Over the course of his career, Greg Pak has written some of the biggest properties in comics -- Hulk and Hercules for Marvel, Batman and Superman for DC Comics and the "Battlestar Galactica" universe at Dynamite Entertainment. And in February, Pak dives into a new world, filled not with super powered vigilantes and military science experiments, but with a lone man going up against some of the largest creatures to ever roam the Earth -- dinosaurs.
"First off, 'Native American fighting dinosaurs' is one of the greatest four-word pitches in the world!" Pak told CBR about what it was that attracted him to launching "Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" for Dynamite. "It's so evocative and so much fun, and it asks so many questions in that one phrase!"
The new series begins with Turok, exiled from his tribe, discovering an area where dinosaurs still roam. "Of course humans and dinosaurs didn't live at the same time -- unless you count birds right now -- so if you're talking about a Native American hunting dinosaurs, then you're talking about a world that's different from ours in some interesting way," Pak said. "That was a great specific mystery to unpack and unravel."
First appearing in 1954 in the pages of "Four Color Comics" before spinning off into his own series, "Turok: Son Of Stone," the earliest version of Turok was a pre-Columbian Native American man who, along with his little brother Andar, accidentally became trapped in a New Mexico valley where dinosaurs never went extinct. Later versions cut Andar but kept the dinosaurs, adding aliens, alternate dimensions and entirely new history for the titular dino-hunter. While he's a fan of the previous incarnations, Pak told CBR his version of the story establishes a very different Turok.
"You're going to see a Turok who is at a slightly different stage of his life than you've ever seen before. He's younger; he's a young exile from his tribe for reasons that will be explained in the story as it goes on," Pak said. "He's an outsider as the story begins, and the story is a lot about him figuring out what his place in the world is, where he belongs and what he should be doing. There's a young person's heroes' journey at the core of this story, which I think is different from some of the other incarnations of the character we've seen."
For Pak, however, the greatest appeal in writing Turok was the opportunity to write a non-white protagonist -- something that remains an unfortunately rare opportunity, even in modern comics.
"The fact that he's a Native American character was honestly huge for me," Pak said. "How many books are out there in the comics world where there's Native Americans as the lead characters? I can't think of any others right now. There have been a handful over the years, but it's not every day you get to pick a project like that where you have a non-white lead. Frankly that's hugely important for me. I love diversity in storytelling.
"It's not like he's the sidekick -- he's the lead character, and that's a tremendous opportunity."
Calling the series an "alternate history" story, Pak explained that despite the dinosaur-centric premise, he plans to accurately reflect the time period and native peoples populating the series.
"We're trying to imagine a world that makes historical sense even though it's got this insane, crazy element to it," Pak said. "If you're a fan of alternate history fiction, fiction that looks at historical events but puts a crazy different spin on it, then you're going to love this.
"The exact historical window where we are setting the story will be something of a surprise -- a hopefully delightful and excitement-inspiring surprise!" Pak added. "There's a huge reveal that's coming at the end of the first issue that will hopefully pop your heads off and open the world and help give a sense of the scope of what we're doing here.
"There's a tremendous amount of storytelling opportunity in the way we're setting this up," Pak continued. "I can't say too much more for fear of spoilers, but hopefully you'll see what I mean!"
Though he remained mum on further plot and character details, Pak did divulge that his story took place in Pre-Columbian America, "before the arrival of Western Europeans in the New World.
"I will also say that we do have a specific region in mind, and we're taking inspiration from the actual Native Americans who lived in that region," Pak said. "But the story actually takes place several hundred years before the evidence and records we have of the area and the folks who lived there."
Pak's historical approach also extended to the creatures Turok encounters, portraying dinosaurs as scientists now know they actually looked -- feathered.
"We're going to see if we can make our dinosaurs reasonably scientifically accurate!" Pak laughed. "We're looking a lot at the latest thinking of what dinosaurs looked like, how they moved, and the fact that they are the ancestors of birds and how that affects the way we think about how they look. So yes, you may see some feathers on our dinosaurs!"
A legacy character, over the years the Turok property has moved from company to company, arriving up at Dynamite after stints at Western Publishing/Dell Comics (where the character was created) Gold Key Comics, Valiant Comics, Acclaim Comics, Dark Horse Comics and even a 2008 first person shooter that recast Turok as a soldier who crash-lands on a dinosaur inhabited planet. But outside of the character's long history, one of the big draws for Pak was he chance to reunite with editor Nate Cosby.
"I got the call from Nate Cosby who was the editor on the book; I had worked with Nate for years on various Hulk and Hercules-related books at Marvel. I just love working with Nate. He's really smart, really funny, really on point when it comes to figuring out what makes a story tick. I was eager for a chance to work with him again," Pak said.
"When he told me about the characters Dynamite was planning to do books about, and he mentioned Turok, all the lights went on and I got really excited!" the writer said with another laugh.
Artist Mirko Colak, who previously worked with Pak on Marvel's "Red Skull: Incarnate," is drawing the Dynamite series, bringing the same level of detail to "Turok" as in the duo's previous Marvel story.
"We called it the Red Skull's origin story, and again, that was another historically accurate book -- Mirko just spent so much time and effort into getting the details right and bringing out the character. I was just thrilled to get the chance to work with Mirko again," Pak said of the creative reunion. "It's a blast; he's sending in these pages that are just gorgeous and evocative and tons and fun."
"The core concept is, as I've said, solid gold!" Pak concluded with a chuckle. "There's a lot of great writers and artists who worked on Turok, so I'm following in that great tradition and breaking new ground all at the same time."
"Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" #1 hits shelves February 5.