By Greg Pak
Over the next few months, I’m reworking the format of my “Pak Talks Comics” column for BrokenFrontier.com. 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 PakBuzz.com, 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?
GP: Thanks for the question, Hrungr. As youâ€™ll see, Bill has a similar question about the nature of the gods below – Iâ€™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 Marvelâ€™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?
GP: 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.
BF: Speaking of Eternals, during the “Sacred Invasion” story arc Kly’bn claimed to be an Eternal who somehow “ascended” to godhood. But since Skrulls are known for their deceitful nature – and noting the similarities between gods and Eternals – was he telling the truth and his ascendancy to godhood elevated his powers? Or was he really just an incredibly powerful Eternal with some mind control powers who established the Skrull religion as a means to protect himself from and control the Deviant Skrulls?
GP: Great question. As far as we know, Kly’bn was telling the truth. But anything’s possible, huh?
BF: When writing stories such as “Sacred Invasion” with Atum or “Hulk Vs. Hercules: When Titans Clash,” how do you approach such stories to keep the most powerful characters like Zeus from simply removing the Hulk from Olympus or overpowering the Hulk himself? I mean, when doing a story like that how do you keep them from overshadowing other characters? Do you ever feel the need to depower or underwrite such characters?
GP: I take a page from the actual myths, in which the gods are frequently injured or even killed when facing supremely powerful opponents. It’s also interesting that in the original myths, the gods will often prefer to work through human or demigod champions rather than take to the field themselves. That can be a helpful convention when it comes to making these kinds of stories work.
TWF Ike: I saw your film “Robot Stories” at Slamdance in 2003 and really enjoyed it. I saw that it had a limited release. I was just wondering how involved you were with the distribution and what did you learn about doing an indie on a budget? What would you do differently next time around?
GP: After a pretty tremendous film festival run, during which the film played in over 75 venues and won 35 awards, my producers Karin Chien and Kim Ima and I partnered with the brilliant Sasha Berman of Shotwell Media to self-distribute the picture. Sasha handled publicity and booking; we handled everything else. I spent a year on the road, traveling with the film as much as possible, speaking to Asian American and science fiction and independent film community groups, visiting colleges, doing Q&A after every possible screening, collecting email addresses, sending out newsletter updates, updating the website and blog, designing print ads, and sometimes just standing on street corners outside of theaters handing out postcards. We had an incredibly great group of volunteers who helped every step of the way and were critical in getting the word out. And all of the film festivals I’d built relationships with over the years came through like gangbusters, spreading the word about our theatrical run and even hosting opening night parties in various cities. My fellow independent and Asian American filmmakers were amazing as well, sending notes to their own mailing lists and coming out to see the film in person. It was incredibly hard work and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably do it all pretty much the same way. It was simply the best way to get this particular film out into the world.
For a bit more about my film festival strategy, check out the interview in Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.
And of course, feel free to pick up the film itself from Amazon.com.
Finally, the “Robot Stories and More Screenplays” book is now available for the Kindle — check it out!.
Nadav: Great job on “X-Men: Magneto Testament”! For the re-release you guys should consider adding “Classic X-Men” #12 by Claremont and Bolton in the back of the TPB. It picks up right where the mini ends.
GP: Thanks for the kind words. While we didn’t have room for it in the “Magneto Testament” hardcover, the “Fire in the Night” backup story from “Classic X-Men” #12 is indeed a key Magneto story and is well worth tracking down. Incidentally, the “Magneto Testament” hardcover hits stores today! The extras include extensive footnotes citing a slew of historical sources and a teacher’s guide. Ask your local shop to hold a copy for you today or pick it up at Amazon.com.
Marc Jennings: How long do you see yourself staying on “War Machine”? And what about Leonardo Manco? Is he moving on after several issues or is he committed to staying aboard as long as you will?
GP: I’ve just been going over my crazy plans for the book with my awesome editor Bill Rosemann. Rest assured, we’ve roughed out our storylines for many months to come. Keep on buying the book and I’ll keep on writing it! And Leonardo’s the ongoing artist for the book. We have a few phenomenal artists helping out with issues #6 and #7, but Leo will be back for issue #8.
For more about “War Machine,” check out issue #6, which hits stores today, and the latest issue of Wizard Magazine, which includes a double page spread all about the book.
MJ: Iâ€™d love to see you join the Spidey brain-trust. Any chance of that happening at some point?
GP: You flatter me, sir and I like it! It’s interesting — Spider-Man was one of my favorite Marvel characters as a kid, but he’s one of the major Marvel characters I’ve had the least opportunity to write. At some point, I’d love to have the chance to tackle a Spidey tale, but I have a pretty full plate at the moment. However, my Herculean partner in crime Fred Van Lente has joined the Spidey team — so check him out!
