NYCC, Day 1: "World War Hulk" Panel

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On Friday afternoon, Joe Quesada presided over Marvel Comics' first panel at the second annual New York Comic Con. With "Civil War" finally over, the EIC of the House of Ideas and the assembled panelists were anxious to talk about the company's next big event, "World War Hulk." Greg Pak, the man behind not only "Planet Hulk" but also the green goliath's pending return to Earth, was in attendance. Also on the panel were writers Frank Tieri and Christos Gage, editors Bill Rosemann and Mark Paniccia, and Jim McCann. They were joined later by latecomer Dan Slott.

Quesada began the panel with a tantalizing secret about "World War Hulk": "There's no fighting, he just eats Earth. One big bite." All joking aside, Quesada launched into the slide show. The "World War Hulk" mini-series proper will be penned by "Incredible Hulk" scribe Greg Pak, and illustrated by legendary artist John Romita Jr. Before "Civil War" broke out, the "puny humans" known as the Illuminati recognized that the Hulk would be a liability, and they exiled him from Earth. "'World War Hulk' is the story of the Hulk returning to Earth where those puny humans live," Pak said. "Much smashing will ensue." Pak also promised that it will be "one of the most emotional stories for the Hulk in recent memory."

"World War Hulk" kicks off in May with the prologue, with writer Peter David, and artists Al Rio, Sean Phillips and Lee Weeks. "The prologue shows readers why the Illuminati did what they did and what the Hulk's feelings are towards those characters," Paniccia said. But Slott assured those assembled that, "It's not just a recap something important happens. So you must buy it."

Greg Pak will be continuing to write "The Incredible Hulk." And while everyone knows who the Hulk's enemies are going to be in the coming conflict, the "Incredible Hulk" tie-ins will focus on his allies. Issues 106 through 109 feature the return of Mastermind Excello (a new character from the recent "Amazing Fantasy" #15) and Amadeus Cho. Hercules and Angel were also pictured on a cover image. In addition, issues 106 and 107 deal with the repercussions of the Hulk's return on his longtime ally Namor, and Bruce's cousin Jen Walters, aka She-Hulk. In Slott's run on "She-Hulk," Jen Walters has become the "surrogate Hulk," doing her best to deal with the Hulk's rogue's gallery of villains who have been running amok in Bruce's absence. Slott urged readers to pick up "She-Hulk" 18, as her appearance in "Incredible Hulk" 106 picks up 10 seconds after the end of the former.

Professor X was a member of the now-disbanded Illuminati, and he was not present when the decision was made to send the Hulk into space. In "World War Hulk: X-Men," writer Christos Gage and artist Andrea DiVito ("Annihilation") show what happens when the Hulk comes calling on the 198. "Hulk has some pointed questions for Professor X," Gage said. The cover of the first issue of the 3-issue mini pictures the Hulk's fist closed around Charles' throat. When asked which of the 198 would be appearing, Gage said, "All of them. As many as they'll let me use."

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Frank Tieri will be writing the 4 issue mini "World War Hulk: Gamma Corps," in which General Ryker puts together a military unit designed specifically to take the Hulk down. "Imagine the crew from 'Predator' with gamma powers," Tieri said (with a few choice expletives deleted). "Gamma Corps" will "deal with the consequences of having someone like the Hulk around."

Rosemann spoke about "World War Hulk: Front Line," Paul Jenkins' follow-up to "Civil War: Front Line." Rosemann described it as a "street level look at this event." Like "Civil War: Front Line," this book will have multiple storylines. The primary focus will again focus on reporters Ben Urich and Sally Floyd. In addition, there will be story about Sally's boyfriend Danny who is a cop in the Cosutme Division, and a backup story by Chris Moreno which will present a more humorous take on the situation.

When Tony Stark accepted the position of Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of "Civil War," he never expected that one of his first challenges would be the return of the Hulk. But in "Iron Man" 19 and 20, Christos Gage delves into how Tony deals with doing exactly that. "Heroes for Hire" 11-14, "Avengers Initiative" 4, "Irredeemable Ant Man" 6 will also tie in. "Ghost Rider" will tie in as well, and Jeph Loeb and David Finch are writing a "Young Avengers" one-shot.

Dan Slott briefly spoke about his upcoming "Avengers Initiative." In the wake of "Civil War," all of the Marvel heroes have been forced to register their identities with S.H.I.E.L.D. Now they're being drafted into the 50 State Initiative. The Initiative's stated goal is to create a government-run super-team in each of the 50 U.S. States, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Tony Stark has put Jim Rhodes in charge. "Marvel's army of superheroes is now a superhero army," Slott said. "And when Hulk lands, you send in the army."

When a fan asked what heroes in the Marvel Universe could go toe-to-toe with the Hulk now that Thor is out of the picture, a heckler shouted out "Squirrel Girl!" Squirrel Girl's name was invoked yet again by Joe Quesada himself when someone else asked who the new Ronin was. Believe it or not, there were no fewer than three Squirrel Girl references over the course of the panel, which Quesada boasted was a first. "It means that Mark Millar will kill her soon," Slott quipped.

Another fan asked why there was such a pervading "event culture" and Marvel and DC. "For me, it's about keeping reader interest," Quesada answered. "Right now, it's what readers are asking for." Quesada did estimate that "World War Hulk" would be a quarter of the size of "Civil War," with 35 issues all told. Quesada even insisted that larger events like "Civil War" had many storylines that had to be left on the cutting room floor. "To keep the quality of an event as high as possible, we have to whittle them down as much as possible." Gage assured readers that you didn't have to read any of tie-ins to enjoy and understand the 5-issue "World War Hulk" series. But Pak was quick to follow up that if you read the event in its entirety, "you're gonna love everything even more."

width="129" height="190" alt="" border="0" align="right"> width="149" height="190" alt="" border="0" align="right">When asked about the many changes that Hulk has undergone over the years, Quesada said: "When a creator takes over a character, you expect a particular style. If not, we could write these books in editorial." But he did say there was a certain "consistency of character" which he enforces with every creative team on every Marvel book.

"Hulk has gone through radical changes," Pak said: The smart and crafty, "werewolf analog" who initially only changed at night, the "caveman-talk Hulk," and the "tortured, silent Hulk of the TV show" to name a few. Pak loved all of these takes on the character, and to him it's not contradictory that as Bruce Banner the man changes, the "face of rage" inside him changes as well.

"It's not gonna end with somebody crying and giving up, right?" one fan asked Quesada of the end of "World War Hulk." Quesada did not confirm or deny.

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