Greg Pak: Pak Talks Comics

Pak Talks Comics: The scoop on Steven Sanders’ “Symbiosis”

By Greg Pak
The brilliant artist Steven Sanders recently launched a Kickstarter for a Creative Commons-licensed science fiction art book called SYMBIOSIS. I was blown away by the art and concept and thought it would be fun to pick Steven’s brain a bit about the Creative Commons aspect of the project in particular. We finished this chat mere moments ago — so here you go, hot off the presses!

Greg Pak: Can you give us the super-short, three sentence version of what SYMBIOSIS is?
Stephen Sanders: It’s a book that is part loosely squential story/part world-building bible. It centers around a world/tech style that I’m calling “1940s bio-punk.” It’s Creative Commons so that anyone can take the material and make whatever they want from it.
GP: The Creative Commons aspect fascinates me. As you know, I’ve got a CC project mysef — the “Vision Machine” graphic novel and iPad app. What inspired you to go that route?
SS: I’ll be candid, it started out as a lark. But after I started thinking about how authors frequently told me that my work makes them want to tell stories, it made total sense. I also realize that CC makes sense, period. The IP cat is pretty much out of the bag with tech how it is today, and I figure that we might as well embrace that and encourage it in a positive manner instead of squelching it.
GP: Awesome. I see you’re releasing under the non-commercial license, but you included a note on your Kickstarter assuring folks that you’ll be amenable to considering commercial requests. Do you have plans of your own to use the world you’re creating in additional stories/media?
SS: Yeah, basically anyone that isn’t a large corporation with money to blow will get a free commercial license. I know how tough small press is, and I don’t see any point in adding to the burden further. Just as long as people follow the share-alike. As far as my own stories, probably not. I enjoy world-building more than I enjoy describing how humans interact in these various worlds (I’m also just better at the former than the latter). I do have vague plans for for some supplementary books to further flesh out the world of Symbiosis, but it will still stay rooted in world-building.
GP: So how do you see people using the material? I’m guessing a lot of folks may want to write and draw stories that take place in the world and use the incredible designs you’re creating. But can they use your actual art as well?
SS: Yeah, I mean, considering the license, they could take the art, and reprint the book and give it away for free if they wanted to. But, yeah, they can use the art itself for illustrations, or I have people who are wanting to do sculpts of figures and tech from Symbiosis. One lady wanted to cosplay one of the characters in the preview art, and I’ve heard from a number of people who have plans to use open-source RPG engines like Fate Core to make their own Symbiosis tabletop RPG. Alex de Campi has already written a short story based off of a sketch I released a few weeks ago. It’s pretty exciting to see how interested people are in this thing.
GP: Tremendous. It’s also kind of beautiful given how the whole idea of sharing and remixing and whatnot via Creative Commons fits in so well with the symboitic theme of the book itself.
GP: Ha! So I’m going to have to come up with some kind of mash-up with Vision Machine and Symbiosis art, now. 😉
SS: That would be kind of amazing.
GP: So you’re literally $640 from hitting your initial goal even as we chat. Want to tease any stretch goals?
SS: Good grief. Um, yeah. This will be a big one, we’d have to hit 75K for it, but that one includes a doubling of the page count (and it was my original plan for the book before I calmed down). I’ll have to contact the printer to see about options for an additional 50 pages. I’ve got free symbiosis circle logo stickers as an early stretch, and between those I’m going to be scrambling today. I’m thinking some fold out pages and if I can make it happen fast enough, maybe a web/android/iOS game. But that would be a minor miracle to get together this quickly.
GP: Wow. Yes, a web/android/iOS game would be awesome. A puzzle game! Traveling through the environment, manipulating elements, getting to the next part of the world!
SS: Yes! One of the gentlemen I went to the Kansas City Art institute with is a rather talented programmer, and runs another crowdfunding site called Pledgie. He has an engine ready for this sort of thing, and I’ll likely run this by him soon.
Okay, amazing, right? Go check it out the Kickstarter and pledge today.

Pak Talks Comics: How many issues in “Chaos War”?

