Exclusive Greg Pak Interview: Storm, Diversity, Fuzzy Gay Romance

Storm is one of the most recognizable comic characters, ever.  Since her debut in 1975, Storm has been many things:  A leader of the X-Men, a queen consort, a goddess, the head of the Morlocks, an Avenger and even a member of the Fantastic Four (remember that, written by the legendary Dwayne McDuffie!).  Although she has starred in movies, TV shows, limited series and many team books, she has never had her own ongoing series.  Starting this summer, Storm is getting her own monthly, baby!  And it will be written by Greg Pak, the man who won the award for the most genuinely nice person in comics (I just made this award up).  This cat has written a wide array of Marvel’s most iconic characters including the X-men, Magneto, Hulk, Iron Man, Hercules and War Machine (as well as writing Superman and Batman for the Distinguished Competition).  Also, this dude is a freakin’ genius; he went to Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar.  Seriously, this dude is smarter that your entire family- and I’m talking generations of them put together.  At this year’s inaugural Special Edition: NYC event, I had the opportunity to talk with Pak about Storm’s series, diversity in comics, Fuzzy gay romance, Wolverine keeping his hairy butt away from Ororo, Black Panther and Storm getting back together (wishful thinking on my part), his dream casting for Storm, his political ambitions (or lack thereof) and the importance of storytelling.

UTF: Okay. What can you tell me about Storm?storm scottie young

“The book comes in July. It’s drawn by the brilliant Victor Ibáñez. It basically features Storm going places no other X-Men would ever dare. She’s had a lifetime of experience that has made her a part of different communities in the world and given her tremendous empathy with people at every level of life. She’s going to walk through walls other people don’t even know existed, so she’s going to kick some butt in many different areas and get into trouble and it’s going to be some big, good, dramatic, fun stuff.”

UTF: You’ve referred to her as your dream character and talked about how you connected to her as a minority. What were you favorite Asian-American comic characters growing up?

“I’ll be honest. I did not read many Asian-American characters growing when I was growing up. Off the top of my head I can hardly remember any. You know what I’m saying? One of the first things I did when I got to Marvel was create Amadeus Cho. You know what I mean? A great American kid genius who gets into trouble. There are lots of Asian characters and that’s great, but there are very few Asian-American characters.

“That’s an important difference there in fiction. I’m all for more variety of all kinds of topics. It’s not like when I was a kid I was crying because oh my god why aren’t there any Asian-American characters? I love Superman. I love Peter Parker. I love Storm. I loved all these different characters, but at the same time we live in an incredibly diverse world and we should see that in the comics as well as everywhere else.”

UTF: Absolutely. What do you think we’re still lacking right now?

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough to work … I look back on my career and it’s crazy because I’ve just been lucky enough to write comics with lead characters of all backgrounds. I wrote the War Machine book for Marvel; I wrote the Magneto Testament origin story, an African-American character and a Jewish character. Right now, I’m writing Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Dynamite which is a Native American hero headlining a book.

“Every once in a while I’ll get a call and I can’t say no because when am I ever going to get another call to write a book that stars a Native American character? I’m clearly going to do that. I wrote Eternal Warrior. It was about a Sumerian. There’s always room for more, and the great thing is that there are tons of people right now who are working great, interesting, diverse casts in all their works. I feel like it’s a great time for us right now.”

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UTF: In X-Treme X-Men, when Wolvie started hooking up with Herc, did you get any funny reactions? What was the best reaction you got from that?

“I got a call or an email or I think actually they reached out to me through Twitter, but it was from a … I think it was either an Italian or a Brazilian site for bears. They were very excited about seeing gay, very manly, hairy gay men comics, so I did an interview with them because… it was great, you know what I mean? That’s that thing, that relationship just made sense to me, you know what I mean? Just the way we built up Howlett in X-Treme X-Men and Hercules.

“Hercules has always been bisexual, right? This was an alternate universe Hercules and an alternate universe Howlett. I love those two characters and then I realized they loved each other and it just made sense to put them together, but I realized it just scratched an itch some folks should just not … In that particular time, those gay characters also I guess were not necessarily common. What I always find interesting about … I was in New York City and even just looking around the Con here, just take a look around.

“It’s insanely diverse. Everybody has some ridiculously specific background story that … I’m a half Korean guy from Dallas, you know what I’m saying? Everybody here has some kind of story like that, you know what I mean? Everybody’s hugely diverse and nobody is generic, you know what I’m saying? All the characters in the population of comics, why not make them as diverse as the real world?”

UTF: Absolutely. So, with Wolverine dying, can you promise me that he will never go near Storm again?

“I can make no promises of any kind. It’s comics. Anything is possible, but I will say that there will be at least one Wolverine-Storm scene in the upcoming Storm book. I will also say that in Issue 3 of the Storm series, you will see the return of an old love who is not Logan and so it’s something to anticipate.”

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UTF: Are you promising me she will marry Black Panther again?

“I am making no promises. I shall make no promises. I can neither confirm or deny anything.”

UTF: If you had to recast Storm in the next X-Men movies, who would you choose?

Lupita looks much more Storm-esque than Halle ever did.

“Oh, Lupita. She’s amazing. She’s not only tremendous, but she’s got all that. She’s got all that joy and strength. She would be tremendous.” 

UTF: Last question, you write a lot about poverty and human development online. If you weren’t a comic writer, what would you be doing instead?

“That’s a big question. There was a point when I was in college … I majored in political science when I was in college. I grew up writing stories. I always thought I was going to be a writer. When I was in college, for whatever reason, I thought I was going to go into politics. I actually went back to Texas and worked for Ann Richards when she was running for governor back in the day which was amazing. That’s still part of me.

“At a certain point I realized I wasn’t really happy working in politics. Also the fact that the specific work I was doing while it was great was not necessarily … there were a lot of people who could have been doing that and who would do that, basically that there was a big part of me that needed to write, needed to tell stories. I went to film school and I became a film maker and then I became a comic writer after that.

“I think that kind of work made me happier. It was more in my bones, flexed all my muscles, but at the same time a lot of the things that motivated me to be interested in politics were things that drive me in storytelling, you know what I mean? I talk about Superman sticking up for the underdog. I think that’s what, as a writer, I try to do too, you know what I mean?

“You’re trying to learn about and understand people from all different backgrounds and places and tell stories that connect in some way and help people … When we’re writing, we’re struggling to understand the world, you know what I’m saying, and sharing that experience will hopefully help other people as they’re making those same kinds of efforts. This sounds a little silly but because you don’t want to overplay what we do in creating pop culture, but there’s a way that stories bring people together, you know what I mean? That’s what makes us human. Storytelling is probably the most intensely human thing that we do. It’s something maybe that humans do that nobody else does.”