Despite all the smashing, at its heart "The Incredible Hulk" is a psychological drama. That's why one of the key, if often forgotten, players in the Hulk mythos is Dr. Leonard Samson – the gamma-powered psychologist better known simply as Doc Samson. From his signature green locks to his lightning bolt logo, Samson has long played a role in Bruce Banner's quest to control the Hulk, but that mission finds a new dimension in this week's "Hulk" #18 by Jeph Loeb and Whilce Portacio.
To dig deeper into that tale and find out what's up with the entire Hulk universe, CBR is back with a new installment of THE GREEN ZONE – a weekly chat with the minds behind "Fall of the Hulks" and the promised "World War Hulks" mayhem to follow.
Loeb and fellow "Fall of the Hulks" writers Greg Parker and Jeff Parker join us once again, this time to dive into the deep end of Samson's psychological make-up as well as let slip some details about their plans for how these upcoming events will play out across Marvel's multiple Hulk monthlies and other support series before smashing into even more events down the line!
CBR News: We've spoken about the villains and Banner and the "Hulk" in the story, but there are other characters set to play a big role in the story, or so we'd assume. What kind of things can we expect from people like Samson starting with this week's "Hulk" #18?
Jeph Loeb: Well, certainly "Hulk" #18 will surprise a lot of people in that we've been seeing Samson play a role from the very beginning – one of a personality that's emerging that's extremely dangerous. I've always been a huge Doc Samson fan, and I've been particularly fascinated with the idea of, here's a guy who purposely exposes himself to gamma radiation. That's something Emil Blonsky did with terrible results, but here it was with somebody who was, theoretically, a brilliant man. It gave him his wish. He became stronger and handsome. He had a cool name, and he went out and got what he thought was a cool costume. [Pak laughs] And he always believed that he was smarter, stronger and better-looking than the Hulk. And yet, he's always been classified at best as a "B" hero, but often he's a "C" hero. What's that like? You think you're going to become the next Captain America, but instead you wind up as Doc Samson.
When you think about the best Samson stories that have been told, and for me that's "X-Factor" #87 where he diagnosed each of the X-Factor characters in some of the best writing ever from Peter David and to this day one of my favorite things Joe Quesada ever drew. When you look at that as a career highlight for the character, it had nothing to do with being a hero. It had something to do with him being a psychiatrist. And his proudest moment of working with the Hulk and Banner was being able to merge the personalities of Joe Fixit and the raging Hulk and Banner. This is real Nobel Prize-winning stuff, and it had nothing to do with being a superhero. So here's this guy who went through all this stuff for something that he was never able to achieve. When you look at his roles he's played and the number of teams – the Avengers and the New Avengers and the West Coast Avengers and the Great Lakes Avengers or the Defenders and the Champions – where not one of them has invited him to join. [Laughter] Suddenly you're looking at a guy where, if there's not a lot of pent up rage in there, then we don't know our Marvel characters. He has now become really, truly dangerous in a way we've never seen before. He's a character who's very, very smart and looks at everything from a psychological perspective. He's studying our guys all these years, and now we're seeing a character emerge that is known only as Samson.
That's what #18 is all about – a real in depth look at one of the key players that will be in the Fall and the War that is to come. Everybody else may be motivated by a larger, global conspiracy, but this is a guy who's just trying to make a name for himself. As we all know, when you go into battle with one guy trying to make a name, he becomes the most dangerous guy because he doesn't particularly care about what happens to anybody else.
Greg Pak: The other funny thing that's always struck me about Doc Samson is that he kind of projects this image of being a noble psychiatrist who's going to help people. But what was one of the very first things he did when he first showed up in Hulk comics? He tried to make time with Bruce's girl! One of the very first things he did was this hilarious splash page where you see Samson taking Betty out on the town and driving around in convertibles and going to shows. Bruce was just kind of kicked to the curb. There's this little part of Samson where he wants something that the world hasn't given him. On many different levels, that cracks me up.
Jeff Parker: That seems to be the recurring thing about everybody who's around the Hulk. Everybody reminds me of Mark Waid's quote on fans and writers: "Everybody thinks they can do your job better than you." Everybody looks at the Hulk and thinks, "If I had that power, I could really do something with it." Banner is finally in the place in his life where he realized, "I could never control it. It is what it is." He's come to that acceptance, and it makes him a little wiser than everybody else who lives under this illusion that, if they had the atom bomb power, it would all be different somehow. And I think they're finding out that in many ways, everybody else would deal with it worse.
To wrap this up, I think one big thing that people are curious about is the mechanics of how this story will be rolling out. Jeph, you'll be staying on "Hulk" and Greg on "Incredible" with Jeff jumping in and out with other issues. As you're constructing this, how do all the pieces work together to make the story bigger and bigger without crashing down?
Pak: One of the things Jeph and I thought would be a blast to try and do would be to have "Hulk" and "Incredible Hulk" ship on the exact same day each and every month. I don't know if that's ever been tried in these kinds of crossovers. You're going to see these books progress where, if you want, you can pick up each book separately and not have to worry about everything because we're that good! [Laughter] But you're going to love reading both together as they're designed to pick up and reflect on what the other is doing in some very interesting ways. It's kind of like a double-barrel shotgun blast with multiple revelations coming that have multiple facets. It's a huge challenge to write, but it's a lot of fun, and we think the payoff is going to be really powerful.
Loeb: Certainly, one of the ways we approached it was that in any war, you have allies. And if you told the story of World War II from the point of view of America and, say, England – you'd be telling side-by-side stories, and you'd be telling sometimes the stories of the same battles, but you'd be telling them from different points of view. That's one of the things we're having fun with. There will be times when the stories will be very linked in the sense that Greg will be telling what's going on in his book as a kind of "Meanwhile..."
Pak: "...on the other side of the room!"
Loeb: Right. And at the same time, there will be stories that happen – because we really wanted to bring in the world of Marvel and places like Wakanda and the Baxter Building and Atlantis – where we're moving all around. There are missions that our characters will go on, and you'll see the pieces as they come together and build towards those moments in any big conspiracy where it looks like it's all going to fall apart, and that's where the end of the first big chapter is. There's a plan. They're moving towards it. They believe they'll be successful. And then something terrible happens, and all it does is make the situation worse. And that inevitably leads to whether or not there's any triumph in it all. And as in any good pulp story, it's going to get much worse before it gets better.
Pak: If it can get any better. Some of the great Hulk stories of all time are flat our tragedies, so who knows where we're going?
Loeb: And one of the things I marveled at, pun intended, was the way Greg was able to fold this giant epic of "Planet Hulk" – while bringing it to a kind of conclusion – like a freight train into the next chapter that was "World War Hulk." That really is our goal – to take you on a ride that's been building for the last two years and have it culminate in "Fall of the Hulks." And when "Fall of the Hulks" comes to its "conclusion," we'll have that freight train ram right into "World War Hulks." That's something we're really proud of.
Be sure to check back next week for "The Green Zone!" featuring a special chat with "Fall of the Hulks Alpha" artist Paul Pelletier about his future with the Green Goliath!