Gerry Duggan on Taking Over The Hulk and Writing Deadpool and Nova

The writer of Hulk, Deadpool, Nova, and more opens up to us about what it means to be the voice of so much of the Marvel Universe.

With Deadpool (which he co-writes with Brian Posehn), Nova, and now both Hulk and the upcoming Hawkeye vs. Deadpool mini-series, a large chunk of the Marvel Universe’s voice is coming from the mind of comedy writer Gerry Duggan.

In this interview with Duggan, we touch on the transition to the Hulk book, his decades old love for the character, working on line-wide events like Original Sin and Axis, his thoughts on the Deadpool movie, Nova, and bringing some comedy to the world of the Hulk.

Den of Geek: How did the Hulk opportunity come to be, when did it become a possibility and how much communication have you had with the outgoing writer, Mark Waid, about your plan for the character and where he left it off?

Gerry Duggan: I got an email that said, “Hey, this is from Axel Alonso” with the lead Hulk editor Mark Paniccia CC’d saying, “hey, we’d love to chat with you about an opportunity that’s coming up.” When it became apparent what the call was about, I was really shocked to be asked to collaborate on the Hulk. But to answer your question, Mark just could not have been a nicer guy to me. He’s been very helpful with any questions I have and we are working together to hopefully make this a pretty seamless transition. I know a little bit about [what] Mark’s plans are for the Hulk and um…the right way to say this is that I actually can’t talk about the new status quo because, you know, I don’t want to spoil too much of what he has planned.

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He and Kieron Gillen are writing a really, just epic Original Sin story with Tony Stark and Banner and Hulk, and it’s gonna be really fun and then I get to try and follow that up. You know, I could not be more flabbergasted that I get to follow Mark Waid on anything. That guy is one of my favorite writers and is writing some of the best books out there today, whether it’s at Marvel or Thrillbent. He’s really always been one of my favorite writers, so it’s a true honor.

How is this different than taking over Nova (which was I guess issue 10 that you started on)? How did that help to prepare you for the challenge?

You know, Nova was a real fun opportunity and still is. Sam is an inexperienced hero and there were only two writers before me and they added so much to the Marvel Universe with Sam, I thought, that you know, we really needed an inexperienced hero again, so I was able to come in and…you know, there isn’t decades of continuity and that presents its own challenge. But, it’s such an opportunity. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to write Sam. I think they are some of my best scripts and the artists have been great.

With Hulk, it’s a little different. But it’s also the first time I’ve gotten to write the Hulk, and so I’m just trying to approach it the same sort of way where the formula isn’t a secret. You know, I’d like to have some big character moments and hopefully some meaningful interactions with the Hulk supporting cast and some real emotional beats and then some really big action. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel in that regard.

I’ll say this about Hulk, and I don’t know that I answered your question exactly, but I’ve never had as much fun writing these scripts as I have writing the Hulk. Of all the wonderful things that I’ve been asked to collaborate on, this has been the thing that has brought me a lot of joy recently and I hope that translates. I think that does — when we have fun, I think the comics are fun.

What’s your history with the character as a fan? Was it a character that you grew up loving, was it something that you came to later in life?

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No, 100% it’s a thing that goes back with me all the way to the ’70s. I think I actually had a Hulk comic before I had a Spider-Man comic. I had the Hulk Rage Cage and not the second generation or Mach 3 version. I had the first generation Hulk Rage Cage as a kid.

It’s funny, my parents don’t get very excited about things anymore, you know, because I’ve gotten to do such, sort of, wonderful things. I’ve been very lucky the last year or two. But my parents don’t know who Deadpool is and when the Hulk news broke, they were very excited because they remember me running around as the Hulk. Even a few years ago, one Halloween, I dressed as Banner in shredded clothes. I dyed a pair of khaki’s purple. I’ve always loved the character and so to be asked to contribute in any way to the ongoing saga of The Hulk is, you know, I never dreamt I would be in this position.

