This is truly an achievement. When a comic title reaches a 50 issue milestone it is a really big deal. For over the past twelve months we have seen plenty of casualties in Marvel comics, where other well known title properties struggled to find an audience and ultimately (and rapidly) were met with cancellation. Alpha Flight was cancelled after 8 issues. Moon Knight survived only 12. Ghost Rider was axed after 8. So it is quite an accomplishment for a new character… a Red Hulk title… in a marketplace where even the famous Green Hulk historically struggles with readership longevity to begin with… has flourished, reached and will certainly surpass the 50 issue benchmark. It’s even more astonishing when one reflects upon the protagonist of this comic is actually a 50-something gray-haired stubborn, arrogant ex-military man who has embraced and cherished the right to bear arms more lovingly than his own flesh and blood. There is simply no one else like General Ross in comics today, which makes this success a direct testament to the great character Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross himself as much as the great writer Jeff Parker who expertly channels him time and time again. So once again, this is truly a great achievement… and a medal of legitimacy and success that Red Hulk fans can wear proudly.
Packed with an interview “Catching up with Jeff Parker”, a Red Hulk timeline, a Rogues gallery, a reading chronology and “The Objective” bonus story written by Parker and illustrated by the talented Dan Brereton that fleshes out Ross’s road to the rank of General, the 50th issue of HULK is a stellar book even without the meat and potatoes headliner storyline. But in the excellent feature story “Haunted Hulk Part One“, the Red Hulk has come to the home of Dr. Strange in dire need of assistance for a problem that is supernatural in nature. It appears after the events of Las Vegas being totally overcome by Hell itself (see the VENOM “Circle Of Four” story arc), some sort of apparition has latched on to Ross and wants to see the Rulk’s demise by any means necessary. And if those means requires unleashing any dead vengeful soul that has died at the hands of Ross (directly or indirectly) so be it. Will the Red Hulk be able to stop this retribution of the dead before they make him join the dead?
Writer Jeff Parker returns to stellar form in this celebratory issue, masterfully channeling the true essence of classic General Ross. And how much more classic can you get than the Rulk muttering “I hate magic“… or in response to Dr. Strange’s induced misty seance in attempt to probe key memories from Ross’s mind, the Red Hulk remarks “I knew this would turn into some hippie smoke-up.” Simply wonderful.
After perfectly setting up the father daughter reunion in the conclusion of issue 48, Jeff Parker also finally treats the readers to a slice of the Thad and Betty reconnection that fans have hungered for, yet was missing from the previous issue. Parker shines the brightest at these quieter poignant moments, and the tender discussion about Betty’s inheritance of the old Ross family home struck all the right chords. We can only hope, after shockingly finding out the L.M.D. Annie and Ross are now sleeping together (literally and assuming figuratively), that Parker explores their relationship too and how it reached the next level. Considering we never saw them even kiss, it would be fascinating to learn the details of their courtship. It certainly must have been awkward, with Ross naturally struggling with the fact she is a L.M.D. and not human. And can an L.M.D. feel sexual arousal, let alone love? Enquiring minds want to know.
Even with all this Red Hulk goodness, the best part of this comic (especially for readers who have been there since Issue #1) was to see the 50th issue come completely full circle and mark the return of the Abomination in spirit form, taking the opportunity to seek revenge for his murder at the hands of the Rulk. It’s one of those moments where you can feel the adrenaline shoot through your veins, and I only wish the battle (or more precisely torture) the transformed Emil Blonsky began dishing out could have lasted longer than a single page. Alas, it’s a minor complaint… one that could be compared to wishing you had a little more whipped cream on top of your ice cream sundae, but it’s not enough to forget what a damn good sundae it is.
When it comes to the art, Carlo Pagulayan is a master at drawing both the Banner Hulk and the Red Hulk. Pagulayan’s art is fantastic across the board, but his ability to capture the sheer power of the Hulks is simply amazing to behold and a true feast for the eyes. And unlike many other talented artists before him that have drawn the red behemoth, Carlo Pagulayan actually draws the Rulk significantly different. Not just drawing the Red Hulk trademark pupil-less eyes, the hairless brows and the spiked out hair (which is all important)… but readers can really see Thad’s age in Carlo’s Red Hulk rendition. You see, facially, Pagulayan draws the Red Hulk tremendously different from the Green Hulk, so much so that you can view his art in black & white and still immediately recognize which Hulk you are looking at. And who can ask for more than that? Pagulayan puts so much care and integrity in his work and this character that it is simply a privilege to have him do art duties in this book.
It can not be stressed enough that Pagulayan also draws a wonderful Red She Hulk… and the emotions he skillfully conveys when she looks back at Ross one more time before leaving him is as powerful as any balloon of dialogue could provide. Bravo Carlo!
What a great time it is to be a Red Hulk fan!
4.5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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In joyful celebration of the landmark 50th issue of writer Jeff Parker’s critically acclaimed HULK Comic, superstar Jeff Parker graciously and enthusiastically agreed to answer questions from the people who count the most: the loyal fans!
