For longtime CBR readers, Joe Pokasi needs no introduction. For the past two years, the "Heroes" writer/producer could be found here alongside fellow writer/producer Aron Coleite answering your questions about the hit NBC television series. The scribe behind fan-favorite episodes like "Five Years Gone By" and "Fallout," Pokaski is now trying his hand with a whole new group of heroes, those of Jack Kirby and Marvel Comics with "Secret Invasion: Inhumans."
The events of "New Avengers: The Illuminati" revealed Black Bolt to have been replaced with a Skrull doppelganger. How does the Inhuman Royal Family react to such a revelation? Will fans soon be chanting "Save The Hypersonically Powered Genetically Engineered Off Shoot Of Humanity, Save The World?" CBR News sat down with Joe Pokaski to find out.
Black Bolt was revealed to have been replaced with a Skrull in "New Avengers: Illuminati"
Let's start with the basics, how did you get involved with Marvel? We sense a bit of Loebyness was at hand.
The hand of Loeb did indeed come into play. The writer's strike was looming and thoughts of unemployment and poor-houses began to haunt me - when ["Heroes" producer] Jeph Loeb sat down in the writer's room with me and said, "Let's talk about your future at Marvel Comics." I'd love to say it was because I'm a talented scribbler, but to say that denies the heart of gold on this guy. He knew that an extended period of not writing anything could very well drive me crazy. But he was also all about making sure I could feed my wife and son during this time of duress.
Cut to a month or so later. I get a call from Jeph. He's at the Marvel Creative Summit. His cell phone is fading in and out: "You're writing… (static, silence)… Inhumans. It's going (static) Bendis' (static) …'vasion. I told (static, silence, static) socks off." I pretend I understood it all and tell him I won't let him down, as I thanked the heavens for Jeph Loeb.
With so much secrecy around "Secret Invasion," what can you tell us about your miniseries?
I suppose I can start with what everyone already knows. Black Bolt was a mother&%*ing Skrull! This was a big deal in the Marvel Universe, so you can only imagine how this would hit the Inhumans. How long was their king a Skull? Could they have detected it? And is anyone else a Skrull?
What has always drawn me to the Inhumans is their loyalty. Despite the fact that they don't look at all alike, the royal family is arguably the most loyal family in the Marvel Universe. And from there, came the fundamental question that guided me in laying out the series: if Black Bolt, the pillar of the family is pulled out â€" does the otherwise loyal family fall apart? And can they get it together when they are needed to work together the most?
The Inhumans have ties with not only the Fantastic Four but the X-Men and the Avengers as well. Will there be any guest appearances in the book or is the Secret Invasion keeping Earth's heroes too busy for a visit to the blue area of the moon?
We'll certainly cross somewhat with the earth teams, although many of them, you'll learn have their hands full. But one of the first scenes in the first book is Tony Stark letting former Avengers teammate Crystal and her sister know about the Black Bolt Skrull. Needless to say, Medusa doesn't take it well. But from there, it takes the Inhumans in a very different direction â€" away from Earth.
With there being so many Inhumans, from Black Bolt and the royal family to the new generation of Inhumans like Alaris and Tonaja, which characters will be taking center stage?
Sadly, the new characters (while rocked by [previous "Inhumans" writers] Paul Jenkins and David Hine) had to take somewhat of a backseat. I really wanted to refocus on the Royal Family and the family dynamic when things go bad. Sisters Medusa and Crystal. Brothers Karnak and Triton, etc. Cousins all.
Readers last saw Attilan Maximus taking control after the events of "Silent War." How long has it been since these events and what's life been like on Attilan for the "average" Inhuman?
Life has actually been kind of quiet. Attilan is in the final stages of reconstruction from the big boom at the end of "Silent War," and King Maximus has realized that wearing the crown is far more boring than he imagined. But when the Black Bolt Skrull is revealed, Maximus uses the fear that comes with it to stir up the people in a a frenzy of paranoia.
This isn't the first time the Inhumans have had to deal with the Skrulls, with their origins intertwined with the Kree, mortal enemies of the Skrulls. What is their reaction on finding out their leader had been replaced by a Skrull?
Without going to much into spoilery specifics, the series is heavily-rooted into the Kree origins of the Inhumans. As I started thinking about the Inhumans and Secret Invasion â€" one point from their history stood out. These guys were actually created to fight the Skrulls in the Kree-Skrull War. The very first page of book 1 is a revisiting of this genesis story. But, for reasons unknown, the big Skrull fight never happened. Better late than never, I suppose.
"Heroes" is based on average characters having to deal with amazing powers while the Inhumans live a life in which amazing powers is just part of everyday life. How has this changed the way you approach the characters?