A quick edition of Pak Talks Comics to clear up a bit of confusion:
Joseph W.: Hello there Mr. Pak, I like to say that I’m a new fan of you works. I’m currently reading the great Chaos War event. However I noticed an error on the front cover. On the top corner the issue number says that it is issue 3 of 4, yet the prior issues and even in the check list of the Chaos War events says that it is a 5 issue series. Is this a small error and to be ignored or did a scheduling incident occur and you can only do a 4 issue series instead?
Pak: Thanks for the kind words, Joseph! Please rest assured that the “4” is a typo. The series runs for five issues.
Click here to submit your own question to “Pak Talks Comics.”

Pak Talks Comics: Apple tablet may not ship until June — and I’m happy?

By Greg Pak
As you might have guessed from my voluminous post about comic books and the Apple tablet, I want the iSlate, and I want it now. But recent rumors indicate that although the long-rumored machine will supposedly be announced on January 27, it won’t actually ship until June. And as far as comics go, that might actually be a very good thing.
According to Apple Insider, an analyst named Shawn Wu claims that “checks with supply chain sources” indicate the tablet won’t ship until June. Meanwhile, MacRumors notes that Amazon has tweaked its Kindle royalty program to offer better rates to publishers — with the new deal beginning in June, presumably to compete with the new Apple tablet.
As a reader eager to get my hands on an Apple tablet, June is way too late. But as a creator with an interest in getting as many new readers as possible buying comics for the Apple tablet, an extra few months to prepare may be invaluable.
If we’re lucky, the tablet will be able to display regular ol’ pdfs, which will make it possible to put old content into readers’ hands almost immediately. But the tablet may use different formats — or may introduce a brand new format. My hope is that Apple reveals the formats at or shortly after its January 27 event. And then publishers and individual creators will have plenty of time to prepare their content to take advantage of whatever new features the format will allow.
Even if the tablet uses only preexisting formats, we’ll benefit from having a little more time to prepare our content — at the bare minimum, by adding hyperlinks and supplemental material that will allow readers to immediately access new comics by clicking on links within the comic they’re reading. (See my previous post for a whole lot more on this subject.)
And if we’re extremely lucky, Apple will reveal what online stores will support the new format (an updated iTunes store? Longbox?) so we’ll get a soft launch of the sales tools and can hammer out any kinks before the actual tablet hits.
It’s also possible that a June launch could benefit smaller publishers and creators by giving them more time to work out deals with Apple to get into the stores. As I recall, the first iteration of the iTunes store had only big record labels. It took a while for independents to get access. If we’re lucky, we can avoid that kind of logjam and get comics of all kinds into the Apple store in time for the tablet’s launch.
Finally, the extra time will allow individual creators to continue to build their networks and mailing lists so they’re ready to spread the word about their comics when the tablet finally hits.
Sooo… join my mailing list?

Pak Talks Comics: Comic books and the Apple tablet

Disclaimer: Everything written below is the sole opinion of yours truly based on personal experience and published news reports. I have no insider knowledge about any actual tablet or any company’s efforts to prepare for its coming.
By Greg Pak
In 1999, Apple changed my life as a filmmaker by introducing Final Cut Pro, a digital video editing program that allowed me to cut professional quality video on my home computer. Without Final Cut Pro, I might never have been able to make any of my post-film-school short films or my feature film “Robot Stories.” And so I might never have gotten a job working as a writer for Marvel Comics.
This month, I’m hoping Apple changes my life as a comic book writer by releasing the much-hyped but never confirmed Apple tablet, which according to the latest rumors is called the iGuide or iSlate, has a 10.1 inch touch screen, and will be announced on January 26, 2010.
In my digital comics fantasy, a gorgeous tablet computer supported by an integrated, easy-to-use and reasonably priced online store will lead to the exponential growth of the comics buying audience. Prices of individual comics will fall, but the circulation will be so much higher that profits will increase handsomely. A whole new generation will grow up reading comics every day, big comics will become blockbusters, small comics will build healthy niche audiences, and we’ll all grow sleek and fat and happy.
How can that fantasy become reality? Read on for one comic book writer’s two cents:

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Pak Talks Comics: Reader Q&A on filmmaking!

