EVOLUTION IN SILVER – An Interview with Greg Pak
You might say Marvel Comics writer Greg Pak has been flirting with his new project from the moment the Hulk set foot on Sakaar in “Planet Hulk.” Now, with the first issue released yesterday, Pak and artist Stephen Segovia take on the Silver Surfer in a five-part limited series. Set in the wake of the Hercules-centered Chaos War storyline, it features the Surfer’s long-awaited return to Earth, as well as…oh, that’d be telling! I’d much rather let the illustrious Mr. Pak educate you on the rest…
DAILY P.O.P.: You’ve written the Silver Surfer before, in “Planet Hulk,” again in “Skaar: Son of Hulk,” and just recently again in “Chaos War.” How did you come to be involved in this new project?
GREG PAK: I’ve had my eye on the Surfer for years. I absolutely loved writing him in “Planet Hulk” and my awesome editor Mark Paniccia (who shares my love for all things Radd) and I have jumped at every opportunity to work on him ever since. So Mark and I had been bouncing around ideas for a solo story for a while and finally saw an opening in the wake of “Chaos War.” We workshopped the storyline in a great meeting that also included assistant editor John Denning, who’s become a key creative partner on the book. I think it was John, actually who first suggested the High Evolutionary as the antagonist. Marvel Senior Veep of Publishing Tom Brevoort stopped in to drop some science that helped enormously, and we were off to the races.
DP: Way back in our first interview I had you expound on your knowledge of the Hulk. How did you first become acquainted with the character, and what entices you about him to this day?
PAK: As a kid, I read and reread the Surfer’s origin story in that “Origins of Marvel Comics” trade a hundred times. I loved that wild [John] Buscema art, I loved the insane design of this silver dude on a surfboard sailing through the cosmos, and I loved that big, operatic emotional throughline of love, responsibility, and tragic sacrifice. Later I discovered the stories in which the Surfer’s colder, more removed from human emotion, and totally devoted to his terrible responsibility to finding planets for Galactus the Worldeater to consume. That incarnation of the Surfer chilled me — but it also compelled me. Because you always know that a passionate young Zenn-Lavian named Norrin Radd is somewhere underneath that silver skin. That idea of a mere mortal forced to take on utterly inhuman responsibilities stuck with me — and it’s a big part of the current miniseries.
DP: What can you tell us about the Surfer and his world as your story begins?
PAK: In the moments before our story starts, the Surfer and Galactus just helped Hercules save the universe from the onslaught of the Chaos King. But Galactus was terribly injured in the battle. So the Surfer throws him into the Sun to feed and rest. And now, with some time to kill while he waits for his master, the Surfer finds himself drifting back to Earth.
The Surfer is in his detached, cosmically aware mode — he remembers human emotions, but he can’t really feel them. He just knows that to help the universe endure, he must continue to serve Galactus in his ongoing quest to consume worlds. So upon arriving on Earth, he avoids the various superhero conflicts he sees and settles down to chill in the Rio Grande Valley. But within a short amount of time, he’s pulled into a puny human crisis — and then the High Evolutionary arrives and things really get hairy.
The compelling core of the story to me is this chance to tell a cosmic story with the Surfer that takes place in the world of everyday human beings. That contrast is pure gold and lets us ask the big questions of just who the man is beneath that silver skin.
DP: Galactus and the High Evolutionary, two characters at very different ends of the Marvel Universe, are on the cover to the first issue. How do you see these characters, and what in particular could bring the Silver Surfer to the High Evolutionary’s attention?
PAK: Galactus is the World Eater, a cosmic entity who consumes entire planets. Those with cosmic awareness know that Galactus’s destructive feeding is essential to the balance of the universe. But from the point of view of a puny human, he’s a horrific force of nature, the personification of destruction itself. In contrast, the High Evolutionary is a mortal man who used his mastery of genetics to endow himself with monumental powers and who has devoted himself to experimenting with and perhaps striving to perfect life itself. So Galactus and the High Evolutionary become natural thematic foils for each other — one seems devoted to destruction and death; the other to creation and life. Of course, in practice, it’s debatable which of these entities is the real villain. And that may just be the challenge facing the Surfer as this story progresses…
It’s worth noting that years ago, the High Evolutionary tried to procure a sample of the Surfer’s DNA for his experiments [in "Silver Surfer Annual" #1]. In the current series, the High Evolutionary has his sights set on the Surfer again — but we’re about to discover he has a much more concrete and terrifying plan up his sleeve.
