In 1962's “Incredible Hulk” #1, the legendary Marvel Comics creative team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced readers to two men whose lives would be dominated by anger. For Bruce Banner, anger would become a strength because it would transform him into the unstoppable jade juggernaut known as the Hulk. For the man tasked with hunting the Hulk, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, anger would become a weakness and drive him to make decisions that would ultimately destroy his life.
As an officer of the U.S. Armed Forces, Ross angrily hounded the Hulk for years, but his vendetta against Bruce Banner and his Gamma-powered alter ego became intensely personal when Ross's daughter Betty was murdered by the Hulk's foe the Abomination. Ross sought a way to punish Banner and other Gamma-powered heroes and villains that he blamed for his daughter's murder. So he allied himself with the Intelligentsia, a criminal think tank lead by the super villains known as the Leader and M.O.D.O.K. The Intelligentsia resurrected Betty and transformed her and her father into crimson-colored Hulks. As the Red Hulk, Ross waged war against Banner and many of the Marvel Universe's other heroes until he discovered the Intelligentsia's true plans to take over America. To save his country, Ross allied himself with the green Hulk and together they thwarted the Intelligentsia's scheme. In the aftermath of the final battle Ross turned on his old foe, but the green Hulk was able to beat him and throw him in jail.
Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers saw some good in Ross, though, and thought the General's time could be better spent out in the world working towards his redemption. In the current “Scorched Earth” arc of the “Hulk” series by writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman, Ross and his ruby-hued alter ego are taking the first steps on that long road by trying to thwart the doomsday scenario the Intelligentsia activated after their master plan was foiled. CBR News spoke with Parker about the arc and his future plans for the “Hulk” series, which include a special .1 issue and the debut of two new villains.
CBR News: So Jeff, in these past few months Ross has lost his career, his freedom, his family, the respect of most of the Marvel Universe, and at the end of issue #28, in stores now, he seems to lose his powers, at least for awhile. When people usually experience losses like that they either look inward and change their ways or they blame others. What type of person do you think Ross is? Is he introspective? Or is he the type to blame others? Or is he at a stage in his life where he's somewhere between those two personality types?
Jeff Parker: Ross is the type to blame others, but I think the Hulk may have literally knocked some sense into his head. He's hit rock bottom—at least from his perspective—and found that having all the power in the world still isn't what he needs. He doesn't know what he needs, and whether he realizes it or not, he's starting his life over again. Jeph Loeb left him in a great place to start with simultaneously a clean slate and "a history." It makes his new adventures very relatable, I think.
In issue #28 Ross reverts to his human form and currently seems incapable of changing back to the Hulk. He seems to remain a fairly formidable foe, though. So in your mind how dangerous is Ross the man? Are you interested in telling some stories that test his mettle as a human instead of a Hulk?
I am, I really like the scenes where he's tough old Ross, and I think Gabriel Hardman likes drawing those too. I think of him as the Great Santini with gamma power. Even if you don't agree with the way he thinks most of the time, I think you'll be able to relate to him.
While Ross has been the star of the main stories in “Hulk” Rick Jones, AKA the gamma-powered hero A-Bomb, has been starring in back up tales. And as of issue #28, we have Rick in the main story. So what do you find most interesting about Rick as a character? And will he continue to play a role in the “Hulk” series moving forward?
I like the fact that, while being a Hulk is for most everyone else a curse, Rick has a blast with it. He's the Fun Hulk. In his life he's risked a lot and done even more with no powers at all, and now he's got massive strength and armor. He's not the guy who needs to be rescued all the time anymore.
You conclude “Scorched Earth” in “Hulk” #29 by forcing the Red and Green Hulks to team up. I believe it's the first time they've been face to face since the “World War Hulks” storyline. So how would you describe the dynamic between the Red and Green Hulks? We know Banner is willing to try and rehabilitate Ross, but how does the Hulk feel about his former enemy?
Hulk really doesn't care about the goal and couldn't care less if he ever saw Red Hulk again. And you know Red doesn't like him. The irony is that these two have more in common than almost anyone else in the Marvel universe and can't get along.
In terms of plot and themes what is "Hulk" #29 about? The set up of two Hulks plus Monster Island seems like it would equal an epic Mighty Marvel Manner-style battle?
Yes, it is about mythic-scale battle, but it's also about finding the real reasons behind "Scorched Earth." And you may notice that it was advice from Ross in an earlier issue that led Bruce Banner to the
realization that will stop this world-destroying program.
Marvel also recently revealed Gabriel Hardman's striking new M.O.D.O.K design and hinted that it would appear in "Hulk" #29. Is there anything you can tell us about the new M.O.D.O.K? How dangerous is he compared to the original? And what seems to be driving him?
Despite his name "Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing," M.O.D.O.K. didn't really kill that much. Now he does. Also he doesn't hide in lairs like he did before, he goes out and gets his hands dirty to a greater extent. He smiles a lot more too, which is creepy.
With February's “Hulk” #30 it sounds like you'll be working with Red Hulk co-creator Ed McGuinness on an especially strange issue. What can you tell us about this story? Is it a comedic tale? A horrific one? Or sort of a combination of both?
It's fairly insane is what it is. Ed threw a ton of ideas at me and I used almost all of them, it was all great stuff. I love the way he draws The Impossible Man, too, it's an impressive art job throughout.
But mainly it's insane.
In March you've got a special .1 issue of “Hulk” where you introduce a new foe named Fortean. The character's name seems to suggest that he's interested in strange and fantastic phenomenon. Is that correct? What makes Fortean a good foil for the Red Hulk?
What makes him work well is that he's already done this job before under the leadership of General Ross and his hulkbusting forces. That's a lot of experience to see what worked and what didn't, and now Reginald Fortean can finally implement his own ideas. And he's a very creative military leader. Ross is put in a weird position because he really admires Fortean, and kind of wants to see him succeed-—even though it means his own death!
Also in March, you kick off a new "Hulk" storyline that sounds like it will introduce another foe to the Red Hulk's Rogues Gallery. What can you tell us about the story that begins in “Hulk” #31?
We introduce a new super-threat, someone who will be rising in the ranks of Marvel menaces named Zero/One. She was more or less created by Red Hulk and this is where we see how she begins to build her own empire.
Some writers use back up stories simply to provide supplemental character based material. It seems like your “Hulk” back-ups do that, but they also seem to tie back into the main story. Will this continue to be the case moving forward?
Yes, the backups are never, ever completely self-contained, no matter how isolated they seem. They always matter later. Like in the recent one where you meet the new Watcher, Uravo, and what she witnesses outside our galaxy.
Currently in “Avengers,” the Red Hulk is embroiled in an adventure that will see him join the titular team. How will Ross's membership in the Avengers impact his adventures in “Hulk?” Will some of his team mates be popping up? Or will this book continue to focus more on Ross's gamma-centric solo adventures?
We probably will see some Avengers, but we just saw a couple recently so it won't be for a while. We have a lot of stuff coming up that demands Red's full attention.
Any final thoughts you would like to share about your work on “Hulk?”
That I'm incredibly lucky to see this brought to life by Hardman every month and colored by Bettie Breitweiser! This is just a gorgeous book with bizarre visuals, and not just anyone could pull that off the way they do. It's inspiring for lots of up and coming artists, as I see from going to conventions. And I always get to see it first!