The Old West meets fantasy in Greg Pak’s ‘Kingsway West’

If you thought the Old West was wild, you’ve got another thing coming with “Kingsway West,” which reimagines the West as trekked through by a wanted Chinese gunslinger intent on finding his lost wife as the remnants of a long war over a magical substance wages around him.

The comic, slated for release Wednesday by Dark Horse Comics, is drawn by Mirko Colak and created and written by Greg Pak, who is also responsible for Marvel’s “Totally Awesome Hulk” Amadeus Cho.

“The Age of Red Gold turned men into soldiers…and soldiers into monsters,” begins the tale of Kingsway Law, a former soldier of the Chinese Queen of the Golden City, which sits where the real-life San Francisco might. After leaving the ranks, he is pegged as a deserter and rogue and wounded by soldiers before meeting Sonia, who hails from the rival, Mexican-ruled República de Los Californios.

This is a world of flying cowgirls, magical swords and dragons ruled by an obsession for “red gold,” a substance that makes the scientifically impossible possible – but it wasn’t always the case in Pak’s head, where the idea of a Western epic had been thrown around for something like 23 years.

His first drafts, at first short screenplays, were straight historical fiction. Over the years, as Pak transitioned from filmmaking to comics – including work with Marvel and DC on titles like “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men,” “Batman/Superman” and “Teen Titans” – the fantastical elements he was writing about started to also make sense for the world of Kingsway Law.

Greg Pak (Courtesy photo)
Greg Pak (Courtesy photo)

Pak’s fascination with the Old West began when he encountered the history of the Chinese immigrants of the era, from the gold miners to the pioneers who built a transcontinental railroad that would unite the vast country. They were stories largely unexplored by the cowboy Westerns he grew up watching.

“The Chinese made up a key part of American history and the American frontier,” Pak said. “The fortitude it must have taken for these folks to [survive anti-Chinese sentiment in that era] is incredible. There were just a million stories there, so I figured I would try to tell one.”

When the Dark Horse Comics editor he was working with in developing the comic posed a challenge to add a new element to the story, Pak had the idea to bring in magic. “At that point, I had had a ton of fun over the years doing really big, crazy sci-fi fantasy stories,” he said. “It’s been a blast. I love the way [Kingsway] has finally come together in the last couple years, and now it’s finally getting out into stores like this.”

Pakk got some help from fellow Asian American creatives, in particular musicians Adam Warrock, Jane Lui and Goh Nakamura, who provided music to accompany the comic. “Kingsway” marks Pak’s first big-scale creator-owned project, meaning he has no one to answer to but himself. It’s a departure from his mostly work-for-hire comic career, where he riffs off characters that are fully formed and have been around for decades. “I definitely want it to be good,” Pak laughed. “I’m doing this from scratch, and it’s a huge undertaking.’

Kingsway – whose name Pak calls “aspirational,” in the vein of kids with the super-cool names you always envied – resembles, in many ways, other leading characters seen in Pak’s work. Just as the Hulk embodies the anti-hero by being forced to explore the ramifications of anger, so does Kingway, first introduced as a monster, in discovering and reaching toward redemption for the atrocities he committed during the war.

“We may or may not know the consequences of what we do when we try to make a difference, but we plunge into it,” Pak said, explaining the character’s road to atonement. “Those are things we all grapple with.”

(Courtesy photo/Dark Horse Comics)
(Courtesy photo/Dark Horse Comics)

They were also themes that made an impression on a younger Pak, who grew up in Texas absorbing words by writers like William Faulkner, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R Tolkien and Ray Bradbury. “These were stories not about kings, but about magical adventure,” Pak said. Then there were the films, like the iconic “Seven Samurai” starring Toshiro Mifune. “Those were big themes of right and lawlessness, and fighting your inner demons,” he said. “They made a big impression on me.”

All the while, the young Pak – who is half-Korean – couldn’t help but notice a lack of Asian American faces on television and in media. If there were any, they were stereotypes, sidekicks, punchlines.

A glance at his work since the ‘90s tells a better story of the influence that realization had on him. From his beginning as a filmmaker, with award-winning pics like “Robot Stories,” “Asian Pride Porn” and “Fighting Grandpa,” a deeply personal look into his immigrant grandparents’ struggles, to projects like “Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology,” Amadeus Cho and, yes, Kingsway, Pak’s conscious effort to put diversity front and center becomes pretty clear.

“I’ve been working for 20 years now, and comics for 12 years. A huge part of what I was trying to do was get different kinds of faces up there on the screen. So many of the folks in this industry are doing exciting things – there needs to be a lot more!” Pak said. (One of his close friends with whom he previously wrote Superman, Gene Yang, made waves in the comic book universe earlier this year when he created Kenan Kong, DC’s new Chinese Super-Man.) “It’s about making more stuff, and getting it out to the world.”

Most of all, he said, it’s about making sure his creations reflect the world around him. “Growing up, most Asian depictions on media were just horrible. They were stereotypical,” Pak said. “When I have a platform in some ways, I want to make sure I’m writing stories near and dear to my heart. I’m always trying to write multidimensional, interesting characters. It’s definitely been important to me over the years to make a difference through the stories I write.”

Find more information on “Kingsway West #1” at