Ryan Jones: Amazing, amazing job on “Magneto Testament.” Easily one of the best series of the last decade! One clarifying question: In “Magneto Testament” #3, in the scene where Max’s family is killed it is not entirely clear to me exactly how Max survives. The art seems to show the bullets hanging in mid-air (a manifestation of Max’s powers?) but also show his father Jakob pushing him aside and taking the bullets intended for Max himself. The dialogue (powerful stuff!) indicates that Jakob saw an instant where things lined up and he could make a change. My question is… was this purely Jakob sacrificing himself to save his boy? Or did Max’s powers subconsciously create the moment that allowed his father to act by slowing the bullets? Earlier stories indicate that Magneto has come to believe that his powers played a role in his survival. However, either interpretation seems valid and both add fascinating new depths to Magneto’s character. Thank you sincerely for a beautifully written story and all the work you and the team put into making it an accurate depiction based on both continuity and historical accuracy! No small feat, sir!
GP: Thanks for the kind words. We purposefully left that scene a bit open to interpretation. Readers can decide for themselves whether Max actually slows the bullets down or if that’s just his perception in this moment of great crisis. But what I hope is clear is that in the end, it’s Jakob who actually saves his son by pushing him out of the way of the bullets.
Alex Kaiser: I am an aspiring film maker and actor, I am currently working as an intern for a film and media production company in Phoenix, Arizona. Recently I listened to a podcast on Marvel.com and found out you are a film maker as well. While I cannot ignore my passion for creativity in the film industry, my love for comics has grown exponentially in the past few years. My question to you is how might one get its foot in door in the comic industry? How did you transition from film to comics and back again? If you had to tell someone like me, who knows no one in the field of comic books, how to get a start, what would be your best advice? Start as an intern? Submit a story or script? I’m just not up to speed on how things work in comics as much as I am with film. I would totally appreciate any advice you could give, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem.
GP: Everyone who’s working in comics seems to have gotten there in a different way, so I don’t know that there’s any blueprint for this. In my case, I’m pretty sure that my feature film “Robot Stories” played a critical role in opening the door. My film agent found out that Marvel was looking for new writers. She sent them the screenplay to “Robot Stories,” which they apparently liked, and eventually a few editors came to see the film when it premiered in New York. I started developing projects with various editors and after about a year, the first issue of my “Warlock” mini hit stores.
So I broke in after having done something in independent film. I know that other writers have made a similar transition to Marvel from independent comics work. Either way, I get the impression that it’s pretty key to have completed work to show.
Chris: Do you know if Marvel plans on releasing an oversized hardcover later down the line like they do for some of the other series, or will this be the only hardcover treatment that “Magneto Testament” gets?
GP: As far as I know, this is the only hardcover planned for the moment, but anything’s possible!
Chris: Will we ever see Hiroim again? Why was he killed off right after we learned about his relationship with Korg?
GP: Sometimes the best place to mess with characters is at that precise moment that they’ve finally gotten what they want. But without spilling too much, I think about Hiroim and Korg all the time… Keep on reading, True Believers!
Taimur Dar: Been loving all your recent work lately and can’t wait for what the summer of 2009 brings for Skaar. Speaking of which, I know Hulk’s Warbound allies will be appearing, but what about the forgotten member of the group Arch-E-5912, last seen with Damage Control? Will he be reuniting with the Warbound soon?
GP: We definitely haven’t forgotten Arch-E. But I can’t say just yet when we might see him again.
Taimur: And spoilers ahoy for this one, glad to see Kirby is safe and sound and found a coyote girlfriend, but is this truly the end of his role in “Incredible Herc”? Can you at least promise some coyote pups in his future?
GP: Heh. See above for the answer to the Hiroim question.
Taimur: “Skaar” Editor Mark Paniccia recently mentioned a Skaar story that will tie-in with the War of Kings cosmic event. Save to assume you’ll be involved and how did this come about?
GP: Christos Gage is writing this bad boy, and he’s done an awesome job. I believe the book’s scheduled to hit stores on June 1.
Taimur: Think we’ll be seeing Skaar interact with the rest of the Marvel U in the months after “Planet Skaar”?
