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Jane Pak, Beloved Mother, 1940-2021

I want to tell you about Jane Pak.

Jane Pak, 1984, giving me a Jane Pak look.

She loved libraries and schools and museums.

She loved Half Price Books and WQXR, New York’s classical music radio station. She thought the Dallas Theater Center’s productions of Little Women, Christmas Carol, and Twelfth Night were just fantastic.

She loved the broth of the dduk guk I made her. She loved the chicken broth I made, the richer the better. I’d load the stock pot with garlic, onions, scallions, daikon, leek, shallots. Over a teaspoon of salt – no skimping. Let it simmer for hours. Skim off the fat. Pull the meat and bones, strain out the vegetables. She loved loved loved it.

She had no poker face at all. In her childhood pictures, I see the same big, joyful smile and funny little dubious expressions that she made to the very end. You could read her like a book, her heart on her face.

Grade school picture of Jane Pak, maybe 1946 or 1947.

She loved good writing and close reading and careful editing. She was a huge supporter of student journalism and a meticulous editor of the publications of the various groups she volunteered for.

She would have loved this essay, but she’d think it could probably be shorter. She’d be right.

From the Oberlin College yearbook, 1962.

She was her high school’s valedictorian, went to Oberlin College, and taught middle school English. She kept learning throughout her life, taking a speech class, cooking classes, photography and film classes, Spanish classes. She read thousands of books and discussed hundreds of them with the multiple book clubs she belonged to for decades.

She was so interested in things.

She took us to the library so many times. She took us to so many museums. She took us to concerts and operas and plays. She took us to state and national parks. She took us to nature camps and museum workshops. Around 1979 or 1980, she took me to the community center where I played Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, just because she’d read about it and thought I might enjoy it. She took us everywhere.

She loved spending time with young children, marveling over how they learn each new thing. I have dozens of pictures of her literally getting on the same level as little kids, sitting or lying on the floor with them, reading, playing, gently guiding, teaching and watching, totally focused and present, entirely happy.

Her greatest joy during the pandemic was the weekly virtual book club she ran with her school-aged grandchildren. Eventually I joined to moderate a writing workshop, which she participated in alongside her grandkids, delighting in every role as grandparent, educator, fellow student, and peer.

She loved Scrabble. She loved to be exasperated when a child or grandchild would play a word she’d never heard of. And then she’d demand the definition, because if you’re going to play a word, you should know what it means.

She was a brilliant visual creator whose luminous black and white 35mm vérité photography has been a fundamental influence on my storytelling and aesthetic. Her framing and lighting and ability to capture a subtle, intimate moment were stunning. She was a storyteller, shooting in sequence to establish scenes, move in close, follow action and emotion, document place and time and character.

Photo of me by Jane Pak, circa 1971.

The thousands of photos she shot over the decades are a tremendous comfort. They show her intense curiosity, her delight in so many different aspects of the world, and the joy she took in her primary subjects – her children, husband, and extended family – and the love we shared with her. Her own character shines in her photographs of her children inspecting things, poking through dirt and sand and logs, peering under rocks. She taught us to look closely, to discover for ourselves, to be curious and fearless in learning. And there she is behind the camera looking closely, discovering us as we discover the world, documenting it all with patience and quiet joy.

Monahans State Park, photographed by Jane Pak, circa 1980.

Even into her seventies, she took awesome pictures of interesting bugs.

An awesome picture of an interesting bug, photographed by Jane Pak in 2012.

She thought coloring books were awful. Instead, she bought us blank paper and crayons. She was my collaborator on the first comic book I ever wrote. I drew pictures of Superman naming things that start with “S,” a rip off of a Sesame Street interstitial, and she wrote the captions for me. I might have been three or four. She stapled the pages together to make a book and saved it for decades, along with dozens of my other drawings.

She loved a slice-of-life short story I wrote in 11th grade, “Mary Loves Her Boy.” She wasn’t a huge fan of fantasy or science fiction. But she thought Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine was tremendous and bought me a giant collection of Bradbury short stories for my birthday when I was twelve. I can’t remember her saying much about the comics I wrote. But she loved going to comic shops and telling the folks who worked there that she was my mom. She loved hearing me talk about the process of making comics and kept a whole binder of her notes on Persepolis and a box under her desk crammed with newspaper articles about graphic novels.

Her favorite thing that I wrote as an adult was an essay for Poetry magazine about the gifts poetry has given me. I’m so glad I wrote it, so glad she read it, so glad it gave her such joy.

She was so proud of the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren. But she was most intensely proud when she saw a kindness, a care for others, especially when expressed by small children.

