Pak and Van Lente on All Things "Incredible"

Years ago, the only thing that frightened Bruce Banner more than his destructive alter ego, the Hulk, was the idea that Green Goliath would become a legacy to be inherited by a future generation. Recently, Banner was cured of one nightmare as the Red Hulk removed the good doctor's ability to transform into his emerald alter ego, but another of Banner's nightmares has come to pass: the next generation of Hulks now walks the Earth.

Currently, "The Incredible Hulk" comic book is split into two parts: a main feature and a back-up story. In the main feature, writer Greg Pak and artist Ariel Olivetti are detailing Banner's quest to do good by Skaar, the son of his former alter ego and an alien warrior woman named Caiera. Skaar was born on the savage planet of Sakaar, but was recently transported to Earth. Now that he's here, Banner has taken the super strong teenage barbarian under his wing and is attempting to train him.

In the back-up feature, writer Fred Van Lente and artist Michael Ryan chronicle the events of another gamma powered legacy. Their story features Lyra, the all new Savage She-Hulk, who is the daughter of the Hulk and an alternate reality version of Thundra. Recently, Lyra's best friend, Jennifer Walters, the original She-Hulk went missing, and Van Lente and Ryan's story is about Lyra's quest to find her.

CBR News spoke with both "Incredible Hulk" writers about their respective stories

CBR News: Greg, You're a well known Hulk writer, but you're mainly known for storylines like "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk," where the Green Goliath was the main character and Bruce Banner played tiny roles. So what is it like finally writing Bruce Banner? It seems like you're having a lot of fun with his cunning and intellect.

Greg Pak: I've been itching to write Bruce Banner since I got a taste of it during "Planet Hulk" when we did the 'Banner War' story in "Giant Size Hulk" #1. And Hulk editor Mark Paniccia always knows how to inspire me. Back when we were working on "World War Hulk," he said, "I challenge you to make Hercules cool!"

He hit me with the same challenge with Banner -- adding that Banner's so freaking smart that he should be an insanely formidable figure all by his puny lonesome. It's been an absolute blast delving into that notion -- particularly when we can play brainy Banner off his surly savage son.

Let's talk a little bit about Banner's relationship with Skaar. It's clear that he's teaming up with Skaar to train him for what he feels will be the eventual return of the Hulk, but does he genuinely care about him as well? Does Banner see Skaar as his son, or the Hulk's? And considering how nightmarish his father was, how does Bruce feel about fatherhood in general?

GP: All excellent questions -- and if I answered them in detail I'd spoil the next year of stories! I'll just say that the big tale we're telling takes all of that into account and plays it out in unexpected ways that may just hit Banner with some of the biggest emotional turning points of his life. It's great, meaty stuff that's been set up for decades through the amazing work of writers like Bill Mantlo and Peter David -- I feel lucky as can be to be the guy that gets to carry those threads through to a massive climax.

By the same token,we know Skaar hates the Hulk, but how does he feel about Banner? Does he respect and feel any sort of kinship with him? Or is his working with Banner more of a case of 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'?

GP: The relationship between Skaar and Banner is developing a bit with each issue -- maybe even tipping dangerously close to a Kodak moment or two of Hulk-style father-son bonding. At the same time, Skaar was raised by monsters and spent his childhood killing barbarians to ensure his own survival -- he's fully capable of all manner of deception and ruthlessness. Banner's probably well advised to keep close track of where the kid's sword is at all times.

Issue #602 is in stores now. When the story begins, where are Banner and Skaar and what's the current dynamic between them?

GP: Issue #602 picks up right after the cliffhanger ending of #601 with the arrival of the unstoppable Juggernaut! Banner and Skaar are apparently chill enough to be hanging out in a diner drinking milkshakes. But the relationship is still dangerous enough that Skaar's willing to walk away when the Juggernaut starts whaling on Banner.

In your mind what made the Juggernaut a good foil for the brawn of Skaar and the brains of Banner?

GP: The Juggernaut is powered by magic, but Skaar's abilities are limited by science. So from Banner's point of view, this is a good chance to force his savage son to use a little more that sheer brawn.

In October's "Incredible Hulk" #603, you'll explore the father/son dynamic even further with appearances by Wolverine and his son Daken. What was the appeal of having these two characters bump into Banner and Skaar?

GP: Two great tastes that go great together. You can't beat a Wolverine-Hulk story. And now we get double the fun as the sons of these two classic heroes get into the action. And there are some striking similarities between Daken and Skaar that go deeper than their tribal tattoos and funny haircuts that might just bring some unexpected emotional power to all the smashing and slashing.

I'd also add that Banner and Logan always struck me as a fun pairing. The nerd and the cage fighter hanging out? Gotta love it.

Is there anything you can tell me about the plot of issue #603? And considering Daken and Logan hate each other, how do the match ups between Banner, Skaar, Wolverine, and Daken break down? Who's fighting whom?

GP: Let's just say that every guy will get in a shot in at almost every other guy in this issue. But just who comes out on top and why might shock you. There's also a major revelation coming in this issue about Skaar that could probably only have happened through this particular meeting of snikt and smash, so add it to your pull list, friends!

October also sees the release of the one-shot special "Dark Reign: The List-Hulk," which has Banner and Skaar dealing with Norman Osborn. Can you reveal why your protagonists have attracted the attention of Osborn? And what made you want to pit Banner and Skaar against the former Green Goblin?

GP: Osborn probably thought his Hulk problem was taken care of -- Banner's Hulkless these days, after all. But after messing with a long time friend of the Hulk, Osborn finds himself facing the wrath of puny human Banner and big barbarian Skaar. The scary thing for Osborn is that this newly proactive Banner might actually be the more dangerous of the two.

