Greg Pak has a brand new series, Kingsway West out with artist Mirko Colak and colorist Wil Quintana. We had a great opportunity to chat with Greg about his influences for the new series, how he goes about creating such a vast and intriguing world, and a little bit about how the idea of Kingsway West eventually came to life at Dark Horse!
BIC: Kingsway West seems to pull very heavily from a few genres, but most distinctly fantasy and westerns. Was there a specific reason you wanted to put those two things together?
Greg: I’d been working on a story about a Chinese gunslinger in the Old West for a couple of decades (seriously!), and had always thought of it as a straight, historically accurate Western. But when I started talking with editor Jim Gibbons at Dark Horse about it, he asked if there was something more that I might be able to bring to the story. And I knew what he was getting at. This is comics; we can do anything. Was there some other angle, something extra that could take this story to another level? So I found myself thinking about what I loved about Westerns and I thought about all the outdoor adventure stories I loved as a kid — and I started thinking about fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons and all that fun stuff. And so we’ve ended up with a story about a Chinese gunslinger searching for his wife in an Old West overrun with magic, and I couldn’t be happier.
BIC: You’ve created a fantastic world for this story, what was the process of building said world and its history like? How much work did it take for you to get to a point where you were satisfied with it?
Greg: Well, I’ve been thinking about this story in one form or another for about half of my life, so it’s taken a while. 😉
But the fantastical elements came into the story for the first time a little under two years ago. Figuring out how it would all work and all the details of the world took months and months and months. I thought I had it cracked about 18 months ago. But then I dove back in and rethought almost everything. The core story of gunslinger trying to find his wife has always remained the same. But the details of the world have grown and developed in some pretty spectacular ways. Huge credit goes to artist Mirko Colak and colorist Wil Quintana, who have made all of this come to life. And both Jim and the book’s current editor Spencer Cushing have been amazing partners and sounding boards.
BIC: The war that gets mentioned seems to be the catalyst for a lot of the conflict that we’ll be seeing in this story. What went into the decision to make China and Mexico the biggest players in that clash?
Greg: I’d done a lot of reading about the history of California and was really struck by the mix of cultures and people there in the 19th Century. The basic premise of our fantastical world is that in 1849, miners in Northern California didn’t find gold — they found red gold, a mysterious substance responsible for “extramundial phenomenon.” Red gold is the world’s most valuable resource and thirteen years of war between the Chinese queen of Golden City and the República de los Californios ensues. As the story progresses, we’ll reveal more about other groups and communities in the Americas and what kinds of conflicts are at the core of this new frontier. It’s a great way to explore the tragedy and glory of the American frontier from a totally different angle.
BIC: How much input did you have while working with Mirko Colak? Did you just hand him the script and have him do his thing or was there a back and forth between you two?
Greg: Mirko was on board before I had a full script, so we’ve been talking about the story from the beginning. He’s been a tremendous partner — always ready to tackle the next challenge and follow this crazy story down the next path. And he’s brought this incredible atmosphere and grit to this fantastical world. It’s so key for everything to feel as real as possible, and he and colorist Wil Quintana are just nailing it.
BIC: Are you building Kingsway Law’s character around anything in specific? Any real-life inspirations for the protagonist?
Greg: I’ve read a lot about 19th century Chinese immigrants to the U.S. over the years and pored over the limited number of photos I’ve been able to find. I also found myself thinking about my Korean grandfather, who came to the U.S. in 1938 and was separated from the rest of the family for ten years before he could bring them over. There’s incredible determination and fortitude here — and tremendous longing. So a lot of that has filtered into this character.
BIC: The way magic works in this world is pretty unique. What was behind the decision to have it come from Red Gold?
Greg: It really came out of thinking about the actual history of the Gold Rush. In my original version of the story from a couple of decades ago, the hero was trying to get enough gold to ransom his wife. Gold was the key, the object, the power. In a world of magic, it just made sense to make that gold the source of magic.
BIC: Kingsway West isn’t exactly a standard comic book, it’s pretty unique, was it difficult to pitch it or was Dark Horse immediately on board?
Greg: Jim loved the pitch from the beginning, even without the magic elements. But I think straight Westerns have a bit of a difficult reputation in comics. So when the story came together with the fantastical elements, I think Dark Horse loved it even more. 🙂
BIC: You’ve been writing around the industry for a little while now, are there any noticeable differences between writing for Marvel and DC and creating for Dark Horse?
Greg: No matter where I’m working, everyone’s just trying as hard as they can to tell good stories and make good comics. So I have a great time wherever I go. But Kingsway West is a creator-owned book — it’s an original story, not a work-for-hire project using a company’s characters. I mean, when we’re working on a work-for-hire project, we creators have to feel like it’s our baby in order to put my heart into it and make it sing. But a creator-owned project really IS our baby. So I’ve got a lot more responsibility for everything with Kingsway West. It’s nerve-wracking, but incredibly gratifying. The only reason it works is because of the tremendous team — so again, huge thanks to Mirko and Wil and Spencer and Jim and letterer Simon Bowland and everyone at Dark Horse. This is my first creator-owned project with a mainstream publisher, and I’m hugely grateful for the support Dark Horse has given us.
I’d also love to give a shout out here to all the comic shops who have been so supportive and all the readers who have pre-ordered the book from their local shops or via KingswayWest.com. The only way an indie book like this thrives is when folks get excited and pre-order, so you’re all my favorite! Thanks so much and please do keep spreading the word — and please do pre-order the next issues at KingswayWest.com!
BIC: Thank you Greg! Be sure to tell your local comic shop to add Kingsway West to your pull list. It’s worth it!