THE GREEN ZONE: Hulking Out The Marvel U

People may not like Bruce Banner very much when he gets angry, but Marvel Comics is hoping that fans will like some of their biggest heroes when they get the same way in "Hulked Out Heroes" - the two-issue series from writer Jeff Parker and artist Humberto Ramos which starts today in comic shops nationwide.

Rolling right along on the events of "Fall of the Hulks" where the brilliantly devious Intelligencia led by The Leader and M.O.D.O.K. transformed a corps of their own A.I.M. soldiers as well as heroes from Captain America to Storm to Deadpool (well...he's kind of a hero sometimes) into gamma-powered monsters all their own. The issues help bridge the gap between "Fall" and the upcoming "World War Hulks" which begins in earnest in May. To that end, CBR is back with an all new installment of THE GREEN ZONE - our regular catch up with the creators of these dual events to find out how the wild ideas at play in this week's issue synch up with the story that will be "World War Hulks."

Below, writers Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak and Jeff Parker explain how they chose the denizens on the Marvel Universe who would become Hulking, how they're able to fit easily into the broader story schemes of the Heroic Age, what's in store for the turning point issues of the main series in June and perhaps most importantly...exactly why does Hulkpool's mad pirate plan almost make sense.

CBR News: "Hulked Out Heroes" is coming this week. Before we get to the fun of Parker's two-issue series, I wanted to go back to how you guys arrived at the heroes who we'd actually very much like to see angry. Some of the "task force" that Banner brought together at the end of "Fall of The Hulk" had strong connections to his past like Wolverine and the Avengers, but did part of the selection involve you guys going "I really want to see Thor be a Hulk"?

Jeff Parker: You guys just indulged Ed McGuinness, didn't you? [Laughter]

Jeph Loeb: Well, we try to indulge Ed whenever we can. But a lot of it did come from something that Greg and I keep coming back to - again, nothing was done randomly. In the same kind of way that we know that there was a lot of fandom reaction to the Red Hulk/Thor fight that was in "Hulk" #5, what we wanted to be able to do was assure people that we were going to do a rematch and that the rematch we were going to do would be outrageous. And it has been. And each one of those characters that we picked has some kind of connection either to Banner or to the Red Hulk in terms of stories that have been told prior to what's been going on or anything that's been going on over the last two years. There's a lot of unfinished business that needs to be wrapped up by the end of the wars.

So Jeff, what are you doing with "Hulked Out Heroes" in terms of how the heroes act as Hulks after being hit by the Cathexis Ray?

Parker: Well, Deadpool does a very classic turn where you'll be able to liken him a lot to your classic Hulk where "Him just want to be left alone." And also "hating puny Banner." That was something I always enjoyed - that he had this self-loathing. So we thought it'd be nice if Deadpool - or I should say "Hulkpool" - also had some self-loathing, and so he hates Deadpool. One of the things he hates is that Deadpool kills, and Hulkpool...well, he might still kill. But he doesn't go out of his way to do it or do it for money. He's just so big he can't help it. And then you find out that there's a Wade Wilson conflict back in there that comes out when his id takes the foreground.

And it's not him all being a peace-loving guy because he goes back in time and becomes a pirate and does everything you want to see Hulkpool do.

Loeb: [Laughs] Yes, folks. That is in fact what happens.

Greg Pak: Apparently, the kids love pirates!

Parker: Well, this is Jeph's thing where he brought up that early issue of "Fantastic Four" where Ben Grimm became Blackbeard and Doctor Doom sent him back in time to get a treasure chest. So he disguises himself as Blackbeard, and then they determine that the whole legend is based on him. We used that as a departure point. Since they're using Doctor Doom's time machine, it's got a preset back to that point.

Oh and by the way, the reason Hulkpool is using Doctor Doom's time machine is so that he can go back in time and kill Deadpool! It's the most awesome plan ever! [Laughter] But he gets sent way back too far to the first preset, and we meet Thingbeard and accidentally help him become the scourge of the seven seas.

Loeb: Amongst other things...actually, Parker pretty much rewrites the history of the entire Marvel Universe. He's just having a field day.

Parker: We screw up history really, really bad. Because if you have Hulkpool already, why not go all the way?

Loeb: And Humberto Ramos' artwork is outrageously wonderful.

Parker: I can't imagine anyone else doing this. It's the perfect job for him. He's the perfect artist for the book.

