Many years ago, in the wake of 9/11, I set up a website called Three Good Things where, shockingly enough, I’d periodically post lists of three good things.
This year is off to a harrowing enough start that it feels like a good emotional and spiritual exercise to revive Three Good Things. So here we go!
Homemade chicken broth. Made some tonight from the bones of a roasted chicken that I’d seasoned with garlic, onion, shallots, salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. The broth is absolutely incredible – the smoked paprika put it over the top. Not sure what I’m gonna use it for yet, but it’s already worth it for the five sips I took as it simmered.
The vaccines and boosters. Yes, everything is terrible. But things would be exponentially worse without the vaccines, which decrease the chances of getting infected and, probably even more critically, vastly decrease the severity of the disease if you do get infected. Please get vaxxed, friends. And if you’re vaxxed, get boosted. I want us all to survive and thrive.
The “I fucking love fingerling potatoes!” line in DON’T LOOK UP. Ridiculous and funny and deeply moving in context all at once. My favorite moment in the movie.
My mom died in August, which pretty much makes 2021 the worst year of my life. But here on the first day of 2022, I’m going to focus on some of the things from this last year that I’m deeply grateful for, because, hey, today I’m gonna laugh instead of cry.
Jane Pak, my beloved mother, knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. This grief will never disappear, but it’s a tribute to her love. You can read more about her here.
I got a fucking tumor cut out of my jaw. On my birthday this year I shaved for the first time since 2018, and I discovered a bulge at the edge of my right jaw. After several months, a series of ever more specialized specialists determined it was an inch-long, benign adenoma in my parotid gland, and on December 3, a surgeon finally cut it out. I’m deeply grateful that the tumor was indeed benign. I’m deeply grateful that the procedure went beautifully and the worst possible side effect of facial paralysis did not occur. And I’m deeply grateful we were able to get it done between the Delta and Omicron surges of this unending pandemic.
My mom’s greatest joy during the pandemic was a book club she ran for the young people in our extended family. I joined early last year to run a writing workshop and a Dungeons & Dragons campaign after their book club sessions. My mom eventually joined the writing workshop herself, which was an incredible experience and delight, and we’ve continued the workshop and D&D sessions after her death. These sessions are very often the very best part of my week.
In the wake of the surge of anti-Asian violence in March and April, I went to therapy for the first time this year, and it helped a lot.
So many friends and family members reached out in big and small ways over the course of the year. Every kind word meant the world. If you’re one of those people, thank you so much.
My everyday work of writing comic book scripts was agonizingly hard in the immediate aftermath of my mother’s death. But at a certain point, writing became a kind of balm. Never easy. But it stopped feeling like I was damaging myself by working, and eventually began to feel like I was helping myself by writing. Writing has always been my way of figuring out what the hell is going on in the world and in my own brain and heart. Returning to deeply personal writing, not all of which is for publication, has been a succor.
Speaking of writing, I’m grateful for poetry. When it was hard to write anything else, I wrote poems this year. And I’ve kept going, writing things in poetry that I couldn’t imagine writing any other way. Rediscovering and re-exploring a medium that I loved when I was younger has been gloriously liberating and reinvigorating.
Cooking breaks my heart and puts it back together again. When I’m cooking, I’m not asking myself what I’m doing with my life. I know exactly what I’m doing: preparing food for people I love, which always feels like exactly the right thing to do in the moment.
I’m grateful for my Dark Horse editors and collaborators for their tremendous support of the STRANGER THINGS: TOMB OF YBWEN book we put out this year. I wrote those scripts before my mother died, but they’re all about grief and loss and they mean so much to me. I’m grateful for my Marvel editors and collaborators for their tremendous support of the DARTH VADER books I wrote this year. Ochi of Bestoon in particular has been a joy to write. His ridiculous, brash cockiness has provided the tonal shift I’ve needed time and time again. I’m grateful for my BOOM editors and collaborators for their tremendous support of the FIREFLY books I wrote this year. I wrapped up my 36 issue run on the book with two issues with no fights, a single explosion, and all heart, and my editors and collaborators pulled out all the stops to make every page sing.