What can you tell me about this story that’s coming up — the Omega Hulk? What you’re going to bring to it, how you’re voice is going to enhance this character.

I’ll be purposefully vague and you’ll have to forgive me. From the beginning, Hulk #5, is a relatively new… it’s a new status quo for the Hulk and I don’t want to spoil it. But the opportunity that it gives me is to bring a little bit of an Armor Wars to the Hulk universe. And you know, as the Hulk wants to rid the world of Gamma Weapons — and, you know, there are some living Gamma Weapons out there… I think it’s fun to… obviously, it provides the Hulk with suitable foes, but a lot of those people are some of the oldest characters in the Hulk Universe. There is Betty, there is General Ross, there is Rick Jones. Um, and the one thing that I’m hoping to hold onto as I write these Hulk scripts — and I think I’ve been successful — is that I’m hoping to maintain what sense of humor I bring to these books. There are, I think, some very funny moments. I’m not playing things for comedy, but there are… I think that’s why the Marvel movies are popular too. There is a sense of humor.

I saw Godzilla and one of my criticisms was that there was sort of never anyone who went, “Oh my God! That giant monster just ate it”, there was no great, sort of, gags in it. I know it’s a little [bit] of apples and oranges, but I do believe that there is value in a laugh, be it a smart laugh or a dumb laugh.

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So that’s what I’m going to try and bring to the Hulk: that there will hopefully be an enjoyable bit of comedy that won’t feel like I’m making the Hulk a comedic book. And I think that’s true in a lot of what I do. I’m trained as a comedy writer. (momentarily adopts a mock serious voice) I’m a comedy writer by trade. But yeah, it’s an interesting thing to put in there and I know Bagley’s already done some really fun stuff and I’m making Paniccia happy, the editor, so I’m on the right path. And I will say this too about Mark Waid: some of our ideas overlapped, in that we had parallel ideas for the Hulk, and so with his blessing, I’m sort of going forward. It made me feel very good that I was able to, you know, be adjacent to a Mark Waid idea (laughs).

What about cameos, working other characters from the Marvel Universe in there? Can you give us any hints about any characters that you might want to work in? Specifically during this first arc?

Yeah… there’s a lot of old faces, a lot of familiar faces and a surprising face or two. An unexpected Young Avengers character pops up, so I’ll simply leave it at that. But, you know it is a book that eventually will have an issue with Jennifer Walters too and I’ve never had a chance to write the She-Hulk before and I’m a little intimidated by that because that’s also, Charles (Soule) is doing such a wonderful job on that book. And I should say too, this will not upend the great work that they’re doing over on that book. This will live adjacent to that, but it’s fun. It’s fun to write those characters. I don’t get intimidated as much as I get excited.

Alex Ross is doing the cover on number 5, that’s gotta be a “wow” thing.

Uh, yeah! You know there’s an Alex Ross cover to number 5 and a Gary Frank cover to number 5, and if you had told me that I would have a script of mine wrapped by either of those artists, let alone both of them on one issue, I would really have never believed you. You know, Gary’s been associated with the Hulk for such a long time and it’s a real treat to see both his and Alex’s [work]. I mean, that Alex Ross cover is just breathtaking. I really thought it was a mistake because I didn’t see it until the debut and I was like, “Oh, I wonder who’s getting that cover, that’s amazing!”

What are some of the challenges and the blessings of working within a major, line-wide event like Original Sin with Deadpool?

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You know, you just have to be far enough ahead or your story has to be malleable enough to take the story on. Luckily, with Original Sin, it was a story that we were planning that dovetailed really quite nicely with the way that some of the secrets are being revealed in Original Sin. And so for us, the DNA was right and it was an easy… you know, it’s like transplanting an organ and it worked. It took.

