Big Trouble in Little China's Jack Burton and Escape from New York's Snake Plissken are like twins separated at birth, but they've never met - until now.
This October, the two John Carpenter/Kurt Russell cult movie franchises are meeting in a BOOM! Studios' crossover miniseries titled Big Trouble in Little China / Escape from New York. Totally Awesome Hulk writer Greg Pak and Russ Manning award nominee Daniel Bayliss are collaborating on what the writer calls a "gonzo, high-stakes team-up."
Newsarama spoke with Pak in this first interview about the new series, delving into what Burton and Plissken have in common (as well as what they don't), and how they come together for this unique crossover.
Newsarama: Greg, a lot of questions to be asked here – but the one everyone no doubt is asking: what is going on with this crossover?
Greg Pak: A few months ago, I got an email from some friends at BOOM! saying they were thinking about doing a crossover series starring the characters Kurt Russell played in the cult-classic movies Big Trouble In Little China and Escape from New York. I literally laughed out loud when I heard that pitch. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The project just sounded like so much fun—a chance to do something really loopy yet still packed with over-the-top action and genuine emotion. On a sheer visceral level, the prospect of combining Snake’s brutal sci-fi world with Jack’s magically infused reality sounded like a total blast. And the idea of these two characters together was just too delicious. Jack’s so cocky and talky and ridiculous and Snake’s so close-lipped and lethal and dangerous—and they look just like each other—and they’re forced into a gonzo, high-stakes, team-up? Solid gold.
I’ve been known to say that comics should be weird. Despite the massive influence comics have on mass culture, we’re still this strange little pocket of entertainment where the economics of the business allow and even encourage us to take big risks. I’m putting my money where my mouth is with this story. It’s the kind of ridiculously fun comics story I’d love to read—now I’m actually writing it and I couldn’t be happier.
Nrama: Snake Plissken and Jack Burton – together. Can you tell us how they might compare and conflict?
Pak: Snake’s cold-hearted. Jack’s big-hearted.
Snake’s a badass. Jack plays at being a badass.
Snake’s deadly. Jack’s lucky.
Jack can’t shut up. Snake loves shutting people up.
Snake’s got an eyepatch. Jack’s got a mullet.
Snake comes from a sci-fi world of brutal action; Jack comes from a fantasy world of slapstick magic.
And they drive each other craaaaazy!
Nrama: And for continuity nuts, would you say Jack is taller than Snake?
Pak: They are exactly the same height. (Jack’s hair is a half-inch taller than Snake’s, but Jack wears moccasins and Snake wears combat boots, so it evens out.)
Nrama: In this, I believe it’s Jack Burton who is pulled back to Snake Plissken’s dystopian future of 1997. How’d you settle on that as the way to bring them together?
Pak: One of the first things that occurred to me was that Jack’s a truck driver. And in a post-disaster world like Snake Plissken’s, we could have a ton of fun with Jack desperately trying to escape jacked-up, armored murder cars on America’s shattered highways. So shifting Jack into Snake’s world would give us the best chance for those kinds of hijinks.
Nrama: What are they up against in this story?
Pak: After being pulled through a cross-dimensional portal, Jack’s promptly mistaken for Snake in a fight with brutal marauders on the open highways of post-disaster America. And the real Snake ends up with a bounty on his head as a result. So as our story begins, Jack and Snake are up against each other—which could turn out very badly for Jack.
Nrama: So we know what time it’s in, but given Plissken’s past – is this an escape from New York City, Los Angeles, or somewhere else?
Pak: All will be revealed in the fullness of time! But I’ll go ahead and spill this: Eventually, Jack and Snake will team up on a mission to rescue one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. Country blues and the survival of human civilization play key roles in all of this. I’ll say no more.
Nrama: Now we have Snake and Jack involved. Are there any other characters from the movie appearing in these six issues?
Pak: Yep! Some of my very favorite characters from both movies will appear in the story—although I can’t yet reveal exactly who just yet. Stay tuned!
Nrama: Are Kurt Russell or John Carpenter involved with any of this project?
Pak: John Carpenter has read the series outline and given his big thumbs up, and I got to jump on the phone with him last month for a great conversation about the characters and story, which was an absolute blast. He’s a legend—it’s a huge thrill to be playing with his characters with his blessing and input.
Nrama: John Carpenter’s dialogue – especially in Big Trouble In Little China – is iconic. How’d you go about studying those movies to determine how to nail that facet of the story?
Pak: I’ve been watching and re-watching the movies to get the characters in my head and under my skin. The great thing is that Snake and Jack have such distinctive ways of looking at the world and talking. Each of them constantly says things that the other would never say. You always want a variety of voices in your stories. These two guys provide fantastic, fun contrast and huge opportunities to play with dialogue and language.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Daniel Bayliss, who was just nominated for the Russ Manning Award. I know you like to work with an artist’s style as much as you can, so in this case what are you seizing on in Daniel’s style?
Pak: The folks at BOOM! actually had Daniel work on some art for the project before I came on board. They sent me an over-the-top splash of Jack driving his Pork-Chop Express big-rig cab with Snake on top gunning down a monster, and I was sold. Daniel’s going to tear this thing up with huge action and really great character work. I’ve got his art in my head as I write, and I know he’s gonna blow all our minds.
Nrama: Two heroes, two creators. IF you had to say, which one of you is Snake and which of you is Jack… and why?
Pak: Ha! I’m not sure yet. I’ve just turned in the first script, so Daniel and I are just about to start the real work of collaborating, so you should probably ask me again in a month or two for the real answer. But in the meantime, based on the humor in both our work, I’m guessing we’re both closer to the Jack side of the spectrum. Which is probably true for most of us, huh? If I’d said definitively that we were Snakes, you’d know for sure we’re just blustering Jacks. [Laughs]