Joe Harris of ‘Great Pacific’ On Environmentalism, Comics, And Garbage

Great Pacific is unlike anything else on the stands right now. The book follows an oil heir as he tries to claim the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as “New Texas”. But he made one pretty serious mistake: He assumed it was uninhabited. Every issue since has layered on complications ranging from angry Pacific Islanders to one very, very big cephalopod. It’s a big, twist-heavy, grandly entertaining book. We got a few moments with the writer, Joe Harris, to ask about the book and what’s coming up.

Fair warning: Before reading the last question, you should check out the new issue on the stands… there are a few spoilers!

Gamma Squad: How did Great Pacific start, as a book?

Joe Harris: I first had the idea about three years ago, after I’d heard about the actual Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It was so horrible a realization to find out this environmental catastrophe was actually out there, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

You might, or might not, know it, but the Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t an actual continent of plastic and trash, like we’ve depicted in our book. In reality, it’s this soupy mess of debris that gets trapped in a convergence of ocean currents called a “gyre.” But aside from my initial revulsion, I was fascinated that this could exist, that the world could allow this problem to fester like it’s been allowed to, without much organized effort at the state level to clean it up, and my mind almost immediately started considering its speculative fiction potential.

Gamma Squad: Environmentalism is obviously a theme, but you take a very different tack towards it. Do you try to work it in, or does it just come naturally with the content?

Harris: I don’t think you can tell a story set out on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and not strike an environmental chord. That said, I am proud of the fact that this is not a preachy book. Most of the time, anyway.

Our protagonist isn’t out to get everybody to start recycling. He isn’t Captain Planet. In a way, Chas Worthington is a symptom of the problem he’s both tackling and sees as an opportunity for himself. Great Pacific is a cautionary tale. It’s as much about what happens when we leave the big problems that affect us all to such a dire degree to the pure capitalists and industrialists to tackle, without oversight, without involvement or even some sort of basic mental investment from the public who ordinarily just don’t care.

Gamma Squad: As people reading know, there’s a lot more on this island than just your protagonist. Any hints you can drop about what else we can expect to find?

Harris: Oh, man, yeah! The continued exploration and development of this garbage island is going to be a source of discovery, for both good and bad, for a long time. You’ve already met the pollution mutated giant octopus, Yalafath, as well as the hostile natives. Soon, we’re going to introduce pirates who’ve come to plunder this place, downed satellites from the Soviet era of space flight, and even a cache of nuclear warheads that’ve gotten sucked up into this floating landfill.

Great Pacific #4 is on stands now, and comes highly recommended.