"The Hulk mythos is about to explode" said "World War Hulk" writer Greg Pak last month in conversation with CBR's Jeffrey Renaud. It was then, at the Baltimore Retailer Summit, that Marvel Comics released the first image from what CBR can now confirm is "The HULK," an additional monthly Hulk title; this one by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness. With the new series set to debut in just a few weeks, CBR News spoke with the fan-favorite team about what makes January, 2008 such an incredible month for the Hulk.
"I love the Hulk," Jeph Loeb told CBR News. "The adventure of his life, the troubles and the power are all things we want to continue with. This first 'HULK' arc brings something new into the Hulk's stories -- a murder mystery as one of the oldest characters in Hulk's universe meets a grisly end. But who is responsible and then why is pretty dark. I also love the supporting cast -- Iron Man, She-Hulk, Leonard Samson, and Thunderbolt Ross -- and a few surprises I don't want to give away right now."
Indeed, coming out of one of if not the biggest years in Hulk history, the future of Bruce Banner is shrouded in an eerily familiar Marvel-style mystery, with post-"World War Hulk" solicitations for "The Incredible Hulk" title reading simply, "classified." The situation is reminiscent of Marvel's cryptic activities with the "Iron Man" and "Captain America" titles following the events of "Civil War." Adding to speculation is sure to be "The HULK" #1's cover, featuring a character in silhouette, which suggests that fans shouldn't necessarily assume the Red Hulk is Bruce Banner.
"You know the old saying about 'don't assume,'" Loeb warned. "It'll just make an ass out of U and me! Wow, is that bad. But kind of nifty how I avoided all that, huh?"
In any event, "The HULK" #1 does not depend on readers' foreknowledge of "World War Hulk" and its innumerable tie-ins. "You can absolutely jump on without a problem," promised Loeb. "And if you've been following the end of 'WWH,' you'll see how it all ties together. A lot of that has to do with how closely [editor] Mark Paniccia has been working with me and Greg Pak. Very cool."
The first seeds of what was to become "HULK" were sown at the Wizard World Los Angeles convention in 2006, where Ed McGuinness and Jeph Loeb discussed a story tentatively titled, "The Strongest There Is," which at that time existed solely to facilitate what sounds like a glorious scene in which the Hulk punches out a Watcher.
"Everyone seemed to like that for some reason!" laughed Loeb. "After the rather shocking events of [November's] 'World War Hulk' #5, Joe Quesada called and asked if we could fold our story into a story that Greg Pak and Joe Q. had been talking about with Mark Paniccia. We took a little bit of that, coordinated a lot with Greg, and we suddenly found ourselves with a brand new Hulk title.
"Nothing happens that Greg doesn't know about," Loeb added. "He rocks. I'm just a thorn in his side!"
Hulk fans will surely agree Ed McGuinness' exaggerated and highly expressive style is uniquely suited for depicting the adventures of Marvel's green goliath. Appropriately, the artist is himself one of professional comics' most zealous Hulk devotees. "Ed has wanted to draw the character since he was a kid (and if you know Ed that was like two years ago) – so it's just a pleasure giving him cool stuff to smash!" Loeb remarked. "And there's a lot of that!
"The Hulk is the type character that has affected me on the genetic level, " Ed McGuinness told CBR News. "There's just something so cool about this guy who has all the power in the world and can't do anything to control it. I love the misunderstood monster idea, too. I want the Hulk to be a force of nature! I want the Hulk to wreck stuff! Who doesn't?"
Loeb agreed, "The tragedy of the character and how much like the Frankenstein monster he is -- wanting to be loved, and yet, still the brute. But with this new storyline there's a different motivation for his actions -- and on that, I can say no more!"
"I always knew if I got my chance to do [a Hulk title] regularly, that it would be with Jeph," McGuinness continued. "One of the best things about working with Loeb is that he listens to ideas. Put my favorite character together with my favorite writer, I'd be a fool to not jump at the opportunity."
Jeph Loeb has of course already earned himself a great deal of fans with his and Tim Sale's "Hulk: Gray," a standalone miniseries set in Bruce Banner's early days as the Hulk. ""Hulk: Gray' was, as were all the 'color' books ('Spider-Man: Blue' and 'Daredevil: Yellow'), a labor of love. Both Tim and I had a fondness -- in particular -- for Betty Ross and the tragedy of the Hulk's love for her. It's a classic Marvel paradigm, where the hero and the girl can't get together and we mined that for what we could. I think it's some of Tim's best work."
Very much a part of the vibrant, present day Marvel Universe and continuity, "The HULK" offers its creators a new set of benefits and challenges. "Tony Stark is still the director of SHIELD, so the fact that Iron Man is involved -- something that harkens back to the days of 'Tales to Astonish' and 'Tales of Suspense' -- will involve SHIELD and that cast as well," said Loeb. "She-Hulk also plays a big role. Leonard Samson will be very important and Ed and I have big plans for him -- including getting him a haircut -- and before you intrepid readers shout, 'That's where his strength comes from!' Don't worry, all will be revealed!
"Putting our spin on the character and the mythos are the things I'm most excited about," McGuinness added. "We have so many huge surprising things in store that my biggest challenge will be to fit it all on the page!"
CBR News Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this article.
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