Growing up as an Asian-American kid in Texas, Greg Pak loved both Westerns and fantasy stories. Now, after eleven years of writing superhero comics like World War Hulk—and children's books like The Princess Who Saved Herself—Pak is launching his first creator-owned comic, Kingsway West, which aims to be the best of both worlds. Set in an Old West full of magic, dragons, and killer jackalopes, it stars an Asian-American hero who's finally walking free after thirteen years behind bars.
"Kingsway Law is a Chinese gunslinger fresh out of prison who's searching for his wife in an Old West overrun with magic," says Pak. "He's a wild man, a product of the frontier, who lost his wife years ago because he couldn't turn his cheek when provoked. Now politicians and vigilantes are making the West a hugely dangerous place for people like him. If he wants to find his wife again, he has to stay out of trouble. But then, as they say, hijinks ensue."
The book, which is illustrated by Mirko Colak, was inspired not only by Pak's youthful love of Western tales (and Dungeons & Dragons) but what he learned when he started researching the real history of Asian-Americans and other minorities during the 1800s.
"The actual Old West was stunningly diverse, with Native Americans, Buffalo Soldiers, Californios, and Chinese, which is hugely inspiring, because this is America and we all belong," says Pak. "But the frontier was also horrifically divided, with terrible, racially-driven prejudice, warfare and atrocities. Regarding Chinese Americans in particular, there were real politicians in the Old West who exploited anti-Asian fears and passed racist legislation as Chinese workers finished the transcontinental railroad. Eventually there were horrific massacres of Chinese in places like Rock Springs and Los Angeles."
The world of Kingsway West not only reflects the diversity of that time and place but the racial divisions that plagued it, reimagined and filtered through the lens of the supernatural. As is often the case, racial minorities become the scapegoats for the tensions of the era, particularly around the growing influence of magic, a force some hate and fear. Pak says the fantastical nature of the setting also opens the door for transformative possibilities around these real-world injustices.
"The great thing about fantasy in this case is that it allows us to plunge into huge, character-driven world-building to imagine an America that might have been, or maybe even still could be," says Pak. The four-issue miniseries, which will be published by Dark Horse Comics, is available for preorder now.
As an added bonus, rapper Adam WarRock recorded an original theme song for the comic, simply titled "Kingsway," which we're pleased to debut today: