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.
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.
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.
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!