REFLECTIONS: Talking "Battlestar Galactica" with Greg Pak

Reflections, Volume 2, Number 17

By Robert Taylor, Staff Writer

I hate movie and TV adaptations in comics.

With the rare exception of a "Fray" or a "Tales of the Vampire," I avoid them more that my smelly Aunt Ida (yes, Aunt Ida, if you are reading this, you need deodorant).

Still, I can't wait until the first issue of Dynamite's ongoing "Battlestar Galactica" series (an adaptation of that amazing Sci-Fi network show) to hit the stands, written by Greg Pak who's signed on for the first thirteen issues.

I'm fairly certain a lot of this has to do with the writer, Greg Pak. I didn't want to like his work. I was more skeptical of his "Phoenix: Endsong" miniseries than I was "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." But then Pak did something that surprised most of the industry: he provided an emotionally grounded, fascinating character study that worked on both a cosmic and intimate level.

Hmm…an emotionally grounded fascinating character study that works on both a cosmic and intimate level…. Does that definition fit "Battlestar Galactica," or is it just me?

Anyway, I'm throwing all caution to the wind and admitting that I think this is going to be a damn fine book, and Pak was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk up his newest release.

Robert Taylor: Hey Greg, how's life?

Greg Pak: Pretty good, thanks! Congrats to you, by the way, on getting the column picked up by CBR.

RT: I'm like a roach, you can't kill me no matter how many shoes you hit me with. So how'd you get the "Battlestar Galactica" gig?

GP: After "Phoenix: Endsong" came out, Dynamite called to see if I might be interested in working together. When I learned that they had the rights to make a comic book based on the new "Battlestar Galactica" series, it was all over -- I was hooked.

RT: What drew you to the book?

GP: I love the show. Loved the original series as a kid; love the new series now. Could not say no. I also was impressed with what Dynamite had done with getting "Red Sonja" out into the world and had faith that they'd do everything they could to make the "Battlestar Galactica" book work creatively and reach as wide an audience as possible.

RT: What about the television series has turned you into such a big fan?

GP: It combines big science fiction ideas with compelling characters and an incredibly high stakes plot. It deals with thorny questions about power and paranoia and racial and sexual politics in a subtle and dramatically compelling way. It's brilliantly written, shot, edited, scored, and acted. And the Cylons are pretty darn cool.

RT: No doubt! Now, when does the comic series take place?

GP: It fits right into the continuity of the show, falling in the middle of the second season, right after the return from Kobol and before the arrival of the Pegasus.

RT: Most comic book adaptations of TV shows go easily under the radar. This one has huge advance numbers and major buzz, getting articles in magazines like TV Guide. Why do you think this is so?

GP: The fact that the television show's been so incredibly well received and reviewed certainly has a lot to do with it. But huge credit is due to the folks at Dynamite who have hustled like nobody's business to raise awareness about the book.

RT: So what are your plans for the series?

GP: Look for real emotional development for key characters, exploration into the origins of the Cylons which you won't find anywhere else, and an enormous twist at the end of Issue #0 which fans of the first season won't believe and which leads right into issue #1.

RT: What do you see as the difficulties with capturing the tone of of a television show like "Battlestar Galactica?"

GP: A big part of the impact of the show comes from its staccato editing, mobile camera work, and haunting score. Those aren't easy elements to reproduce on the comic page. But Nigel Raynor's layouts and pencils do a great job of evoking the emotional turmoil and tension behind the scenes, and the amazing coloring work by David Curiel has given the comic an almost tactile atmosphere, which helps evoke the feel of the show.

RT: Do you have a favorite character?

GP: Adama.

RT: How about a least favorite character?

GP: No such animal - I love 'em all.

RT: In the comic, which characters do you plan on working with the most?

GP: In the first arc, Adama, Starbuck, Apollo, and a character whom I cannot name for fear of spoilers provide the heart and soul of the story. Gaeta and Dualla and Roslin have key scenes as well. Starting with Issue #4, Sharon is going to be a major player.

RT: What concepts and themes presented in "Battlestar: Galactica" this far interest you the most?

GP: The new "Battlestar Galactica" actually shares many of the themes of "Robot Stories," a feature film I wrote and directed several years ago. Both projects use questions about the emotional lives of robots to get to the core of what makes us human. Both projects depict flawed characters struggling to find their way in the world. Both projects depict a multiracial cast in stories that on the surface have nothing to do with race. So I'm very much at home grappling with the ideas of "Battlestar: Galactica."

RT: You mentioned that you felt artist "Nigel Raynor's layouts and pencils do a great job of evoking the emotional turmoil and tension behind the scenes." Tell us a bit more about Nigel.

GP: Nigel has great storytelling skills and a real sense for subtle character moments. That's hugely important for a book like "Battlestar Galactica" that depends as much on tiny character interactions as it does on fireworks and explosions.

RT: How has it been working with Dynamite?

GP: Dynamite's been great. They're doing everything they can to make the book succeed artistically and commercially - my hat's off to 'em.

RT: Let's finish up here by talking with some non "Battlestar: Galactica" thoughts. What comics can you never miss?

GP: "Scott Pilgrim." "Daredevil." "Runaways."

RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched/changed your life? What was it?

GP: Whoa. Big question! I'm moved by great comics almost every day -- the fact that comics can me viscerally and emotionally is exactly why I read them. A comic book that changed my life? No doubt "Peanuts" influenced my sense of humor as a kid. And comics like "Micronauts" and "Akira" and "Nausicaa" have nurtured my love of epic storytelling. And the mythic elements of the great comic heroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk no doubt affected me in all kinds of subliminal ways as I was growing up.

RT: If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

GP: I have a few creator-owned ideas which I'm developing - can't spill the beans about any of them yet, but one of them would probably be the one I'd pick. But out of the preexisting characters/properties I've been working on, I'd have to say "Incredible Hulk." I'm having a huge amount of fun writing "Planet Hulk," and editor Mark Paniccia and I have some big ideas and plans for our big green buddy through "Planet Hulk" and beyond - I honestly can't get enough of the character.

RT: Who would be your drawing partner?

GP: I can't pick! Carlo Pagulayan, who's drawn the first four issues of the "Planet Hulk" epic, and Aaron Lopresti, who's drawing the next four, are both amazing pencilers who are an absolute pleasure to work with. And the cover artist Ladronn is a genius -- I'd love to get the chance to work with him on interiors one day.

RT: What's the best comic book movie ever made?

GP: The first "Superman" movie. Lois Lane's spoken word poetry is a thing of horror and beauty.

RT: What is your weirdest convention experience?

GP: Walking onto the floor of Wizard World Los Angeles and seeing the giant "Planet Hulk" banner over the Marvel booth was pretty surreal.

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

GP: I recently picked up "Taran Wanderer" by Lloyd Alexander, a book I hadn't read since I was a kid. And while I was re-reading it, I realized I'd remembered very few specific details about the characters or story. But I had a very strong moral memory of the book, if that makes sense. The tone, the feel, the ethos of the book had really stuck with me -- it's a coming of age story in which a young man learns what really matters in the world, learns the value of honest work and building community over glory and honors. And I think that message really resonated with me as a kid -- maybe helped become the person I am today. So to answer your question, I'd be thrilled to be remembered as someone who told stories that resonated on a real, human level; that in some way helped contribute to our struggle to figure out what just we're supposed to be doing here anyway.

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