She cared about people. She cared about the world we share and how we share it. She cared about the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of individuals to the group. She spent countless hours volunteering for Camp Fire, the League of Women Voters, the Gloria Shields Journalism Workshop, and many other groups. She thought we should help each other.

A framed poster on Jane Pak’s desk.

If you’ve ever benefitted from the community, political, or fundraising work I’ve done, you can thank Jane Pak. If you’ve ever benefitted from a shared undertaking or act of kindness or any kind of altruism from me, you can thank Jane Pak.

She liked certain things to be done in very specific ways. She was a tremendously good sport about being teased about it. But she was usually right. She had strong opinions about the best route to take to get anywhere in the city. Once when I was driving back to the hospital, I used Google Maps instead of following her instructions, ended up at the wrong entrance, and sat in the car laughing at myself. Jane Pak knew what was what.

She had a generally poor opinion of takeout food and preferred meals cooked by herself or one of her children. Except sushi. She loved sushi.

She was born at the end of the Great Depression and loved to clip coupons and find good deals. She loved the Staples clearance section. She was obsessed with boxes. Could never part with a good one. There are pristine boxes still in the house from computers bought, used, and recycled twenty years ago. Some of those good boxes are filled with other good boxes. She saved dozens, maybe hundreds of empty spice bottles. It’s entirely possible she never threw one out.

She used phrases like “Jeez Louise!” and “For Pete’s sake!” She swore with real curse words infrequently, and it was either harrowing or hilarious.

She thought of herself as a shy and reserved person, which I thought was astounding, because she was the one who opened the circle, who made people welcome, who smoothed and guided and kindled thousands upon thousands of positive interactions. She loved conversation. She loved to listen and talk. She loved to think and grapple with new ideas. She loved to laugh, even through tears.

She loved the Wordsworth poem “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” She quoted the key phrase to me as “trailing streams of glory.” We looked it up and saw it was “trailing clouds of glory.” But her edit was great. I’ll forever see those clouds as glorious streams across the sky.

Jane Pak was trailing clouds of glory her whole life. I told her that near the end, and she said “That’s children,” and she was right, because Wordsworth is talking about kids in that passage. And I said yes. And it’s you. That’s what you did your whole life. And she pursed her lips in a dubious smile.

I haven’t read that whole poem. Just the section with the quote. I’m not ready for the whole thing yet.

I had so much time with her. I’m so lucky. I know. Incredibly lucky. So many moments and hours and days over a lifetime. I told her that I’ve known her longer than anyone else in the world, and she smiled that Jane Pak smile. I loved her with all my heart and I know she loved me the same way. But I want more. I want more. I want more.

Donations can be made in Jane Pak’s honor to the Preston Royal Library Friends, c/o Preston Royal Library, 5652 Royal Lane, Dallas, TX 75229. In the memo section of the check, please indicate “In memory of Jane Pak for children’s educational programming.”

My mom and me, 1968.
My mom and me, 2014.

Jane Pak, 1940-2021

My beloved mother. Rest in peace.

Jane Pak giving me a Jane Pak look, 1984.

I want to tell you about Jane Pak. But I’ve got too many words right now. She loved good writing and would want me to take my time.

But I’ll tell you that Jane Pak loved libraries. If you’re so inclined, you can donate in her honor to the Preston Royal Library Friends, c/o Preston Royal Library, 5652 Royal Lane, Dallas, TX 75229. In the check’s memo section, pls indicate “In memory of Jane Pak for children’s educational programs.”

Incredible Jae Ho Jung exhibit at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul

Saw an incredible exhibition of art by Jae Ho Jung at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul. Hugely, highly recommended.

Jae Ho Jung rocket art

Jae Ho Jung creates these gorgeous, lived-in models and images that feel like stills from your dreams of documentaries about eerie sci fi events from your parents’ childhood.

Look at these Jae Ho Jung paintings. They feel like comics. They ARE comics, aren’t they?

If you’re in Seoul, don’t miss this exhibit. It’s part of the Korean Artist Prize exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and will displayed until 11/25/18. 

2018.04.18 – FOUR Greg Pak comics in shops this Wednesday!

I don’t think I’ve ever had as many books come out in a single day as this!

JOHN WICK #2 continues the prequel tale of John Wick’s first great vendetta with lovely art by Giovanni Valleta. Check out the preview here.

WEAPON H #2 features our Hulk/Wolverine hybrid hero taking on the Ur-Wendigo — with a mind-blowing final page that should be of special interest to old-school X-Men fans. Drawn by the great Cory Petit. Check out the preview here.

INCREDIBLE HULK #715, drawn by Carlo Barberi, continues the World War Hulk II story as Amadeus takes on the Marvel Universe. Read the interview at CBR.