DP: Who else might we be seeing from the various corners of the Marvel Universe during the miniseries? Anyone familiar to the Surfer’s past?
PAK: Suzi Endo, aka Cybermancer, who was in my “War Machine” series a couple of years ago, plays the key supporting role in the “Silver Surfer” book. She’s become the sci-op for the Organization of American States, charged with establishing first contact with any alien entities south of the US border. Star-crossed romance, folks!
And in issue #4, the new FF hit the scene in a big way. Check out the gorgeous Lee Weeks cover:
DP: Speaking of awesome artwork, it’s time to talk about the artist on this project. Stephen Segovia has done some work assisting Carlo Pagulayan on “Planet Hulk,” as well as had his own solo projects, and now he’s the artist on the Surfer mini. How did he become involved in the project, and how’s it looking so far?
PAK: My editor Mark Paniccia introduced me to Stephen’s work, and as soon as I saw it, I knew we were onto something special. Stephen has brought the cosmic with a vengeance and at the same time made the intimate, human moments in the book feel real and vital. I should also plug Harvey Tolibao, who’s coming on board with issue two and will be leapfrogging a bit with Stephen in the pencilling department. Harvey’s style is very complementary with Stephen’s but he’s also doing his own thing, bringing his own vibe to the book, which is a perfect match for the wildly altered circumstances the Surfer finds himself in at the end of issue #2.
DP: The Surfer’s been around since 1966, with various short-lived series (and one that lasted 13 years), and even his own animated series. What are the keys to the Surfer’s appeal and longevity?
PAK: Kirby’s amazing design is key. It’s the kind of brilliant creative leap that just shouldn’t work. Silver dude on a surfboard? But it’s absolutely awesome and was instantly iconic from the Surfer’s first appearance back in the day.
But even more importantly, there’s something enormously compelling about the sense of heroic sacrifice and romantic longing that permeates the character. Anyone who’s ever lost anything (and who hasn’t?) can relate.
DP: What are some of your favorite Surfer tales of yesteryear, and why? (You may interpret this also as, which stories do you recommend to readers wishing to be more familiar.)
PAK: My favorite single issue is probably “Silver Surfer” #5 from the original 1968 series. I just love the Al B. Harper character and the Surfer’s interactions with him. I just love stories in which these wildly fantastical Marvel heroes encounter everyday people in the Marvel Universe in emotionally compelling stories. That’s solid gold stuff, using unexpected contrasts to simultaneously make the superheroes more mindblowing and more human. In a funny way, that’s not too far off from what we did with Hercules and Amadeus Cho [in Incredible Hercules]. If I could figure out a non-gimmicky way to bring Al back, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
DP: Well said. With your noted work on the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Namor and now the Surfer, it seems you’d be a perfect fit for reassembling the Defenders for a project. What are your feelings about the classic non-team?
PAK: Oh, I love the Defenders. But I have a pretty darn full plate at the moment. I just feel pretty lucky to have written all those great characters at different times and to be writing this crazy “Silver Surfer” story right now.
DP: Speaking of a full plate, what other interesting projects on the horizon can you tease?
PAK: “Monster Love,” a horror screenplay of mine, has been picked up by the legendary Joe Dante (“Gremlins,” “The Howling”) as his next directing project. Yes, I’m kind of freaking out.
And Fred Van Lente and I are co-writing a brand new “Alpha Flight” maxi-series, pencilled by Dale Eaglesham! An introductory “point one” issue hits in May (pencilled by Ben Oliver), followed by the regular series kicking off in June. Ever wonder what would happen if Canada were taken over by a fascist government? Well, we’re about to find out!
DP: I’m sure we’ll be talking to you again before too long about those projects in-depth. Thanks for your time!
Silver Surfer #1 is now on sale at comic shops everywhere for the low, low price of $2.99 USD. To find a store near you, call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK or visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com.
I’d like to again thank Gary Miller for contributing this interview to the Daily P.O.P. and of course regular visitor King Hulk Marco for introducing me to Gary in the first place. Please visit Gary’s blog for more fun and informative articles!