Greg Pak, creator of Korean-American Hulk, talks new series Kingsway West

When asked what draws him to a given story or work, Marvel and DC comic writer Greg Pak quickly dismisses the merit ascribed to a work by a “Best Of” list. “People come out with lists of the ‘Greatest Films Ever Made’ and all that,” he muses, “and I think that’s just entirely subjective. A film that may be just a film to somebody else may be the formative film of your life.”

4515888-3478422914-greg_pFor Pak, those works included classic black and white films (he loved the “aesthetic”), Westerns, and outdoor adventure stories (he was Boy Scout). Pak is also especially drawn to work that reflected his experiences, or at least had similarities to them. “I paid a lot of attention whenever I was able to see non-stereotypical depictions or multi-dimensional depictions of Asian people.”

Pak’s latest and entirely creator-owned work, Kingsway West, serves a testament to this notion. The comic, released August 24, 2016, follows the narrative of a Chinese gunslinger as he treks throughout a magical Old West to find his wife. Pak uses his prowess for fantasy storytelling to give fantastical dimension to the world where Kingsway West takes place. Combining fantasy elements–particularly, the presence of a substance called “red gold” in the world of Kingsway West–with the largely looked-over history of Chinese people in the Old West allows Pak “to not worry to be beholden to actual American history… Instead, I can actually create a new anthology which plays with all the same themes that I was gonna play with before.”

Kingsway West goes back in time in more ways than one: Pak conceptualized the story over 20 years ago. “It’s a story that made a lot of sense to me because I’m an Asian-American kid who grew up in Texas. I loved Westerns, and [when] I learned about the actual history of Chinese and the Old West… my head exploded.”

So why now, and not 20 years ago? “I wanted to make Kingsway West as a feature film way back when, and that didn’t happen–one, because it’s a Western, and two, because it’s a story with Chinese and Mexican leads. At that time, I think it was hard [for] financiers to get it.”

“When I was growing up, I had that Margaret Cho experience,” he continues, “Where you’d be like, ‘Asian person on TV!’ It’d be such a shocking, unusual thing. It was a big deal. And usually, it was some embarrassing racist stereotype.”

But even though there’s still much progress to be made, Pak notes that times have undoubtedly changed. “You’re starting to see it happen all over the place… Fresh Off the Boat and all those shows that have gotten green-lit recently is due to really, really hard work by really, really dedicated writers and producers. But it’s also [because] we’re getting closer to the point where it’s a no-brainer… the business people will realize that there’s money to be made by making stories with people of color as leads.”

Pak also notes that the comic industry is extremely different from the film industry because comics are “willing to take more risks.” Pak remarks, “I’ve literally never had anybody ask me if I could change the ethnicity of characters in stories I’ve pitched in the comics world.” This shows in Pak’s creation of the Korean-American character, Amadeus Cho, who recently inherited Bruce Banner’s powers to become the Totally Awesome Hulk. “At no stage during the entire process [of the creation of Amadeus] did anyone say, ‘Does he have to be Asian?’ [That] would have happened in the film industry at that time.”


While it’s easy to simply hope for the film industry to follow the comic industry’s lead in showcasing more diverse–and more reflective–stories, Pak urges aspiring creators to “devote yourself [to the story] that means the most in your heart. If you have a story and nobody else gets it, but you know that’s the story you have to tell, keep working on it until people can get it.”  

For more information about Kingsway West and how you can place an order, visit


Images via Greg Pak & Marvel


Five Asian American Sci-Fi Authors You Should Be Reading

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, and learned to suspend my disbelief when I came across time travel, aliens, and things that generally defied the natural laws of the universe. But I could never suspend my disbelief at the lack of people like me in mainstream science fiction creating these stories and populating the universes within them.

It’s odd that a genre dedicated to challenging the realm of possibility seems to have little space for Asian representation. But many Asian American authors have started claiming their rightful places in the world (or dare we say, worlds) of science fiction. Here are just a few to help expand your multiverse, one story at a time.

1. Ken Liu (Website, Twitter)

Ken Liu is nothing short of being a sci-fi rock star. His short story “The Paper Menagerie” is the first work to have won the holy trinity of sci-fi awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. “The Paper Menagerie” also appears in his most recent publication, a collection of his best science fiction and fantasy works.

He wears many hats as a lawyer, programmer, and translator of literary works from Chinese to English. His English translation of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu became the first translated work to win the Hugo award for best novel.

A master storyteller, he plays around with the idea of memory, and this theme particularly resonates in his short story “Mono no Aware.”

2. E. Lily Yu (Website)

The same year E. Lily Yu graduated from Princeton University, she also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer for her short story, “The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees.” Her work has been published in Terraform, Uncanny, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is also set to appear in a cyberpunk anthology called Cyber World, forthcoming in November 2016.

Her piece, “Local Stop on the Floating Train,” illustrates a future where racism still flourishes even after nuclear annihilation.

