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THE GREEN ZONE: Harrison Wilcox

by  in Comic News Comment
THE GREEN ZONE: Harrison Wilcox

Harrison Wilcox is penning the adventures of Red She-Hulk during “Fall of the Hulks”

One of the key factors driving Marvel’s back-to-back Hulk events, “Fall of the Hulk” and “World War Hulks” (the former of which wraps next week), has been expanding out the big, bruising cast of characters in Bruce Banner’s world beyond his gamma-irradiated alter ego. While some of these characters, from Rick Jones’ A-Bomb to the son of Hulk, Skaar, are readily familiar to readers, many others remain shrouded in mystery…including the psychopathic Red She-Hulk.

It’s fitting, then, that the writer in charge of fleshing out the fury-filled female who’s uneasily working in league with M.O.D.O.K., the Leader and Samson, is a newcomer to the Marvel Comics Universe as well: Harrison Wilcox. Some eagle-eyed fans may recognize Wilcox’s name from the best-selling “Heroes” graphic novels based on NBC’s superhero drama, serialized online and later collected in print. This week, Wilcox stops by CBR’s regular Hulk home of THE GREEN ZONE to explain how he made the jump from fan to TV player to comic writer while offering some explanation of where his much-discussed, apparent killing of original She-Hulk Jen Walters plays into the upcoming “World War Hulks” plan.

CBR News: All right, Harrison! While some folks may recognize your name because of your work on the “Heroes” comic or your working relationship with that series, to most comic fans, you’re a complete unknown. What can you tell folks about your background, what you’ve done for “Heroes” on the whole and how you came to work for Marvel on the “Fall of the Hulks” storyline?

Harrison Wilcox: Well, okay! I got my start on the “Heroes” pilot – in fact, it was my first job after moving to LA. One thing led to another and I ended up working in the writers’ office on the show - Season 1 all the way through about half of Season 4. I had a lot of jobs while there, working with the writers and producers of the show. Some of them also happened to be in the comic industry. Obviously, one of those people was Jeph Loeb. I knew he was doing something big in the Hulk Universe, and by that time I really wanted to write comics, so I pitched an idea for a mini to him, and he passed it along to Mark Panniccia. Since I was a fan on the outside looking in, my idea didn’t work with their plans, but they gave me something better to do. And that’s what’s in the back of Incredible Hulk #606, 607, and 608. So really, I have to thank Loeb and Panic for giving me a shot and making it happen. 

Wilcox’s She-Hulk backup concludes in “Incredible Hulk” #608, on sale next week

Before you got involved with the very comic-centric “Heroes,” were you planning on making comics part of your professional life? What kind of books and creators did you dig as a reader, and how have those influences come to bear on your writing? In other words, what’s your “fanboy background”?

No, for some reason the idea of being able to work in comics never crossed my mind before “Heroes.” I mean, I tried to start a comic with my friend when we were in 8th grade, and I submitted once to Marvel around 2003, but really I always thought of myself as a fan first. Having said that, and now having had the opportunity to write comics for “Heroes” and Marvel, I can’t imagine myself not writing comics. I feel the same way about working in television. I think it’s just a symptom of growing up in small town New England, where the idea of getting to work in the entertainment industry was something very outlandish. 

But my fanboy background started with “X-Men” #1 and the ’90s animated show. From there I grew up reading Image and “Wildcats” and “Knightfall” and “Age of Apocalypse” and all that fun, crazy stuff. I was one of those boneheaded kids before the internet who freaked out when I thought 30 years of continuity was wiped out. As a reader, now I’m into anything Bendis or Johns or Loeb or Brubaker or Ennis. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. The list goes on and on. 

Although you have had the experience of writing comics for the “Heroes” universe, there must be a big difference between writing within the show’s world (and the constraints of tying into it’s production) and writing within the Marvel U (and the constraints of writing for an event). What’s been the biggest change for you in getting your superhero writing underway?