Welcome to Pak Talks Comics, wherein comics writer and filmmaker Greg Pak answers your questions. Click here to submit your own questions — and read on for the latest answers!
Jeffrey Thompson: What attracts you to filmmaking?
Greg Pak:
Filmmaking lets me flex every muscle in my body and brain. I grew up drawing, writing stories, doing black and white photography, and performing with school drama groups. All of those interests come together in making movies.
Also, I just plain love movies.
Finally, I love the process of filmmaking — particularly working with actors, the cinematographer, and the sound designer and composer to find the emotional core of a scene. There’s something absolutely beautiful about figuring out what a scene’s really about and being able to support that from every angle.
JT: Does a background with comics help with film making?
It actually worked the other way around for me — I started off in film and then became a professional comics writer. Then again, when I was a kid, I was drawing cartoons long before I ever had the chance to make a movie, so I guess it works that way, too.
So the answer is yes — going in both directions. Working in film definitely helped me get my sea legs in comics. I’d written dozens of shorts and a few feature films before I ever wrote a comics script. And since the basic principles of dramatic storytelling are the same, I suppose I had a pretty good foundation. Of course, there were a ton of comics-specific quirks and techniques I had to learn (and continue to learn to this day). But all that practice in thinking about how to tell stories visually was incredibly helpful.
And now, moving back into filmmaking with my latest short film, “Mister Green,” I’m finding that there are some things I’ve learned from comics that are helping me with filmmaking. I had a great time working with my cinematographer Sam Chase on the “Mister Green” set largely because the two of us found a really great vibe and in the face of some insane scheduling pressures, we were willing to take some big chances regarding the look of the picture that paid off in a big way. (That’s Sam and yours truly to the right there, thinking big thoughts on the set of “Mister Green.”)
I think working in comics, where there’s always an insane deadline that forces a constant series of nearly instantaneous creative decisions, has helped me become a little more fearless about taking the big creative leaps necessary to find beautiful solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
Thanks for reading and click here to submit your own questions for the next column!

Pak Talks Comics: Reader Q&A

Welcome to Pak Talks Comics, wherein comics writer and filmmaker Greg Pak answers your questions. Click here to submit your own questions — and read on for the latest answers!
Taimur Dar: Hey Greg, as always great to see the return of this column and your continuing awesome work at Marvel. It’s been almost two years since the launch of “Incredible Herc” and the title is still as good as ever. Really hoping for a Thor/Herc reunion when Hercules comes to Asgard this summer, but any chance of another face off against Ragnarok, the newly returned clone of Thor?
Greg Pak:
He’s wearing some funny togs, but that might just be the Odinson on the cover to “Incredible Hercules” #136… Add it to your pull list, amigos!
TD: Were there ever any plans of Herc meeting California’s Initiative Team The Order especially since they’re ripping off his family names?
Funny you should ask! Way back when we were planning the first story for the book, my co-writer Fred Van Lente and I talked a lot about a showdown with the Order, but the timing didn’t work out and soon we had a big storyline underway that took us in another direction. And as I’ve teased above, we do have an upcoming storyline involving characters stealing other characters names — don’t ya dare miss “Incredible Hercules” #132, #134, and #136 for the “Replacement Thor” storyline.

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Pak Talks Comics – Super Giant Reader Q&A!

