Monday, August 8, 2011

Midtown Comics Book Club: Planet Hulk with Greg Pak and Mark Paniccia

It’s time for another visit with some of your favorite creators. This time, writer Greg Pak and editor Mark Paniccia stopped by to talk about Planet Hulk.

For those not familiar with the story, it is a tale of the Hulk getting betrayed by his “friends” on Earth and shipped off planet, supposedly to one filled with no intelligent lifeforms. Unfortunately, he does not end up at his intended destination and instead, lands on one of the most violent places imaginable.

The club was kicked off with introductions and our moderator, Thor Parker, deciding to take us back in time to a simpler time when Civil War was getting ready to happen. Joe Quesada felt it was important to keep the Hulk out of Civil War, seeing as how he could tip the scales being the strongest there is, and getting Hulk off planet helped with another story, Peace on Earth, that was already in the works and would give the Hulk a chance to completely cut loose. Paniccia told us how all the pieces fell into place and everything worked out perfectly.

Pak went on to explain how he went to a meeting with Axel Alonso, Quesada, and Paniccia, and told,” Hulk, alien planet, gladiators, monsters, battle axe.” To which he promptly replied, “Yes!”

Other highlights include:

Pak spoke of how he had always wanted to work on the Hulk, so he would casually drop hints whenever possible.

Thor asked if they felt a lot of pressure regarding the book even though it was not a part of Civil War. Pak replied that for every book there is pressure because these are “legendary characters, created by geniuses, and there are hundreds of people out in the world, who know more about these characters than any writer does.” Then he spoke about one of the challenges with the characters is figuring out what their “thing” is and taking them to a new place while still respecting what the character is about.

We found out that Chris Sotomayor, the colorist, came up with the idea of having only Hulk be in green for the first issue. Then through out the run, more green would be added as Hulk influenced his surroundings more. The only exception being Caiera, whose eyes were green as a little tip off she might be a being of importance to the Hulk.

Originally, the run was only supposed to be seven issues, but when it proved to be popular, they were given an additional seven issues. This allowed them to put back elements they had originally taken out.

Paniccia spoke of how Pak’s love for the Hulk came through in every issue and that helped make the story flourish. Then he went on to speak about how both he and Pak feel Hulk and Banner are the same person, which is different from what many writers have done in the past. He also talked about the great scene between Caiera and Hulk, when she says she wants to see all of him, Banner included.

Thor asked how Pak dealt with the Hulk being the character that probably spoke the fewest words in the entire book. Pak told a fun story he had heard about Clint Eastwood, in one of his westerns, crossed out many of his lines, saying someone else could do them because he was not about to deliver any expository dialogue. The less he said the more powerful his character was and that was the similar approach Pak wanted to take with Hulk. He was also inspired by his high school soccer coach, who would just stare at him, not speaking, whenever he had to speak to him about anything like needing to leave to do another activity.  Hulk is a man of action, not words.

Quesada was very supportive of the book and offered guidance whenever possible including helping make the Hulk look less “handsome,” as he appeared in early sketches, and more like the monster he is.

The most challenging part of the book for Pak was that this was his first on-going series, so he was not used to writing out of sequence. Paniccia said the scheduling was the most difficult. They really wanted to make sure everything shipped out on time and the fans would know the book would be out like clockwork, but there were some times when it was a challenge. They both spoke of how great the rest of the creative team was to help make sure this happened.

An audience member asked if, towards the end, Pak had considered asking Quesada for another few issues because the world had been such a great creation. Pak said he knew he would revisit it with Sakaar and as he put it, “you don’t want to stay until the last bit of applause has finished.” Paniccia also said it felt like the right amount of time and they did not need to stay there any longer.

Another member congratulated Pak on Planet Hulk arriving in Korea. Then she spoke of how the Hulk is called so many different names and wondered if there was a deliberate plan for the names. Pak replied that it was not intentional but names mean different things to different people and how names need to be earned. He pointed out that “Holku” was something a Korean grandmother might call him, so it made sense that Caiera was the one to call him that.

Wilderowens closed the meeting, asking about what goes into dealing with the duel personalities of Banner and Hulk. Are they separate or interconnected? Pak said they are different aspects of the same person. They are both responsible for what the other one does. Paniccia said the “What If?” really helps highlight this. He went on to say that since they are the same person, Banner was able to recognize that the planet was too dangerous for him so he let Hulk take over but he also let Hulk borrow some of his “smarts,” so Hulk could strategize and think better.

On that note, the book club ended, and we got to have our books signed.

As someone who has tried repeatedly to get into the Hulk books and failed, this is probably the best storyline I’ve read that has made me excited to see what happened next. If you haven’t read it or you are looking for a way into the books, pick up Planet Hulk. You will not regret it.

The August graphic novel will be Beasts of Burden with writer Evan Dorkin. Hope to see you there!

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