Greg Pak: The Incredible Hulk Exit Interview



I’ve told this story on War Rocket Ajax before, but back when Planet Hulk was coming out, I was a total snob about it for about three months. I remember having a conversation with Tug, a coworker and friend of mine that went like this:

“Psh, this Planet Hulk thing is nonsense. It’s just a huge Bill Mantlo rehash!”

“No kidding! And it’s fourteen issues?! They need more than a year to tell this story?! Ridiculous.”

Then, after the first four issues were out, I got bored at the store (which happened a lot) and since someone had just canceled their pull list, we had them all handy behind the counter. So I read them. A few days later, Tug and I were in his car, driving to lunch, when I said “I have a confession to make.”


“I’ve… I’ve been reading Planet Hulk. And it’s awesome.”


Cut to five years later, and Greg Pak is one of my favorite writers, and his amazing run on Hulk stands as one of the best the character’s ever had. So today, as his final issue hits stands, I sat down with him for an extensive Exit Interview about his time on the book.

ROM Week: This Creature Men Call… The HULK!

One of the things that might not have been made abundantly clear over the past week–what with the fact that he usually disposes of his problems by shooting them with his giant, unweildly square hunk of sheet metal Neutralizer–is that ROM also comes with a pretty standard array of super-powers.

After all, you don’t go out and trade your humanity to the Prime Director of Galador for a suit of cyborg armor that looks like an NES with legs without getting some pretty serious perks, and for ROM, said benefits far outweighted the drawback of not having any fingers. The cyborg armor gave him the ability to fly and–as we’ve seen–withstand even the raking, razor-edged claws” of Wolverine, but most importantly, it made him crazy strong.

Case in point, ROM #26, wherein ROM punches his way into Galactus’s spaceship.



I don’t know if you guys know this, but not everybody can do that. In fact, ROM’s strength was so remarkable that over the course of the first few years of the comic, other characters often compared him to the Hulk, at which time ROM would inevitably look off pensively and think to himself that one day, he would have to encounter this creature that men call… The Hulk.

Clearly, these two had to get together. Thus, Boisterous Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema’s Incredible Hulk #296.



Sadly, despite the fact that it features ROM shakin’ that ass on an awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover, this one isn’t the all-out slugfest that I think everybody wants it to be, and falls slightly short of the issue of Power Man and Iron First where ROM Neutralizes a Dire Wraith hooker on the grand scale of ROM guest appearances.

The whole thing opens with what essentially amounts to a three-page advertisement for ROM’s own comic, catching up 1984’s impressionable youngsters on on ROM’s origin with handy shots of our hero totally chokeslamming a Dire Wraith and informing us that he’s using his Energy Analyzer to track down a strange source of radiation.

Said source is, of course, ol’ Jade Jaws, who has enough problems of his own to be getting on with. At the time, for those of you who don’t remember Secret Wars, Bruce Banner’s mind had finally gained control of the Hulk’s body, as long as he didn’t flip out and go BANANA.

And at this point, you should’ve already figured out what’s going to happen in about fifteen pages.

Anyway, it all comes down to a guy with the almost-unbearably manly name of Max Hammer, who responded to a terminal illness by blackmailing Bruce Banner into subjecting him to Gamma Rays, apparently forgetting how that actually works out for everybody except Doc Samson. Result: Crazy Old Man Hulk Monster.



As you might expect–what with the fact that this is a mid-80s Bill Mantlo issue of Incredible Hulk we’re talking about–this quickly leads to bone-shattering fight scene, and despite the fact that he manages to land a haymaker right to… well, to about a foot and a half below the old guy’s crotch…



…Banner quickly finds himself outmatched by the savage fury of a cranky old man. So let this be a lesson to you, kids: For the love of God, stay off the man’s lawn.

So severe is the ass-kicking that the Hulk receives from his geriatric counterpart that Banner’s mind retreats deep within the Hulk’s psyche, and, as predicted…



…the Savage Hulk returns with an uppercut that sends Hammer through the roof and pretty much out of the story.

And that’s about the time that ROM shows up, greeting the Hulk’s then-girlfriend Kate Waynesboro with the kind of modesty he’s known for.



Quite the charmer, that guy.

Before long, ROM’s managed to Neutralize the Gamma Radiation that’s killing Hammer’s test subjects and heads off for the confrontation everyone had been waiting for since ROM first set foot on the planet five years previous.

Needless to say, it doesn’t quite work out that well for the Greatest of the Spaceknights, and even the time-honored comic book tradition of ramming yourself head-first into your opponent’s breadbasket can’t stop this from happening:



And that pretty much settles that.

The Hulk, of course, ends up accidentally catching Kate on the backswing and runs off, and–despite the fact that it’s continued directly from the end of this one–ROM is nowhere to be found in the next issue, apparently having decided that chasing down lumpy, hooded space-witches is probably more his speed.

And considering that the Hulk ends up beating the living crap out of the Avengers two issues later in Hulk #300–still one of the most mind-bogglingly awesome comics known to man–I think we can all agree that was a pretty wise decision.

The Incredible Hulk: Feng Shui Consultant

“Hulk sense cluttered environment blocks flow of chi.”



“More open spaces will help puny human relax and promote creativity. Also, move chairs. Chairs are stupid.”



“Stupid, stupid chairs.”


More of the Hulk’s questionable decorating tips can be found in Marvel Team-Up Annual #3, where the Jade Giant, Power Man, Iron Fist, Machine Man, and Spider-Man team up. And by “team up,” I mean punch each other for 48 pages.