In the Marvel Universe, Earth is a planet full of heroes and there the power of the Incredible Hulk can often cause more destruction than good, but what happens when the Green Goliath is transported to an alien world in desperate need of heroes? Will the arrival of the Hulk lead to the planet's salvation or destruction? This is the premise of the current storyline in "The Incredible Hulk," the epic fourteen part "Planet Hulk." CBR News spoke with writer Greg Pak about "Planet Hulk" and the storyline that follows it, "World War Hulk."
"Planet Hulk" was born out of an initial idea from the big guy at Marvel. "The inspiration for sending Hulk to an alien planet where he'd battle monsters as a gladiator came from Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada," Pak told CBR News. "I loved the idea from the minute I heard it, so I was blown away when they told me I had the gig and even more blown away when they basically cut me loose to create the whole world."
Books on history and cultural anthropology inspired Pak and helped him create the alien world that would serve as the setting for "Planet Hulk." "I got inspiration for the story by reading about the real lives of gladiators in ancient Rome and from the stories of figures like Genghis Khan and more contemporary warlords, dictators, and political leaders," Pak said. "Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' and Joseph Campbell's 'Power of Myth' played a big role in helping me think through other aspects of the story.
"Planet Hulk" began in February, but it's not too late for new readers looking to jump aboard the blockbuster sci-fi story. Pak provided a synopsis to catch new readers up. "Exiled by a group of Marvel heroes to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk become a slave, then a gladiator, and now the Green Scar, a revolutionary leading his Warbound gladiator crew and a band of rebels and refugees against the planet's wicked Red King," Pak told CBR News. "The non-stop action powers a huge emotional question: is the Hulk a monster or a hero? Or, in Sakaarian terms, is the Hulk the Sakaarson, the planet's legendary savior? Or the Worldbreaker, the destroyer of everything?
"It's a sci-fi epic stretching over fourteen issues - it began in February 2006 with 'Incredible Hulk' #92 and ends in April 2007 with 'Incredible Hulk' #105," Pak continued. "New readers can jump on at any time - 'Incredible Hulk' #98, which hit stands September 13, is actually a great starting point, as it sets up the next major character and conflict for the Hulk. 'Incredible Hulk'#100 is another great entry point - it's a double (maybe even triple...) sized issue featuring the beginning of the 'Planet Hulk: Alliance' story arc as well as a backup story in which someone on Earth finally learns what the Marvel heroes did to the Hulk."
After being forcefully exiled from Earth by a group of Marvel Heroes the Hulk was the physical embodiment of Fury and crashing down on Sakaar didn't help his emotional state. "Through 'Exile,' the first story arc in 'Planet Hulk,' the Hulk was driven almost purely by rage," Pak said. "After passing through the wormhole that brought him to Sakaar, he discovered that he could be cut - maybe even killed. And he teamed up with a group of fellow gladiators in order to survive. But every step of the way, he was driven by anger - against the puny humans who sent him here and against the puny pinkies, the Imperial overlords who threw him into the gladiatorial ring and made him fight.
"Now, in the middle of the 'Anarchy' arc, the Hulk's bonded with his Warbound gladiator allies," Pak continued. "And as they rage across the countryside after escaping from the Great Arena, he's beginning to see how his anger is affecting them. Deep down, the Hulk knows that he could literally destroy this whole world. And he fears that if he keeps fighting alongside his Warbound allies, he just might. But at every step, the Hulk and his crew come face to face with the horrors perpetrated by the Red King. Whatever the cost, the Hulk seems destined to keep smashing."
While the Hulk is wrestling with what to do with his rage, some readers might be wondering how Bruce Banner, the other persona that shares the Hulk's consciousness is coping with being marooned on Sakaar. "A ten page story called 'Banner War' in 'Giant Size Hulk' #1 (June 2006) gave a glimpse of what Banner is thinking - and at that time, Banner was desperate to leave Sakaar," Pak explained. "But now, when it's becoming clearer and clearer what's at stake and what the Hulk's responsibilities are on Sakaar, who knows?"
In the current chapter of "Anarchy," the Hulk finds himself with a new responsibility on Sakaar. "'Incredible Hulk' #98, the third chapter in 'Anarchy,' came out on Wednesday. I don't want to spoil too much - let's just say that the divisions within the Warbound come to a head as Hulk and Miek face off - and another figure steps up to take a huge role in the Hulk's life while a terrifying new threat surfaces."
