For anybody currently involved in reading, writing or producing comics, the name Greg Pak instantly brings forth ideas of true creativity and a real understanding of what comics are all about. From his start in the early 2000s at Marvel Comics, through his exclusive deal with them, Pak has always delivered first-rate action, intrigue and adult themes. Pak’s vision and abilities came to the attention of many fans through his epic and continuing run on The Incredible Hulk. From World War Hulk through until now, Pak has done as much for the green skinned goliath as Peter David or even Hulk creator Stan Lee.
These days Pak is holding down the fort at Marvel with The Incredible Hulk, Skaar, Chaos War and an upcoming Silver Surfer series. I got a few minutes to chat with Pak about the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, his own history and bright future.
CRAVEONLINE: So how did you get into writing comics?
GREG PAK: I grew up reading and drawing comics — a while back I found a Superman comic I drew when I was seven and a story about a dragon who “went electric.” So my interest in genre storytelling was clear from a pretty young age. I wrote short stories and drew cartoons from grade school through college. But then I studied political science and worked in Texas politics for a year after college. And then I went to Oxford to study history, joined a student filmmaking group, and ended up at NYU’s Grad Film program. I made a slew of shorts and a feature film entitled “Robot Stories,” and one day my agent called to say Marvel was looking for comic book writers and would I be interested? And I said of course!
It’s strange — I’d loved comics since I was a kid, particularly Marvel’s special mix of insane genre hijinks and genuine emotional storytelling, but it had never occurred to me to pursue work in the field. My agent sent Marvel the screenplay to “Robot Stories,” which apparently the editors liked, and a year or so later my first Marvel comic came out, the “Warlock” mini that started in November 2004.
CRAVEONLINE: What comics did you grow up reading?
GREG PAK: My all-time childhood faves included “Micronauts” and “Moon Knight.” As I got a little older, I got really into indie comics like “Usagi Yojimbo” and “Cerebus.” In high school, I drifted away from monthly comics, but got pulled back in during college when I discovered “Dark Knight,” “Batman Year One,” “Daredevil: Born Again,” and “Lone Wolf and Cub.”
CRAVEONLINE: What writers inspired you in comics?
GREG PAK: The list is endless. Just a few: Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Bill Mantlo, Hayao Miyazaki, Charles Schultz, Lynda Barry, and Stan Sakai.
CRAVEONLINE: When did you first get involved with The Incredible Hulk?
GREG PAK: I first wrote the Hulk in the “1602: New World” miniseries, which featured an alternate-universe Bruce Banner who was the real villain — while his Hulkish alter ego played hero. It was a great way to play with themes of Hulk-as-hero that eventually surfaced in the “Planet Hulk” storyline that started with “Incredible Hulk” #92 in February 2006. Oh, I’d also written the Hulk in the first Amadeus Cho story that came out in late 2005.
CRAVEONLINE: How did the idea of Planet Hulk come to you and did you realize it would be this huge of a story arc?
GREG PAK: I’d been dropping hints to Editor Mark Paniccia about my love of the Hulk since we first started working together on the “Marvel Nemesis” miniseries. I guess he was listening, because at a certain point Axel Alonso and Mark invited me into Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada’s office, where Joe said they were thinking about a story with the Hulk exiled to an alien planet where he’d fight monsters in gladiatorial arenas with battle axes.
I said YES, PLEASE! Joe tossed me a few plot points and then they cut me loose to create the big emotional story, the cast and subplots, and this entirely new alien world, with its own history, politics, religion, geography, and zoology. It was an insanely fun ride, with Mark and artists Carlo Pagulayan and Aaron Lopresti as my big partners in crime.
CRAVEONLINE: Why do you love the character of Hercules so much?
GREG PAK: Hercules might be the most popular fictional character ever. He’s certainly the prototype for a huge percentage of genre heroes — you might even call him the first super-hero. And his story contains all of the iconic elements of the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell popularized in “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” So even if you’ve never really read or studied the original Hercules myths, he’s probably part of your culture as a human being walking around on Planet Earth.
And then the Marvel Hercules has even more going for him. He has all of the history and experience and glory and tragedy of the actual Hercules of myth, ‘because he IS that guy. But he’s been kicking around the Marvel Universe long enough to mellow a bit. He’s might just be the greatest hero who ever walked the planet, but he’s incorrigible and irresponsible and he drinks too much and sleeps around and generally is the worst role model that the equally impulse-control-deficient young super genius Amadeus Cho could have. So Herc and Amadeus get together and drive everyone else crazy and my “Incredible Hercules” co-writer Fred Van Lente and I have had nothing but fun telling their story for the past three years.
CRAVEONLINE: What era of the Hulk most inspired you?
GREG PAK: The first six issues from 1962 and Bill Mantlo’s run. “Incredible Hulk” #312, which delves deep into Banner’s relationship with his parents, and Peter David’s later stories dealing with Banner’s father have been a particularly rich vein for me to tap.
CRAVEONLINE: With the Hulk story arc Dark Son over, where do you see the Hulk going next?
GREG PAK: This month, the Hulk faces his dead father’s malicious spirit in “Incredible Hulks” #620, the final issue of our “Chaos War” tie-in. Then he takes on the gods themselves in “Incredible Hulks” #621 and #622 before heading to the Savage Land in #623. All of these stories are building on the big theme of family that we’ve been exploring since “Planet Hulk.” It’s all coming to a head later in the year, so don’t miss a single issue, friends!
