2013 has been a banner year for Greg Pak. Although Pak meekly describes it as “pretty good” with a smirk, it’s been a year of changes for the Yale grad as he’s transitioned from being known as “the Hulk writer” to become one of DC’s top writers, and one of comics most in demand storytellers.
After launching the sales hit Batman/Superman in June, the ripples saw him being tapped as the incoming writer of Action Comics and a go-to guy for the publisher writing three of the one-shots in DC’s Villains month. Meanwhile, outside the Big Two Pak has picked up the gig relaunching Valiant’s Eternal Warrior, bringing some heart to the immortal soldier and working alongside his former Hercules co-writer Fred Van Lente who’s writing Archer & Armstrong. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also halfway through writing a comic series based on a song by geek musician Jonathan Coulton called Code Monkey Save The World which earned nearly 10 times its fundraising goal when promoted on Kickstarter.
Newsarama’s talked to Pak individually about Batman/Superman, Action Comics, his Villains Month titles, Code Monkey Save The World and will have a standalone chat later this month on Eternal Warrior, but today we caught up with the newly prolific writer about this game-changing year for him, thoughts on the Superman/Batman movie in light of his comic series work, writing three different Supermans, and even some hints of re-teaming with Fred Van Lente down the road.
Newsarama: First question, Greg – what are you working on today?
Greg Pak: Literally six different projects. Not kidding. I spent most of the work day in the DC offices having creative meetings with Batman/Superman and Action Comics editor Eddie Berganza and associate editor Ricky Purdin and assistant editor Anthony Marques -- along with a couple of other secret folks whose names I can't reveal for fear of spoiling our upcoming plans. Incredibly exiting ideas bouncing all around -- these books are going to be so much fun.
Then later in the day, I did some work on the Eternal Warrior book I'm doing for Warren Simons at Valiant and cleaned up parts of a secret project Fred Van Lente and I are collaborating on. And now I'm back on my DC books.
Never a dull moment in the secret Pak Man Productions comics-making compound!
Nrama: 2013 is shaping up for you as a major turning point in your career – for the past seven years you’ve been known as a Marvel guy with a few forays into creator-owned like Vision Machine and then Dead Man’s Run for Aspen, but now you’ve swooped in as one of DC’s top writers plus launching a new title at Valiant. How’d this volley of new work for new places all come together for 2013?
Pak: Yeah, I won't lie. It feels like a pretty good year so far. ;-)
A while back, Jim Lee called and said "Batman and Superman." That's one of those calls that changes everything, so I'm hugely grateful to Jim and all my editors and collaborators at DC. It's been a tremendous ride so far and it's going to get even wilder.
Around the same time, I got a call from Warren Simons from Valiant. Back in the day, Warren had pulled me on board to write Magneto: Testament over at Marvel, which was one of the best creative experiences I've ever had in comics. So I was pretty much going to say yes to whatever he suggested. What he ended up offering me was Eternal Warrior, which is a tremendous property that's right up my alley, so that's been a blast. The first issue comes out in September, and it's drawn by the great Trevor Hairsine, so I hope y'all check it out!
Finally, around the same time, I was talking with my friend Jonathan Coulton about making a comic book based on his incredible songs, which eventually became our crazy Code Monkey Save World Kickstarter graphic novel. Takeshi Miyazawa's drawing it even as we speak and it's going to be awesome.
So this has all been partly by design and partly by chance. I'm just thrilled to be working on all of these diverse books with so many great collaborators.
Nrama: Right now fans are delighting over your and Jae Lee’s work with Batman/Superman, with the second issue just coming out you set up a real doozy with the young Batman and Superman being dropped into the strange, alternate Earth 2 with a very different Superman and Batman there. You’ve played with time and alternate universes in your comics before, but given DC’s unique and storied history with that how did you go about employing that here?
Pak: Everything always comes back to character. So the huge attraction of Earth 2 was the chance to put our young, raw, brash heroes into conflict with the older, established, more powerful and beloved heroes of Earth 2. I also love the fact that in Earth 2, Clark's parents are alive and Bruce is married to Catwoman. There are these great differences that mean so much to how these heroes have developed in these different worlds, and putting them face to face becomes a tremendous way to force characters to rethink everything they know about themselves. It's just solid gold opportunities for character stuff all the way down the line, so I was thrilled when Eddie and DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras suggested it.
Nrama: “Our” Superman and Batman here are still fresh-faced newcomers to the world, super-heroing and each other. How would you describe the other Batman and Superman, from Earth 2?
Pak: They're older and more established. On Earth 2, superheroes are called "Wonders," and I think that's kind of how they're perceived by the people around them. They're beloved saviors, basically, and they seem to know what the right thing is and how to do it. They're also more experienced and considerably more powerful than our guys. All of that provides great contrast and challenges to our heroes, who have tons to learn but of course are young and rash enough to think they know better.
Nrama: When Zack Snyder announced that the Man of Steel movie follow-up would feature Batman, I immediately though of your title here with Jae. Did you know that announcement was coming, and how do you feel about them meeting on screen and how it colors your own work here?
Pak: I didn't know about the announcement ahead of time. But it makes absolute sense and of course I'm thrilled.
