Before Greg Pak gets "Totally Awesome" with Marvel's Totally Awesome Hulk, he's getting totally disgusting.
The Action Comics writer is re-teaming with his frequent collaborator Takeshi Miyazawa on a new children's alphabet book called ABC Disgusting. Using Kickstarter as Pak has done with several other recent projects, ABC Disgusting is one fictional boy's attempt to gross out his older sister with evertything from bug juice to mayonaisse milkshakes. But little does he know that his sister can be gross too.
Pak and Miyazawa talked with Newsarama about this latest self-publishing project, their interest in children's books, and where the inspiration came for these 26 putrid pranks.
Newsarama: Greg, what can you tell us about ABC Disgusting?
Greg Pak: ABC Disgusting is a children's alphabet book written by yours truly and drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa that tells the story of a kid trying to gross out his sister with a series of disgusting things. But she turns the tables and hits him with what might be the biggest gross-out of all. It's a fun book for anyone who's ever laughed at a fart. And I think that might make it a great book for young, reluctant readers, kids who might need something a little naughty to get them to actually pick up a book.
Newsarama: Takeshi, what made ABC Disgusting something you wanted to do?
Takeshi Miyazawa: Any chance to work with Greg I jump at. He’s constantly coming up with new projects that tickle just the right creative nerve and I’m hooked. It’s really been quite a fun and rewarding ride. So, when Greg wrote to me about an ABC book for kids but with a twist, well, how am I not going to say “yes”. I read the early script and it was funny and gross and perfect.
Nrama: Do you have siblings? Do you see any of yourself in either of the characters in this book?
Pak: I do. I have an older brother and younger sister. I was totally into bugs and mud and other gross things so I totally side with the boy in this story. I grew up in suburban Toronto in the 80s when rural land was first being converted into subdivisions, so, ponds, forests, lakes, corn fields, you name it. SO many places to find gross things to terrorize my kid sister with.
Nrama: You two have worked together numerous times, from Marvel to these children's book. How would you describe your collaboration?
Pak: Oh, man, I just love working with Tak. We co-created Amadeus Cho for Marvel back in the day, and I've jumped on every chance I've had to work with him since. Tak's one of those artists who kind of lives in my head. He just gets the tone and feel of every scene I write and brings in the extra nuances and details I never would have come up on my own that put the whole thing over the top. Over the last few years, I've managed to keep my hooks with him with Code Monkey Save World, Turok, a backup story for Secret Wars’ Planet Hulk #1, and now ABC Disgusting. I'm hoping we can keep the run going for a long time.
Pak: Y’know, as a freelancer, it’s comforting to know someone likes working with you and keeps you in mind even when schedules don’t always line-up. I’m terrible at multitasking and I tend to focus on one thing at a time without thinking ahead. Terrible habit. I don’t recommend this. So, when Greg shoots me an invitation to work on something, I know it’s because it’s something he’s thought a lot about and saw me as a good fit. He’s never wrong. And the fact that we’ve worked together on so many different projects, there’s a base level of trust and familiarity with how each other works. So happy I know him. Thank you so much, Greg!
Nrama: This is a follow-up of sorts to The Princess Who Saved Herself, with you and the same art team -- but you're doing it on your own, without Jonathan Coulton. How'd this story come about for you?
Pak: Working on my first children's book with Jonathan, The Princess Who Saved Herself, was such a blast that I wanted to dive right back in. Jonathan and I are absolutely talking about another collaboration. But in the meantime, I started thinking about a solo project based on the things that made me laugh as a kid. Which made me think about disgusting stuff. At some point as a kid, I came up with the concept of a mayonnaise milkshake, which I thought was hilariously disgusting and which disgusted everyone I mentioned it to. And yes, "M" in ABC Disgusting is for "Mayonnaise Milkshake." So I guess you could say this book is decades in the making.
Also, let me give a big shout out to colorist Jessica Kholinne and letterer Simon Bowland. They also worked on Code Monkey Save World and The Princess Who Saved Herself and are just amazing. I love this art team.
Nrama: Takeshi, how do you go about drawing this kind of gross-out humor without going too far?
Pak: Greg is really good at setting the tone with his writing. After I read the script a few times, I get the feel and set limits to how much interpretation is appropriate. I mean, we’ve worked together so much that I get him and I feel he gets me.
Nrama: Some people have test audiences from their work, from fellow collaborators to family members. Who do you bounce ideas off of for this besides Greg?
Pak: If I’m stuck, I would ask my studio mates or other creative people not related to comics I know. I have a few friends I trust and know they wouldn’t just agree to be nice. It’s important to have critical peers!
Nrama: So Greg, what drew you back into doing a children's book again?
Pak: I just love the format. I've got all kinds of stories in my head -- some really want to be 12 issue comic book epics. Some really want to be feature films. But some are compact, fun explorations of characters or themes that really lend themselves to the format of a children's picture book. It's a huge blast and I hope I'll be able to keep doing books like these for a long time.
Nrama: People know you do conventions and store signings - do you do events for the children's book, such as reading it to children? Maybe you could relate an experience from that?
Pak: I haven't yet done a reading, but I'm totally hoping to line events like that up in the future. I have sold the books at comic book conventions. The best moment was when a little girl wandered past the table, stopped, stared, and yelled "The princess who saved herself?" with a big grin on her face.
The kids are all right.