So the game plan at this point seems like the main books are taking a bit of a breather in the shipping schedule while fun limited series like "Hulked Out Heroes" and the "She-Hulks" book carry the torch, and then in May, the whole shebang kicks back up for "World War Hulks." Will we be taking a break in the reality of the story as well where those books will take place a few months after the end of "Fall"?

Loeb: The break was planned in from the very beginning. Part of it was so our artistic teams could have the time to be able to do the entire run and have both Ed and Paul carry "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks." So we sat down to find logical break points in our story where we could depart from the story but still come back to the exact same place where there'd be an adventure that could be exciting and full fleshed out with even more color and depth than we were already doing but by the same token not stop the train that we were on. Because obviously, we've left it at a very high, hot cliffhanger point with the end of "Fall of the Hulks." And we do want everybody to come right back in and pick it up.

Parker: It's like an intermission where nothing stops happening. You get to look back, read some more "Red Hulk" and delve into the stuff you weren't getting to see before. You get the "Savage She-Hulks" series and see what the women were up to all this time. I'll pat my brothers on the back here and say that it was a pretty brilliant move because that's often the problem with events - you get to the end and someone has to take a break or someone has to be brought in because these horses have been ridden so hard. But here it's going to pick up full steam again.

One of the things about this event that strikes me is the fact that with the Heroic Age coming and putting each solo book on its own path, it feels like you can draw on anyone in the Marvel Universe that you want without having to play continuity cop, which is where all these Hulked Out Heroes come from. Is that one of the freeing things about doing an event now?

Loeb: This is a story we were planning on telling for a long time including where it met up with the other stories. Credit where credit is due to Mark Paniccia, Nate Cosby and Jordan White who are editing this stuff and out there coordinating with all the other departments. We're equally grateful to Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort who run the X-Mengroup and the Avengers group who enabled us to borrow those characters, utilize them the way we needed to and then put them back in the boxes where they go. Someone - because I've seen it - has actually worked out a timeline of where this all works and how it fits in with "Siege" and everything else, but from our perspective, our job was to tell the best story we could. You can play the continuity game if it's important to you. Really what's important is getting to the emotional through line of what's going on with Banner and the Red Hulk and seeing how all that will resolve itself.

Pak: As with some of the previous events Marvel has done, we can't answer every continuity question right now because to be very specific about where things fall would spoil the endings of other stories. But there is a chart somewhere that explains how this all fits together. And it all does fit together. But we're not going to be explaining it exactly in the midpoint of the story. It all hooks up in the end.

Parker: Nothing's more fun than stopping a story in the middle and turning to the reader to go, "This is the part right before Dr. Doom does this." [Laughs] I do like with the Heroic Age stuff where people stopped caring so much about all that.

To wrap up, since fans will be waiting a few more weeks until the next phase kicks off in earnest with the "World War Hulks" stuff, what are the things you're most excited to see Ed and Paul drawing with the two main books return in May and June?

Loeb: I'm happy to finally be able to say to everybody, "Yes folks, 'Hulk' #23 is called THE ORIGIN OF THE RED HULK." And there are a lot of surprises to still be had in that issue and with the people that are going to be contributing to that issue that we've not yet revealed. And there's an equal surprise in "Incredible Hulk" #610, right Greg?

Pak: Yes! You will figure out who the other Scarlet Smasher is!

Loeb: And there are some pretty exciting things to check out in that John Romita, Jr. cover.

Pak: There's massive, massive things coming in May, June and July as "World War Hulks" rockets to its earth-shattering conclusion. We find out who Red She-Hulk is, as well as seeing the return of somebody very big and very green. The solicit I wanted to run but turned in too late was "Just look at that cover!" [Laughs] It's all happening. I'm scripting a lot of what's coming up even as we speak, and it is just insanely fun and insanely big stuff.

Parker: And the other major development is that A-Bomb gets pants! [Laughter] The whole thing is hanging on that, really. He finally improves on all the Hulks by going out and finding pants that fit for once.

Pak: But the question is what color. And I think you'll all be shocked, my friends. It is the most controversial color coordination in comics coming your way. Parker's taking a lot of risks here.

Parker: I'm laying it all on the line, but I think it's worth it for the story. [Laughter]

"Hulked Out Heroes" #1 is in stores today.

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