With the heavy amount of atomic-powered punches getting thrown around on the page as part of Marvel's "Fall of the Hulks" event, it's a wonder the issues don't shatter apart from the impact. But thanks to the hands of Mark Paniccia and Nate Cosby, the titles driving the slobber-knocker of an event keep hitting their marks month after month.
In this week's all-new installment of THE GREEN ZONE, the editorial duo behind the entire Hulk line of titles stop by to dig into the nitty gritty of how their stories come together. From the atomic appeal of Bruce Banner's alter ego to the inner workings of how the latest She-Hulk came together as a character, the editors reveal their working methods while giving astute critiques of their regular writing staff and teasing what's in store for the characters through the spring debut of the next chapter in the series – "World War Hulks!"
CBR News: To start this week's GREEN ZONE, I wanted to get a little bit into your connections to the characters in question here, outside the boundaries of this mega storyline, so fans can get a more specific picture of the role you play. What are your favorite things about the Hulk mythology in general? Is there a specific marching order or thesis you have in mind when working with these books?
Mark Paniccia: On a purely nostalgic level, I love the atomic-age science-fiction aspect of the Hulk. The scientist. The experiment. The monster. And that great cautionary tale of how man’s quest for a perfect weapon turns back on him.
Nate Cosby: My first memory of Hulk is seeing him in a made-for-TV movie featuring Daredevil in a cute black leotard. I remember Daredevil getting beat up, and Hulk cradling DD in his arms as he took him to safety. Even as a little kid, I wondered how the guy playing Hulk carried DD without getting green paint on him. So I guess my favorite thing about the Hulk mythology is that Hulk’s gentle with guys in leotards.
As for "Fall of the Hulks" and beyond, we know that this is the first of the "family events" Joe Q and others have been pointing to as the new status quo for Marvel publishing in 2010. How is working on something that is contained to a few titles different from participating in a massive crossover like "Secret Invasion?"
Paniccia: It’s cool. I love the fact that we’re able to do a story of this scope and have the ability to expand it to satellite books like "Red Hulk" and "Savage She-Hulks," yet it still feels very intimate and personal to these characters. And this paves the way for more storytelling like this, where we have something that’s big and extreme and resonating to the mythos.
Cosby: This is still a big event, it’s just a little more controlled and personal. Mark and I have already gone through one "World War Hulk" and made it out the other side. I think we learned a lot from the experience, how to keep the story threads tighter, how to make sure all or the writers and artists are in synch with one another. Editing "Planet Hulk" felt like high school; "World War Hulk" felt like college; "Fall of the Hulks" feels like grad school. And I guess "World War Hulks" will be our doctorate?
Paniccia: While elements have changed based on evolving ideas, this story has been percolating for a long time. There have been blueprints for this in some form since building the "Planet Hulk" epic.
Let's take it back to the first big Hulk summit that got the ball rolling on this storyline. As the editors, what are your roles in a meeting like this? Are there certain story ideas that you were bringing in after having worked with the writers on the solo books, or are you more in there to play devil's advocate on what will or won't work in a big crossover event?
Paniccia: It’s actually all of the above. Nate, Jordan [White] and I all took turns at the dry erase board, ripped through a stack of note pads and made sure Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Ed McGuinness and Jeff Parker had plenty of aspirin and inspiration. It can be pretty exhausting, but it’s such a great group of guys and such an awesome collaborative experience that I truly wish we could all get in a room more often. You get the best comics this way.
Cosby: That Hulk Summit we had hurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt...in a good way. There was laughter, tears, hugs, punches...but I think in the end, it was all totally worth it. I’m still trying to convince everybody that was in the meeting to get matching tattoos. McGuinness could design them!
As you've seen, our regular column presents a big chat with Misters Loeb, Pak and Parker about the books. I was hoping if you guys could both tell me a little bit about what each member of that trio brings to the team in your eyes, and how do their styles mesh together in terms of making this event seem like on big whole?
Paniccia: I think Jeph really is the big brother of the group. He’s got the most experience in the writers’ room and he brings a great sense of comradery and direction to the group. He thinks big and bold and encourages everyone to express their ideas no matter how crazy they might think they are.
Cosby: Good dancer, too. Great taste in hamburgers.
Paniccia: Greg is the passionate one. He has a great love for the characters and their history and he’s one of the greatest problem solvers in comics that I know.
Cosby: His beard has forgotten more about Hulk than any of us will ever learn.
