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Interviews: Planet Hulk

Many, many eons ago, our lovely site editor Shane sent me on a quest to planet Hollywood where I was to seek out those responsible for the new Marvel Animated film Planet Hulk. Although the ride back was a little bumpy, the mission proved fruitful as after I fought several of my online brethren to the death and was able to discuss the sci-fi adventure with some of the filmmakers, and the great Jeph Loeb.

Well at least that’s how I’m telling it. I did get a chance to speak with a boat load of the filmmakers, and totally geeked out all over Jeph Loeb (what can I say, I love the man’s work and that includes Commando.) My full review of Planet Hulk will be up shortly, but for now here are the interviews with the cast, crew, and the Living Legend.

Greg Johnson (screenwriter, Planet Hulk)

What about this story attracted you to want to adapt it to an animated feature?

I’ve written The Hulk in various forms and there was a series in the ’90’s where he was very monosyllabic, very angry, you know a little bit of sympathy for his plight. That was really kind of the scope of his emotions, right? Because as soon as he calms down he turns back into Banner. I did that in several of the animated movies where he’s always the same kind of character, just a world wrecker. This was an opportunity to not necessarily tell the story of him just as a world breaker. He starts out that way, but through the process of this story turns into a character that you are really rooting for. You get to see some things in his personality that I don’t think you’ve ever seen before and that was really appealing to me.

At the risk of repeating myself, what were the challenges trying to adapt this thing?

Obviously it’s trying to cram that tremendous story that Greg Pak wrote into a decent running time for an animated film. It just couldn’t all be on there or it would have been a five-hour movie. I trust people will appreciate the effort that went in to making sure the key moments of the story are represented in this film because there’s a lot of key moments, a lot of big moments there. Pretty much everyone you can think of when you watch this movie is there so I hope people will really appreciate it.

Josh Fine (supervising producer, Planet Hulk)

What was it about this story that made you want to adapt it into an animated movie?

I think one thing’s that’s really special about Planet Hulk is that it lets Hulk develop as his own character. In most Hulk stories it’s about Bruce Banner as the tortured, sort of anti-hero, trying to cure his issues or on the run. But this is really a story where Hulk is let out to experience things for himself and he gets to have an actual character journey of his own and to deal with some deep-seeded, complex, and really emotional issues. And I think for that reason, it’s a really special Hulk story. It’s one of the definitive Hulk stories.

So you wanted to give us a Hulk story where he goes around and kicks everyone’s tail in, something that the live-action movies didn’t really give us?

I think one of the special things about animation is that you can really let the characters off the leash and you can do spectacular action that might be cost prohibitive if you do live-action special effects, so we do have that privilege to not only tell this immense action story in Planet Hulk, but it’s sci-fi, it’s out there with aliens and a crazy, complex planet. So it’s kind of a privilege to be able to tell these kinds of stories.

What else does Marvel Animated have for us down the line?

The next movie due up is Thor: Tales of Asguard which is due out in 2011 and it’s a story of Thor as a young hero before he acquired Mjolnir and how he gained all his powers and how he adventured with his brother Loki in Asguard so it’s pretty cool, I’m excited for it.

Rick D. Wasserman (actor – Hulk, Planet Hulk)

So do you feel you did the best performance of The Hulk out of the three actors who’ve played him so far?

Are there only three? There’s a whole lineage of people who’ve played him.

Well, cinematic actors.

Listen, those people are monsters. They’re incredible machines of voice and acting, I mean I just do what I do. But this is a very different Hulk so you really can’t compare. It’s apples and big green monsters.

What made you want to be The Hulk? Was he your favorite Marvel character or did you just want to be a big, green mofo who smashes people?

Well listen, everybody has rage and I certainly have my share, living in Los Angeles, and it was a very good excuse to release it and that I did get to do. We had days of me screaming and screaming and screaming, which is good. It was really fun.

Did you actually get to punch anything in the office?

You know, there’s always a stool, which I never sat down doing it, I had to stay up. But I did smash the stool a couple of times. And when I say smash, I mean kick daintily but for me it was a smash.

Did they let you crack it into anyone’s skull?

(laughs) No, just thumb wrestling in the back, but that’s all we got to do.

Jeph Loeb (Living Legend, writer, Batman: Dark Victory, Batman: The Long Halloween, Superman: For All Seasons, Hulk: Grey, Commando)

What do you have coming up for us this year?

Well starting, well a lot. It’s sort of getting crazy. Fall of the Hulk starts next week or two weeks I think? And we’re doing something very strange, and daring, and driving our editors crazy. But Greg Pak and I, and with big help from Ed McGuiness who draws Hulk Paul Pelletier, who’s taking over Incredible Hulk and we’re gonna ship those books on the same day. So Fall of the Hulks will have two books that come out, and my book focuses on Red Hulk and what his role in the Fall of the Hulks is and his book focuses on Banner and Skaar and what’s going on that side, but it is all one big plot. So it is like seeing two movies from two different points of view and there is scenes that are the same scenes in both books that you actually get to see them from Greg’s point of view and my point of view. We’re having an enormous amount of fun with that, and yes it will answer all the questions. Who is the Red Hulk, whether or not we’re into the full-blown origin, and whether or not the Green Hulk will return, what Skaar’s role will be in all of that, so it’s an awful lot of great fun we’re having.

Are you ever going to go back to works like Daredevil: Yellow or Spider-Man: Blue or are you doing all current stuff this time around?

I’m still working on Captain America: White. I know it’s been a long time and everyone’s been very patient. There’s a lot of talk about how books are not shipping on time and Tim and I really made a promise to each other that we really wanted to have all six issues done. Not four and then two that we do later, not five or anything, we wanted to get all six out of the way. I know it sounds crazy, but basically it will be out before the movie. That’s all I can really promise you. It’s amazing you even bring that up because when people think about the work that I’ve been doing lately, they’re really these huge, Michael Bay kind of spectacles. I did want to get back to doing something that was quiet and more character driven. And here’s my next plug, coming out February 1st, is Ultimate X, which they’ve just started promoting online with brilliant illustration by Arthur Adams, just the most beautiful interior work he’s done in years. I think people are really going to be surprised by it that it is a much smaller, much more character driven story, even though the images of these five dynamic group of people of who they are and what they’ll be, but you are actually going to get to meet them individually and really get to know them. I really went back and looked at the way Brian Michael Bendis introduced Spider-Man in Ultimate Spider-Man and the Spider-Man world and how much time he took to get to that place. And that’s really what we wanted to do was take the time to be able to get to know these characters.

What’s your favorite work of everything that you’ve done, including Spider-Man Blue, Daredevil: Yellow, Batman: Dark VictorySuperman: For All Seasons?

It’s kind of an unfair question only because they’re all my favorite but Superman/Batman #26 which was the issue written by my son that was completed by twenty-six professionals in the business, just has it’s own special place. And there’s a back-up story in there that Tim Sale drew for me called “Sam’s Story” which is about Clark’s relationship with a boy named Sam who has cancer in high school that really for me is in it’s own league by itself. But on the other side of it, yeah, all the books that you’ve mentioned and I’ve been very, very lucky to work with people like Arthur Adams and Tim Sale, Frank Cho, and Ed McGuiness. I’m still a fan, I still go to the store every Wednesday, I pick up my books y’know, I still scream at the boards, y’know, I still do all that stuff. So being one of these guys is just huge. It really is, I’m so tremendously lucky.

And there you have it. To be honest, all of these gentlemen seemed very proud of the work they completed, from their demeanor’s to their appearances. Quite honestly, they should be, as Planet Hulk is quite the ride.

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