By Sophia Whittemore
AsAmNews Staff Writer
Greg Pak-many know him as a filmmaker and an inspiring AAPI comic-book-writer. I recently had the honor of interviewing him to learn more about the details of his career and body of work. Greg, who identifies as “Asian American, Korean American, and hapa”, writes books for Marvel Comics featuring X-Men and the Hulk, and has also contributed to the Teen Titans series for DC. He emphasizes that, throughout his entire career, it’s “been important to… tell stories with people of all backgrounds – and particularly important to write about Asian American protagonists.”
Growing up, Greg “could count the number of non-stereotypical Asian American characters in mainstream media on one hand”. So, ever since then, Greg’s made it his mission to get a more diverse range of characters and stories out into the world.
The latest installment of his ongoing series Mech Cadet Yu comes out January 3 along with a comic shop exclusive trade collection of the first four issues. You can find your local comic book shop at www.findacomicshop.com .
Takeshi Miyazawa, a Marvel/DC illustrator, helped Greg bring “Mech Cadet Yu” to life. “I admire Greg for his positivity, his compassion, and his drive to create.” He says, “he is constantly seeking new outlets for comics online and off, to championing Asian American representation, to fighting for just political causes; this man is a force of nature. It’s very infectious.”
Greg further reveals that he “wanted to be a writer from the time I was about nine, I think. Ray Bradbury was my hero. I just loved his short stories and started writing my own at a very young age. I’ve written and drawn all my life, but somewhere along the line I stopped thinking about pursuing writing as a career.”
Greg aimed to study political science in college, working for Ann Richards while she was running for Governor of Texas. He went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship to study history (he wanted to also become a politician.) However, instead, Greg did films with a student film group, and, in his words, “all the lights went on.”
He entered the NYU grad film program after Oxford, making a low-budget feature film called Robot Stories. After that film, Greg secured a meeting with none other than the amazing Marvel, and he took the first step of his journey writing comics. Finally, he could live his dream of becoming a writer, the same dream he’d harbored since reading Ray Bradbury when he was nine.
Speaking more on his amazing new comic book and the entire creative-comic-book-creating process behind it:
“Mech Cadet Yu tells the story of an Asian American janitor’s kid who accidentally bonds with a giant robot and joins the elite Sky Corps Academy. It’s an idea I’ve had kicking around in my head ever since I made Robot Stories, and eventually when I started making comics, I realized it could be a fantastic comic book series. Takeshi Miyazawa was the only artist I ever had in mind for the project. We co-created Amadeus Cho for Marvel back in the day, and I just love everything he does. He draws young heroes like nobody’s business, giving them real body language and emotion that’s incredibly compelling. And he loves giant robots, maybe even more than I do.
Greg and Tak did a 10-page story that introduced the characters and world for the Shattered Asian American comics anthology back in 2012. It was that 10 page story which Greg would one day give to Cameron Chittock, an editor at BOOM! Studios.
“He loved it, and a couple years later, here we are!
“But you’re really asking about how we make each issue, right? Well, I write the script, which describes what’s happening page by page and panel by panel. It includes descriptions of the action and dialogue for each panel. That goes to Cameron, who gives me suggestions for how to make it better. I revise and then it goes to Tak, who does layouts, which are rough sketches that show the placement and action of each page. Cameron and I peek at the layouts, give Tak any notes or suggestions we might have, and then Tak pencils and inks the actual pages. Then that black and white line art goes to our amazing colorist, Triona Farrell, who digitally colors the book. And then I do a dialogue pass while looking at the art, tweaking lines if necessary to make them fit better with the final art. And then those colored pages go to our letter, the great Simon Bowland, who digitally adds the word balloons, captions, and sound effects.”
The hero of Mech Cadet Yu is an underdog and Greg says that’s no coincidence. His favorite characters have always been underdogs. Stanford Yu is a janitor’s kid.
“He’s supposed to be cleaning up after the privileged, elite cadets at the school — not actually joining them. But he ends up bonding with a giant robot and earning his way into the program. So that creates this fun vibe of a scrappy outsider joining this elite military school and coming up against the various snobs and whatnot. And then, of course, all these kids have to rise to the occasion when the alien monsters known as the Sharg attack.”
Currently, Greg is writing the John Wick comic book for Dynamite, a prequel story before John Wick goes on his first big vendetta. (Fun fact: John Wick was brought onscreen by fellow hapa Keanu Reeves). Other projects of the incredible Greg include: Incredible Hulk for Marvel (starring Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk), and Weapon X and Weapon H also for Marvel. Weapon X involves a “hardcore team of loners” and antihero type villains. Weapon H debuts in spring and has a Wolverine-Hulk hybrid.
Greg’s imagination doesn’t stop there.
“I’ve also written a couple of children’s books, including ABC Disgusting, an alphabet book about disgusting things, which was also drawn by Tak! ABC Disgusting is actually on sale at www.gregpakshop.com now for half price — and all proceeds through the end of the year go to the Hispanic Foundation for Puerto Rico hurricane relief. Check it out!
You can also sign up for his newsletter.
Greg has written fiction ever since he was a child. He studied screenwriting at NYU (more formal training), which he believes was great preparation for one day writing his amazing comics.
Finally, Greg leaves on a note of advice to any young hopefuls who want to become comic-book-creators one day.
“I co-wrote a book called Make Comics Like the Pros with my buddy Fred Van Lente (which has a lot of my best comic-book-making advice in it. But, one practical piece of advice is this. Make lots of short projects. Sure, we all have our epic stories we want to tell. But while you’re coming up, it’s incredibly smart to actually finish a bunch of short projects first to hone your skills and figure out what the heck you’re doing. I came up through film and made literally dozens of short films, some with budgets of just a couple of hundred dollars, and I learned huge, key lessons from each one. In comics, I recommend making a bunch of really short comics. A four-page story, a six-page story. Heck, a two-page story. Stuff you can finish in a few days and then, ultimately, learn from.”
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