I’m grateful for the readers who bought my comics during this pandemic and for the 1,098 backers of my COOKING WILL BREAK YOUR HEART cookbook memoir Kickstarter campaign. A number of people said impossibly nice things about the importance of my writing to them, and that meant a lot this year in particular. The success of COOKING WILL BREAK YOUR HEART campaign also meant a huge amount because it’s the most personal writing I’ve put out into the world in years, and affirmation for that kind of work is just tremendous. And since we live in a world in which we need money to eat and live, I enormously appreciate the fact that so many people paid real dollars for my books and supported the CWBYH campaign. Thank you so much.
Speaking of money, I’m so grateful to the folks who supported the various fundraisers I pushed this last year. I gave half of my Greg Pak Shop income to comic book shops in an initiative that ended in October, so if you bought books there, you helped channel hundreds of dollars to the small business people who are the backbone of our industry. I made some pretty nifty VACCINATED pins and mailed them to people who donated to food banks or mutual aid groups, and folks ponied up $3400. I helped organize an online happy hour for the AAAJ Chicago to support their bystander intervention trainings that raised a few thousand bucks. And throughout the year, when I posted about various GoFundMes or charitable groups on Twitter, people stepped up and helped spread the word and donated. I literally teared up multiple times when I saw how fast people jumped on board to help each other. Thank you so much.
I’m so grateful for the vaccines. It’s easy to fall into despair as we face this latest pandemic surge. But the vaccines are vastly decreasing the severity of the virus and the death rate. Please get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already. I want us all to thrive.
I’m grateful for sheepshead minnows and the aquariums I’ve been keeping throughout the pandemic. They make me happy every time I see ’em swimming around in there.
I’m grateful for books like THE MAGIC FISH, THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO, LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CARTOONIST, and the upcoming EVERYDAY HERO MACHINE BOY, all of which gave me comfort and joy this year.
I’m grateful for Stevie Wonder, Gil Scott-Heron, and Aretha Franklin. Grateful for the SUMMER OF SOUL and GET BACK documentaries. Grateful for the movie AMADEUS, which I rewatched for the first time in decades the other night. Grateful for the Frank Sinatra song “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die,” which seriously makes me feel better every time I listen to it.
I’m gonna live till I die,
I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry.
I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down
I’m gonna live, live, live till I die.
STRANGER THINGS: TOMB OF YBWEN #4, written by yours truly with art by Diego Galindo, colors by Francesco Segala, and letters by Nate Piekos. This is the climax to the miniseries and one of my favorite of all the comics I wrote this year. Do not miss out!
FIREFLY #35 is the penultimate issue of my three year FIREFLY run, drawn by Simona Di Gianfelice with colors by Francesco Segala and letters by Jim Campbell. Big, big emotional payoffs are coming, friends. Hope ya dig!
DARTH VADER #19 hits comic book shops and Comixology today! Ask your local shop to hold a copy for you!
Here’s the official solicit:
W) Greg Pak (A) Guiu Villanova (CA) Ryan Stegman
In the bowels of Bespin, DARTH VADER told his son he wanted to bring order to the galaxy.
Now Vader’s promise is put to the test as he leads an unlikely crew of heroes and assassins against the criminal organization known as CRIMSON DAWN.
What does “order” mean to a DARK LORD OF THE SITH? How far will he go to fight for it as the depth of Crimson Dawn’s infiltration becomes clearer? And what fate awaits the heroes who follow him into battle?
Hey, friends. Here’s a quick update that has nothing to do with comics or books, but I figured was worth sharing as a public service announcement, particularly for those of you with beards.
On my birthday this August, I shaved for the first time in three years. And I discovered a small lump at the corner of my jaw. Long story short: it was a benign adenoma and after going through a series of referrals and tests, I just had it surgically removed. (Yes, BENIGN, no worries!) The extremely scientific diagram above shows you the location of the tumor (in my parotid gland, a salivary gland at the edge of the jaw) and the surprisingly long incision that was required to remove it.
