Greg Pak, writer of a whole lot of comics, answered The Outhouse's questions. Curious? Read on.
A little bit ago, writer Greg Pak (Incredible Hulk, Incredible Herc, Dead Man's Run, Vision Machine, Red Skull, Astonishing X-Men, and a bunch of other stuff) used his twitter feed (@gregpak) to pimp out his new book from Aspen Comics, Dead Man's Run. Not only did he send out free copies of DMR #0 but he also stated that he would be up for interviews, and, like the starf*cker I am, I jumped at the opportunity.
Below are the emailed questions and answers from Mr. Pak, when appropriate I have added the Outhouser (if not me) who offered the question in the "call for questions" thread.
The questions were divided up into three sections: Creator Owned, Marvel, and Miscellaneous. Enjoy.
Creator Owned Books:
The Outhouse: For those of us who haven't seen any solicitations how would you quickly sell Dead Man's Run?
Greg Pak: It's a jailbreak from Hell! Literally! A supernatural action story in which a young cartographer heads down below to rescue his sister, the only innocent in the maximum security prison known as Hell. Check it out at http://gregpak.com/dead_mans_run and http://gplus.to/samtinker
OH: Vision Machine? (same question)
GP: A techno-thriller in which a trio of friends grapple with the amazing potential and terrifying dangers created by the iEye, Sprout Computers' latest world-changing piece of personal technology. Download it for free at http://visionmachine.net !
OH: What do you see as the role of #0 books, such as the one we reviewed (here and here) for Dead Man's Run?
GP: It's a great way to introduce folks to a new story for a slightly discounted cover price. For me as a writer, it's a fun challenge to tell a prologue that entices readers with an introduction to the world and action of the story -- but that also has a real beginning, middle, and end and is satisfying in its own right as a full story.
OH: When it comes to creator owned work like DMR and VM, what process do you use to find the right artist for each product?
GP: Finding the right artist is a lot like casting a film. The world is full of brilliant actors. But you're looking for the person who brings that special something to the specific role you have in mind. In the case of "Vision Machine," I'd worked with R.B. Silva before on my "War Machine" run, and I knew he had a special ability to draw both big crazy sci fi stuff and characters who look like real people. He also knew how to deliver deadpan humor, which I knew would be a big part of the book. Similarly, Tony Parker was a great match for "Dead Man's Run" because he knows how to draw realistic looking, real-world people -- and at the same time, he has that crazy imagination and skill to world-build with us as we create this new vision of Hell. It's that contrast of very believable character designs and expressions with totally fantastical situations and environments that make both projects work.
I'll also say that a very important, practical consideration is looking at an artist's ability to make deadlines. And an artist's passion for a project means a great deal to me. When an artist really cares about a story, he or she often turns in career-best work. That's where I always want to be, on a team where we're all so excited we're pushing ourselves to try new things and put out the best comics of our lives.
(Oh, and just to clarify, "Dead Man's Run" is independent, but not exactly creator-owned. Aspen, Valhalla, and I are all partners on the project -- "creator-owned," in contrast, tends to imply the writer/artist own the property outright.)
OH: Are there plans to revisit the Vision Machine universe (reviewed here)?
GP: Absolutely. I'm on the verge of nailing down a deal to take a very exciting next step with "Vision Machine." More news soon at gregpak.com!
OH: What made you chose Aspen Comics for Dead Man's Run and Pak Man Productions for Vision Machine rather than Icon, Vertigo, or any other publisher?
GP: "Dead Man's Run" began as an idea of Ben Roberts, a creative executive at Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla. Ben and Gale pulled me on board and then they reached out to Aspen, with whom they were producing another comic series. I was thrilled with their choice because I'd spent some time with Frank and Vince and Peter over at Aspen and had hoped to collaborate with them some day.
"Vision Machine" was actually funded through a grant from the Ford Foundation, which was interested in supporting a story that would help independent media makers imagine the challenges and opportunities created by changing technology, politics, and society over the next fifty years. So from the beginning, I knew I'd self-publish that project through my company, Pak Man Productions, rather than seek out a publisher.
OH: From what I can tell, Pak Man Productions is your own online publishing company, are there plans to expand into physical books?
GP: We actually printed 10,000 copies of "Vision Machine" as a collected trade paperback, which I've been giving out for free at conventions and sending to comic shops and film festivals and other organizations around the world. So, yes, I guess! ;-)
Whether I'll do more self-published comics projects like this remains to be seen. But I've had a blast with "Vision Machine."
OH: I noticed that the complete Vision Machine series is free all over the place for download, is this how you see future of comic books? To clarify, are you preparing for comic books to move primarily to a digital instead of a physical product?
GP: Since "Vision Machine" was funded by the Ford Foundation, it was always designed to be given away for free, and it's been a ton of fun giving it away. But it's not necessarily a particularly good model for other independent comics projects that need to make their budget back through sales.
I am a huge believer in the potential for digital sales -- as more opportunities to buy digital comics legally become available, more and more people are getting used to doing it. If iTunes can accustom millions of people to buying music online, it should be possible to get a big chunk of comics readers paying a few bucks rather than illegally downloading pirated copies.
I don't think print will die. Conventions remain a huge part of comics culture, and part of the collector thrill is having a physical copy that you can save or get signed. And there's always something special about giving and sharing physical books. But I will agree that as more people get used to reading digital comics, print sales of individual issues may suffer. The hope is that in the fulness of time, the vastly expanded audience that can be nurtured through the convenience of digital distribution will replace those sales and maybe even expand the audience for hard copies.
