World War Hulk #1 by
Greg Pak - Writer (Plot/Script)
John Romita Jr. - Penciler
Klaus Janson - Inker
Christina Strain - Colorist
Chris Eliopoulos - Letterer
David Finch, Danny Miki, Christina Strain - Cover Art
Brad Johansen - Production
Nathan Cosby - Assistant Editor
Mark Paniccia - Senior Editor
How Long I Had Been An Editor:
2 years, 1 month
Basics Of My Editorial Responsibilities On This Issue:
-Read Script, gave notes, got Editor’s notes, compiled & sent to writer
-Checked all continuity points with other Editorial offices, as well as distributed art and scripts to other Editorial offices, to enable tie-in books to match continuity
-Moved digital pencil pages to Production for resizing. Distributed files to colorist & letterer
-Did balloon guides for letterer
-Generated new sound effects
-Created Ad Lineup
-Gave color notes
-Designed Recap and copious amounts of backpage material
-Ran initial & final lettering to proofing, collected notes & sent to letterer
EVENT - noun; Something that happens or is regarded as happening; an occurrence, especially one of some importance.
Events are big.
The word “event” used to really mean something in the mainstream comic industry. All these different sections of the Marvel or DC universe would come together to take on a massive threat bigger than any one hero could handle. Sure, there was connectivity between titles on a regular basis, but when Captain America and Iron Man or Green Lantern and Flash met within their own books, it was to handle stuff that could plausibly be handled by one or both of them. These teamups were also a chance to show humanity and personality through teamwork. That’s not really the goal of an event.
Here’s basically what an event is: “Everybody stop doing the shit you’re doing in your own books while we all jump at the big thing that’s gonna (ultimately not) kill us! Sure, that’s a pretty stupid idea, but while we’re doing this, there’s a smaller group that’s doing another thing that’ll save the day! Also, one of us is probably gonna die for a while!”
Long as you follow the basic structure of that paragraph, you’ve got an event. It’s a simple, single-line story blown up to Bruckheimerian proportions, where sound and fury signify everything. Bad guy kills half the universe. Good guys have to fight other good guys. Aliens are taking over the planet. etc.
Events can be great…it’s always cool to see your favorite characters in-fighting and getting the shit kicked out of the them before banding together. I’m not in the event demo. I like small, weird, personal stories. I get kinda bored when it sounds like all the characters are screaming THEME! THEME! THEME! THEME! instead of plausible dialogue. That puts me in the minority, I know. But I also think it made me ideally suited to help on Greg Pak’s event, WORLD WAR HULK.
Keep in mind, it’s hard enough getting a good single issue of a monthly comic (that doesn’t tie into anything) finished up and sent to the printer, without any major story hiccups or ego clashes. It’s an absolute miracle when an huge event-style book comes out and doesn’t read like how a McDonald’s hamburger tastes. There’s a saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.” When you’re doing an event comic, there’s not just a lot of cooks; There’s a couple dozen construction specialists determining the best way to modify the kitchen AROUND the broth.
The fact that Greg made such a fun event miniseries is a testament to his determination of character, and acceptance of a shitload of notes. I don’t want to speak a lot about PLANET HULK here (cuz I’m gonna do an entry on it later), but WORLD WAR HULK had the unique luxury of spinning directly out of one book: INCREDIBLE HULK. Greg wrote over a year of stories about Hulk being shot off into space by The Illuminati, then rose to power on the planet of Sakaar. He defeated evil oppressors, chose a new wife, knocked her up…everything was aces. Then BOOM—his ship exploded, killing pabillions, including his wife and child (cough). Hulk thinks the Illuminati planted the bomb to kill him. The explosion and trauma pump Hulk’s strength to a never-before-seen degree, so he heads back to Earth with his space posse to whup some Illuminati ass.
All that stuff’s pretty straightforward, right? Guy’s dangerous, guy gets sent away, guy finds a new place to live, guy loses that place, guy comes back for revenge. And NOW it’s revenge time, which should be even straightforward tale to tell, right?