Paniccia: And Jeff is the guy who thinks out of the box and throws that curve ball you weren’t expecting.
Cosby: Terrible dancer. Lopes around like a wounded animal. But he writes "Agents of Atlas," so I cut him some slack.
On the flip side of the coin, the artists on board for this event really seem to have some shared artistic sensibilities, from your two anchor artists in Ed McGuinness and Paul Pelletier to guest stars like John Romita, Jr. For you, what makes a great Hulk artist, and what are these guys specifically doing on "Fall of the Hulks" that you're hoping people plug into?
Paniccia: Energy and dynamic storytelling are essential for something like this, and both Ed and Paul are turning in some of the best work of their career.
Cosby: Eddy is the bomb-diggedy, especially with the textured inks that Mark Farmer lays down, and the colors from the greatest colorist that has ever-ever-ever-ever-ever lived, Mr. Dave Stewart. (Quick tangent: Seriously, Stewart is too good. It’s bizarre. I want to commission a study to perform invasive surgery on his cranial/retinal connection, figure out how he colors so well. Just picks perfectly every time. He must use performance-enhancing drugs. No one’s this good. Except Dave. Tangent over.) And PP’s never looked better with Danny Miki and Frank “D is for” D’Armata all handling art over on "Incredible." Also, special shout-out to Richard Starkings and the Comicrafters, and Simon Bowland, for handling the formidable task of making everyone happy with the lettering on both Hulk books. AND...have you seen some of the variant covers we’ve got for these books? I have. Marko Djurjevic, Kai Spannuth, Adam Kubert, Frank Cho...and few others that I can’t divulge yet. They’re super-sweet.
One of the most common things people point to when asked what they dig about the Hulk books these days is the "old school superhero feel" the titles have. Part of that fun is the flashback moments that have been worked into the current story in a big way. Some things you've included in the stories of late have been big iconic moments like the first FF/Hulk fight and the origin of Samson, while others, like the Mole Man/Tyrannus history, are more obscure. Do one of you have to play the part of Hulk History PhD, or do the writers bring a lot of these references in on their own?
Paniccia: Jeph, Greg and Jeff know their Hulk mythos and all have an amazing amount of love for these characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone with a giddy Jeph Loeb who’s just read an old issue of "Incredible" for research and found some bizarre and cool connection to what we’re doing. Same goes with Greg and Jeff, who really know their stuff. And now that you’ve mentioned it, I am going to give them diplomas.
Cosby: Don’t make their diplomas angry. You wouldn’t like when their diplomas are angry.
In addition to the various retro bits, there's certainly plenty new stuff going on in the books these days, specifically new characters. One character I wanted to ask you guys about was Lyra, the daughter of the Hulk and Thundra, as editorial seems to have played a big role in giving her a real chance to shine under Fred Van Lente's pen. What is it about her that you think makes a great addition to the cast, and how have you worked with all the writers to incorporate her into the event?
Paniccia: What I like about Lyra is that she gives us the kind of Hulk with an inner conflict that we haven’t seen in a while. She was feared and hated by her people and, despite being all alone in this world, she’s trying to do the right thing. Really, she almost falls into X-Men territory. Fred did a really great job with fleshing out her character and building a rich history for her and under Jeff Parker’s pen (who also created her), she’s got a very specific and important role in the event.
Cosby: That’s “Fred” “Van” “Lente,” for thee that don’t know. He did a sweet lil’ "Savage She-Hulk" mini that leads into Jeff Parker’s sweet "Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks" mini. Both writers are really good and about the same height.
To wrap, at this point, what are the events or characters you think fans should be paying attention to as this first phase of Fall of the Hulks starts to smash into comic shops?
Paniccia: You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on Talbot, Betty, Samson and Red Hulk. There are some pretty surprising reveals coming up, and I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that the landscape of the world of the Hulk is in for a huge and devastating change.
Cosby: "Hulk" #21 and "Incredible Hulk" #608 are gonna blow your socks off (I suggest just taking the socks off now, to avoid said blowing). And you might have noticed recently that there are a couple issues in April called "Hulked-Out Heroes" that you really, seriously, totally don’t want to miss. Jeff Parker. Humberto Ramos. Trust me.
Check out the next installments of "Fall of the Hulks" in this week's "Hulk" #19 and "Incredible Hulk" #606, and be sure to tune back in next week as THE GREEN ZONE's writer's roundtable returns to connect the dots on the event's earth-shattering revelations.