Surprisingly, not very much. For me, "Heroes" is a lot about Family. Peter and Nathan. Hiro and Kaito. Claire and H.R.G. Elle and her dad. Family is such a universal situation we're all stuck with, which is why I think I gravitate to it so much in the stories I tell. And the universality pays off when you can tell a story that involves lightning or flying and the viewer can relate to it, drawing from their own lives. And I'm trying to do the same thing with the Royal family.
Let's quickly go over the members of the royal family and get your take on how you see the character. Medusa?
If there is a character hit hardest by the Black Bolt Skrull, it's the queen. Not only must she wonder if she shared a bed with this Skrull, but she harbors a guilt of being unable to discern her real husband from an impostor. And Medusa has been the mouthpiece to the King for all these years, now it's on her to call he shots and make the tough decisions. But where does the queen end and grieving wife begin?
Crystal is the younger sister who flitted off to Earth, joining Superhero teams. Dating and even marrying humans. Now she's trying to reconnect with her Inhuman roots and stand by her sister's side when she needs her the most. We'll be reminded that powers-wise crystal is the strongest, but is her exposure to earth mentality an asset or a liability?
The Monk whose gift is detecting weakness let an impostor slip into the ranks. How could he let that happen? And do you make up for that?
This Gorgon is post "Silent War" â€" so he's more animal than ever. And this Animal side shows its teeth when the Skrull paranoia sets in. We'll see him butting heads with intellectual Karnak early on.
Triton has always fascinated me. Powerful, respected, but his potential only truly realized in water. I want to lean into that and show him as a fish out of water who loses then finds his place in his family.
When it hits the fan, we'll see what kind of leader he really is.
I can tell you, but then Brian Bendis will have to kill you.
"Secret Invasion: Inhumans" is part of this summer's mega-event "Secret Invasion." How does it feel that Marvel has entrusted you with your first work on such a high profile job?
Fools. All of them. Just kidding. I'm incredibly grateful, obviously. [Editor] Tom Brevoort took a chance in talking to me about the project, and he and [editor] Bill Rosemann have been patient with a TV hack trying his best to be a comic hack. And Brian Bendis couldn't be a nicer guy and better collaborator. And I think that again points to the power of Loeb. All of them put a huge trust in me and It's my responsibility to make them look like geniuses.
Being on such a high profile event can be a double-edged sword, though, presenting many challenges to writers such as having to tie-in to the larger story in a shared universe. Were here many limitations put on what you could or could not do within the pages of "Secret Invasion: Inhumans?"
Jesse Alexander ("Heroes" writer and producer who has a macro-storytelling sense that could accurately be defined as "visionary") often talks about the creative freedom of working "within a box." How it's liberating to know your boundaries, so you can be undaunted by limitless possibilities and just tell the best story within the box. Tying into "Secret Invasion" was an exercise in this very thing. I had some ideas of what I wanted to do â€" but the key was to service Bendis' overall vision, as well as tell a story that's compelling beyond it.
Brian Bendis entrusted me with reading the first couple books. It's unreal how good they are. It killed a few ideas, but inspired far stronger ones as well.
When comic book fans hear that a television writer has taken the reigns of one of their favorite title, one topic always seems to bubble to the surface and that is schedule delays. How far along in the series are you currently and has your return to writing for Heroes effected your comic book writing at all?
In a weird way â€" I think each sharpens the other. It's like working a different set of muscles. And I always love having more than one project to work on â€" when you're blocked in one, you can take a vacation in the other.
Comic book writers have a tendency to be a solitary lot while the television writer is used to the interaction of a writers' room. Has there been much adjustment for you in the process? What has the experience been like working with the folks at Marvel?
I expected exactly that. But then I got to talk to Tom Breevort, who spoke with such passion about the characters. Then to work with Bill Rosemann and Lauren Sankovitch â€" who have been tremendous collaborators. And even beyond that, I've been stealing feedback at "Heroes" from Loeb the legend and Aron Coliete (a good friend who is rocking the Ultimate X world and beyond). So I think it becomes almost as collaborative as television.
Having dipped your toe into the Marvel comics waters, any chance fans will be seeing more of your work in the mighty Marvel tradition?
Dammit, I hope so. So far the people, the entire experience at Marvel have been a dream come true. I grew up worshiping Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four so eight-year-old me is happy as can be. But more recently, what Joe Quesada has done with the Marvel Universe seems only to be making the stories and stakes better and better. Fun and provocative serial storytelling is exactly why I got into television and exactly why I think we're in an exciting age of comics. If they'll have me, I'd love to keep making mine Marvel (that's still their slogan, right?)