You would not BELIEVE the cacophony of thoughts, double-thoughts, extra ideas, theme beliefs, continuity discussions, marketing strategies, co-star negotiation, timeline planning, moral repercussions, tie-in possibilities, casting politics…An event is not just a comic book. It is a forum discussion for everyone involved to state an idea that is very possibly the best idea ever…times 46. A lot of it’s necessary. You can’t let writers do whatever they want with characters that aren’t theirs. Events are high-profile, big-profit books, and the “important” people want to have their say on the big stuff, especially if new status quo’s spin out of them.
I’m not anti-collaboration. I’m really not. I believe that if a project needs a lot of notes, a TON of notes, then bring on the notes. First drafts can be half-made statues that need a hell of a lot of chiseling. I just get wary when I hear a note that’s not a note about a story, but is said for the purpose of changing the story to better suit the notegiver’s style, or is said for the purposes of political maneuvering, or is said because of a story contradiction from 1967. Just makes me queasy.
So there were a bunch of notes. From the initial idea, to the simple plot, to the issue-by-issue breakdown to the script to the next version of the script to the NEXT version of the script. My boss (Mark) and I took all these notes and gave them to Greg. For the life of me, I don’t know how he managed to make it all work. The reason I suspect is…
Greg Pak REALLY cares about Bruce Banner. I bet he wouldn’t be offended by me saying that Greg subconsciously (or consciously) thinks he IS Bruce Banner. A genius that’s among the smartest people in every room in which he sits, but can’t always express it. Banner became Hulk, Pak became a writer.
One of my favorite things to hear while working at Marvel was when Greg would come into the office, look up at the ceiling, play with his pencil, and tell you EVERYTHING that Banner is thinking and why. I don’t dare try to remember and write Greg’s Banner psychoanalysis here, for fear that I’ll misquote and get sent a polite but stern email from him, correcting my errors. But Greg made Banner, and Hulk, a real person. An emotionally and physically injured and tortured man that wants to be left alone, then finds peace with the ones he loves, then loses those people, then wants to destroy those that took his peace away. It’s a never-ending cycle of unhappiness with Bruce, and Greg never let you forget that. World War Hulk is a big story, but Greg sweated the small stuff.
I have written a billion words without saying anything about John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, two of the most fun and professional guys in the comic business. Johnny is the rare penciler that can produce four pages in a day. His quality and speed are incredible. But the byproduct of that quality and speed is that he must call someone every day to complain about what he’s gotta draw THIS time. I was that person during World War Hulk.
The following is a good example of one of our seven daily conversations:
JOHNNY: What da hell am I drawin’ all these helicoptas for?
JOHNNY: ‘Page 14, Panel 2…da sky is filled with choppers descending upon Madison Square Garden. ’ What da hell is this Pak guy thinkin’?
ME: He’s probably thinking ‘I’ve got John Romita Jr. drawing my book and I can’t wait to see what amazing stuff he comes up with.’
ME: You can do it, Johnny.
JOHNNY: Of course I can. I just don’t wanna.
Then I’d make fun of his earring, then he’d hang up. An hour later, he’d fax (yes, FAX) in a beautiful shot of a billion helicopters descending upon the Garden. Comics need 500 more John Romita Jr’s. And Klaus? The man inked over Frank What’s-His-Name (the guy that did Daredevil a long time ago). Dude is a MASTER of texture, page design, everything that goes into the making of an effective comic page.
I learned SO much while working on this book. Learned patience, humility, what it looks like when powerful people don’t get their way because they’ve been overridden by more powerful people. I learned the fewer fingerprints on a book, the more personal it’s likely to be. And I learned that an event, no matter how big or sweeping or “important” or “ground-breaking” it is, it won’t be remembered unless you’ve got an inspired creative team that can see past themselves and a writer that’ll pour his/her heart into a character’s journey, and’ll bleed for the story.
Mr. Pak squeezed every drop of green blood into WORLD WAR HULK.
-So the “big” fight in WWH is Hulk vs. Sentry. This was originally supposed to be where Thor came back to life, and he’d be the most equal opponent for the Worldbreaker Hulk. But stuff happened, schedules shifted, etc. So it changed to Sentry (or as he’s known by Native Americans, “Hits Like Superman, Cries Like Wussy”).