Ben Oliver drew "Dark Reign: The List-Hulk." What was it like working with him? What do you feel he brought to the project as an artist?

GP: Ben's art has a kind of elegance or grace to it, which might seem like a strange match for a Hulk story. But it's a perfect fit for a team up between Banner's big brain and Skaar's barbarian brawn. Those elegant lines bring out Banner's fast brain while providing fantastic contrast for Skaar's savage smashing. It's pretty darn gorgeous stuff.

In November's "Incredible Hulk" #604 you pit Banner and Skaar against another classic Hulk foe, the Harpy. What can you tell me about this issue?

GP: With each issue, we're getting a little deeper into just exactly what it means to Banner to have a son and for Skaar to have a father. With the arrival of the Harpy in issue #604, we're pushing the relationship between the two to the limits. The last time we saw the Harpy, of course, she was Betty Ross, the love of Bruce's life. So will the reemergence of the Harpy mess with Bruce's mind or affect his attitude towards Skaar?

What's it like working with Ariel Olivetti on "Incredible Hulk"? Which aspects of his art do you enjoy the most?

GP: Ariel's incredibly well known for drawing enormously muscled, Hulk-like heroes, so it's a no-brainer to have him on a Hulk book. But what's really making me cackle is the performance he's getting out of these characters. Ariel has a great sense of humor and knows how to sell all of the little (and big) character moments. I'm particularly fond of that opening image of Skaar drinking a milkshake in issue #602.

"Incredible Hulk" isn't the only book you're writing that has the descriptive "Incredible" in the title. You also co-write "Incredible Hercules" with Fred Van Lente. At first glance it would seem like these would be two very different titles, but are they?

GP: Both books deal with unlikely pairings of brains and brawn, which allows for some nice gags and character development. And there are certain plot elements we're seeding in the different books that might just lead to certain characters crossing each others' paths again sooner rather than later--At the same time, "Incredible Hulk" and "Incredible Hercules" have their distinct mythos and themes and story arcs going on. We're building very different stories for the books and destinies for these various characters, which is of course part of the fun of writing multiple books. That being said, if you dig Herc, feel free to check out 'Incredible Hulk' and vice versa!

In 2010 "World War Hulks" will be upon us. How big of a role will the main story in "Incredible Hulk" play in that event and the lead up to it?

GP: My own 'Incredible Hulk' and Jeph Loeb's awesome 'Hulk' book will be the core titles of next year's massive two-part Hulk event, which starts with 'Fall of the Hulks' and finishes with 'World War Hulks.' We've been hammering out a heck of a story for you -- each issue of each book will be packed with mind-blowing action and stunning character revelations. Dontcha dare miss it!

Fred, you ended your first story in "Incredible Hulk" #601 with Lyra's search for She-Hulk in Death Valley being interrupted by a new Gamma Corps. And from the last page of your story, it looks like that Gamma Corps leader General Ryker is back and has ties to Norman Osborn. Is this correct?

Fred Van Lente: He does. If you recall, at the end of Frank Tieri's "World War Hulk: Gamma Corps" series, Ryker ended up in a S.H.I.E.L.D. jail for his various off the board activities. So when Norman took over S.H.I.E.L.D. and turned it into H.A.M.M.E.R., he got the keys to that jail cell. Because Ryker had such great experience in injecting superhuman DNA into regular humans, Osborn sprung him and made him him head of this Origins Corporation.

What can you tell me about the Origins Corporation and the new Gamma Corps? Why are they targeting Lyra?

FVL: The new Gamma Corps are all women. They've all been enhanced with genetic material from major Hulk villains like Zzzax, Abomination, and Glob. Ironically enough, all of those villains were captured by Jennifer Walters in the "Planet Without a Hulk" storyline from Dan Slott's run on "She-Hulk."

And because it was Lyra coming from this alternate future that gave Osborn the idea to found the Origins Corporation in the first place, he figures she's the perfect candidate for the first harvest of genetic material. It gets her out of the way so she can't warn people of the horrific things Osborn will do once he gets the Origin Corporation up and running.

So they figure out a way to isolate Lyra in Death Valley, where she's investigating the events of "Hulk" #600, which lead to the disappearance of Jennifer Walters. And it's here where Gamma Corps Black ambushes her.

Gamma Corps Black's ambush resulted in the murder of one Lyra's close friends, Alexander Erde, and she's already on edge because of Jennifer Walter's disappearance. What can you tell me about her emotional state in part two of your story?

FVL:She's already sort of a woman without a country and a stranger in a strange land, and now she's alienated even further. That's bad news for Gamma Corps Black, because they thought Lyra was going to be easy pickings. They haven't trapped her in Death Valley, they've trapped themselves there with her. The second part of the story makes this abundantly clear.

Lyra sees herself as a monster. In her alternate future homeworld she was raised to think of herself as a monster. This story is part of her slow rehabilitation from monster to hero.

What's it like working with Michael Ryan. What does he bring to these stories as an artist?

FVL:Michael's art work is just beautiful. If you want good looking women who are monsters punching each other, the man you should go to is Michael Ryan. He really knocked this story out of the park, just as he did on the "All New Savage She-Hulk" mini-series where Lyra first appeared.

How far out do you have Lyra's adventures planned? And how connected is her current adventure to the approaching "World War Hulks" storyline?

FVL:This directly ties into "World War Hulks." Lyra discovers things that lead into a new 'World War Hulks: She-Hulks' mini-series. Soon there will be three She-Hulks and, this being comics, that means they should all fight. [Laughs]. It also blows open something that readers of Jeph Loeb's 'Hulk' series have been wondering about for some time. At a certain point during the 'Lady Liberators' storyline Red Hulk and Thundra made a pact, and Thundra is Lyra's mother. So what's the connection there?

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