This June, when the Hulk's massive ship enters the skies above New York City and the Green King issues his proclamation of war, it won't be just the costumed heroes of the Marvel Universe that have to take action. Many normal non-powered citizens will have to overcome their fears and help their fellow citizens out by serving and protecting them and helping them make sense out of the chaos that arises from "World War Hulk." Some of these non-powered citizens will star in "World War Hulk: Front Line" a six issue mini-series by writer Paul Jenkins and featuring art by Ramon Bachs, Shawn Martinborough, and Chris Moreno. CBR News spoke with Jenkins about the series which features the return of intrepid reporters Ben Urich and Sally Floyd and the latest case of Sally's boyfriend, Danny Granville a Detective for the NYPD's Costume Division.
"World War Hulk: Front Line" came about because of the strong sales and response to the "Civil War: Front Line" mini-series. "I think what happened was when we started doing 'Front Line' it was a good idea," Jenkins told CBR News. "It was a good fit. It worked well with 'Civil War' and it sold really well. Since the sales of the first series we're great we got to talking about what 'Front Line' could be. Joe Quesada said, 'How do you feel about doing a war in the trenches style comic with those characters?' So we did it and as we started doing it; it became clear that 'Front Line' was a good idea.
"So Joe, my editor Tom Brevoort and some other guys at Marvel said, 'Why don't we see how many of these events 'Front Line' would be good for?'" Jenkins continued. "'Front Line' was the man on street perspective, the other information, the supplement to the big event. It illustrates some of the things that the guys doing the main story don't have a chance to illustrate. So in this case what happens when the Hulk comes to Earth? People look up and they see aliens. Perhaps the culture shock might be so bad that some people might not be able to live with themselves? We're just trying to do stuff like that."
Sally Floyd and Ben Urich are two of the people hoping to help their fellow citizens make sense of the culture shock of "World War Hulk." The two journalists, having been profoundly impacted by the events of 'Civil War: Front Line,' will be reporting on the events of "WWH" with a new perspective. "Sally had an agenda. She spent years writing an opinion piece. She had a massive amount of pre-conceived notions about the government conspiring to take away our civil liberties but at a certain point in the story a congressmen who she had sparred with for years, and who in some sense is representative of the government tells her, "I was in Vietnam. I got shot. I had pieces of bullet fragment in my legs. I was tortured. I suffered through all that knowing that I would never take away anybody's right to call me a jackass in public. You want to call me that? Good for you. That's what I fought for.' He rocks her world. 'You call me predictable?' He says. 'Which one of us is the most predictable?' He points out to her what she is.
"Ben Urich started out saying, 'The story is the thing, Sally. The slanting of the story is not what matters. We go rightly or wrongly with what is true,'" Jenkins continued. "But if you don't accept that there is a publisher's agenda, you're not living in the real world. If there is no such thing than what is Fox News? What is the New York Times? Many of the established news outlets clearly have a slant one way or another. So, Ben undergoes a transformation as well because when he gets to the end of 'Civil War: Front Line' he suddenly begins to realize that he and Sally have this story; it's the story of Tony Stark and what he did in order to do one of the most difficult things he ever had done. When Ben gets the story he realizes it isn't as important as what Tony Stark has done and if he tells the story he's going to undermine what Tony has done. This shakes his world as a reporter. A reporter has to tell the story, but for him to tell that story would immediately jeopardize what that story is. So Ben makes a choice and it hurts him in the future. He's going to really struggle with 'should I have told that story or not?'"
When "World War Hulk: Front Line" begins, a few weeks have passed since Ben and Sally had undergone their career altering changes and the duo launched "Front Line," their own news publication. "They've been struggling with their venture," Jenkins said. "There are so many news outlets and some of them are amateurish. There's so much competition and with an online paper it's a bit difficult."
Ben and Sally's luck may be about to change though. "At a certain point a mysterious benefactor comes into their life and says, 'I want to bankroll you guys.' They ask, 'why?' and the answer is that whoever it is that's bankrolling them wants them to compete directly with J. Jonah Jameson," Jenkins explained. "Their benefactor immediately says. 'I've got an agenda. I want you to nail Jonah Jameson to the wall. I want you to be better than him.' So the question is who is their benefactor?"
Sally and Ben's mysterious benefactor certainly has the bankroll to turn "Front Line" into a legitimate competitor with the "Daily Bugle." "They take over 'The Alternative.' Sally's former paper," Jenkins stated. "Their benefactor buys 'The Alternative,' their printing presses and everything and turns it into 'Front Line.'