-I designed as simple a recap as humanly possible. Greg did such a great job of recapping the events that took place in Planet Hulk that I didn’t want to start the book out on a repetitive note. Credits and the origin of the Hulk. That’s all you need to know.
-Greg is, let us say, meticulous, when it comes to final dialogue. In WWH and several issues of Planet Hulk, we went through four, five, sometimes seven passes at lettering. It worked out fine, but there were times when Chris Eliopoulos & Joe Caramagna dreamed of plucking out Pak’s beard hairs wuuuuuuun at a time.
-The Marvel Talent Management Department told me that the selection of colorist for World War Hulk would have to be approved by John Romita Jr., and that he was INCREDIBLY picky about colorists. One day Johnny came in the office. I handed him a copy of Runaways. Then this happened:
ME: Whatcha think about this colorist coloring you on World War Hulk?
JOHNNY: Who’s dis?
ME: Christina Strain.
JOHNNY: She cute?
JOHNNY: Let’s do it.
Swear to God, that’s what happened. (Note: He was kidding. Johnny’s NOT a sexist. Nicest, sweetest man with a lovely wife whom he treats like a queen. I just thought it was funny that THIS was the approval conversation.)
-Johnny hates—HATES—drawing helicopters. And seats.
-Klaus Janson is one of only a handful of inkers that still comes to the Marvel offices to drop off inked pages. He comes in, makes copies, gives us the pages, goes to Ralph Macchio’s office for a chat.
-Johnny’s not known for drawing small. Greg’s script for Issue 1 was around twenty-seven pages. Johnny stretched it to forty-two pages. He…wanted the story to breathe a bit.
-I was incredibly hung over the day WWH #1 went to the printer (you’ll notice this as a pattern in these posts). Could barely see straight, everything was fuzzy. But right before we sent the book out, I noticed that one of the double-page fight scenes between Hulk and Iron Man was fuzzier than the others. Turns out it was low-res and would’ve printed even worse if I hadn’t caught it. From there on I learned my lesson: Always be hung over when editing.
-Finch is fine, but I prefer the variant covers that Johnny, Klaus & Christina did. WWH #1 Variant is the ONLY book I ever asked any creator to sign. I had the entire creative team (EVERYone, including Eliopoulos, Paniccia, Brad) sign it. I’ll cherish it forever. Or sell it on eBay someday. Definitely one of the two.
-Couple months after WWH ended, Johnny would still call me to complain about other projects he was working on. I listened to his pain, and in return he agreed to do the cover for DAMAGE CONTROL #2, featuring, yes, a bulldog. THEN he helped talk his dad into doing DAMAGE CONTROL #3’s cover. THEN Johnny gave me his original cover art as a gift. Classy guy, that Johnny. (the cover’s framed and on my wall)
-World War Hulk’s why I don’t care for Iron Man very much. He doesn’t seem very nice.
-This issue is the origin place for the sound effects that became famous in Greg and Fred Van Lente’s INCREDIBLE HERCULES. Greg had a tendency to do the same SFX every time (KRAKOOM, etc). Since there was so much fighting, I wanted to switch it up a little. So I suggested more…colorful SFX. I sat at my desk making ridiculous sounds, then tried to spell them. KRAKKABATHROOM came about when I was waiting on a phone call and REALLY needed to pee. After we crossed that line, I felt free to get even sillier. Go back through all the issues and you’ll find all sorts of dirty words and inside jokes, as well as the initials of the entire creative team during the Hulk vs. Sentry fight. Absolutely equal (if not greater) credit goes to the world’s best letterer, Chris Eliopoulos, for designing the hell out of every stupid-ass non-word I told him to put on the art. He’s the one that came up with GRRGPAK! in Issue 5.
-Aaaaaas always, really appreciate any feedback, what you like, what you don’t, what you’d like to see more of in these posts. Happy to hear anything you think about them, it helps me decide what to mention and what to leave out.
Next Week: MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS #9
Week 5: INCREDIBLE HULK/HERCULES #112
Week 6: THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER #3 & #4
Week 7: LOCKJAW & THE PET AVENGERS #1
Week 8: WHAT IF? NEW FANTASTIC FOUR
Week 9: SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP: M.O.D.O.K.’s 11 #5
Week 10: MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #53