Interview: Greg Pak
Greg Pak is a very busy man. Between the just-launched War Machine, Skaar: Son of Hulk, Magneto: Testament, and Incredible Hercules, which he co-writes with Fred Van Lente, it seems like he’s writing half the Marvel Universe.
It’s an incredibly diverse body of work—Skaar brings to the table the same combination of cosmic Marvel and high fantasy that his very well-received Planet Hulk storyline did, while Incredible Hercules is a more tongue-in-cheek buddy adventure that’s very much rooted in the recent goings-on on Earth. Magneto: Testament presents, at long last, a cohesive and historically accurate origin for the mutant master of magnetism. Finally, War Machine casts Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes as the planet’s lethal protector.
But don’t take it from me. Greg Pak agreed to take some time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his various series—and provide a few teases. Spoilers abound, so you might want to make sure you’re all caught up on these books before you continue on.
ComicMix: Magneto: Testament has been getting a lot of attention, both for attempting to tell the definitive origin of Magneto and for placing it in a meticulously specific historical context. Would you mind telling us a little bit about where this project came from?
Greg Pak: Marvel editor Warren Simons has wanted to tell this story for years. And from the minute he started telling me about the project, I knew I had to be a part of it. I researched the project for about three years before we finally went to script. And Warren and I have spent hours and hours talking through the history and the nuances of the story beats. I think everyone working on the book has felt the same kind of responsibility to getting the story right. Artist Carmine DiGiandomenico and colorist Matt Hollingsworth in particular have gone above and beyond, bringing just the right tone and nuance and gravity to the images while making constant tweaks to ensure the book is as historically accurate as we could make it. And we owe a thousand thanks to our historical consultant, Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
CMix: When it’s done, will it represent the canonical last word on where Magneto came from, or is this outside of continuity?
GP: As Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada recently confirmed in his MySpace Comics column, Magneto Testament is indeed in continuity. Feel free to start updating your wikis, Mags fans!
CMix: And on the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got Incredible Hercules, which sees the team of the titular Olympian and boy super-genius Amadeus Cho fighting a Wonder-fully familiar Amazon army that seeks to overtake the world–and as of the last issue, it looks like they might have succeeded as the world is rewritten in their image. Is this the "House of Herc?" Will it end with Amadeus Cho waking up and saying "no more Amazons?"
GP: Actually, I think some fans have dubbed it the "House of A," for Artume, the Queen of the Amazons. My co-writer Fred Van Lente and I are having a ton of fun with this story arc. We just sent the climactic issue (#125) to the printers, and it’s a doozy. In addition to the fun mythology, the wacky hijinks, and the core buddy-buddy emotional throughline, I have to say I get a huge kick out of writing the dialogue for our duo. We get to cut loose with colloquialisms in a way that’s not quite available to me in some of my other books. For example, it wouldn’t quite scan for Skaar to say "What the heckity heck?"
CMix: And where’s Norman Osborn for all this?
GP: Keep your eyes peeled for Incredible Hercules #127 and #128 for all the Osbornic shenanigans you can handle.
CMix: While on the subject of Dark Reign, would you mind telling us a little bit about what’s going on in your new War Machine series?
GP: As we revealed in War Machine #1, Jim Rhodes was blown to pieces in a military attack months ago. His friend Tony Stark rebuilt him, giving him cyborg body parts and an all-new set of non-Stark War Machine armor that made him more powerful than ever before. Now Rhodes has taken on a new mandate to go after global tyrants and madmen — with extreme prejudice. But as Bethany Cabe puts it in War Machine #1, Rhodey’s new armor may present him not just with physical but also mental and even moral stresses that no man can be expected to handle for long. Exactly what the relationship is between his lethal attitude and his cyborg implants remains to be revealed. All I’ll say at the moment is that every action has consequences and in the fullness of time, we’ll reveal and explore the fallout of every act of violence in the book on multiple levels.
CMix: The first issue finally revealed the extent of the injuries that kept him hooked up to his armor permanently, as previously seen in Avengers: The Initiative and World War Hulk. When exactly, continuity-wise, did his injuries occur?
GP: For now, all we’ve revealed in terms of the time-line is that his injuries occurred before he entered the Initiative. Oh, and there’s the little problem that this upgrade was only supposed to be a temporary fix — he’s literally dying inside that massively powerful shell. But the flesh-and-blood body that Rhodey’s supposed to transfer into has been stolen — by a certain dude named Norman Osborn.
CMix: What’s going on in his head that the rational response to his condition is becoming the world’s policeman?
GP: Rhodey’s used to carrying around an insane amount of weaponry. But until now, he hasn’t literally become the weaponry. Now he’s interfacing with his machinery both physically and mentally. One result is that he’s able to tap into and process a massive amount of data. Imagine having instantaneous access to multiple terabytes of data from around the world about every rape, mutilation, and murder committed by a war criminal who’s aiming a gun at the back of a child’s head ten feet in front of you. For better or for worse, that could exponentially increase a person’s willingness to use extreme force to deal with the situation.
CMix: Finally, what’s going on with Skaar on far-off Sakaar? What does the future hold for the newest Green Goliath?
GP: Skaar is about to have the biggest showdown of his life as the Silver Surfer returns to savage Sakaar in Skaar: Son of Hulk #7! Fortunately for Skaar, at the end of issue #6, he finally seized the Old Power of his ancestors, which allows him to channel the massive tectonic forces of the entire planet. Of course, whether that will be enough against the Power Cosmic remains to be seen.
But in addition to titanic physical clashes, the "Return of the Silver Savage" arc will hit Skaar with the biggest emotional trauma of his brief existence. Since his birth in the explosion that killed his mother, Skaar has known nothing but blood and fire. To survive in this brutal, war-torn world, he’s done nothing but fight every day of his life. Now he’ll begin to face the emotional consequences of that kind of existence and make some monumental decisions that will lead to some shocking twists.
CMix: Will the Son of Hulk ever meet the original?
GP: My lips are sealed. Except to say that sometimes good things come to those who wait. And that you might not even have to wait that long. (How’s that for a graceful tease?)