Hulk: Grand Design's Jim Rugg Discusses the Madness of Retelling the Monster's First 40 Years
Acclaimed cartoonist Jim Rugg of Street Angel and Afrodisiac fame will reimagine the first 40 years of the Hulk's history in Hulk: Grand Design. In the style of X-Men: Grand Design and Fantastic Four: Grand Design before it, Hulk: Grand Design reinterprets the Hulk's story through the lens of a single artist, Rugg. Marvel couldn't have found an artist better suited to the job as Rugg, in the below interview, says he's been following the Hulk's adventures since the first grade. He also brings a unique sensibility to the project, leaning more into the design aspect of the format than his predecessors.
Marvel Comics also provided ComicBook.com with an exclusive first look at the cover and solicitation for Hulk: Grand Design: Madness #1, the second half of Rugg's Hulk project. The issue goes on sale in April.
Keep reading to see our discussion (conducted via email) with Rugg. The cover and solicitations for Hulk: Grand Design: Madness #1 follow.
Are you excited about Hulk: Grand Design? Let us know how you feel about it in the comments section. Hulk: Grand Design: Monster #1 goes on sale on March 16th. Hulk: Grand Design: Madness #1 goes on sale in April.
History with the Hulk
I know you've talked about this somewhat elsewhere, but just to set the stage, what's your history with the Hulk as a character?
Jim Rugg: I had a Hulk bowl and cup when I was in 1st grade. They featured a great John Romita Hulk image on one side and the blurb/origin text on the other. I would use these for breakfast every day and stare at that Romita Hulk and read the words –
Caught in the heart
of a nuclear explosion,
victim of Gamma-Radiation
Doctor Robert Bruce Banner
now finds himself
transformed in times of stress
into seven feet,
one thousand pounds
of unfettered Fury--
The most powerful\
to ever walk the earth!
The Hulk's Journey
You're condensing the entire original Incredible Hulk series into two issues. What do you see as the central theme or arc of that story? Or maybe is it as simple as "Hulk smash"?
It is "Hulk Smash". But it's also about dealing with a horrible condition and how that follows Banner around and how he survives and keeps going. I'm covering 40 years of this character's history – in the comics and in our world. I looked at this project as part comics and part history. So part of the theme or arc of this story is let's look at one of the most popular characters to come out of 20th-century storytelling. Here are some of the notable moments in his story, here are some of the great artists and visuals, and here are some of his achievements as one of the best-known characters in the world! But I love "Hulk Smash". Hulk's a monster and that's what I love him.prevnext
Putting the "Design" in Grand Design
Based on the first issue, there's distinct energy that you've infused into the series. Where X-Men: Grand Design focused on the in-universe continuity, Hulk: Grand Design incorporates Hulk's popularity on television, the art styles of different artists, and actual covers of other comics. It feels almost like a punk rock scrapbook and not too far from what you did with Afrodisiac. Can you talk a bit about why you took that approach?
I think it reflects our current world. Hulk is one of the most popular characters in the world. I first learned about Hulk not through comics or movies but through merchandise! That's something I love and it's something a lot of people love or there wouldn't be so much merchandise and licensed material. So that's definitely part of Hulk as far as I'm concerned. I probably lean into the "Design" part of Grand Design more than Tom (Scioli, Fantastic Four: Grand Design) and Ed (Piskor, X-Men: Grand Design) did because that's something that interests me.
Punk rock scrapbook sounds great! I went to school in the 90s and there was a lot of talk about post-modernism. Piecing together these different versions of Hulk from comics and from outside comics probably comes from that part of my background. In terms of Afrodisiac, I used the exact same process on the covers of Hulk Grand Design: Monster and Madness that I used on Afrodisiac's cover.
I think different styles and Hulk lends himself to that. One of my early comic memories of Hulk was Marvel Age's "Faces of the Hulk" feature. The editors had a page with a dozen different Hulk faces by different artists. I wanted to be a comic book artist and seeing how different artists drew the Hulk differently made a huge impression on me. I started to follow certain artists as a result because I realized – I like how this or that person draws. I've never forgotten that. And it definitely influenced Hulk Grand Design.prevnext
While putting Hulk: Grand Design together, has there been a particular era from Hulk's history you've found more challenging in terms of figuring out how to incorporate it into Grand Design? Similarly, do you have a particular favorite era or moment that you particularly enjoyed tackling?
The whole thing was challenging in that I'm looking at 10,000 pages and trying to condense that into 80 pages. No particular era was harder than any other but to some degree, it was all challenging.
I had an outline – basically a sentence for each page. Then when I would make the page, I'd reread the issues that were covered and try to make the page exciting and visually striking and make sense. There are pages that cover a year or more of Hulk issues.
Likewise, I like almost all of the Hulk. I love the monster fights of early era. I started reading comics during Peter David's run so I am partial to that. Specifically, Mr. Fixit is a favorite of mine. I considered approaching Grand Design like it was Mr. Fixit's memoir, but ended up going in a different direction.
Bill Mantlo's run stands out to me as well. Hulk was pretty consistent for almost 300 issues. Mantlo pushed the character in new directions and Peter David continued exploring some of the ideas that Mantlo introduced.prevnext
The Definitive Take
For you, who has the definitive take on the Hulk? Either as a writer or an artist?
That's a tough question. For a character who has been around 60 years, and has evolved a lot in that time, it's hard to cite one person. But you asked, so I'll say Peter David. He did a lot with the character and supporting cast. And in his 12 years, he was able to explore Banner and Hulk thoroughly so I'll tip my hat to Mr. David on this. But I must say, there are so many great creators through Hulk's history that I enjoy. That rich cast of writers and artists is what made me choose Hulk. I love so many of their comics!prevnext
Hulk Fans, Old and New
Lastly, what do you think Grand Design offers to longtime Hulk fans? And what does it offer to newcomers?
To longtime Hulk fans, I hope it will remind them of their favorite Hulk stories, moments, covers, and creators. And I hope it will give them a different perspective on Hulk's history as one of the greatest characters ever – and I say that without qualification. Hulk isn't just a great "comics" character. If you're a long-time Hulk fan, consider this my gift – from one Hulk fan to another. I often think of Hulk Grand Design as fan art. So I made this for you.
For newcomers – let me show the magic and wonder of Hulk comics! So many talented people have told awesome Hulk stories. This is an all-ages-friendly book. It's perfect for Hulk fans from outside comics. If your friend or loved one knows Hulk from movies, video games, cartoons...this book will tickle their eyeballs and give them an idea of how rich Hulk's comics history is. The various styles and design makes this a book that you can share with people who may have never read a comic book before. I pride my storytelling on being clear and welcoming to new readers. I hope this book will be many people's first Hulk comic book.prevnext
Hulk: Grand Design: Madness #1
- HULK: GRAND DESIGN – MADNESS #1
- JIM RUGG (W) • JIM RUGG (A/C)
- Variant Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
- Variant Cover by GEOF DARROW
- Writer/artist Jim Rugg concludes his creative reimagining of the entire history of THE INCREDIBLE HULK in this can't-miss oversized issue. You'll never look at Bruce Banner the same way again!