Enter the Krill!

Tuesday, August 26 2003

Posted on Newsarama

The following was originally posted on Newsarama:

JONES, ALONSO & DEODATO ON HULK: SPLIT DECISIONS
by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

Having come on board as regular writer since issue #34, Incredible Hulk writer Bruce Jones’s run on the title saw the return of Doc Samson, the Abomination and most recently, the Absorbing Man. The only one who’s not been seen so much in the series is the green goliath himself. That’s gonna change…

Jones is finally revealing the real Mr. Blue in the upcoming “Split Decisions” six-issue arc (#60-#65) as well as resolving some plotlines introduced at the beginning of his tenure on the title. Back on board for the thrill, er, or krill, more on this later - of it all is artist Mike Deodato Jr., who drew issues #50 to #54.

“It does not conclude every plotline, no. But there is some significant closure for certain plot threads,” Marvel Executive Editor and Hulk editor Axel Alonso told Newsarama.

Describing his stories on the series thus far, Jones terms it as “Running. Lots of running. Banner is being pursued by the law, mysterious shadow forces whose origin he’s attempting to put together, this woman or that depending on the issue – and yes, women are attracted to Banner - this will be explained in later arcs - but mostly, he’s running from himself. And that other guy inside him.”

Jones agreed that the Hulk/Banner conflict is very much like the modern day version of the classic Jekyll and Hyde scenario. However, maintaining what he’s said about Banner from the start, “I’ve always said that Banner is Everyman. But that was really my way of saying there’s a little bit of all of us in him. Most people, regardless of sex, can relate to Banner because, on a fundamental level, he’s very human, very like you and me. His problems are just slightly more exaggerated. My own feeling is that those things which bedevil us don’t differ significantly from the age of eight to eighty, only our perceptions of them; which is why I try to make the book accessible to everyone, even if the tone is somewhat adult. What’s fascinating for me about the Hulk/Banner conflict is that it’s not dissimilar to those conflicts within myself. There’s a dark side to me. A selfish, atavistic side. We all have it; I’m just more hung up on mine than most. Sure, Banner and Hulk are modern versions of Jekyll and Hyde — but to me, we all are.

“My intent was always to further flesh out the characters of both Banner and Hulk, get inside their collective heads and go back to their roots with our own spin on what really happened. I just wasn’t sure I was up to such a daunting task. But with Axel and Mike to shore me up, I’m feeling more confident about it daily.”

In many ways, “Split Decisions” is the most important arc so far in terms of plot, and certainly in terms of revelations, said Jones. “We find out who so many people really are —where they really are - and finally get a glimpse inside the mysterious Home Base,” he added.

When asked outright about the identity of the mysterious Mr. Blue, he said that he hasn’t been keeping it that much of a secret – kinda. “My hope is that readers will be slapping themselves in the forehead for not guessing the answer all along, and at the same time pleasantly surprised and delighted,” Jones said. “That’s my hope. Reality is sometimes a different thing.

“I think the biggest thing that’s going to be on most reader’s minds is exactly what shape the relationship with Banner and Mr. Blue will take now that the latter’s identity has be made clear. It’s already complicated in the person of Nadia Blondsky. And someone like Banner — always a heartbeat away from death - doesn’t take his relationships lightly.”

As for his plans for the future, there’ll certainly be more returning supporting characters, he said. “I think of Incredible Hulk more in terms of an ongoing saga than the short segments publishing schedules and changes in artists demand. I’d like to think that it could all be contained in one gigantic volume the size of Webster’s Dictionary and still make sense.”

Having worked on the series for more than 25 consecutive issues, the writer said it does come with its own sets of perks. And it’s not what you think. “A beautiful young woman — complete stranger — stopped me in a department store once,” Jones said. “She said she recognized me and told me how my writing had literally changed her life. She insisted on my meeting her husband and walked me to their home nearby. While waiting in the front room, the young woman came back downstairs to inform me she didn’t really have a husband, that it was all pretext to get me here and that ever since reading my work she couldn’t think of anything but making love to me. She began to undress. I knew I had to make a decision. Fortunately the phone rang and I woke up.”