We’ve revealed one of the two Original Sin secrets that we have and the second one sort of will be revealed later in this arc and is a bit more devastating. And then later… we went almost 30 issues without tying into an event, but actually we’ll be a part of Axis later in the year as well.

Do you enjoy working within that realm or do you prefer to be kind of on your own?

No, it’s neat. The fun thing about writing Nova is, you know, getting to talk to Bendis and Mark Waid and Sam Humphries  — we’re chatting about some stuff that might happen in outer space and, you know, it’s fun to have a rock go into a pond in one book and have the ripple show up in another. And, you know, Deadpool is off sort of in a corner of the sandbox that doesn’t often see those ripples, but that’s changing a little bit.

It started, I guess, with Deadpool: Good, the Bad and the Ugly and moving forward will have a little bit more interplay. Hulk will have events that will be felt in other parts of the Marvel Universe and Nova is, I think, going to be one of the more exciting books in the next six months with some of the stuff that we’re tying in to both Original Sin and to Axis and Sam’s gonna have… it’s a bit of a coming of age story for our young Nova. I’m really excited about it, actually. So yeah, recently, for whatever reason, it does seem like we’re sort of… the tentacles are spreading out to other books. It’s fun.

The Deadpool movie stuff, which is just…I mean, as a Deadpool fan it’s really frustrating because it’s like one step forward, 15 steps back.

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Sure.

Do you pay attention to that stuff? Do you have an opinion? Do you want to see a movie? Do you feel like the movie has to be R rated if it’s gonna be right?

I have really no horse in the race. I’ve never had…

Well, as a fan of Deadpool, even.

Yeah, I’d love to see a movie. I guess I have my… as a fan, I’d love to see a movie. As a guy who might sell a couple of more books because of the movie, I root for the movie. But I understand how hard it is to get movies made, even at studios. You know, The Last Christmas was optioned by Gianni Nunnari and he wanted to make that the first movie that he made after 300 and, you know, he had the hot hand. 300 crushed, and he wasn’t able to get it done. And what he said to me has stuck with me forever, he just said, “Every movie that gets made, is a miracle.” and he’s not wrong.

I don’t know a lot about the hurdles. I’ve never had any contact with anyone from FOX. I don’t know if they’re reading our book. I know the Zombieland guys did a draft of it and I did… Tim Miller showed me his Deadpool proof of concept. I randomly sort of met him in the waning days of Attack of the Show and he was very kind to me. A producer introduced me as “the guy writing the current Deadpool” and that was when he was attached as the director. I have no idea if that is still going on. It is the thing that I am asked the most. And I don’t begrudge anyone.

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I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, but I just have no special knowledge of anything that goes on. Not just in the FOX world, but in the Marvel world either. They leave us alone to sort of tell our stories and we might hear an advanced rumble or two, but really, I don’t know anything in the movie or TV side. I don’t know anything more than anyone else.

Just to follow up: more interested in, again as a fan, your preference — would you want to see it R rated, or do you could get by it with a PG-13?

You know, I would think this is part of the hang-up. You know, I guess what I would do if somebody waved a magic wand and put me in charge of a Deadpool film — I have to be totally honest — I would make the theatrical cut a PG-13. I just would. You have to do that for finances sake. Even our book, I don’t think is rated R.

No, I don’t think so.

And so, I think we get away with quite a bit on our book, so you absolutely could do it as a PG-13. I understand that that might not be a popular opinion, but you know, all of these movies and comics and infinite comics, they all exist at the intersection of art and commerce, and so, you just can’t dive into a decision that is going to hurt the business side of it. Is my own thinking.

Moving away from the Marvel stuff: more creator owned stuff like Infinite Horizon, is that in the future?

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I hope so. You know, at the moment I’m pretty busy with the comic book slate that I have and I’m actually still writing a video game, and that will wrap up in about a month. But I do have one cooking with Shawn Crystal, but we’re sort of not ready to talk about it, but it does exist. We’re looking forward to getting to it.

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