Their benefactor's agenda may involve a publishing war with J. Jonah Jameson, but Ben and Sally are most concerned with reporting the stories that arise from the Hulk's return to Earth. "The important stories are: what is happening while everybody is looking up to the sky and watching the massive battles above them? What happened to the sets of evacuations?" Jenkins explained. "They started gathering people in Central Park, The Financial District and other places in Manhattan and they start getting people out of there. Then you go to a place like Mott Haven and nobody's bothered to show up to coordinate and hasten the evacuation of that neighborhood, where the people are much poorer."
The evacuations are just one of a number of stories arising from "World War Hulk" that Ben and Sally look into. "They look into what people do: are they brave? Are they foolhardy?" Jenkins stated. "They're going to watch what happens as the Hulk and all these other massive characters float around like gods smashing the crap out of things and people are like, 'Stop! This isn't fair. Stop smashing things. Give us a break.'"
While the first story of "World War Hulk: Front Line" will have Sally and Ben pounding the pavement in pursuit of stories, the second story in the book will have Sally's boyfriend Detective Danny Granville pounding the pavement in search of a criminal. "Danny works for the Costume Division of the NYPD," Jenkins said. "In this story Danny is partnered with Korg, one of the Hulk's allies. There's been a violation of an agreement and Korg is pissed; so they'll have to launch an investigation. It's kind of a neat 'Alien Nation' buddy type story."
Jenkins has wanted to tell stories like "Costume Division" for awhile now. "I really want to do crime fiction in the Marvel Universe," he said. "It goes back to a story I wrote a few years ago in 'Peter Parker #36' that I thought had neat possibilities. It was about this guy who works for an insurance company and his job was to investigate claims that have been made against the company for superhero damage. Human nature being what it is many people would just lie through their teeth. They'd claim the Green Goblin blew up their house and he'd find out it was a lightning strike, which they weren't covered for.
"Because his job was so mundane and he had been a police officer before, he thought it would be a big score to find out Spider-Man's identity," Jenkins continued. "So he follows patterns and noses around and finally comes up with his conclusion as to who Spider-Man is. So he goes to the Daily Bugle offices and knocks on the door and Jonah Jameson answers and he says to Jonah, 'I accuse you of being Spider-Man!' Over the course of the story I had all these great ideas."
When "Costume Division" begins, Danny Granville's life is fairly good, but complex and it's about to get a whole lot more complicated. "He's got a new girlfriend named Sally. She's hot, but she's kind of a pain. He's quite a nice fellow and he's quite shy actually so she's totally all over him and dominates him in the power structure," Jenkins explained. "Also there's a big giant ship in the sky and his job is to make sure that ship doesn't fall and squish people.
"He gets this call and they say, 'We need you for something,'" Jenkins continued. "He asks, 'What?' and they tell him. He's like, ah @&%$. He's a very reluctant hero but he's quite a competent guy. He finds out what it means to investigate a crime like this and it's a little bit different from the way he thought and it's a little bit more dangerous than what he thought."
Jenkins hopes readers respond to the "Costume Division" story in "World War Hulk: Front Line" because he'd love to tell more stories featuring Danny Granville and the other detectives of that division. "I really want to do a book called 'Costume Division,'" Jenkins stated. "I think it would be so much fun and I think it would suit me very well. So hopefully in the future we can do a mini-series or something."
In addition to the two main stories of "World War Hulk: Front Line," featuring Ben Urich and Sally Floyd and Danny Granville, readers will be treated to a third two page story in every issue, of a much lighter tone. "It's basically me and Chris Moreno [Jenkins 'Sidekick' collaborator] making fun of everything we do," Jenkins explained. "In one of the stories the state of Rhode Island can't persuade anyone to join their superhero team. The stories are totally goofy. It's just fun. Chris and I have so much fun doing the comics that we do. We just wanted to do a couple of back up stories for Marvel and I think it's great to see Chris doing some stuff for Marvel."
"World War Hulk: Front Line" is an anthology series that aims to provide something for all types of readers. "We've got these funny two-page back up stories. We've got crime fiction, and we've got sort of a reflection on the way 'World War Hulk' affects things," Jenkins said. "I think there's plenty in there for people and it's kind of a different approach from 'Civil War: Front Line.' It's nice to do a bit of humor in a book with a slightly higher profile. Hopefully the strength of the series will continue and we'll be able to do a 'Front Line' for every event."
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