An entry from my long-ago Marvel blog, this one showcasing an early outline from Greg Pak for what became World War Hulk.
Seems like enough time has passed at this point, so I thought I’d share one or two behind-the-scenes documents from last year’s WORLD WAR HULK crossover with you. Since I only oversaw WWH, rather than editing it directly, I don’t have quite as much material to share–but there are one or two things.
Below is the oldest outline for the story that became WWH that I can find. It’s marked “third draft”, so writer Greg Pak must have done two revisions directly with editor Mark Paniccia before even handing this my way. At this point in time, the whole structure of the event was different–it was going to run primarily in INCREDIBLE HULK, with tie-in Annuals being produced for other books in the Marvel line. And it wasn’t yet called WORLD WAR HULK–a number of titles were being bandied around (My own favorite was HULKMAGEDDON.) As you’ll see, while the basic idea of the story remained the same, the particulars changed a great deal:
PLANET HULK: EMPIRE
An overview of a Marvel Comics Event for Summer 2007
Written by Greg Pak
Third Draft – 06.23.2006
“PLANET HULK: EMPIRE,” the tale of the Hulk’s return to Earth, will be told in two parallel storylines (for collection in two separate trades). All of these titles would carry the “PLANET HULK: EMPIRE” logo.
The main story runs through the “Incredible Hulk” comic book series and is bookended by “PLANET HULK: EMPIRE” #1 and an “INCREDIBLE HULK” annual.
The second storyline runs through the various annuals in which Marvel heroes and teams grapple with the Hulk’s return.
PLANET HULK: EMPIRE ONE SHOT
Open with a brief intro — the Hulk’s furious eyes. The Voice of Legend captions fill us in on what’s happened — he was exiled by his friends. Made a slave, a gladiator. Became a rebel. A leader. And then a king. Finally found his place. Found a home. But then they took it all away. Killed his love.
And now he’s coming for them.
Dr. Strange awakens in a cold sweat — something’s coming. Tony gets a panicked call from his S.H.I.E.L.D. second in command. From Earth, the Marvel heroes see a plume of fire erupting from the side of the moon. The Hulk’s great stone flagship swallows up the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The flagship descends over the American desert. The Hulk emerges holding the limp body of Black Bolt. Full of insane, controlled rage. Announces that the heroes killed millions. And they have 24 hours to evacuate Manhattan.
Thor leaves his stronghold in the Oklahoma desert, heads towards the Hulk. Korg is the one to meet him. Old adversaries. Korg tells Thor that the Hulk is right. Thor should stand down. Thor knocks him aside. The Hulk comes out. Great clash over the desert. Epic, earth-shattering battle. Ends with the Hulk making Thor drop his hammer — and Korg picks it up. Korg actually picks up the Hulk’s hammer — he’s worthy. Thor’s blow away by this. He and the Hulk have a moment. Thor withdraws, says he doesn’t understand this all. But he won’t fight these heroes.
And now Namor and his enormous sea monsters rise from the oceans around Manhattan. Namor’s helping the Hulk. He reveals the existence of the Illuminati. They sent Hulk away. Bombed his new people. Killed millions. Now they must do as the Hulk demands.
In New York, the other heroes meet. Anger, accusations, panic. The first many learn of the Illuminati and what they’ve done. Divisions within the ranks. But they start the seemingly impossible evacuation job — teleporters like Cloak exhaust themselves, working overtime.
Hulk descends upon the city. Sentry rises to meet him, trying to claim old friendship. The Spikes surround the Sentry. Hold him. And then the Hulk balls up his great fist and smashes — and breaks every bone in the Sentry’s body. Heroes are shocked — they’ve never seen the Hulk so powerful.
Hulk drops from the sky. Tears apart the Avengers Tower as he descends. Korg tears apart the Baxter Building. Hiroim smashes Dr. Strange’s mansion. Precision strikes — utter devastation in those specific places. And now the Hulk and his crew step forward to face the remaining bruisers — Thing, Colossus, Hercules, She-Hulk, Doc Samson. Monumental battle. The Marvel heroes are crushed. The Hulk has never been stronger or smarter. Almost heartbreaking moment with She-Hulk — Hulk stares at her as if he doesn’t even know her, then sets the Spikes on her. They drain away her strength and power, leave her there as Jen Walters.
Hulk seizes the airwaves. Tells the world to give him Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Nick Fury. And then the shocker — he offers help to anyone whom this world has rejected. Anyone whom the “heroes” have forgotten or ignored. If they come to his fortress in the desert, he will give them a home.
In the desert, we see the Hulk’s army building a great fortress/city. And in the middle of the fortress? A great gladiatorial arena.
