Marvel shakes up the status quo for Bruce Banner in ‘Hulk’

(CBR) When you disrupt the routine of one of the Marvel Universe‘s brilliant scientists there’s a good chance they’ll be angry and upset. When that happens they might lash out and hurt your feelings, but when Bruce Banner gets angry more than emotions get bruised. That’s because when Banner gets upset he transforms into the raging Jade Juggernaut known as the Incredible Hulk.

Fortunately when the current “Indestructible Hulk” series began Banner was able to establish a routine which has been working pretty well for him. The espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. finances his inventions and in return he allows them to use the destructive power of the Hulk on missions. This April, Banner’s status quo will be violently disrupted when “Indestructible Hulk” writer Mark Waid and artist Mark Bagley kick off a new volume of “Hulk.” WE spoke with the creators about their plans for the relaunched All-New Marvel NOW! series.

CBR News: Mark, this new volume of “Hulk” begins in April but before readers get there they will have finished the current arc of “Indestructible Hulk” that finds the title character dealing with Terrigenesis and “Inhumanity” and a final issue that examines the fallout from that. What can you tell us about these issues and how they set the stage for “Hulk” #1?

Mark Waid: They bring Banner to a very important realization — that perhaps his motives for re-engaging his scientific mind weren’t the purest. How much of his rededication has to do with genuinely wanting to help the world — and how much has to do with his own ego? There’s a real comeuppance for Bruce in issue #20 and it sets the stage for the new launch.

How does it feel to be collaborating with Mark Bagley on “Hulk?” What do you feel he brings to this new volume of the series?

Waid: Power and creativity! Mark and I have been wanting to work together for years, and now’s the chance. We’re both very much of the mindset that story comes first, before style, before flair — story first. And he’s a true storyteller.

Mark Bagley: We were on a panel together at a convention about four or five months ago with some other artists and writers. One of the things I joked about on that panel was that I don’t work with a whole lot of different guys because I often spend three years on one project here or a year and a half on a project there. I said, “I’ve never worked with Mark Waid and I’d love to work with Mark Waid.” Then Mark said, “I’d love to work with you too. Maybe we can make that happen.”

Then two months later I was offered “Hulk” with Mark. I thought that was kind of fun, and I was happy and proud that he wanted to work with me.

I know you’re a fan of Mark’s writing. What do you enjoy most about his scripts?

Bagley: A lot of writers have a certain thing that they do exceptionally well. Brian [Bendis] is my favorite guy in the world to work with and I love him to death, but the best thing about Brian is his dialogue. If there’s an occasional weird thing in the plot of his script it doesn’t matter because his dialogue is so good you just love drawing it. Then there are other guys that are so technical. With Mark though there’s not really that; he’s just a really good all-around writer.

He comes at character really well, does the super hero elements really well, and still tries to keep the comics accessible to kids. I still see this as sort of a kids’ medium. I know it’s not anymore. I know the demographics and all of that, but if I can draw what they’re giving me to draw so that a young person can enjoy it as much as an adult than I’m being a positive influence on the book. Because with a lot of books these days the stories are so high concept that it’s like what ten or twelve year-old would want to read this, especially if the art is not at all aimed toward them? If you’ve got art that crosses a lot of barriers I think it makes the book that more accessible. I think that’s why “Ultimate Spider-Man” did so well for so long.

Let’s move on to some of the story details of this new volume of “Hulk.” How much story time passes between the end of March’s “Indestructible Hulk” #20 and April’s “Hulk” #1? Can you talk at all about the dynamic between Banner and the Hulk or their individual physical and mental states when this series begins without tipping your hand?

Waid: Not MUCH I can say without tipping my hand, but let’s say that Banner’s in a VERY bad way physically as the series opens up a few hours after the end of the previous one — and you’ll be surprised in whose hands his life rests! For the time being, Banner and Hulk will be divided in a way we’ve never seen before on a long-term basis, and those who are eager to see the Hulk once more be his “own” character will be very pleased, I think.

Mark, what’s it like coming back to a character like the Hulk? I believe you had the opportunity to draw him quite a bit during your stint on “Avengers Assemble,” correct?

Bagley: Yeah, I got to draw quite a bit of Hulk when I was working on “Avengers Assemble,” and I’ve drawn him here and there over the years, but never to the point where I got comfortable with him. It usually takes me a while to get comfortable with a character and on “Avengers Assemble” I thought I really nailed the character, especially his face. I came up with a look for his face that I was happy with.

That won’t work for this project though. I’m going to try and lean toward what Mahmud Asrar and the other artists on “Indestructible Hulk” have been doing. They’ve got a real specific look for this iteration of the Hulk. I like it and for Mark’s stories to work we need to have some kind of continuity.

In terms of the qualities you want to capture with your depiction of the Hulk, are you planning to emphasize the traits that we’ve seen in this most recent incarnation, especially the facial features?