As "Planet Hulk" continues, the Hulk will confront threats all over Sakaar and there will be some off planet action as well. "The broken moon will indeed play a role in upcoming issues - beyond that, my lips are sealed," Pak explained.
The Broken Moon orbits Sakaar and another enigmatic astrological anomaly, The Great Portal, sporadically appears in the space surrounding the planet. It was the portal that brought the Hulk and many other alien castaways from the Marvel Universe to Sakaar. Pak promised a huge reveal about the nature and origin of the Great Portal is forthcoming in "Incredible Hulk" #101.
In addition to the Hulk, the Great Portal has deposited many familiar faces onto Sakaar including representatives from races like the Brood and the Kronans (who battled The Thor in his very first Marvel appearance) and even the Silver Surfer. Pak couldn't reveal if any more familiar faces would be popping up on Sakaar, but he did promise that some established Marvel characters would be appearing in a different setting in an upcoming issue. "There's a twelve page backup story illustrated by the brilliant Gary Frank in Issue #100 that features several familiar faces," Pak stated.
Before issue #100, a new face will appear among the Hulk's growing legion of allies. "Issue #99 will reveal a major addition to the Hulk's team, which will lead right into the first series of twists in 'Allegiance,' Pak explained.
Pak couldn't reveal much information about "Allegiance" or the story arc that follows it "Armageddon," the concluding arc of "Planet Hulk." "For now, I'll let the story arc titles speak for themselves," he said. "But get ready for huge action and a giant payoff that launches right into 'World War Hulk.'"
Before "World War Hulk" begins, readers will finally learn the truth about the legendary figures that many Sakaarians believe the Hulk to be, the Sakaarson and the Worldbreaker. "There will be a huge payoff by the end of the series regarding these
Legends," Pak said. "And an even bigger payoff later on down the line. We've got plans we can't even start to hint at yet, but they're big!"
Pak could only provide cryptic hints about his next gamma powered epic, "World War Hulk," which features art by John Romita Jr. "'World War Hulk' begins in May 2007," he stated. "I can't reveal too much. But the events of 'World War Hulk' will come directly from the epic storyline we're building in 'Planet Hulk.' Hulk will smash. And who knows if he'll ever stop."
Whether "World War Hulk" is set on Sakaar or Earth and the identities of the characters that play major roles in the story are two more pieces of information that Pak had to keep under wraps, but he was able to drop another hint about the story. "Hulk is the emotional and physical center of this story," he said. "It's too early for us to reveal who else will be featured, but it might be worth thinking through whom in the universe the Hulk might most like to smash."
The big question of Marvel's "Civil War" story is, "Whose side are you own?" and "World War Hulk" will have a big question about allegiances as well. "The big question is whether Banner will side with or against the Hulk - which may turn on our giant thematic question of whether the Hulk is a hero or a monster," Pak explained. "By the time 'World War Hulk' reaches its climax, all will be revealed."
Many readers hope that the climax of "World War Hulk" will have the Green Goliath getting revenge on The Illuminati, the secret cabal of Marvel heroes who sent him into space. Pak couldn't reveal if this will happen or not but advised fans to check out the Gary Frank illustrated back up story in "Incredible Hulk" #100 for more information on the Hulk's feelings towards the Illuminati and when asked, "How worried should the Illuminati be if the Hulk ever does make it back to earth?" Pak answered, "The short answer: very, very, very worried."
Over the course of "Planet Hulk" readers will become quite familiar with the planet Sakaar and some might be worried that once the storyline wraps and "World War Hulk" begins that they will have seen the last of the unique setting. "Hulk editor Mark Paniccia and I have a couple of year's worth of stories planned out," Pak said. "We can't reveal too much, but rest assured, we're not forgetting Sakaar."
Planning huge sagas like "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" has proved to be a challenging, fun, rewarding, and addictive experience for Pak. "'World War Hulk' may be the biggest comics project I've ever tackled - and I'm thrilled to be working with John Romita, Jr," Pak said. "I was looking back over his work on the 'Wolverine: Enemy of the State' storyline, and I can't wait to see him tackle 'World War Hulk.' It's exactly the kind of insane action that he does better than anyone. I'm also hugely happy to be continuing to develop this epic with Marvel editor Mark Paniccia, who's been my partner in crime throughout 'Planet Hulk.' We're both hooked - we cannot get enough of the Hulk and can't wait to share these insane stories with you."