INCREDIBLE HULK #106
Pilgrimages begin — thousands of people begin moving across the country towards the desert — introduce some of the characters who will be part of the “Marvel Renegades” team — the Marvel heroes who side with the Hulk. Miek moves among the pilgrims — and he’s moved by them. He and the Brood help them.
Hulk negotiates directly with other nations, isolating the U.S. Hulk and his army do the huge things to help his foreign allies — stopping hurricanes, lifting Venice, crazy, huge stuff like that. A big Hulk/Storm moment — Hulk helps her stop a tidal wave threatening the African coast. Hiroim, tapping into the Old Power, stops an earthquake. Storm and the Panther say they won’t fight the Hulk.
Iron Man leads a battalion of U.S. army tanks and helicopters out into the desert, only to discover at the last minute that the Hulk has negotiated a deal with the U.S. government. The tanks blow Iron Man out of the sky.
INCREDIBLE HULK #107
Tony wakes up in the arena. Stripped of his armor. Sword and shield on the ground before him. And an obedience disk hammered into his chest. Forced to fight other captured heroes. (This story is continued in the MIGHTY AVENGERS ANNUAL.)
Strange and Emma Frost try to attack Hulk’s mind. Inside his mind, they meet the Caiera, Hulk’s slain Shadow Warrior love, who’s fighting alongside Hulk. Is it the soul of the real Caiera? Or just his memory of her? Who knows — but it’s simultaneously exhilarating and heartbreaking — even melts Frost. They see why the Hulk is fighting.
Strange finds Banner inside there. Tries to get him to help, to take over. But Banner understands. He’s accepted the Hulk — he sees that the Hulk is the hero, and that Banner is the monster.
Hulk fights back, defeats Strange. And with Hiroim’s help, exiles Strange to the Crossroads. (This story is continued in the NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL).
INCREDIBLE HULK #108
The Hulk’s fury continues. He’s gotten Black Bolt, Tony, and Strange, but Reed and Fury still remain on the loose. He demands they show their faces. Reed is missing — the Marvel heroes have no idea where he is. The Hulk’s people are searching.
Meanwhile, there’s a crisis in the desert — Hercules has arrived, along with some others. They’re fighting the Renegades, who are trying to defend the refugees. The Hulk charges in to smash. And now the Hulk gets a surprise — in a kind of reversal of Peter David’s Champions story from “Giant Size Hulk,” now it’s the Hulk who sees that he’s the one who struck without asking. Hercules is here to help. And the Hulk begins to see what people see in him — he begins to understand that these rejected people believe in him.
Meanwhile, Captain America and Nick Fury are assembling the remaining heroes. They may be the underground heroes — the ones the United States has decided were criminals during the Civil War. But they’re still Americans. And they still believe in freedom and democracy. They don’t want to see the world ruled by the Hulk — they’re ready to fight.
INCREDIBLE HULK #109
Preparing for a great battle. Captain America strategizing brilliantly. He’s recently been shot — maybe he’s not in the fight directly. So he’s in the Patton role — the general calling the shots. They send in Wolverine to reconnoiter. To kill. [This story is fleshed out in the WOLVERINE ANNUAL]. But the bomb Wolverine sets off just makes the Hulk stronger.
They take the attack directly to the Hulk. Hulk and his warriors take out the heroes. In the big twist — the vanguard of Cap’s army consists of hundreds of Nick Fury LMDs. The Hulk is surrounded by Fury — and he smashes each and every one of them.
The Hulk wins. Finally faces Cap. One on one. Only to discover it’s Rick Jones in Cap’s uniform. The real Cap’s been shot — he’s in a wheelchair, directing the battle from behind the lines. Rick pleads. For the life of Tony and Black Bolt and the other heroes who he’s captured. He’s won. Have mercy. And Miek concurs.
And in a final gesture — is it mercy? Or contempt? — the Hulk releases Tony and the others. Drops Tony at Cap’s feet, stripped of his armor. And sends them away.
Cliffhanger — Tony, haggard and desperate, forms an alliance with Doom.
INCREDIBLE HULK #110
Hulk has won. He could take over the whole planet if he chooses. And now we get a glimpse of what he would do, how he would rule. And, amazingly enough, it would be a utopia. A monarchy, to be sure, but with a genuinely just ruler. And here this new incarnation of the Hulk comes to full bloom — he’s the Righteous Hulk. Unfathomable physical power combined with incredible heart and vision. It’s the opposite of the Maestro. Something we’ve never seen.
Storm and the Hulk talk. She asks what he will do next. He could stay. Rule the world. But he says no. He’s leaving. He’s taking all these people who helped him, all these people who wanted to join him. And they’re going to go to the planet Reed said he was going to go to. The peaceful, lush planet. Where they can be left alone.
