Tuesday Q&A: Jeff Parker

Tuesday Q&A: Jeff Parker

Red She-Hulk #63 cover by Francesco Francavilla

By Jim Beard

With RED SHE-HULK, writer Jeff Parker has put out feelers far and wide in the Marvel Universe and in the book’s newest storyline, beginning this March in issue #63, he’s sending out Betty Ross to reel them in.

Parker’s mixing diverse elements in the “Route 616” story, such as the artificial Machine Man and mysterious Order of the Shield, as well as connecting—in a way—to a character from the Fantastic Four mythos. He also makes use of his long experience in the Hulk’s world to weave tales in RED SHE-HULK that both strengthen and expand that unique tapestry.

With the impending arrival of the new arc, we asked the writer to clue us in on a few details of what’s in store for Betty as she heads into the underground of “Route 616.”

Marvel.com: Jeff, boiled down to its essence, what is Route 616 a story about?

Jeff Parker: It's about Betty and Aaron—Red She-Hulk and Machine Man—cutting an alternate course through the Marvel Universe and discovering bizarre secrets and history on their journey.

Marvel.com: How does Betty transition from the previous story to Route 616?

Jeff Parker: She is still trying to stop the superhuman war of the future that she experienced when she contacted the global computer called the Terranometer. But so far every move she's made has just made that outcome more and more solid.

Marvel.com: There’s a chase involved here; what's that all about? Why is Red She-Hulk wanted and how does her super hero namesake Jen Walters figure into it?

Jeff Parker: Betty did kill a man when smashing one of the Echelon Superhuman Development facilities, and she's wreaked major havoc, like on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; she's a wanted criminal. But not everyone is eager to go after her; you have to have serious power and resources to try to bring her in. Like say, the She-Hulk, Jen Walters!

Red She-Hulk #64 cover by Francesco Francavilla

Marvel.com: What about Machine Man makes him a great character to join Red She-Hulk on this adventure?

Jeff Parker: He now believes in Betty's goals and as an android, isn't particularly worried about being labeled an outlaw, or what anyone thinks of him. Aaron Stack enjoys discovery and action, and tagging along with her puts him in plenty of both. Also since the military tends to track her through the skies, he's managed to justify boosting lots of sweet cars to keep their movement on the road.

They also complement each other well. When she's in human mode, an android designed for battle is a perfect buddy to have watching her back. And threats that could crush him have to reconsider when she goes red.

Marvel.com: By delving into the underground, we often explore our own sub-conscious—would you say this is true with Betty's upcoming journey?

Jeff Parker: Very much. She's already faced the fact that she destroys because she's afraid—mainly of herself. But she has more to unearth.

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the new ruler of the underground that Betty and Aaron discover?

Jeff Parker: He's a successor to the Mole Man, and a lot more monster than old Harvey. He's fascinated by Betty because though she looks human, she behaves very monster.

Marvel.com: For those coming in new to it, how would you describe the Order of the Shield and their role in RED SHE-HULK?

Jeff Parker: We're following up Jonathan Hickman's 2010 S.H.I.E.L.D. series drawn by Dustin Weaver that traces the Order of the Shield from ancient history. In Betty's travels, she found the Terranometer and met the artificial—or possibly actual—consciousness of Nikola Tesla, who was a key figure in the order during the 20th century, and later centuries. Though S.H.I.E.L.D. is an active force in the modern day, they don't seem to be directly connected to their forebears at the moment. And interestingly, they are connected to the Hulk and she's involved with this other sect.

Red She-Hulk #65 cover by Francesco Francavilla

Marvel.com: Which aspects of the book make for the best use of the talents of artists Carlo Pagulayan and Wellington Alves, in your opinion?

Jeff Parker: I think they both draw a strong [female] lead, and I don't mean necessarily in the smashing battleships sense, though that's true too. The book is a balance of the ultra-fantastic and very down-to-earth motivations and behavior. Both artists excel at the conceptual stuff and the acting that makes that all happen.

Marvel.com: Any hints of what’s to come after “Route 616”? 

Jeff Parker: A return of one of my favorite characters to write, from my THUNDERBOLTS run!

You can pick up RED SHE-HULK #62 this week!

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