Nrama: In addition to this, you’re now slated to take over Action Comics this November with Aaron Kuder. You’ve already been working with Superman editor Eddie Berganza with Batman/Superman, so was this a natural transition over to Action Comics?
Pak: Yep, it's been pretty darn smooth. Eddie and I talked a ton about Superman and his rogues gallery while working together on Batman/Superman and the various villains books I've been writing. So I think we've got a very simpatico take regarding how we're thinking about Clark and what his challenges are. We spent a lot of time today talking through some beats for Action Comics, and it's hugely exciting stuff for me. It's my favorite kind of storytelling -- big, crazy ideas and action that at every moment support a huge emotional story.
I'd also like to plug Aaron here. We've been working really closely -- I've written the first script plot-first and we've been on the phone a ton talking through beats. It's been a really intense, fun, and exciting process, and he's bringing a huge amount of enthusiasm, sensitivity, and crazy energy to these pages. Can't wait for you guys to see 'em!
Nrama: You’re already writing Superman in Batman/Superman, but the one in Action Comics is further down the road in terms of experience. It is hard balancing writing two Supermans from different time periods?
Pak: Actually, I got a nice warm-up, because the Superman who appears in my first issue of Action Comics is actually the young Superman I've been writing in Batman/Superman, since that issue is a tie-in to Scott Snyder's amazing Batman: Zero Year storyline.
But it's felt pretty natural writing Superman in all of these different time periods. Once you get a grasp of your character and understand where he's coming from, what his challenges are, and where he's headed, you develop a pretty good foundation for imagining his actions and reactions at any point during the course of his story and life. I just love the character and have had a blast every step of the way.
Nrama: Before all this, you’re doing three one-off issues for Villains month focusing on three of Superman’s biggest foes: Zod, Doomsday and Darkseid. With Magneto: Testament in your bibliography, you have a great record of writing villain-centric pieces and making them work. How are you examining these three to give them each a unique story?
Pak: I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers. But Action Comics #23.2: Zod looks at Zod's very earliest days on Krypton, revealing certain critical scenes from his past for the very first time. He's a villain with a real mission that makes complete moral sense to him, as insane as it might appear to anyone else, and we'll delve deep into all of that.
Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday explores stories and myths of Doomsday from several different points of view. Everyone in the book has a slightly different take on exactly who or what Doomsday is. All I'll say is that someone might be lying. And someone's definitely telling the truth.
Justice League #23.1: Darkseid also delves into the earliest days of its titular character, and again, we're showing critical early moments that you've never seen before. We're also revealing some shocking information that will be of interest to anyone who was intrigued by Darkseid's appearance in the first Justice League arc and by anyone who's following the Trickster story in Batman/Superman right now. There's also a huge reveal that will have a big impact on another great DC book in the near future. I'll say no more -- other than buy this book, friends.
Pak: Seeing you do these just before you take over Action Comics – should readers look at these stories as potential building blocks to what you have planned when you start Action Comics?
Pak: Each of those books will absolutely have an impact on some part of the Superman universe. Exactly which of the Superman-related books you'll see the payoffs in remains to be revealed. But if you care about Superman, you definitely don't want to miss those books. I'll say again that Justice League #23.1: Darkseid is of particular interest to anyone who's been following Batman/Superman -- definitely don't miss that one!
Nrama: I can’t think of a transition to the next topic without a bad Gorilla Grodd reference, so let’s just jump into it willy nilly: Code Monkey Save The World. We’ve talked to you about the book itself during the Kickstarter phase, but where are you guys at in terms of production?
Pak: The script for the first issue is complete and currently being drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa and colored by Jessica Kholinne. They're absolutely killing it -- we couldn't be happier. I'm pretty sure we're on target to finish this first issue in August as planned, knock on wood. We'll start releasing digitally via Comixology and Monkeybrain and then print the final, collected book at the end of the year.
Nrama: People might overlook this, but you’re listed as the man putting this Kickstarter together – are you doing the editing/production side of this to make it all happen and ship out all these rewards? If so, what kind of task is that?
Pak: Jonathan's a tremendous partner to have for all of this because as an independent musician, he's dealt with merchandising for years. So we've brought on board one of his partners to help us with the logistics of fulfillment, which is a huge job, and I'm thrilled we have the help. I'm absolutely involved and responsible for fulfillment issues as well, but my main job has been to write the scripts and manage the creative production. It's a big undertaking, but I'm working with amazing pros, some of whom I've worked with for years on other projects, so it's clicking along pretty nicely thus far. Again, knock on wood!
Nrama: Your first Kickstarter here has been an unparalleled success for you. Coulton’s name has something to do with it, but still – what do you think of the success… and do you have anything in the wings to do next on Kickstarter?
Pak: Jonathan and I were absolutely blown away. This isn't false modesty -- we honestly were just really crossing our fingers that we'd make our initial goal of $39,000 within the 30 days. When we hit that in the first eight hours, we were kind of speechless. So yes, we're insanely, hugely grateful to everyone who supported us -- THANK YOU!
I'm sure another Kickstarter project is somewhere in my future. But right now, we're just focused on finishing the book and fulfilling all the rewards. We'll have plenty of time after that to plan the next steps.