Rivka Jacobs: Thank you so much, you and Mr. Di Giandomenico, Mr. Simons, and your entire creative team, for “Magneto Testament.” “Magneto Testament” #5 ended on a powerful note. The entire series was beautifully written, haunting, and moving. I am dismayed that a few reviews of “Magneto Testament” #5 have complained that “Magneto Testament” isn’t a story about Magneto, but could be about any boy named “Max” in Auschwitz, or during the Holocaust. This is completely not true! On the contrary, your depiction of Max is in keeping with the original backstory of Magneto in the comics, and the story you show is the specific story of the young Magneto in Auschwitz, including his meeting with Magda, and their escape from Auschwitz together. The story of Magda and Magneto (Max) is part of one of the most important origin stories in all of Marvel comics.
The problem for some of these reviewers is they do not accept that Magneto is a three-dimensional, complex character, who spent most of his life trying to take the side of the angels. They don’t accept the psychological, historical, and physiological reasons why Max Eisenhardt began that slide down the slippery slope, and took the name “Erik Lehnsherr” and eventually became the mutant terrorist Magneto.
In my opinion, you walked that thin line perfectly, in the “Magneto Testament” Limited Series. Keeping Max as the hero of the story, while showing us his psychological development as he experienced ever increasing horrors. It is crucial to the understanding of Magneto in the present day Marvel Universe to read those last panels in “Magneto Testament” #5, where Max in 1948 is reading that suicide note and plea to humanity he himself wrote in 1944.
“Magneto Testament” showed us the underpinnings of Magneto’s eventual philosophy and psychology; i.e., the lesson of fighting back, of fighting to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from ever happening again. You linked Magneto with the theme: “Sometimes in this life you get a moment, a time when everything lines up. When anything is possible. When suddenly you can make things happen.” You showed us how Max survived working in the Sonderkommando, helping put hundreds of thousands of people to death in order to stay alive one more day, and thereby subtly explained much of Magneto’s eventual attitudes and character.
Above all, by revealing to us the true depth of Max’s attachment to Magda, how she saved his life, gave his life new purpose and meaning, you laid the groundwork for all the would follow, when everything would fall apart, after Anya was killed and Magda left him.
I fail to see how this is NOT the story of Magneto! Max Eisenhardt is Magneto, and forever will be Magneto. We did not need to see super hero displays of mutant powers to know this was the story of Magneto!
Congratulations to you, to Marvel, and to all the readers who bought this series and supported this effort. Truly an amazing accomplishment. I miss the series now! We have lived with Max and his story for over six months, and now it feels empty without a new chapter.
Is there any chance you and Carmine Di Giandomenico will be continuing the story of Max and Magda after their escape? It might afford you the chance to clear up some of the continuity discrepancies, and it would be an exciting and moving story besides. (For example, could Max and Magda have survived after their escape by hiding with Polish partisans in the woods, maybe helping them fight the Nazis?)
Anyway, thank you again for an amazing job.
GP: Thanks so much for your support and close reading! And without revealing too much, I definitely have more Magneto stories in mind.
Damon Owens: I’m very much looking forward to buying and reading Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, and the adventure of “The Citizen” especially! I was wondering, is there a FULL-BODY picture of the character anywhere online? I’d love to see what he looks like head-to-toe in costume. Props to you for bringing new, diverse superheroes into the public arena.
GP: Ask and ye shall receive! To the right is Bernard Chang’s original concept sketch for the character. All that changed is that we gave him a bit of a haircut in the end.
DJ Dominiguez: I would like to say that I greatly enjoyed your take on the Hulk and the immense amount of character evolution you put him through. After “World War Hulk,” I was disappointed when the Green Scar didn’t return. My question is, will you explain how the Green Scar went from being himself to his old,”Savage Hulk” persona? He had all this power and understanding and now, suddenly it’s gone. Will the Green Scar and all his power be back, is basically the nitty gritty of what I’m asking.
GP: All was explained in the “Planet Skaar Prologue,” which hit stores on May 20. On page 13, Reed Richards theorizes that Banner has been purposefully suppressing the Green Scar personality for fear of his terrible anger. After all, the last time we saw the Green Scar, he was seconds away from destroying the entire eastern seaboard.
Tom: I have been a big fan of your Hulk and Hercules stories since day 1, but my favorite comic book work from you is the 4-issue “Warlock” series you wrote in… 2004, I think. Are there any plans to write Warlock for you in the future or would you like to at all?
GP: Thanks a ton for your kind words! I’m pretty fond of that little series myself. I’ve toyed with a few ideas for bringing back some of those story elements, but haven’t yet found just the right place. Someday!