3. Alice Sola Kim (Website, Twitter)

Alice Sola Kim loves “throwaway ideas in science fiction”. It’s little details such as extinct bananas and tongue-in-cheek remarks like “Don’t worry—there is still racism!” that make her work so human and captivating. Kim’s vision of the future is very much like the present, except with the occasional time-traveling guy obsessed with his daughters; no big deal. This is why her future is scary – but so familiar, and even comforting.

Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and elsewhere. She has also received grants and fellowships such as a MacDowell Colony residency.

Read her personal essay on her relationship with Philip K. Dick for an honest look into the person behind the author.

4. Marie Lu (Website, Twitter)

A legend (pun intended) in the YA world, Marie Lu is the author of the Legend series; a trilogy of novels set on a dystopian California coast about two prodigies on the run. Legend received praise from The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Guardian for a clear trajectory and emotional depth; the latter being an aspect often lacking in many other tried-and-tested teen dystopian works. The series is slated to become a film directed by Jonathan Levine.

Lu is currently in the process of crafting a new series about games and giant robots – “a love letter to all [her] favorite things.” The first novel, Warcross, will be out in Fall 2017.

5. Yoon Ha Lee (Website, Twitter)

Yoon Ha Lee writes short stories that often explore the creation and re-creation of history, and has many of them included in his first book, Conservation of Shadows. Two stories from his collection were nominated for both the Locus Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His work has been featured in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine and other publications, and has been reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

Read “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” for a glimpse of Lee’s powerful and economical use of language.

Lee has also written a text-based game called Winterstrike; a poetic and hypnotizing venture into a city that has been plunged into perpetual winter.


Cover image via

What Audrey Magazine taught me about Asian American Life and Style

KoreAm Magazine started in 1990 by James Ryu, who printed the photos in his own dark room and hand-delivered the first edition to Los Angeles businesses. Twelve years later, Audrey launched focusing on lifestyle, news, and culture stories for Asian and Asian American women. Printing a physical magazine every quarter, Audrey featured strong and influential women on their covers and inside had interviews, told in-depth stories about topics of the day or women’s lifestyle. Now the LA Times reports that the Audrey and KoreAm team prepare to send out the final issue after British company London Trust Media bought them and laid off all staff members over the summer. Times reporter Victoria Kim said London Trust Company will keep online content and the wife of the Company, Stephanie Lee, will work with Ryu as the publishers in this new direction.

After a number of other ethnic-based publications have gone under in past years, it’s a shame to see Audrey and KoreAm follow suit.

When I began to think more about my own APA identity, I looked for publications about being Asian American, and found KoreAm. But I wanted to know specifically what it meant to be Chinese American, and KoreAm didn’t fit that description. Then I came across their sister magazine, Audrey, the Asian American lifestyle magazine for women. As an upcoming journalist and young Asian American woman, Audrey helped me when I took an active interest in identity, showing me what being Asian American looked like today.

Other than Disney’s Mulan, I couldn’t name too many Asian role models in my life or in the media around me. Once I found Audrey, I read article after article about travel, food, fashion, trends, and interviews with influential Asian Americans. I learned about BB creams, read advice on college life, and of course enjoyed the daily smoking hot Asian guy (SHAG). Audrey’s articles introduced me to new musicians like Run River North, up and coming YouTubers like Anna Akana, and the latest style trends I could never pull off.  Finding a magazine aimed at Asian American women helped me find familiar ground when I started working through my identity and place in the APA community.

Audrey showed me how much representation in the media could affect a young kid in the Midwest. Even though I always enjoyed writing, I never thought of looking for a magazine specifically for Asian Americans because I had assumed at first there wouldn’t be one. When I found Audrey and saw stories I cared about that spoke specifically to my concerns, I realized the importance of representation in all forms of media— even print. Audrey Magazine is in part of the reason I ended up blogging for Kollaboration three years later.

“KoreAm and its sister publication, women’s lifestyle magazine Audrey, will continue in some online format, but Ryu has yet to figure out what that is,” LA Times’ Kim reports. “Ryu, who will stay on as publisher, says it will likely be shareable videos and interviews rather than the long-form writing and in-depth profiles KoreAm was known for.”

I’m glad KoreAm and Audrey will continue online, I’d hate to see such an important publication for the APA community disappear completely. Magazines like these give often forgotten or ignored communities and people a chance to tell their stories and inspire people like them. Either by being the cover girl or the editor-in-chief, seeing names and people who share the same background or culture can influence how a person sees and thinks of themselves. Seeing an actor in a movie or on TV does wonders to the broad American mindset, as does hearing an APA artist on the radio. But having the Asian American voice in the written and online media keeps our voices relevant and heard, by the masses and the community who needs to hear it most.

I wish the best for Ryu on KoreAm and Audrey’s future. Looking forward to seeing how both will come back in the digital age. writer Lily Rugo enjoying the last print issue of Audrey Magazine


Cover image via Audrey Magazine

For some inspiration and laughs, Why Not Mindy Kaling? – A Kollab Book Review

It’s not much of a secret I am a big fan of Mindy Kaling as a role model and leading woman in comedy, and when she announced her second book Why Not Me? I knew I had to read it.