So many terrific questions were asked. Only a handful were selected. But a big “thanks” goes out to all the fans for their outstanding participation!
Now without further ado, we’re proud to present the first Red Hulk Blog fan interview:
Jeff, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Our first question comes from Shutterbug who would like to know how you got started in your craft:
“Hello Jeff, I would like to know what inspired you to be a writer and what was your first big break?”
I’ve made comics and cartoons since I could hold a pencil (though those early ones are a little rough) and I think I always wanted to tell stories. I was accepted as an artist first, I used to show samples of my pages at every comics show I could attend, and artist Bo Hampton, who I assisted sometimes, helped get me an assignment on a Vampirella story at Harris Publications years ago. I drew it and he inked it, and it was my first paying work though it never turned up in print.
Published Vampirella by Jeff Parker
I kept sending samples everywhere and eventually landed a couple of fill-ins on Wonder Woman, and then regular work on Solitaire for Malibu Comics. Editors at Malibu also started buying my writing, but before any of those stories were printed, Marvel bought the company and shut it down! It was years later after I self-published my Interman graphic novel that people started asking me to write for them. In short, it can take over a decade or more to ‘break in.’
The Interman by Jeff Parker
Next we have Mirko who wants to know how you got involved with the Hulk universe and what was it like to tackle the new Red Hulk character:
“Did you seek out the assignment for HULK or was it Marvel? How did you feel about writing a character that started out [what some felt as a mere] copy? How did you tackle the tasks of making him interesting? Keep it on! YeAHaw!”
Editor Mark Paniccia asked me to write a story for MONSTER-SIZED HULK #1 which teamed me for the first time with Gabriel Hardman. After that I would often pinch hit for Hulk stories when they needed more material, and then I got more involved during the World War Hulks books. That led to me coming on after Loeb and McGuinness finished their run, and then appropriately, Hardman came on with me.
Monster-Size Hulk #1
The World War Hulks books were good for letting me get my feet wet with Red Hulk, so by the time I came on as writer, I had plenty of ideas about him. I liked approaching it more from the angle of a retired military man who still wants to serve and tries to figure out how in a world that’s new to him. Because that’s a real situation that happens every day- except for the gamma strength, of course.
Both Kallark and Madden4Life would like to know more about the Red Hulk’s powers and the motivations behind changing them:
“Hi Jeff, your run is very, very good and I literally loved it. The problem with your RULK is his weakness when compared to Loeb’s Red Hulk. Why? “
“Yea why weaken Red Hulk? Why is there no heat or fire in his mouth anymore? Do you plan on exploring new powers like heat damage?”
Well, it’s a problem if you want him to be always stronger than everybody else, which I don’t think makes a character interesting. I established that his power-stealing was burning out his Ross side so he would abandon it (and eventually lose it fighting Omegex) – because he doesn’t want to lose his humanity.
Red Hulk risks it all to save General Fortean
We’ve already got a Hulk who wins by getting madder and stronger, I like the idea of a Hulk who has to use his head too, and that’s what makes Ross/Red intriguing to me.
Then we have the extremely enthusiastic Time2Time who would ultimately like to know about your methods of continuity research:
“Jeff you red blooded talented crazy bastard!! You actually made me a fan of the Red Hulk over the Green one!!! That is insane!!! Now listen to me!! “Fall of the Hulks Alpha” is one of the best comics ever written. All that tinkering you did with Marvel Universe continuity was ballsy but genius!!! Intelligencia attracted the Beyonder to earth??? Ballsy!!! They were behind what Venom is today??? Ballsy!!! Wow!!! So how do you do it?? Your research!! Is it all reading??? Have you read and taken notes on hundreds of comics??? Is there some Marvel superhero continuity computer that is available to the writers??? How do you do it!! Never leave the Rulk Jeff!!! We love you and your work!!!”
First off, you are the best questioner ever. Next, thanks for talking about that, I felt like we got some cool things out of the Intelligencia story. I especially like putting out the idea that they helped with most of the fantastic escapes and returns of other criminals who appeared dead, and that the ancient Wakandans summoned the vibranium to Earth. I’m actually not that great with continuity- I often resort to the internet and nerd friends when I really need to make something line up. But you may notice I don’t always worry that hard about it- I don’t think we should have to refer to an keep referencing details from some story of thirty years ago, it’s not a good way to get new readers. Thanks T2T!
Fall of the Hulks : ALPHA
Zombie-Wolf is curious about an open-ended story thread involving the beautiful warrior from the future, Thundra:
“One question I’ve always wanted to know was if there’s ever going to be a return of Thundra to the Red Hulk continuum. She kisses him back in World War Hulks, so what’s not to say she plays genetics again like in the case with Lyra?”
I’ve had some notions about other Thundra appearances. I thought it was cool that she made a bit of a comeback in all those Hulk issues, she’s a cool character. Lyra is coming up soon though!