By Greg Pak
Over the next few months, I’m reworking the format of my “Pak Talks Comics” column for The new and improved column should appear towards the end of the summer. But in the meantime, I’ll continue the Reader Q&A portion of the column right here at, so keep those questions coming and read on for answers to the latest batch!
WARNING: Some spoilers ahead for a few recent issues of “Incredible Hercules,” “Skaar,” and “Magneto Testament.”
Hrungr: With the Olympians now on Earth along with the Asgardians, does anyone remember that the Celestials had ordered them to stop interfering with humanity? Or is it a case where humanity has grown to the point that the gods are simply another group of superpowered beings?
Thanks for the question, Hrungr. As you’ll see, Bill has a similar question about the nature of the gods below – I’ll answer them together in a second. Also, since we’re on the subject, “Incredible Hercules” #129 hits comic book stores today — feel free to check out the preview!
Bill Frank: I just want to start out by saying that I am really enjoying your and Van Lente’s run on “Incredible Hercules.” You both seem to have caught the real feel for a mythological character that some writers miss. With that in mind, I was wondering a few things about your run that can be roughly divided into three sets of questions, if you don’t mind:
In universes like Marvel’s there are a myriad of super powerful beings with powers and abilities rivaling if not surpassing gods. Some beings like Eternals have been mistaken for gods in the past and have almost identical power-sets except they are science based instead of magic based. When writing a series like “Incredible Hercules,” what separates gods from other super powered beings? What distinguishes Hercules, an immortal super-strong man from other immortal super-strong men like Gilgamesh or Wonder Man or makes him different from being just some ancient superhero?
I’m not saying this is the case, but it’s within the realm of possibility that all of the powers of Herc and his relatives could be explained via Marvel science; maybe they’re not gods, just immortal superhumans. But for millennia, Herc has been told he’s literally a god and has been worshipped as a god. So a huge part of his story is this struggle with questions of a god’s prerogatives and responsibilities. Characters like Wonder Man and the Hulk and Wolverine, who might be functionally immortal, haven’t had that millennia-long struggle with the question of godhood that Herc has, nor do they come from a family and culture of fellow gods struggling with the same issues. Those are major differences that create different animating themes for these characters.

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Pak Talks Comics: Giant new Reader Q&A!

Greg Pak’s latest “Pak Talks Comics” column is up at — and it’s chock full of Reader Q&A about Skaar, War Machine, and Magneto — along with a few sneak preview pages from “Incredible Hercules” #126. Here’s an excerpt:

IH: 3) When can we be expecting another Warbound story? I’m not asking anything about the specifics of what’s going on in it if you are writing it but rather when we will get to see them in action again?
GP: Soon! And yes! And thanks for asking!

Taimur Dar: It’s been hinted that Skaar will soon be coming to Earth and meeting his dad. Any chance of him meeting up with the Warbound? Do you still have plans for them in one of the books you write?
GP: Hey, two Warbound questions in one sitting! Yes, we will see the Warbound again. And yes, that will happen in the pages of “Skaar.” As to the rest, keep on reading!

BS: … are you going to explain how Magda survived the liquidation of the Gypsy families at Auschwitz? Fans have speculated that Magneto, in his position as a Sonderkommando, was somehow able to arrange for her to be smuggled into the Jewish women’s camp. But it’s just a theory, and I hope you’ll address it. Thanks for staying true to history, and at the same time writing a truly compelling story.
GP: We absolutely will address this question in the last issue of “Magneto Testament.” Things won’t play out the way you might expect, but everything that happens matches the actual history of the Gypsy Family Camp in Auschwitz.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Another excerpt from the Pak Talks Comics “War Machine” #1 director’s commentary

Greg Pak has written a column for about the creative decisions behind “War Machine” #1. Here he talks about the scene on page 1:

… Santo Marco is a fictional country found only in the Marvel Universe. Every atrocity in “War Machine” has real world antecedents and we’re striving for immediacy and realism in both the storylines and Leo Manco’s brilliant art — the image of anguished UN peacekeepers standing by while people are murdered because their mandate prevents them from intervention is based on horrific accounts of the genocide in Rwanda, for example.
But I always planned to use fictional countries because for better or for worse, War Machine’s actions will have a transformative, long-term impact on the nations he visits. Magneto’s history in the real world events of the Holocaust works because the history informs the character rather than the other way around. But the stories we’re telling in “War Machine” require the character to change the course of history for the nations he deals with. It just didn’t sit well with me to use real world human beings who are suffering unbelievably horrific atrocities even as we speak as characters in a story that would require outcomes that ultimately contradict real world events.

Click here to read the whole thing.
And click here to read the first six pages of “War Machine” #2, which hits comic book stores on January 21.