Greg Pak has written demigods like Hercules, superheroes like Superman the Hulk, but he’s never met an immortal like Valiant’s Eternal Warrior.
On September 11, 2013, Valiant Entertainment will release Eternal Warrior #1, an all-new series by the Batman/Batman scribe along with former Marvel Young Gun artist Trevor Hairsine that will take the publisher’s immortal champion on a road of discovery, destruction and carnage. This follows up on Gilad’s earlier return in the pages of Archer & Armstrong, but strikes out on a new path as the so-called “Fist and Steel” of the shadowy group known as the Earth begins to question the commands he’s acted on for millennia and his place in the world.
In our interview with Pak about Eternal Warrior, he spoke in-depth about the legacy of the series and the potential that the story of an immortal soldier holds. We also discussed comparisons between Pak’s previous work writing about immortals such as in Incredible Hercules and other super-powered heavyweights like Superman, the Hulk and Magneto, as well as a potential reunion for him and his former Incredible Hercules co-writer Fred Van Lente at Valiant. Pak brought some new interior art from the book by Hairsine to show off, as well.
Newsarama: Greg, you’re no stranger with writing superheroes, swordsmen and immortals. So when you were approached to write Eternal Warrior for Valiant, what was the challenge and the intrigue that led you to sign on the dotted line?
Greg Pak: I love these kinds of characters. There was something familiar here about Gilad, and I was hungry to jump on. I felt like I could do a good job on this kind of character, who’s both a warrior and an immortal. Those are things I’ve enjoyed exploring in the past as you’ve mentioned.
What’s specifically intriguing about Gilad is two things. One, he is just a normal dude. Yes, he is one of the greatest soldiers and hand-to-hand combatants ever born, but he has the soul of a mortal – he wasn’t born as an immortal. So for him witnessing the rise and fall of civilizations and seeing everyone he loves turn to dust, it’s not something he can just shrug off and get over. Humans like you and me – and Gilad – weren’t built to go on forever. We’ve essentially evolved to die; evolved to have short lifespans. Our minds and our bodies aren’t built to go on forever and to watch everyone you know fade away. So despite his moniker of the Eternal Warrior, he’s got the soul of a mortal and his predicament troubles him… and that’s an intriguing thing to tackle.
The other part that interests me about him is that he’s a warrior; that’s what he does best. And he serves the Earth, a mysterious entity that’s been giving him his missions for millennia. This idea of an immortal warrior is an intriguing thing; someone who has basically seen all of recorded history, but through a very specific filter: war. That seemed like a worthwhile thing to explore. There’s a lot of story there.
Nrama: As you said, Gilad been fighting for millennia – how do you find the humanity in someone, mortal soul or not, who’s become so weathered and seemingly unchanging in the face of time?
Pak: Well, I think finding the humanity is the challenge of every single thing I write, particularly in genre fiction. Here we’re dealing with fantastical situations, powers and unreal circumstances. It’s incredibly fun to tell these kinds of stories and vicariously experience these events, but in order for us as readers to care, we have to understand these things as a human being.
It’s fun to take this ridiculously powerful individual and find out what makes him or her tick. Finding that human core and what they're struggling with is the emotional center of the story. That’s why we’re sucked into stories, for that emotional center.
So while it’s fun figuring out how to blow something up in a given comic, the real pleasure is nailing the emotional core of the story.
Nrama: The first issue starts in September – what can readers look forward to, story-wise?
Pak: Seeing Gilad in a different state than we’ve ever seen him in. How can I say this without spoiling everything? Let’s try this:
After millennia of fighting, Gilad has begun to question the point of it all. He’s told by these mysterious sorcerers and wizards that the Earth needs him to fight different battles and wars over the years. Gilad’s been honored to be chosen by Earth to do this, and it’s become his mission in life and for years it’s seemed to make sense. But as the millennia drag on he’s seen civilizations rise and fall, everyone he knows disappear, and sees the same kind of battles again and again. He begins to wonder what the point of this after he keeps being sent out again and again.
Gilad’s personally killed god knows how many people. He’s a good soldier, and does it extremely well, but in issue one he begins to wonder if he’s doing the right thing. As the story begins, the Eternal Warrior has checked out; he’s laid down his sword, but is soon pulled back when a figure from his past rises up once more.
Nrama: Gilad popped earlier this year in the pages of Archer & Armstrong; do people need to have read that, or the previous Eternal Warrior books, to understand this new series?
Pak: It’s totally new reader friendly Those who have read his appearances recently in Archer & Armstrong will, however, enjoy how it syncs up eventually. We’re not going to give you all the answers in the beginning, though; there’s a little bit of mystery as the story goes on.
It’s incredibly important to me that with every #1, and every issue for that matter, people can pick up and run. That’s the way every story should be. In this series we’re going to discover what happens to Gilad as he experiences it, as he figures out who he is in this world. We’re also going to discover bit by bit some shocking things about the Valiant Universe and its structure, along with the mysterious forces that drive this universe. So long-time readers who know all of Valiant’s stories will want to pick this up as well.
Gilad is awesome and the story is awesome. It’s a thrilling emotional ride but we’ll also delve into world-building that has the potential for wide ramifications for the Valiant Universe.
Nrama: This is a spiritual companion title to Archer & Armstrong featuring Gilad’s brother Armstrong, and also your frequent collaborator Fred Van Lente. How close will these two titles run together, and have you two talked about weaving the two titles together at some point?
Pak: Oh yeah, Fred and I talk all the time. In the fullness of time these characters will bump into each other again. But we’re not rushing into any kind of crossover; we’re taking time to establish Gilad and his supporting cast, and show what they’re doing in this world.
As for Fred, I love working with him. He’s tons of fun. Archer & Armstrong is a fantastic book, and people absolutely should pick that up in additional to Eternal Warrior.
Nrama: Longtime comics fan that you are, I’ve read that you weren’t reading comics much when Eternal Warriorfirst debuted in the 90s. So can you describe the process of going back and reading up on him and his stories by Shooter, Windsor-Smith, Ostrander and others?
Pak: You’re right. When Valiant first came out, it was one of the few times in my life when I wasn’t picking up monthly comics. I wasn’t in the stores every week, but I knew about the company and the general idea of their characters.
So it’s been a lot of fun digging up those older issues and reading them for the first time. I just think this character in particular was brilliantly conceived. Epic, mythic, and comic book friendly all at once. This notion of an immortal warrior implies tons of crazy action but also allows you to delve into pretty deep themes about why we fight, whom we fight, why we make those decisions, and all the different morals and issues surrounding war and violence.
And at the same time, when dealing with immortal beings you’ve got this tremendous opportunity to delve into really great emotional stories not just in one time period, but several. With Eternal Warrior I have the opportunity to tell stories in different time periods and different settings; we can even play with different genres because Gilad’s living through everything.
That’s a huge amount of opportunity there, and it’s been a lot of fun to get to know the character through the previous Eternal Warrior comics and I’m really grateful for the creators who came before me and created this legacy.