The “Heroes” comics were always secondary to what happened on the screen. They’re still incredibly valuable to the story of the franchise, but that’s just the nature of the beast. It was harder to advance the characters because we didn’t want to spoil what was happening on the show. So we ended up doing a lot of backstory stuff in the early issues, which worked out great because fans wanted to know more about who these characters were. Later on, the comics that took place between seasons, the comics that filled in the six month gaps, I think those were stronger because they had complete character arcs and were able to stand on their own. On the other hand, the comics at Marvel, they’re it. They’re where everything happens. There’s no TV show to tie into. Everything that has to happen, happens on the page. I’m not slighting the Heroes comics at all. I got to work with some great artists, Gaydos, Calero, Jimenez, Badower, and had a great time and did some stuff I’m proud of. It was just a different type of audience that we were catering to. 

More specifically to the star of the series, what’s your take on the Hulk franchise? What’s the draw of telling stories with these characters in general?

Paul Pelletier and Ryan Stegman’s art from the penultimate chapter of “Fall of the Hulks”

The Hulk franchise is full of people completely driven by their emotions. And I think that’s really cool, in such a visual medium, to have characters that wear their psyche on the outside. When Hulk feels a certain way, he reacts in kind. They’re something brutally admirable about that for me. 

When it came to setting up your backup run, did you have specific character or a specific angle within “Fall of the Hulks” that you wanted to play with, or did this Red She-Hulk backup come out of talking to editorial and the writers about what they needed?

The “Code Red” story in “Hulk” never showed us what really happened to Domino and Elektra [or] how Red She-Hulk ended up with their clothing and weapons. Loeb sat me down and explained his master plan and what happened behind the scenes during that big fight. We used the backup run as an opportunity to fill in the gaps and also give the readers more insight into Red She-Hulk. It was really cool of him to let me tell part of his story. 

In your very first Marvel Comics story, the last page revealed Jen “She-Hulk” Walters (or at least what looked to be Jen) getting her neck snapped by the Red She-Hulk. To put it mildly, the She-Hulk fans out there were vocally upset at the possibility that Jen would be out of the picture for the long run. Were you expecting the reaction you got?

Yes, I was. I love Jen Walters and was just as surprised when I was told that we could do what we did to her. And I’ve been around message boards enough to know that people are going to get upset when a character gets killed. But I think it’s a good thing that people get upset and argue. It means they care about comics and the characters. 

That said, there’s been some doubt introduced in “Incredible Hulk” #607 as to whether that actually was Jen. As we move towards the next installment of your story, can fans expect a definitive answer, either on the status of She-Hulk or the identity and back story for Red She-Hulk?

You’ll have to read “World War Hulks” #1! Ryan Stegman just sent me pages, and I’m very excited for it to go to print. It’s sort of an unofficial fourth part to the backup stories in Incredible #606, 607, and 608. 

Bruce Banner goes down the gamma-irradiated rabbit hole in “Incredible Hulk” #608

The other major component of the tale you’ve been writing is the somewhat rocky collaboration between Intelligencia masterminds M.O.D.O.K., the Leader and the newly “Doc-less” Samson. What will we learn about the future of that organization in the wake of their attempts to rein in Red She-Hulk’s destructive tendencies?

I’m dong my best to keep all this spoilerless. There’s definitely more friction in the works for those three, and I think that the Hulk brain trust has done something really cool with the Intelligencia. The bad guys getting their act together and all. Collaborating as geniuses and not falling into the arch-villain stereotype. It feels like a very classic, timeless Marvel story. And Samson doing what he’s doing now…the fanboy in me is very excited about it all. 

Up next, you’ll be taking part in the debut issue of “World War Hulks,” the next phase of this big Hulk mega-story. What is your role in that comic, as well as the future of the Hulk on the whole?

I’ve written two stories in it. Both are very relevant to the “World War Hulks” event and the major players. You gots to read it to find out what happens next!

Looking forward, do you have any other comics scripting in the work, or maybe even a dream comics gig you’d like to pursue as a writer?

I do have some stuff in the works, but nothing I can talk about yet. And yes, I do have a few dream projects, but the people who are writing those books and characters right now are doing such a great job, I’m happy to stay a reader for a little bit longer.

Check out the final chapter in Wilcox’s Red She-Hulk story next week in “Incredible Hulk” #608, which combines with “Hulk” #21 to form the finale of “Fall of the Hulks.” Check back in with THE GREEN ZONE next week for more from the creators on where the story will be headed come “World War Hulks!”

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