And then the other shoe drops — Doom and Tony.
INCREDIBLE HULK ANNUAL
Wall to wall action. The Hulk fights Dark Strange. Teams up with the heroes. Leads the heroes. Brilliant tactician and incredible powerhouse. The Hulk fulfilling his greatest potential. Brutal, terrible series of battles.
The outcome is far from certain — the threat is terrible and huge. But the Hulk looks at the refugees and renegades who surround him. And he begins to realize he’s become their savior. This planet’s Sakaarson. There are still millions who fear and hate him, who blame him for the chaos. But millions of others see him as their hero. They are all Warbound now. He turns to face the final battle. Win or lose, he has already won — he has found himself and his place on this earth.
But now, finally, he discovers the terrible truth — it was Miek who destroyed the Crown City of Sakaar. Who killed Caiera. And the Hulk stares at him. And the rage begins to build. Insane, white-eyed fury. And the Hulk strikes.
But he doesn’t kill Miek. Instead, he launches into the battle against the enemy. Destroys him. Crushes him. Creates some monumental destruction. Maybe triggers the terrible explosion which creates GammaWorld. Destroys the refugees’ chances of escaping.
And the Hulk looks at the shambles around him. And he sees that this is his fault. He was the father figure in Miek’s life — and all he showed him was rage. He’s not the Sakaarson. He’s the Worldbreaker.
The Hulk stares at Miek. Closes his eyes. And goes away. Turns into Banner. Who sits there, catatonic. Far, far away.
Inside Banner’s mind, we see the Hulk. It’s a memory/fantasy. The Hulk stands with Caiera on the planet Sakaar. Staring up as the explosions begin — the explosions that in reality killed her and led to the events of this arc. He gazes into her eyes. Tells her he he refuses. He won’t be the Worldbreaker. Not now. Not ever again. He holds her close. And they both die, in each others’ arms, as the fire envelops them.
End with images of Sakaar — the real Sakaar, post destruction. The radioactive oceans. And in that fiery soup, something stirs — that embryonic thing which is the Son of Hulk. And the Voice of Legend tells us the Worldbreaker never dies.
A prequel in which we see the Illuminati tear each other apart in the lead-up to the Hulk’s return. The Illuminati meet to discuss Strange’s visions from “Incredible Hulk” #100 — they sent the Hulk to the wrong planet — where he’s building an army. Tony knows that when the Hulk returns, he’ll try to find allies. And so Tony tries to get Namor to pledge support. Namor refuses. Tony wages preemptive war on Atlantis — in the effort to capture and neutralize Namor. Black Bolt is outraged — will he be next? But by that point, it’s too late — big climax as the Hulk smashes Black Bolt on the moon.
MIGHTY AVENGERS ANNUAL
The Mighty Avengers are forced to fight the Inhumans in the Arena the Hulk has constructed in the desert. Tony Stark and Black Bolt are the key players here. A bit of a mini-“Planet Hulk: Exile” story, with the various players forming new alliances, experiencing new horrors, learning new lessons.
NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL
The Hulk captures Dr. Strange and, with the help of Hiroim and the Shadow Elders, sends him to the Crossroads. Strange experiences horrors like those the Hulk encountered when he was exiled years before — meanwhile, the New Avengers strive to free him. Ends on a cliffhanger — with Strange being driven mad by his experiences, setting him up for a dangerous return.
Fury, deep underground, sends Wolverine as an assassin to kill the Hulk. A kind of “Heart of Darkness”/”Apocalypse Now” story. With Wolverine gradually coming to respect the Hulk. In the end, he calls in the air strike. But the twist is that he knows it’ll just make the Hulk stronger. End with the even more powerful Hulk and Wolverine sharing a grim grin, then Wolverine slipping back out into the darkness.
SON OF HULK
A storyline which begins right after “Planet Hulk” ends. Could be a miniseries. Or it could be the story arc which happens in “Incredible Hulk” while the Hulk-smashes-Earth event is going on in a separate miniseries.
At the end of “Planet Hulk,” the Lieutenant, Hulk’s lover/wife/Queen, is killed along with thousands of others when the shuttle which brought Hulk to the planet explodes. This, of course, precipitates Hulk’s return to Earth to wreak his vengeance. But what Hulk doesn’t know is that the Lieutenant was carrying his child. And the fetus, being half-Hulk, not only survived the blast, but thrived in it. The Son of Hulk swims through the sea of radioactive primordial soup at the center of the blast area. Grows from fetus to child, battling, killing and eating other surviving monsters. STUFF CUT HERE TO AVOID SPOILERS FOR SKAAR, SON OF HULK.