WEAPON X #16, co-written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Roland Boschi and Andrea Sorrentino, concludes the brutal birthday bash starring Old Man Logan and Sabretooth. Preview here.

Ask your local comic shop to hold you copies!

Interview with the great Paul Tobin about co-writing “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter”

turok-10-cover

By Greg Pak

When my schedule got tight and editor Nate Cosby and I started thinking about who might be a good match to pull in as a co-writer for issues #9 to #12 of “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter,” Paul Tobin was the first person who came to mind. I just knew he’d go to town with a story about a dinosaur-hunting Native American co-opting the legend of Robin Hood in 13th Century England. So I was beyond thrilled when he agreed to jump on board.

Here’s an interview with Paul, wherein he tells you about the book and what you can expect to see in “Turok” #10, which hit stores today! And to further whet your appetite, check out the preview here!

GREG PAK: Yo Paul! So happy to be working with you on this book! Can you tell us a bit about what hooked you and why you said yes?

PAUL TOBIN: First, it was a chance to work with you, Greg! I felt like the last of our little group to work with you. Fred van Lente had his years of fun. And my wife, Colleen Coover, teamed up with you, but there I was sitting like some wallflower at the edge of the dancefloor. Really, it’s not often that two writers get a chance to teamup, so… yeah, I jumped. And of course it had something to do with immediately seeing an opportunity to have a t-rex fight a kraken, and that’s very important to me.

The infamous "mumbling a sparrow" scene from "Turok" #10.
The infamous “mumbling a sparrow” scene from “Turok” #10.

GREG: You brought some tremendous details from 13th Century England to the story — like that crazy bird-vs-man’s-teeth-at-ye-olde-faire scene. What kind of research did you do for that — and how much did you just make up?

PAUL: The “bird vs man’s teeth” scene is something that used to be an actual event at country fairs (and so on) during the middle ages. It’s called “mumbling a sparrow.” It’s horrible, and went the way of bear-baiting and other “sports.” As far as research, I love researching, and a lot of it was already in my head, because period research is a big part of a series of novels I’m working on, novels that span the 10th century to the present day. Researching the old-timey days is interesting, because there’s a constant flood of finding out that people were primarily the same, but in a world that was much different.

GREG: Let’s talk a bit about our co-writing process. And to be totally clear, I’d like everyone to know that Paul’s the real hero of the book. I gave him broad-strokes outlines of the set up for the story and where I thought everything was going. And he figured out everything else and wrote four amazing scripts. And I came in at the end and helped massage dialogue. So for me, it was pretty painless and awesome! 😉

PAUL: Heck… you basically just described it all. It’s like we co-wrote the answer to this question. So, yeah… you gave me the basic premise, and then mostly stayed out of my way so that I could do the things I do. I built up the broad strokes of where I wanted to go, and the steps of how I wanted to get there, and then I developed a lot of the relationships, the characters, how I saw them… how they began real people in my eyes and their personality traits that I wanted to present. I basically consider myself a character writer, so that’s a stress point for me. And then I also wanted to make sure that the character of 13th century England, but a 13th century England that was rife with both wild dinosaurs and also “beast of burden” dinosaurs, was a primary stress point.

GREG: How’d the process work from your point of view, Paul? And what kind of strategies do you draw on for co-writing?

PAUL: I’m not sure I have any strategies for co-writing. I don’t do it very much, for one thing. I’ve co-written with you, with Colleen, and with Jeff Parker. It was different every time, because the three of you are different. Colleen mostly stayed entirely out of my way and then nudged things here and there. You were at the beginning and the end, and then left me alone in your sandbox during the middle stages. And Parker and I basically stood at opposite corners of the room and tossed knives at each other. The end result worked in all three cases, so I guess I don’t have a method. Just a result.

A scene from "Turok" #9, the first issue co-written by Greg and Paul.
A scene from “Turok” #9, the first issue co-written by Greg and Paul.

GREG: Which of the characters did you have the most fun writing? Who was the toughest?

PAUL: Turok was a lot of fun, because he has this nobility of character that’s fun to bend. And Tom is the same way, except his entire belief system is being challenged, and it’s taking him out of his comfort zone and making him into a bit of a simpleton, so he’s not exactly stupid, just… lost. That’s fun. And both Marion and Kita are great because they have such power to their personality. Andar was probably the toughest for me. He has a lot of anger to him, and that’s a tough emotion to sustain without softening or going overboard. He’s as lost as Tom, in some ways.

GREG: I think you and I share a real love for almost absurd genre excess in comics. What are your strategies for making those big ideas and crazy hijinks come together into a coherent story?

