Impulse Creations Interviews Greg Pak About Magneto Testament

Posted by (kiplingkat) on Nov 13 2008
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From Part 1 and Part 2

This interview was set before the release of issue #2.

Impulse: Thanks so much, Greg, for taking the time to answer my questions! I really appreciate it. So let's talk about X-men: Magneto Testament! The first issue came out last month---the first of five. How did this mini-series get started, and when you signed on, what kinds of things were running through your mind regarding how you wanted to flesh out this origin story and the direction you wanted to take it?

Greg Pak: About three years ago, Marvel editor Warren Simons approached me about the project, and before six words were out of his mouth, I knew I was going to do it. I was honestly terrified at the prospect of tackling a story set during the Holocaust. But I knew that meant I probably would never forgive myself if I said no. From that very first meeting, I could tell Warren felt the same sense of responsibility towards this project---it's been a mission for both of us to do justice to this story.

Impulse: I found it really interesting the way you and the artist, Carmine Di Giandomenico, started the premiere issue. In the second panel on the first page you see pieces of metal jewelry and someone talking to "Erich," but you don't yet see anyone's faces. At first I thought Erich was, you know, young Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr); it's actually his uncle. Magneto's birth name, we find out, is Max Eisenhardt. Is it just a coincidence that Max's uncle's name is practically the same as the name Max later takes, or is this foreshadowing something that happens later in the mini?

Greg: I'll diplomatically keep my mouth shut for fear of spoilers.

Impulse: We get a really interesting family dynamic going on here, too. What made you decide to portray Max's family in this way? I mean, what were some of the things you thought were important and that you wanted to clearly portray when showing his home life?

Greg: The key was always to make Max's family completely understandable as the kind of everyday, decent, funny, brave, and sometimes goofy folks any of us might know and love. They're not faceless, helpless victims; instead, we wanted to depict them as everyday heroes struggling to make sense of their suddenly insane world in ways with which readers could completely identify. Most importantly, I wanted to find ways to show the tremendous love Max's father has for his family---especially his son. My favorite moments in the series have been little interactions between Max and his father---the tiny gestures, the little jokes, and the awkward embraces. I love Max's father as much as any character I've ever created.

Impulse: You handle the oppression and rise of the Nazis with such finesse in the comic. It's subtle at some points (even though the reader is certainly aware, from knowing about what Magneto went through growing up and also the historical context), and dramatically strong at others. Why did you feel this route would work, and how does it play into the overall story, especially regarding Max as a character? Was there anything that influenced you in the way you chose to tell it?

Greg: I wanted to begin the story relatively early so that we could get to know Max and his family as human beings before the full gravity of their situation sank in. And I knew we should see almost everything from Max's point of view. That would let us discover things bit by bit at the same time he does and help us understand how the Nazi rise and the Final Solution crept up around and then swept away their victims.

Impulse: I really loved the inclusion of the character Kalb, who genuinely cares for and can definitely (as we later learn) emphasize with Max. But things didn't look so good for him by the end of the issue. Will we get to see him again, by any chance?

Greg: I should probably just hold my tongue, but since you asked so nicely ... Yes, we will see Herr Kalb again. And you're the first to know!

Impulse: The little moments between Max and Magda were great; at this point, only a few words have been said. So as far as this origin story is concerned, we don't know much about her. I imagine you have a unique take on her, too, and the way she fits into Magneto Testament. Can you talk a little about what we'll see not only regarding the relationship between her and Max, but her own development and personality, as well?

Greg: As folks who have followed Magneto over the years know, Magda plays an important role towards the end of the story. We'll build up to that as we go along. For now, I'll just say that Magda will be as important to Max as Max is to his father.

Impulse: There were several things in the first issue's "Afterword" that caught my attention. For one, you referred to Max---who later becomes the villain Magneto---as a "hero." Right now, there couldn't be a more perfect way to describe him. Max isn't just the protagonist---he has a good heart and comes from a hardworking, honest family. Taking into consideration that this is an origin story, when you sat down to write this did you want to make sure you carried that hero element through to the end or are we going to start seeing the tragedy of this traumatic experience take a dark toll on our hero by the conclusion?

Greg: Warren and I have talked a lot about this very topic. And we agree that at this stage in his life, our hero is exactly that---a hero.

Impulse: In the Afterword you also mention that you had to make some compromises, as expected, with comic book and also historical continuity and accuracy, and that you had to choose "one detail over another." What were some of the things that you found especially challenging to address or deal with, or some of the obstacles you had to overcome, when it came to writing this story? How did you work through them?

Greg: Since the comic book continuity is sometimes self-contradictory or conflicts with actual historical events, we couldn't always be completely true to it. Our goal has been to be true to the essence of the character. But we've always chosen real-world historical accuracy above comic book continuity. When writing about the Holocaust in particular, we're taking every precaution to avoid making historical mistakes.

There were also certain points when we finessed the comic book continuity for dramatic reasons. For example, different information from earlier comics might lead to the conclusion that Magneto's family was Polish. But we felt it was important to the story to show the gradual but inexorable rise of the Nazi state, and the most effective way to do so would be to make the family German Jews who would experience first hand things like the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht. In the end, we decided that that making that choice would do no harm to the spirit of the earlier stories and would allow us to add greatly to the story and characters.

Impulse: What is it that draws you to this character? What makes him so interesting and appealing that you wanted to write Magneto Testament?

Greg: I'd first learned about the Holocaust as a grade schooler in Dallas, Texas. Over the years, I continued to learn about the time period while studying German in high school and college, political science in college, and history as a grad student. So I was probably drawn to the project partly because I thought I might have the background to tackle it. But most importantly, I was compelled by the idea of writing about a boy trying to save his family from the Nazi onslaught. The idea that this quiet schoolboy might find within him the strength to overcome his terror and do his best to save his family totally compelled me.

Impulse: Can you give us a little teaser about the rest of the mini? Something that'll hook people into reading Magneto Testament?

Greg: This is the first and only series to tell the complete story of Magneto's childhood---and, as far as I know, the first Marvel comic book to depict this historical time period [with] this kind of detail and accuracy.

Impulse: Thanks again, Greg! I can't wait to read the next issue.

Greg: Thank you, Stephanie!

Last changed: Nov 13 2008 at 8:59 AM