As Marvel NOW! draws closer to its first full launch month in November, Marvel Comics continues to ramp up excitement with a series of live press conference calls. Last week, writer Si Spurrier and editor Daniel Ketchum expounded on "X-Men Legacy." Yesterday, Jason Aaron called down "Thor: God of Thunder". Today, Mark Waid, Leinil Yu and editor John Moisan are on hand to discuss "Indestructible Hulk," which is set to hit stores next month with an all-new take on the Jade Giant.
Following a very complimentary and mutual admiration between Waid and Yu, Moderator and Sales & Communications Coordinator James Viscardi kicked things off by introducing the creative team and asking Waid for an overview of what he the series.
"I'm actually trying to take them on the most imaginative Marvel Universe-based ride we can concoct," said Waid, who said part of the mission statement was strengthening Hulk's ties to the Marvel U and he'll fight Marvel villains as well as show up in Marvel locales. "We want to bring Bruce Banner and the Hulk into the Marvel Universe tapestry. And the easiest way to do that is to make Hulk an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Waid elaborated, saying that one of the things that came out of "Avengers Vs. X-Men" was a philosophical view of where the characters are going. "Bruce Banner's biggest takeaway of 'AvX' is that he doesn't get to be the science hero. He never gets to be the science hero. He's the guy who smashes stuff," said Waid. "We always speak of him in the same breath as we do Reed Richards and Tony Stark, but in the context of the Marvel Universe, Banner spends most of his time in a lab trying to make himself not the Hulk anymore." Waid referred to the Hulk as a "chronic condition," hence the title of the series. No matter how much he tries, Banner can't get rid of the Hulk permanently and has decided to take a sabbatical from trying to control the Hulk. Instead, the mission statement will be "Hulk destroys, Banner builds."
"Why does my tombstone have to read 'Hulk Smash?'" Waid said of Banner. "So, he's gone through S.H.I.E.L.D. and has cut a relationship with them. It's a good deal all around, but there are layers to it that you'll see in the first issue." The writer said there are extenuating circumstances to the deal, citing "background deals" and "background contacts" and the reason why Banner is an agent under Maria Hill will come out during the first few issues.
Yu stated his enjoyment at getting to work with Waid again, saying the writer gave him "a lot of space and a lot of opportunity to draw Hulk."
"There's a lot of room to do money shots and even the conversation pieces are well-paced and I'm really happy with how it's turning out," said Yu. "Mark really knows his stuff and he seems to be able to read my mind."
Waid responded in kind, saying Yu brought a "real sense of power to these incredibly powerful characters."
"One of the things that Leinil's artwork made me realize is we tend to think of the Hulk as this lumbering brute who stomps around when he's angry," said Waid. "I think that's because a lot of us grew up with the Lou Ferrigno TV show, but those are giant muscles on that guy. The Hulk is fast. … Leinil does such a good job at capturing the Hulk as a force of nature." Waid said that Yu was drawing the Hulk in a way he felt nobody else ever has.
The writer spoke briefly about the challenge in replicating the success that he's had with "Daredevil."
"With Hulk, you don't get to write witty banter. It's harder to put him in danger. It's a less street-level book," said Waid. "What occurred to me is the commonality between the two books is that like we'd done with Matt Murdock, Bruce Banner has realized the things he's been doing in the recent past doesn't work. … Both men have sort of reached that point in their life -- and this is how you honor what's gone on before without disavowing it -- they look back on their histories and go, 'I want to try something different because what I have right now is not working.' That's how the internal mechanism of the book works.
"What Stan and Jack did so beautifully when they created the Hulk is they created the world's first persecuted superhero, the guy who every day of every year of every moment of his life was filled with angst and turmoil about his super powers," Waid continued. Bruce Banner was the typical morose, the seminal morose portrait superhero. Fifty years later, you can go pick up a bunch superhero comic at random and most of those characters are tortured and angst-ridden now. So, I thought, 'Rather than Hulk continue in that same route, let's try to turn left.' Let's try to make Hulk's perspective and his powers unique again as it was back in the day.
"Hulk had a big raincloud over his head back when it wasn't cool and now that everybody has it, Hulk's looking for an umbrella," said Waid.
Waid said there are times Bruce Banner transforms into different Hulks. "Either way, Banner realizes this is not something he can stop. It's something he can manage … but Hulk happens, as Banner puts it," said Waid, mentioning that S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks about him more as a cannon, not a bomb.
As for S.H.I.E.L.D., Waid stated the organization thinks they have a tight leash on the Hulk, but they may not and the armor-like apparatus the Hulk wears may not be for Hulk -- but for Banner.
In terms of villains, Waid stated he was looking for a villain or villains that the Hulk hadn't punched yet. "Attuma will be showing up in issues four and five," he said. "We have Frost Giants on the horizon. We've got -- of all things -- we have the all new, all-different Quintronic Man. Those are just some of the ones. There is actually a big bad at the head of the first year. I don't want to say, but just keep reading. There is one."
Yu described some of the design process for the character. "We initially had more of an eccentric look for Hulk. I sent in different hairstyles, mohawks of different sizes. We tried a lot of different looks and armor designs. The one you see before you now is actually the more tame one. … I think it works. It's not as if it's never been tried before. The Dale Keown Hulk wore a tuxedo. It's a mix between the crazy looking Hulk and the human one.
"I'm trying to bring the sexy back," said Yu.
As for supporting cast in "Indestructible Hulk," Waid stated there will be support staff for Banner's new lab. "He needs interns, he needs lab assistants," said Waid, who stated it was difficult to hire for the position. "We've paired it down to a group of lab assistants who premiere in issue three and get explored in issue four. … Each of them has a secret. It's one of the things that attracts Bruce to them. Each of them have a hidden self inside them. Leinil's done a great job designing them." The assistants will accompany Banner on certain missions.
Waid also expressed excitement at the prospect of a Daredevil/Hulk crossover.
For design other than Bruce Banner and the Hulk, Yu said he had the most fun designing a villain.
"I've actually enjoyed redesigning the Quintronic Man," said Yu, who thought Waid was joking when he said he wanted to update the villain. "I think the cover is out on the net somewhere." (It's issue #3.)
Although Waid hasn't done much with Coulson, he stated Maria Hill is a great foil for Banner "because she's a control freak."
"She's not a terribly relaxed human being," said Waid. "That's the perfect person to have to deal with a creature that's all id and no ego. That's the heart of it to me, that's the fun of it to me. And Banner enjoying, relishing tweaking her. It's not above banner to drop a box on his foot in front of Maria just to see her heart stop for a second."
For setting, Yu said he was surprised he wasn't drawing New York. "It's all over the planet," the artist said of the book. "It's fun to draw different stuff."
Waid teased that Yu would have to draw some underwater locations soon. Yu joked that he needed a Google street view of underwater.
The writer further noted that Banner was subliminally trying to control the Hulk and the Hulk doesn't like to be controlled. "We may see some split personality stuff sooner rather than later."
Before the call ended, both creators continued their mutual admiration of each others' skills, with Waid saying Yu was making him look good.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world because I get to see it all first hand!" said Yu of Waid's scripts.
"You say that now, but you haven't seen what I'm going to have you design!" said Waid.
With that, the call wrapped. "Indestructible Hulk" #1 by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu goes on sale November 14.