OH: Do you have a tablet for reading digital books? If so, which one and what can you tell us about what made you chose that model?
GP: I have a first generation 16 GB Wifi iPad. I bought it the day it became available for presale online -- I was that eager to see how this thing worked for reading comics. I've been very happy with the iPad -- I'm a big Mac user, so it's been seamless synching it with my other machines. And I love reading comics on it. My only critique right now is that I'm wishing I had more storage space on the thing. I purposefully bought the cheapest iPad available when it first came out -- I didn't know how good it would actually be and when I might want to upgrade. And it's worked just fine for me. But the relatively small storage space on this model means I have to pick and choose what media I put on the machine now rather than just run around with everything on it.
OH: Were there any aspects of the Hulk that you left undone or did you pretty much accomplish everything you wanted with the character? (submitted by MistaT)
GP: I had a great 5 1/2 year run with the character and got to run with almost everything I wanted. But I did have a few stories I wasn't able to slot in. I wanted to do a gangster-style story, with Banner as a godfather figure in New York. And I wanted to do an epic fantasy tale with Strange, Hulk, and a few other characters in a transformed swords-and-sorcery world here on Planet Earth. Maybe some day. ;-)
OH: What makes Fred Van Lente such a great writer to collaborate with? (submitted by GLX)
GP: Fred is incredibly smart, very funny, and extremely fast. He's also the opposite of a prima donna. We're both very practical collaborators and shameless about jumping on what works -- if one of thinks he's right, he'll fight to the end. But once it becomes apparent that there's a better idea out there, he'll turn on a dime and embrace it.
Also, we both like eating in cheap diners in New York City, where we do much of our best brainstorming.
OH: What are the future plans for Amadeus Cho and Incredible Herc? (submitted by habitual)
GP: I definitely have more stories I'd like to tell with both characters, but exactly where and how those stories will play out remains to be seen. In the meantime, though, I just found out you can get Heroclix of both characters, so we've got that going for us! ;-)
OH: What comic books do you read on a regular basis?
GP: Walking Dead, Atomic Robo, Sfar and Trondheim's Dungeon books, and a slew of Marvel titles.
OH: What characters that you haven't written do you want to write?
GP: I've been lucky enough to write a huge number of Marvel characters during my seven years in comics thus far. But I'm always up for more Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, and Storm.
OH: What are your thoughts on DC's relaunch? (submitted by GLX)
GP: They've done a tremendous job and appear to be maintaining pretty great numbers. Gotta have a lot of respect for them for taking such huge risks and making it happen.
OH: What do you feel has been your strongest work? (submitted by GLX)
GP: I'm probably most proud of "Planet Hulk," "Magneto Testament," "Red Skull," and the Hercules/Amadeus Cho stories.
OH: On the flipside, what do you feel is your weakest work? (submitted by GLX)
GP: I'll never tell. ;-)
Honestly, I try not to bad talk my own work in public, partly because all of my collaborators work their hearts out for months on every book. And I don't want to slam a book and inadvertently sound like I'm disparaging anyone's work. And secondly, at every convention, someone comes up asking me to sign one of those books I might be secretly less than thrilled to have on my resume. And that fan LOVES the book. I don't want to tarnish anyone's enjoyment by pre-critiquing something.
OH: Considering Marvel's cinema expansion and your background in film, would you ever consider working on a Marvel film or two? (submitted by GLX)
GP: That would be a dream come true. Maybe someday. ;-)
OH: Many of our posters are interested in breaking into the comic book industry, what advice can you give for them?
GP: Ah. The biggest question in comics! I came up through independent film rather than comics, but I think my advice is pretty much the same: Read and read and read and write and write and write. Then rewrite. And rewrite some more. Then actually make a film (or comic book) on your own, by hook or by crook, and get it out into the world. Then study reactions to see how well you reached your audience with your story. Then do it all again and again and again, pushing yourself to get better with each project. It's a long, long process to go from bad to okay to good, a process I and every other pro is still working on every day. But when you actually make something that you can honestly say is good, you'll know -- it's the moment Ray Bradbury describes in his famous "Drunk and In Charge of a Bicycle" essay, when he finally produced a good short story after months and months and months of writing.
And then, once you have something you honestly believe in, do everything you can to get it out into the world. When I was graduating from film school, I submitted my shorts to hundreds of festivals and traveled in person to as many of them as I could afford. I made friends with fellow filmmakers and festival programmers and community organizers, all who became hugely important years later when I came out with my feature film "Robot Stories." I even started building contacts with press people and reviewers. Those relationships you build on small projects can definitely lead to bigger things. And the buzz you get for small projects is what helps you build credibility in looking for paid work.
OH: Are there any future books we should be looking out for either by you or anyone else?
GP: My buddies Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey are coming out with "Comic Book Comics" #6 next week, which is a very funny and hugely informative cartoon history of comics. And "Avenging Spider-Man" from Zeb Wells and Joe Mad is just amazing. I got an advance sneak of issue #2, and I'm a big, big fan.
My own upcoming books include "Astonishing X-Men" #44, which hits next week, with gorgeous art by Mike McKone, and Storm and Cyclops kissing on the cover. What's up with THAT? Buy the issue and find out!
Also "Red Skull," "Herc," and "Alpha Flight" are all wrapping up in huge ways over the next few months. And "Dead Man's Run" #1 hits stores in January! As always, for more, check www.gregpak.com and twitter.com/gregpak.
Written or Contributed by: GHERU
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