Bagley:Yeah, there’s the dumb, savage Hulk. There’s the articulate Hulk. There’s the Joe Fixit type, and this is a real specific iteration face-wise. From the way I’m reading things he’s sort of leashed to a certain degree, but he’s enough aware of what’s going on that he’s very close to getting out of control. Basically he’s a huge guy on steroids in the room and you don’t know when something’s explosive going to happen.

We’ve talked about Hulk, but what about Bruce Banner? Are you able to talk at all about his physical qualities and the shape he’s in when this new volume begins?

Bagley: Unfortunately I can’t say anything about Banner right now without spoiling things.

Fair enough. Let’s move on to the inaugural story in this new volume of Hulk. In terms of plot and themes what is the opening story about? What can you tell us about Banner and the Hulk’s immediate motivations in this story?

Waid: Banner really, really has to decide once and for all what he wants, how he wants to get it, what he’s willing to sacrifice, and why he wants to follow his career path. And the answers will really shock you. They shocked us.

“Indestructible Hulk” was structured differently from previous Hulk titles in that it was very mission-based. Hulk and Banner came directly to the problems they were looking to solve, whereas the classic Hulk story structure usually involved a wandering and often fugitive Banner or Hulk coming across a problem that they can solve. Can you talk about the story structure and status quo for this new “Hulk” series? Will it be similar to “Indestructible?” More along the lines of the classic “Fugitive”-style structure? Or something different?

Waid: At first, a weird amalgam of both, then morphing into less mission-based and more trying to solve the mystery of what Hulk’s secret agenda is. Not Banner’s — Hulk’s.

What types of stories will we see in this new volume of “Hulk?” Will we still get a mix of genres or are you interested in telling a specific type of long form story?

Waid: More action. More reason for Hulk to carry more of the issue. But an overarching mystery that goes back to issue #2 or thereabouts, as new hints are revealed. Banner’s been up to something — and sharp-eyed readers have been collecting clues.

What can you tell us about the supporting cast of this new “Hulk” series? Can you hint at some of the players who will be actively working with and against Banner and Hulk when this new volume begins? Will Banner and the Hulk be able to rely on their allies in S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers, or will they be sort of isolated?

Waid: There’s a little more isolation to Bruce after the events of the Inhumanity Bomb arc, but it would be madness to divorce Hulk and Bruce from S.H.I.E.L.D. altogether — I could write Maria Hill vs. Bruce Banner scenes all day.

How important is setting in this new volume of Hulk? Does it unfold in a certain region of the Marvel Universe or do your plans call for Bruce and the Hulk to do some traveling?

Waid: There will be a little more globe-hopping. We’re overdue.

Mark, it sounds like your work on “Hulk” will still have some crazy elements, but will be a little more grounded than your latest Marvel assignments, “Fantastic Four” and “Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand.” Is that correct?

Bagley: Yeah, for me the fun stuff to draw anymore as much as anything else is the acting of the characters whether they’re in costume or not; whether it’s body language or facial expressions. I’m trying, even after all these years, to get better with faces.

You can only draw a guy punching another guy so many different ways, but when it comes to faces there’s always a new wrinkle. There’s always a new aspect you can discover or rediscover. I’ll look at something I did three or four years ago and think, “Oh yeah, I used to draw noses that way. That works very well.” Then I’ll reincorporate it and maybe do it better because I’ve had a lot more practice.

Are there any other elements of “Hulk” that you’re especially looking forward to draw? Are there any that are going to take some getting used to again?

Bagley: I would love to do some classic Hulk matchups like where he fights the Thing or the Abomination. I’m old school that way, but I’m also looking forward to a lot of the new, fun stuff.

There’s a lot of science stuff in this and once I get used to drawing it again it comes naturally, but I’m the kind of guy where if I don’t draw something like that for a long time I have to remember how I structured it again; how I designed it to make it work. So I’m a little intimidated by doing a lot of scientific and lab equipment until I get my feet wet again. It’s like drawing a new character.

It takes awhile for me to find my comfort level and there’s been a lot of great design work by people working on this book. I don’t want to let anybody down, so that’s the thing I’m worried about.

Plus, there’s a lot of different secondary characters. Luckily they’re all distinctive. So I can draw them without having to worry about how to make them distinctive.

What can you tell us about the look of your work on “Hulk?” How will it compare to your recent work on “Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand?”

Bagley: I’ll be working with Andrew Hennessy who did inks and Jason Keith who did colors on my work for “Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand.” They make my stuff look phenomenal. So I’m excited about that. Andrew and Jason have been doing some terrific work.

It sounds like when this new “Hulk” series launches in April Bruce Banner and the Hulk’s lives will be turned upside down and be full of mystery and new things. Can you leave us with any final clues as to what readers can expect from this series?

Waid: Get ready to learn a lot about Bruce Banner that you never knew. And get ready to see Hulk start doing something that we’ve NEVER seen.

A new volume of “Hulk” begins in April as part of All-New Marvel NOW!