“I’ve had some notions about other Thundra appearances” – Jeff Parker
Now we have Warren B. who wants to know if Ross will ever fully redeem himself… and how much do other titles featuring the Red Hulk [“Avengers” for instance] influence the direction you take with future stories:
“Hello Mr. Parker, Aside from your own writing in the main Hulk title, there seems to be few thoughts about the fallout of Red Hulk’s previous rampages. Other than [large] events like Fear Itself and Circle of Four… does the character’s use and treatment in other titles affect your plans and directions? [Also] is Ross anywhere close to ‘paying his dues’ in your eyes, to the Marvel U in general and specific characters? He took his licks in Scorched Earth, but do you think any other heroes still bear grudges, and should they?”
Maybe when the public weighs it against the years of classic Hulk rampages, they don’t notice so much? In other team books there’s just limited space and time to focus on individual characters’ situations, so we cover all that in the solo book. Nothing in Avengers has ever seemed to interrupt something I wanted to do or show….
The Red Hulk joined the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in AVENGERS # 7
I did have to work around and deal with the fact that Red fought The HammerThing in Fear Itself, but once I realized it was a chance to show what M.O.D.O.K. and other villains do during a big invasion they’re not part of, it was a great opportunity. I think the other heroes are more accepting of him but still don’t want to interact with him any more than they have to.
Finally, Matt would love to know which HULK comic is your personal favorite:
“Hi Jeff. If you had to pick one issue of Hulk you are most proud of which would it be [and why]?
Probably #41. It achieved a lot of things I wanted, though really I should say that whole Omegex three-parter since it’s one story. I was happy to finally show that The Watcher had a plan all along, and that Annie used her brain to save Red with the help of Zero/One. And all of the Ross childhood stuff was so perfectly brought to life by Gabe Hardman, I just couldn’t have asked for better. This was the story where I wanted us to go back and see who Ross was before he was the old crank obsessed with Hulk, and really connect to him. And from reader reaction I got, I think it worked.
You can read our review of HULK # 41 HERE
Do you have anything else you would like to close with, a message directly to your fans?
Thank you all for following us deeper into the world of Big Red. There are some big battles coming this year and old friends returning, so 2012 is going to be a blast. But mainly, thank you again!
We would like to thank Jeff Parker again for taking the time to answer our questions. In addition to his outstanding Red HULK series, be sure to follow Jeff Parker’s critically acclaimed Marvel THUNDERBOLTS (now DARK AVENGERS) title as well as his regularly updated website at www.parkerspace.com !
Marvel Press Release:
Marvel is proud to present your first look at “Hulk” #50, from the critically acclaimed team of Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan. Red Hulk’s hostile encounter in Las Vegas during Circle of Four is coming back to haunt him! The end of the world may be upon us, but that’s not all that’s headed for Red Hulk;
“The Red Hulk didn’t get out of that Venom story unscathed,” explains Jeff Parker. “Something followed him out of hell and it’s going to make the supernatural territory of Marvel break open and swallow our anti-hero whole!”
The stakes grow even higher, as a mysterious figure lurks in the shadows waiting to destroy Red Hulk and his fellow comrades! Will Red Hulk’s might be enough to match ghoulish malevolent magic? Can the help of Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Daredevil and more aid Thunderbolt Ross? Find out in the bonus-sized issue-Hulk #50, hitting comic shops everywhere and the Marvel Comics app, this April!
“This arc puts Red Hulk in the paranormal hot seat,” adds Marvel Comics Senior Editor Mark Panicca. “’Hulk’ #50 is a gamma-powered, poltergeist-packed issue that’s a joy ride through Marvel’s darkest side.”
No fan can miss this explosive landmark 50th issue providing readers with a perfect jumping on point, as Red Hulk combats a supernatural threat unlike any he’s ever faced before! With variant covers by Walter Simonson, Arthur Adams, & Humberto Ramos AND a 10 page back up by fan favorite artist Dan Brereton –this is a must have!
In joyful celebration of the landmark 50th issue of writer Jeff Parker’s critically acclaimed HULK Comic, superstar Jeff Parker has graciously and enthusiastically agreed to answer questions from the people who count the most: the loyal fans!
Is there a question about Ross a.k.a the Red Hulk you have always been curious about? Ask it here. Do you have a question about Jeff Parker’s craft? Ask it here. In a couple weeks, the seven best questions will be selected and Jeff will answer them. So think hard Rulk fans and make them count!
All questions must be submitted in the “Leave a Comment” section below. Please feel free to refer yourself as anonymous if you so chose.
HULK Issue # 50
Carlo Pagulayan (A/C)
Blank Cover Also Available
A Great Jumping On Point, As The Ghoulish Haunted Hulk Arc Begins!
Who Or What Is The Dark Figure Hunting Red Hulk? Can Red Hulk’s Might Match Malevolent Magic? Appearances By Dr. Strange, Red She-Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Daredevil And Others We Aren’t At Liberty To Divulge!