TIM SEELEY: Hey Greg! I think we've met a few times, including once when I drunkenly, and from a distance I mistook you for Joe Hill. Yeah...I know. Sigh.
GREG PAK: I remember that! I kept walking, just to be on the safe side. Also, I am a coward.
TS: Anyway, let's talk TUROK!
GP: Woo hoo!
TS: Having the European arrival involve using dinosaurs as means of eradicating the native population...that seems like an ingenious parallel to Europeans arriving with smallpox infected blankets. Is it tough to manage the very serious aspects of what happened historically in a book that has to be about a bad ass dude fighting dinosaurs?
GP: My favorite genre stories all work on multiple levels. On one level, MARTIAN CHRONICLES is about genocide. On one level, JAWS is about government corruption. I think science fiction and fantasy provide great areas to play with multiple themes like this. The trick is always to keep everything rooted in the characters and to never squish them around in weird ways to accommodate whatever theme you think you're working on. Once you let a preconceived theme take over at the expense of emotional truth, the story becomes a tedious "message" piece that no one really wants to read.
TS: Turok has been "rebooted" a number of times, and has transitioned from comics to video games and back. What makes Turok such a fluid and adaptable character and concept?
GP: I think the best genre characters like this are incredibly simple at first blush, which allows you to explore them in all kinds of different, more complex ways. Turok's a Native American who fights dinosaurs. That simple statement implies all kinds of crazy things about the world in which Native Americans and dinosaurs live at the same time and can lead to a multitude of very different, rich stories. It's like the Hulk -- guy gets angry and turns into a supremely strong monster. Again, very simple idea that a hundred different writers can take in a hundred different directions.
TS: You're kind of known as a guy who is able to really pull the essence of a character to the forefront, especially after your work on Hercules, and most recently Superman. What's your approach when you get a new assignment? Is there a lot of research to find that "soul?" Or do you come into a project knowing that and that's what guides you?
GP: Hey, thanks for the kind words!
And it's a combination of both. I'll often take on a project because the instant I heard about it, I felt it in my gut -- I just instinctively knew the character and what the story would become. Sure, the project will develop organically and collaboratively and my ideas will change and grow. But often from the beginning I can feel that click. The Hulk and Superman and Turok are a bit like that for me -- from the minute
I first started talking with editors about these characters, I felt at home. And then other times, I have to work at it longer to get under the characters' skins and figure out what's going on and what they really want and who the heck they really are. The toughest for me was probably Johann Schmidt, the orphan who eventually becomes the Red Skull, whose origin story we told in RED SKULL INCARNATE. I had to kind of work my way into that one, taking more time to read about habitual killers and psychopaths in order to figure out how he might have become who he is.
TS: With Storm coming up for you, and Turok under your belt, you're one of the writers breaking the ol' WHITE HETEREO MALE mold that has dominated superhero comics since the 60s. What's the importance of giving minority characters the proper starring spotlight in the modern era?
GP: Ha! Yeah, diversity in storytelling has always been hugely important to me. I grew up as a half-Korean kid reading Spider-man and Superman and loving them, and I still do. But I remember being hugely affected by characters like Storm and Robbie Robertson. When you grow up looking different from everyone around you, fictional stories can remind you that you still belong, that there's a place for you, that your dreams should never be limited by other people's racism. So yes, I think it's hugely important and worthwhile to diversify comics. The fact that Turok is Native American and Storm is black is a huge reason why I jumped on the chance to write those books.
TS: And why do you think there's a small but very vocal pushback against it?
GP: I've personally gotten no pushback from anyone about the non-white characters I've been writing. I love my readers -- they are FANTASTIC and I literally owe my entire career to them.
But of course, we've all seen racist rants online from people distressed about characters like Miles Morales and non-white actors being cast in THOR and FANTASTIC FOUR.
All I can say about that is... bless their hearts, but I don't care. The world is changing -- for the better -- when it comes to diversity in storytelling. That's good for everyone -- white people, too, because it opens all our hearts up to other people. And that's something to celebrate.
Make sure to check out TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER from Dynamite Comics! Check out the rest of the preview of issue 4, available in stores now, below!