Hrungr: There seems to be some confusion between the events in “Skaar” #10 and some comments I read elsewhere that you made in the most recent issue of Wizard Magazine. In the Wizard article you say: “Skaar saves his planet, but does so in a way that reveals how incredibly dangerous he is,” reveals Pak. “Much in the same way the Illuminati shot the Hulk into space in ‘Planet Hulk,’ the folks on Sakaar put Skaar through a wormhole, and he ends up exiled on Earth.”
Is there more to this story coming up than what happened in issue #10 or was it something that changed along the way? Because from the issue it certainly looks as though Sakaar is doomed and Skaar has done nothing that I can see to have saved it. Caiera looks like she sacrifices the planet in order to sate Galactus’ hunger for the countless milennia the Surfer promised it would. So… what really happened?
GP: Skaar actually did save the planet in “Skaar” #10, just as described in the interview. He successfully bluffed the Surfer by threatening to addict Galactus with the Old Power and cause him to consume the entire universe. Then Caiera puts Skaar into the wormhole because she sees “how incredibly dangerous he is.”
What we didn’t reveal in the interview is that the Surfer then returned — with Galactus in tow. Can’t give it all away too soon, after all!
And there is indeed a bit more to the story, which will be revealed in “Skaar” #11 and #12. Dontcha dare miss ’em!
Hrungr: Later in the Wizard article you mention your plans for Skaar’s future: “He’s far more calculating than his father,” Pak explains. “Skaar might actually join a team to meet his own objectives. Skaar might be the Hulk that you can cut a deal with. He might be someone you could go on a mission with and keep onboard for awhile – if you offer him something good.”
“Earth can be a dangerous place, but there’s plenty of places where you can sit and not have somebody try to kill you for at least half an hour. So Skaar may have time to think thoughts he’s never thought before, and relationships he’s never had before.”
“Earth will be a new home for Skaar for the foreseeable future,” teases Pak. “There is definitely a big plan in terms of what Skaar plans to do on Earth. Skaar will have a big impact on Earth, and Earth will have a big impact on him.”
But as I understand it, you’re now leaving “Skaar” after “Planet Skaar” wraps up and Paul Jenkins is taking over in July. Is Paul going to follow up on the story direction you’ve outlined here or is he going to take Skaar in another direction?
GP: I can’t reveal too much for fear of spoilers, but all will become crystal clear over the next three months.
Hrungr: I also recently read (and was overjoyed at 😀 )Joe Q’s comments on his blog regarding something you’re doing with Hulk after issue #600. Now I know you won’t be able to give specifics, but how did this come about? Was this something they offered you? Some idea you proposed? Anything at all you can tease? 🙂
GP: The big reveal is that I’m returning to “Incredible Hulk” with issue #601 in August! Here’s the solicit from Marvel.com:
Gamma fans rejoice — the rumors are true! The INCREDIBLE HULK book returns as an ongoing series written by acclaimed PLANET HULK and WORLD WAR HULK scribe Greg Pak! Get ready for Bruce Banner as you’ve never seen him, the Son of Hulk in a whole new world of smash, and an insane new adventure that changes everything for everyone’s favorite Green Goliath! With art by Ariel Olivetti (CABLE) and introducing a new, regular bonus backup SAVAGE SHE-HULK story written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Michael Ryan!
Taimur Dar: When you first created SHIELD agent Jake Oh back in your “Phoenix: Warsong” mini, did you always plan on bringing him back in a future Marvel project or was it just serendipitous opportunity to use him in “War Machine”?
GP: I’d hoped to find another place for Jake and “War Machine” just made sense. Jake was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in “Warsong” — since then, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s been disbanded, which meant that its various agents would presumably be needing work. And Eaglestar International, the military contractor featured in “War Machine” #1 to #5, was hiring! Hope you’re enjoying Jake’s return. Incidentally, Jake has a BIG scene in “War Machine” #6, which hits stores today, so check it out!
Taimur: Been digging Skaar’s journey so far and can’t wait to see what’s to come. Out of curiousity, was the coyote in the “Planet Skaar Prologue” by chance Kirby and if any future plans with him and whatever happened to his girlfriend we last saw him with?
GP: Heh. Believe me, the idea has been discussed! Can’t reveal anything just yet. All I’ll say is that given what happens in “Skaar” #11, you may be relieved by the direction we chose.
Taimur: It also looks like your incredible “Incredible Hercules” co-writer will be joining you on your return to Hulk with an ongoing Savage She-Hulk backup.
GP: Yep, Fred Van Lente is in the house!
Taimur: Any chance of the children of Hulk meeting then?
GP: Seems like that has to happen eventually, huh? You may just have to buy every single book that Fred and I write in order to see if it does!
Thanks for reading and click here to submit your own questions for the next column!