For those who had it pass right by them, the above was a little joke.

Dreamtime female fans aside, Jones has had the privilege of working with talented artists such as John Romita Jr., Stuart Immonen, Leandro Fernandez, and current Hulk and Marvel exclusive artist Mike Deodato Jr. “I was in a mild panic after John Jr. left,” he admitted. “I really thought: well, there goes that job. I was amazed when sales actually began to climb. But maybe I shouldn’t have been — every artist associated with the book since my tenure has been uniquely talented and given a hundred percent on his arc. Axel Alonso is the reason we get such great talent, and Mike Deodato Jr. is the reason the book looks great now. I’ve just been very, very lucky.

“Mike proved his worth to me from the very first panel,” Jones added. “The first thing my wife said on seeing his art was: ‘He draws like you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, only better.’ I’ve been almost unfairly blessed with the caliber of artists assigned to my run on Hulk, but Mike is truly in a league of his own. I can’t think of another artist in the industry whose strengths as a storyteller and pure technician are absolutely equal. I knew right away that we would fit together just from seeing samples of his art — but I had no idea we’d sync this well. Mike draws the arcs exactly as I see them and that’s just magical serendipity. It’s like we’re reading each other’s minds. Axel and I have a similar short hand. I know I won’t get this chance again anytime soon, so I’m making the most of it.”

If Banner and the Hulk are the modern version of Jekyll and Hyde, and everybody has their own dark secrets, just what are Deodato’s? “Well, if you’ve never met him, you don’t know that he’s a somewhat shy, self-effacing and just all around nice guy,” Jones said. “Very friendly and generous, with a beautiful and equally gracious wife. The few hours I’ve spent with him in person have been refreshingly unpretentious and relaxed. The kind of a guy you’d go have beers with. I love him.”

And the feeling’s quite mutual, it seems.

Through their collaboration, Jones has learned that Deodato is about to complain or ask the writer to take it easy on him. “You can’t really challenge Mike because he can draw anything and I mean anything,” Jones said. “There were a couple of times when I felt a twinge of guilt because I knew I was throwing him some tough stuff at him, like the fight with the Krill — but Mike just stepped to the plate as usual and hit it out of the park — way further out, in fact, than my best expectations. But he does that kind of impossible stuff as a matter of course. Mike doesn’t have to rise to me; I have to rise to him!”

Other than the promised return of Doc Samson and the unmasking of the real Mr. Blue, Marvel’s solicitation copy for the upcoming issues mentioned certain creepy crawly creatures. Are these and the Krill related in any way then? Deodato was as guarded as Jones. “The Krill! I can't say now what exactly it is, but you'll know when you see it,” Deodato said. “I told Axel that if Bruce Jones ever thinks about bringing it back, he should shoot him to death! I'm kidding, of course. It was hard to draw and visualize, but I like to be challenged.”

While the artist was vague about the Krill, Jones offered the following explanation: “The Krill are Home Base’s most recent attempt to extract Hulk’s blood. And they only come in the dark.”

Despite the far-from-expected response to the silver screen version of the Hulk, however, there have been talks about a sequel. So has the film impacted or influenced Jones and the title? Not as much as you may think.

“It’s my hope that everything we do will be some kind of special event even if it’s not directly connected to Hollywood,” Jones said. “I love movies, but I never hold film up as a yardstick to meet or beat. I’m proud and happy with what we’ve done with the book all by itself. If the Hollywood phone rings and they ask me to jump aboard I’d be happy to, but I’m just as happy working with Axel and Mike on the monthly books. People keep asking me when I’m going to do more titles for Marvel — my answer is: as soon as they make more Mike Deodatos.”

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