The big message is that if I hadn’t shaved, I have no idea when I would have found it, and the story could have been more complicated. So if you have a beard, feel around under it from time to time!
The other detail is that if my mother hadn’t passed away this August, I probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to shave for the first time in years, and I wouldn’t have found the adenoma. Somehow feels like she’s still watching out for me.
Two comics written by Greg Pak hit comic book shops this Wednesday! Don’t miss DARTH VADER #18, with a cover by Aaron Kuder and Richard Isanove and interior art by Leonard Kirk, colors by Alex Sinclair, and letters by Joe Caramagna. The start of a brand new story arc with a new set of heroes and villains! Check out the preview here and ask your local comic shop to hold a copy for you today!
And don’t miss FIREFLY #34, with a cover by Bengal and interir art by Simona di Giandfelice, colors by Francesco Segala, and letters by Jim Campbell. Check out the preview here and ask your local comic shop to hold a copy for you!
STRANGER THINGS: TOMB OF YBWEN #3 hits comic shops and Comixology today! Here’s the solicit from Dark Horse Comics:
With fourteen inches of snow on the horizon and the boys already frozen to the bone, tensions run high! Will, desperate to unravel the secrets left behind by a young Bob Newby, presses on after finding the entrance to a mysterious abandoned mineshaft. Meanwhile, Mr. Clark searches for the boys, but can he find them before something terrible happens?
“The definitive companion piece to the nostalgia-filled Netflix hit!” -Infinite Earths
I’ve been thinking about the cupcake robot from those comics I drew a few years back, and I think I’m finally wrapping my head around why he makes so much sense to me.
It’s retrospectively so obvious… the cupcake robot doesn’t talk. But he bakes for you. Because he loves you.
And that’s one of the ongoing themes of my cookbook memoir COOKING WILL BREAK YOUR HEART. So often, we’re sending messages when we cook for others. Silent messages of care and love.
So I’m getting a better fix on the role the cupcake robot will play in the book. And I’m having a blast drawing him. So I’ve added a new reward for these last few days of the COOKING WILL BREAK YOUR HEART Kickstarter campaign!
By default, the cupcake robot will be holding a cupcake in these drawings. But I’ll offer a short list of alternate comfort foods that backers can choose from. Like maybe a fried chicken leg, or a nice, steamy bowl of soup!
Some happy, healthy poached eggs on toast! In my mom’s last couple of months, she requested poached eggs and gave me some tips of how to make them — like wetting the bowl you crack the egg into so it slides out more smoothly into the pan. Probably the last thing she taught me how to cook. She liked hers a little runnier than these. But it feels good every time I make them.
Good ol’ chili on rice! I use turkey meat instead of beef or pork. Tastes great and it’s a few ticks healthier. For years, I’ve been making this with a basic combo of soy sauce, paprika, Korean coarse chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, onions, and garlic for seasoning. But I’ve been wanting a bit deeper flavor, so this time I added mirin, which was nice! I know a lot of folks add a little brown sugar. I’ll have to give that a shot.
Aggressively healthy baked chicken thighs with asparagus and rice! I’ve had a tendency for years to mostly cook on the stove top — sautés, soups, and stews have been my forte. But a while back I had to cook someone a super plain, un-fried piece of chicken, which I did in the oven. And then I thought, hey, that was pretty easy. Let’s try that again, with a little more pizzaz! These thighs are seasoned with a variety of spices, including Korean coarse chili powder, smoked paprika, sea salt, garlic powder, cumin, and coriander. All delicious.
And here are the process shots of the thumbprint jelly cookies that I shared with you earlier. A specialty of my mom and maternal grandmother. These taste like the holidays to me.
Just found out this morning that New York City health officials have approved COVID vaccine booster shots for all adults who have been vaccinated for at least six months (Pfizer and Moderna) or two months (J&J). Check out the New York Times article here!