CRAVEONLINE: When did you come up with the idea for Chaos War?
GREG PAK: Fred and I have been cooking up this story for three years now. Somewhere around the second story arc of “Incredible Hercules,” we sat down and mapped out the basic outline for the seven or eight big stories we envisioned for Herc and Amadeus. Different elements of the stories bounced around in different ways over the years, but the massive conflict that became “Chaos War” was always the climax. We’re hugely grateful to all the readers and reviewers and all our friends at Marvel who supported the book and allowed us to get to this point.
CRAVEONLINE: How will Chaos War feed into the standard Marvel Universe?
GREG PAK: “Chaos War” will have a direct impact on at least four books. Two of them include “Incredible Hulk” and my upcoming “Silver Surfer” mini-series. That leaves two more. Let the speculation begin!
CRAVEONLINE: Talk to me a little about Vision Machine and how it came to be?
GREG PAK: A couple of years ago, Orlando Bagwell of the Ford Foundation approached me about telling a comic book story that would explore the social, political, and technological changes that will affect independent media over the next fifty years. The more I worked on the story, the clearer it became that the story wouldn’t just be for professional media makers — it would be for anyone with a smart phone or YouTube account or Face book page, because we’re all content creators now, and all deeply affected by questions of copyright, trademark, privacy, and surveillance.
So the story follows three friends as they deal with the incredible opportunities that spring up when Sprout Computers introduces the iEye, a revolutionary piece of personal technology that allows you to instantly record, add special effects to, and upload anything you see, just by thinking about it. It’s Final Cut Pro, YouTube, and Facebook at the speed of light — a digital utopia and an explosion of creative energy. And then the other shoe drops…You can download the books for free at http://visionmachine.net — the third and final issue comes out next Wednesday.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you think technology is getting out of control?
GREG PAK: Oh, technology is always getting out of control. We’re human — everything we touch goes a little crazy, right? The challenge is to take the time to think about where it’s going so we can have a shot at guiding the river rather than just being swept away by the flood. That’s the glory of speculative fiction — it gives us a safe place to prepare for the shocking changes that are inevitably coming.
CRAVEONLINE: What are “Mouse” and “Mister Green”? Talk a bit about them and Greg Pak films
GREG PAK: Before I became a professional comic book writer, I went to film school and made a ton of short films and a feature film called “Robot Stories.” I’ve recently uploaded a number of my shorts to the web — check out http://www.youtube.com/user/pakbuzz to see “Mouse,” “Mister Green,” and “Super Power Blues,” among others.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you have any desire to take a crack at writing a superhero movie script?
GREG PAK: Absolutely. I actually made a short film called “Super Power Blues” about a superheroine who has to save the world day after day — when all she really wants to do is sleep with her boyfriend. (You can watch it at that Pakbuzz YouTube channel.) I have my plate pretty full right now with comics work, but it’d be a blast to do more superhero stories on film. Some day!
CRAVEONLINE: How was the Robot Stories experience for you?
GREG PAK: “Robot Stories” was the biggest creative project I’d ever undertaken and I learned a huge amount from making it. The film’s combination of big, crazy genre fun with genuine human emotion became a touchstone for me, something I’ve tried to keep doing in all my genre work. I also formed friendships and professional partnerships that have stuck with me ever since. Karin Chien, who was one of the “Robot Stories” producers, has produced a number of my other shorts, and Tim Kang, who co-starred in the “Clay” story of “Robot Stories,” recently starred in my short film “Mister Green.”
CRAVEONLINE: What recent writers are you impressed by?
GREG PAK: When I first started writing comics professionally, I was blown away by the work Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, Robert Kirkman, Jeff Smith, and Brian K. Vaughn were doing. In more recent years, I’ve fallen in love with books by Brian Clevinger, Sfar and Trondheim, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Roger Landridge.
CRAVEONLINE: What’s next for Greg Pak?
GREG PAK: “Vision Machine” #3 comes out next week. We also have some big “Vision Machine” events coming over the next couple of months — more news as always at http://visionmachine.net and http://twitter.com/gregpak
I also have a few new Marvel projects that we’ll be announcing in the next few months. Some totally surprising stuff here that you won’t see coming. I’m ridiculously excited.
CRAVEONLINE: What comic book hero would you like to write for that you haven’t?
GREG PAK: I’ve actually had the chance to write a huge number of Marvel heroes. But I’m always happy to spend more time with Storm, Strange, and the Surfer in particular. Morbius is another character I’ve always been intrigued by.
CRAVEONLINE: Talk to me a little about the upcoming Silver Surfer series.
GREG PAK: It’s a five issue miniseries debuting in February, written by yours truly and penciled by the amazing Stephen Segovia. Get ready for cosmic clashes with the High Evolutionary, star-crossed romance with a surprising Marvel character, and a Silver Surfer you’ve never seen before. We’re taking Norrin Radd on an entirely new journey — long time readers won’t want to miss this next big step in the Surfer’s life. But the book’s entirely accessible to brand new readers — I’m planning to give this one to my non-comics reading friends who are looking for a mind-bending story that they can leap right into.
In other words, please call your local comics shop and add it to your pull list, True Believers!
And if you’re interested, check out my “The Silver Surfer is Awesome” blog posts at http://gregpak.com/silver_surfer for a little more insight into why I love the shining sentinel of the star ways so dang much.
Head to the next page for a preview of Greg’s new Silver Surfer series.
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