good -- or just his.
When we first discussed your "Hulk" run you cited the Iron Man storyline "Armor Wars" as an inspiration for Doc Green's mission, but you weren't able to go into any real detail. Can you talk a little more about that now?
It is an inspiration, but, and this might be too "Inside Baseball," from Doc Green's perspective he's clearly stated what he's doing, but is he doing what's doing for altruistic reasons? Or is he doing this for his own purposes in terms of eliminating rivals? That's something I'm not sure we'll ever land on one way or the other. I'm more interested to see what people think. Stark wanted to eliminate how his technology was being mis-used by rivals. Doc Green didn't open the gamma-genie bottle, but he is going to shove a cork in it.
Let's move from Doc Green to some of the people he's confronting. You already talked about writing Rick Jones, and after Doc goes after him he'll set his sights on the Hulk's son, Skaar. What's it like writing Skaar and bringing him back into the book?
It's a lot of fun. I really admire the stuff that Greg Pak, and a lot of my predecessors, have done, and just because I'm writing this story doesn't mean I don't adore these other Hulks. I do, especially individually. They're all sort of wonderful, but some times bad things happen to good characters. [Laughs]
The thing to remember is, individually every Hulk is a good idea, but when you look at it from above -- that's any awful lot of Hulks running around. Fewer Hulks means fewer possibilities for extinction level events.
In writer Monty Nero's upcoming "Hulk Annual" Doc Green will be forced to confront a new foe. It sounds like what he sets up in the Annual will have significant impact in the story you're telling. Perhaps not immediately, but further down the road. Is that correct?
Yeah I think so. Monty came in and really impressed with this annual. I think it will be remembered as a great stand alone story that then has threads back to the main continuity of the book. Having done things like that he sort of make it look effortless. Finding a way to tell a stand alone story and then have it reverberate it hard. He's done a great job. I can't wait to see the finished story. [Editor] Mark Paniccia has done a great job with the Hulk universe, I'm proud to have been invited to contribute. He knew that Monty would crush on the annual, and boy was he right.
Since we're on the topic of collaborators, when we last chatted you were super excited to be paired with artist Mark Bagley on this book. How is it now that you guys have released one issue to the public and are hard at work bringing to life more of Doc Green's exploits?
I know this is going to sound like the typical sort of thing that maybe everyone tries to put forth in an interview, but I'm so happy. A double page spread of his from issue #9 came in today and it is my favorite of the run so far. I keep saying that though. He keeps topping himself. I truly think this is the best art he's ever done, and I know that's saying something.
He's really putting a lot of love and attention into these pages. He's bringing so much more to it that by the time he's done with a page it's better than when it fell off my typewriter. The storytelling is better. So it's a hell of a thing.
I feel very, very lucky to have Bags because he can do the big widescreen action, And the emotional close up. Sometimes I don't even want to put a balloon on some these panels because they're so good silent. The actions have consequences for all these people. We're dealing with Hulks, but they're also human beings. So he's able to get both sides of that coin. "Hulk" #9 has some of the funniest, and scariest, moments I've ever written. Big action, and major consequences. "The Omega Hulk" also contains seemingly small story points that might have extraordinary consequences for Banner, Doc Green and the Marvel Universe moving forward.
Speaking of consequences, I want to conclude by talking about how Doc Green's actions will impact three different books and how those books will impact "Hulk." First, Green's quest to rid the world of gamma-powered people means he'll eventually run afoul of the Leader and the Red Hulk, General Ross, who are both appearing in "Thunderbolts." Do you have plans for those characters, and if so what can you tell us about them? Will they appear after the current "Thunderbolts" series wraps?
For Ross, I talked to ["Thunderbolts" writers] Ben Acker and Ben Blacker and Jordan [D. White] is editing that book. He's my "Deadpool" editor, so we're tying into T-Bolts in some unexpected ways. We're working together.
The Leader will be addressed at a later date, and Ross is a military guy. He knows the best defense is a good offense. So he may not wait around for Doc Green to ring his doorbell. The fun thing about Ross and the Hulk right now though is they don't know each other's whereabouts. They don't know how to find each other. You see Ross before this, but you'll definitely want to pick up "Hulk" #10. It's going to be a fun, and an important issue. It's the one I'm writing right now.
It's crazy, "Hulk" #5 is on stands this week and I'm writing the end of that trade paperback. So we're a motivated team and we're really plowing through it. My editor Mark Paniccia, Mark Bagley, [colorist] Jason Kieth and everyone have been turning in really great and extra wonderful work.
Another book that I imagine will impact the story you're telling is you're friend Rick Remender's "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS." It was recently revealed that the events of "AXIS" will unleash a character that's been described as the Hulk's Hulk. Will that character only be part of "AXIS" or will he spill over into your book as well?
"AXIS" will have consequences in "Hulk." I don't want to talk about how. I know that's frustrating, but I think anything I say would potentially upset both my book and Rick's. We are excited though to be playing with some of these big toys and the Hulk's Hulk is one of them. Hulk fans will need to add "Nova" #23 and #24 to their pull list. They'll know why from the covers.
There's one final book I wanted to ask you about. We now know, because of the "Time Runs Out" covers, that Doc Green will have some sort of ties to the Avengers. Will his role with the Avengers filter back into "Hulk?"
Yes, but at the moment the story of the Omega Hulk is sort of the best story that was on my hard drive. That was the one I pitched to get the job and I won't have the page count to necessarily do too much with the Avengers, but obviously what's happening in this "Hulk" book may affect a great many other books depending on whether there are Hulks in them now. "Thunderbolts" would have been an interesting title to continue reading. You'll see.
Whatever Hulk is your favorite I think you're going to see that character coming up. I know I've been very vague about the morality of Doc Green. I know where it is and he's a complicated guy. I think the fun thing about this Hulk is that he, like Banner, may have something worse inside of him.
This series is so tightly outlined that I'm already writing that second trade. I'm super excited. I hope one day we can pick up one volume that has all these great issues. It will be worth it for Bagley's contribution alone. Plus, check out those Gary Frank variants. I've always been lucky in collaborators, and that's especially true on "Hulk." Thanks for reading!
"Hulk" #6 goes on sale September 17.