PAUL: Consistency is a big thing for me. Anomalies don’t work. I just recently finished reading a novel that ended with a naughty scene, and it was the only naughty scene in the entire book, so to end with an entirely new mood was a definite stumble on the author’s part. There needs to be an emotional and thematic thread that goes throughout a piece of writing. “Big” and “crazy” both need grounding. A story is just the same as a character: if a reader sees a character that acts inconsistently, it’s easy to tell, and it’s the same for story flow.

Stegosaurus jousting, as drawn by Stephen Downey for "Turok" #10.
Stegosaurus jousting, as drawn by Stephen Downey for “Turok” #10.

GREG: Tell the folks a bit about our awesome artists, Stephen Downey, Felipe Cunha, and Lee Ferguson. What’s one scene in particular that folks should watch out for?

PAUL: I really enjoyed the overall scene of the country fair, because we get to see pterodactyls, and there’s stegosaurus jousting. Really… if you don’t like seeing armored knights jousting atop dinosaurs, you ain’t coming to any of my parties.

GREG: What else are you working on? PLUG AWAY, MY FRIEND!

PAUL: Let’s see, Colleen Coover and I are doing our Eisner-award-winning Bandette until our sun goes super-nova. And Juan Ferreyra and I are finishing up our Prometheus sci-fi epic, and at the same time continuing our Eisner-nominated horror series, Colder. I’m also writing another book for Dynamite, a fun Jungle Jim title. I’m doing more Angry Birds, and more Plants Vs. Zombies is likely on the horizon. I’ve got another Witcher title in the works. And there are two more sci-fi series that should be announced soon, and then three more creator titles soon after that. In addition, about half my time is spent on novels, now. I have a middle-readers series starting early in 2016, and another announcement in the field of prose should go live hopefully in the spring, so, all in all… I keep my keyboard burning!

Ask your local retailer to hold “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter” #10 for you — or buy it digitally at Comixology!

Pretty Achievable New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Drink more water.
  2. Buy more apples.
  3. Get a postage scale.
  4. Try not to forget to eat lunch.
  5. Care less about dumb stuff.
  6. Care more about important stuff.
  7. Don’t spend three months nurturing a tiny bit of subconscious anxiety about that redeye flight I just booked.
  8. Plug good work by friends and strangers at every opportunity.
  9. Always say please and thank you.

Number 5 is probably the toughest.

2013.10.26 – 10.27 – Greg Pak at C3 Conference and Film Independent Forum in LA

I’m making a fast trip to Los Angeles for two big panels this weekend! Come see, come see!

Saturday, October 26 – C3 Conference for Creative Content

2:45 – 4:15 pm – “Let’s Talk About Race” panel

L.S. Kim (Associate Professor, Film and Media, UC Santa Cruz)

Joy Osmanski (Actor – Allen Gregory, Save Me)

Greg Pak (Writer/Director – Robot Stories, Vision Machine, Marvel Comics)

Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man)

Moderated by Karin Chien (Producer – Circumstance, The Motel, Robot Stories)

Sunday, October 27 – Film Independent Forum

3:30 – “There’s an App for That” panel

Panelists Include: Karin Chien, producer, Circumstance (moderator); Neal Edelstein, 
Founder, Hooked Digital Media; Andy Merkin, Head of Special Projects/Transmedia, Mirada Studios; Greg Pak, writer/director, Robot Stories; writer, Vision Machine.

Filmmakers are turning to apps for the phone and the tablet, either as compelling storytelling tools in their own right, or as a way to build audience engagement around their films. On this panel, hear from filmmakers who are using the iPad in new and exciting ways: Andy Merkin (Mirada Studios), who oversees cross-platform and nontraditional storytelling projects; producer Neal Edelstein (The Ring), who released the horror film Haunting Melissa as an iPad app; and indie director Greg Pak (Robot Stories), who unveiled his film/graphic novel app Vision Machine at last year’s Comic Con. Hear what creative possibilities these filmmakers have discovered in their tablets, and learn about the economics of working in this new environment.

Auction for for “Batman/Superman” and Villains Month comics to benefit Steve Niles

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Comics writer and all-around good egg Steve Niles recently suffered some big losses when his house was flooded in Austin. The great Matt Miner has put together some benefit auctions for Steve, which just went live tonight.

Check ’em out – tons of spectacular stuff in there, including original Phil Noto art and script reviews from Scott Snyder and Ron Marz!

I donated three bundles of signed comics, including the rare “Batman/Superman” #1-4 variant sketch covers, another pack of “Batman/Superman” #1-4 variants, and the lenticular covers for the “Zod,” “Doomsday,” and “Darkseid” Villains Month books.

Happy bidding!