From ‘Robot Stories’ to Jonathan Coulton: Six random questions with Greg Pak
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Today Greg Pak, writer of Batman/Superman, Vision Machine, Red Skull, Incredible Hercules, X-Treme X-Men and many other comics, steps up to the wheel.
Now let’s get to it …
1. At what particular point in your career — a specific comic, job offer, convention, etc. — did you realized you’d gone from wanting to be a comic creator to knowing you’re a comic creator?
I drew cartoons through high school and college and beyond. But I never thought of it as a career. I took it very seriously and loved it dearly, but it was always something I was doing on the side for fun. Then I went to film school, made a bunch of shorts, and finally shot my feature film Robot Stories. While I was on the festival circuit with Robot Stories, my agent called to report that Marvel was looking for new comics writers, and would I be interested? And my head kind of popped off. For whatever reason, I’d never thought of pursuing work in mainstream comics. I just didn’t know how the industry worked, and although I was reading comics all the time, I was focused on filmmaking as my career. But the minute it was suggested to me, it felt so right. And Marvel gave me a shot, and a year or so later the first issue of my Warlock mini, pencilled by Charlie Adlard, hit stores. I think when that book finally came out, I felt this comics writing thing might be legit for me. I had no idea how long I’d be able to keep going or whether I’d be offered more work, but I loved it and was ready to ride the train as long as humanly possible. So I thank all the editors and artists I’ve worked with and especially the readers and retailers for keeping me going so long!
4. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had (comic industry or otherwise)?
I got stress repetitive syndrome in my right wrist from hours of stapling envelopes to the backs of constituent letters on Capital Hill one lonely summer. I was also living in the suburbs, over an hour away by bus and subway from the office, so I didn’t really do much but work and commute and iron shirts. I did read a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub that summer, though, so it wasn’t a complete loss.
8. What five things would you absolutely have to have in your dream home?
1. A big kitchen. Not HUGE. Just big enough so three people can be working in different areas without blocking the refrigerator/stove or bumping into each other.
2. A backyard with full sun and a garden. Again, not huge. But enough space to not have to pick between growing vegetables or flowers. Asparagus patch!
3. Lots and lots and lots and lots of bookshelves. And lots more. I have tons of bookshelves right now — and three separate stacks of unshelved books on the floor. #protip: With regard to bookshelves, more is always better.
4. Room for several aquariums, including a 50 gallon tank. I kept multiple fish tanks when I was a kid — even got angel fish to spawn! Just this month, I finally got a tank as an adult. But it’s just a 10 gallon. I’d LOVE to find a space for a huge 50 gallon tank. But then I might have to get rid of some books…
5. Love, natch. All you need, right?
10. Who is your favorite band/musical performer, and why are they your favorite?
Jonathan Coulton. Full disclosure: I went to college with Jonathan and now we’re collaborating on a super-secret and incredibly cool creative project that we’ll probably announce in just a few weeks. So for business purposes, OF COURSE JONATHAN IS MY FAVORITE BAND/MUSICAL PERFORMER.
But the crazy thing is, he actually IS. I bought all his music a few years back and, long before we started about working together, found myself listening to his songs over and over and over again. They’re smart and funny and super catchy, and many of them feature lovable monsters and super-villains. I’ve always loved songs that tell stories, and Coulton’s got that in spades. I look at my “Most Played” column in iTunes, and Coulton’s “Skullcrusher Mountain,” “Curl,” and “Code Monkey” are right up there with “Seven Spanish Angels,” “Come Sail Away,” “Werewolves of London,” and “Big Spender.” As they should be.
19. What scarred you as a child, as in something like watching The Shining late night on cable when no one was home?
I have a memory of a terrifying television show or movie that featured an English boy in his pajamas being plunged into a nightmare of danger when the designs on the wallpaper of his bedroom turn into dancing, living flames and begin to burn his house down. I have never since been able to identify the actual show — maybe I dreamed it! — but it absolutely terrified me. Seriously, if this rings a bell with anyone, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
34. What kinds of reactions have you gotten from people when they’ve first learned you’re a comic creator?
The first question, almost every time, said with an exited smile, is “So do you draw the pictures?” When I say no, I write the stories and the dialogue, there’s inevitably a little glimmer of disappointment.
Artists, please know that you are loved and admired and considered to possess nearly magical powers by just about everyone I meet. (And by me, by the way.)