Kaling, star of The Mindy Project, also wrote Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in 2011 about her life, career, and lessons learned. Why Not Me? continues on that same theme, but includes more stories about how she worked to where she is, deserves to be there, and will stay content there until she moves on to bigger things.

“If you believe in yourself and work hard, you have a fighting shot at having your dreams come true.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

The book’s broken down into four sections, starting off with “For the Ladies,” the obligatory chapter on beauty secrets, a story about Kaling’s brief time in a sorority, and some of the friendships made in Los Angeles. The other three sections delve into her career and life, updated since her first book to include less of The Office and more about The Mindy Project. My favorite chapters in the book talk about how she got The Mindy Project, the ways that beauty standard impacts her, and the titular chapter “Why Not Me?” where she talks about self-confidence. Kaling is honest and vulnerable, but never self-deprecating to the point where it sounds like her success is a mystery or undeserved.

Her overall feeling of content and confidence mixes with a sassy, big sister tone as she recounts tales of her past and career milestones. Kaling never sounds like she’s retelling specific stories for the glamour or name-dropping, coming across as more “I’m telling this story for a reason and to inspire, but this is pretty glamorous with all these names in it, right?”

“But my secret is this: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.” – Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

I highly suggest Why Not Me? to both fans who want to support Kaling and those who aren’t familiar with her. I wouldn’t call Why Not Me? a literary or social justice masterpiece, or particularly thought-provoking. But I feel Mindy Kaling is very under-appreciated in a business that strives to showcase its diversity. Why Not Me? is Kaling’s answer to that, asking why she doesn’t get the same recognition for doing much of what other actresses and comedienne’s already do. Because when people do think of great current role models, why not add Mindy Kaling to the list?


Featured photo courtesy of Mindy Kaling’s Twitter

Comedian Aasif Mandvi’s “No Land’s Man” is a Funny, Thoughtful Autobiography

Comedian Aasif Mandvi keeps it funny and thoughtful in his autobiography No Land’s Mangiving an interesting look at his life growing up in two different countries, starting out as an actor, and eventually becoming a recognizable Muslim figure in the American media.

Most people know Mandvi from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” as the team’s leading “Muslim correspondent.” However, if you’re looking for crazy behind-the-scenes stories of “The Daily Show”’s cast and crew, No Land’s Man is not the place to begin. Mandvi only briefly mentions “The Daily Show,” instead dedicating the majority of No Land’s Man to look back on his life and other career accomplishments.


The book is split into three parts framed around his journey back to his English hometown, Bradford. In each chapter Mandvi begins a story, diverges off into a different one, then brings it back around to the main point. It’s a tough style to pull off in a book, but it works. Sections switch between deep reflections pondering his identity as an “Indian-English-American-Muslim-ish” man to funny anecdotes from his school days, family, and his early acting career in New York.

No Land’s Man isn’t a comedy heavyweight like other comedian autobiographies, but he includes more personal stories and deeper reflections. Mandvi’s humor doesn’t come from amazing stories of backstage hijinks only New York City comedians could experience, but from his witty, dry commentary of average events. He never gets so pensive that it drags the story, but he offers good advice and reflection on what it’s like to be a part of many different cultures and reconcile them with one’s identity.

Through his stories, Mandvi shows he understands what it’s like to not belong to any one place, but instead build a home in all those places and in the passions a person decides to pursue. Very funny and surprisingly heartfelt, No Land’s Man should not be forgotten in the list of comedian autobiographies to read this year.

Photos courtesy of and

Asian American Bookworms: September Selection

School’s back in session and it’s time to start off this academic year fresh.  But since you’re still in the early stages of getting back into the swing of classes, here are some sci-fi and fantasy books for when you need to a break from studying.

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Interview with Gene Luen Yang on ‘The Shadow Hero’

The Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero in comic book history, returns after nearly 70 years since its short-lived run in a new graphic novel, The Shadow Hero.  Written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew, the graphic novel explores the origin story of the Green Turtle as Hank Chu from the streets of Chinatown in the fictional city of San Incendio.

Kollaboration recently chatted with Yang, who is best known for his acclaimed graphic novels American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints as well as his work on Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender comics.  In the following interview, Yang talks about his motivations behind creating an origins story for the Green Turtle and his thoughts about bringing in an Asian American superhero to current times.

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Asian American Bookworms: August Selection

The end of summer is nigh as back to school ads begin to creep up everywhere.  But before you start hitting the academic books, try fitting in one or all three of these beautiful reads that will spirit you away.

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Asian American Bookworms: July Recommendations

Summer is officially in full swing and that means it’s time to bust out your beach books.  Here are three books penned by some lovely Asian American ladies to help combat the July heat.

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Discussing Baldies and Dystopia with Author Peter Tieryas Liu

In Peter Tieryas Liu’s debut novel, Bald New World, the world declines into a dystopia that leaves everyone mysteriously bald.  We’ve previously mentioned Liu as one of our 3 Asian American Authors on the Rise and recently got the chance to interview him via email about his new novel.

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