Q&A: Chuck Palaniuk breaks his rules to talk about “FIGHT CLUB 2”Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Svetlana Fedotov
Chuck Palahniuk is a man who needs no introduction. Creator of cult novels such as CHOKE, INVISIBLE MONSTERS, and the fan-favorite FIGHT CLUB, Palahniuk has become the unprecedented king of transgressional fiction. Yet, after taking over the written word and the silver screen, he was still not satisfied and, turning to Dark Horse, has decided to leave his mark on the comic world with FIGHT CLUB 2. Exploring the graphic medium with artist Cameron Stewart, Palahniuk invites us back into a world of high action and questionable morality as we are re-introduced to the world of the author and the old demons he just couldn’t leave behind…
FANGORIA: Well, to get the elephant out of the room first, whoa FIGHT CLUB 2! Why did you decided to do a sequel and why now, almost 20 years later after the book release?
CHUCK PALAHNIUK: Three reasons: First, I’d no idea the story would have such legs, and if I was going to have to discuss it for the rest of my life, I wanted to expand it into something epic and continuing. Second, I’d finished writing my story collection, MAKE SOMETHING UP, so for the first time in my career, I had a couple years free to learn a new medium. Third, a friend, the thriller writer Chelsea Cain, introduced me to Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction and Scott Allie, all of who offered to mentor me in comics.
FANGORIA: Why did you decide to go the comic route for FIGHT CLUB 2 versus the book route?
PALAHNIUK: Both the original novel and the film have built such passionate audiences, there was no way a sequel could establish its own authority unless it was presented in a third medium. As a comic or graphic novel, it can’t be compared directly to a predecessor, and must be evaluated as its own storytelling form.
FANGORIA: Also, this is the continuation of the book, not the movie, is that correct?
PALAHNIUK: Yes, the ‘Tranquility Gambit’ picks up the story ten years after the book ended. A mini-comic released on the last Free Comic Book Day gave an illustrated version of the book’s ending as opposed to the film’s [ending].
FANGORIA: One of the first things that jump at you about the comic is that the author has a name, Sebastian. Why did you finally name the poor bastard and in turn, start exploring his background and relationships?
PALAHNIUK: Over time, you’ll see that Sebastian has infinite names: Cornelius, Hamish, Running Wolf, Chang, Beauregard… Everyone who knew him in the past will address him differently, and that’s almost as bad as having no name. As for depicting his past… the story must move into the future and the past, simultaneously, to become the epic I’ve planned. In this series, we’ll see Sebastian’s history. In another series, we’ll see Marla’s. The irony will be that comics will show us a richer, fuller version of the characters than did long-form prose.
FANGORIA: On top of his name, there are a ton of subtle symbolism splattered throughout the pages. Is that something you worked out yourself or combined your efforts with the artist, Cameron Stewart?
PALAHNIUK: Some of the symbols I planted. Many, Cameron snuck in and surprised me. For example, a friend made a large donation to an animal rescue program, The Pixie Project, so his name and likeness became the Fire Marshall, John Roa, in Issue Two. To underscore the backstory of animal rescue, Cameron put the photo of a Dalmatian on John’s desk. These clues are salted in throughout the series.
FANGORIA: We’re also seeing some old faces mixed in with the new faces. How did you balance writing an original work without making it appear as if you’re cleverly winking to the audience?
PALAHNIUK: One big reason I asked Cameron to draw the series is that he’s sometimes criticized as being “too cartoony.” This story was going to incorporate such grim elements – dying children, execution-style murder, spousal abuse – that I wanted the wiggle room that slightly cartoony characters would provide.
FANGORIA: Also, you even threw yourself in there, which has never really been done outside of Deadpool and that’s mostly because he’s crazy. What’s up with that?
PALAHNIUK: In the style in which I began writing, Minimalism, it’s very important to establish who is telling the story and the context in which the story is told. Stories can’t simply spring from nowhere. So by adding myself and my writing peers – including Chelsea Cain – to the story I make the fiction seem more real, and I make myself seem less real.
FANGORIA: Being your first comic work, how was the transition from books to comic books?
PALAHNIUK: My transition wasn’t too rough. I did write one long first draft that read more like a novel, but once the letterer explained about the limited space for dialog, I deleted approximately 80 percent of my dialog. It was more difficult for me to stage the page turn reveal: placing a set-up on the lower, right page, and a pay-off on the upper left, surprising the reader with something special at each page turn. That means at least twelve strong plot reveals in an issue, fantastically dense plotting, even for me.
FANGORIA: Would you be interested in doing original comic work a well?
PALAHNIUK: It’s in the works. I’ll be doing a series of single issues that each employ a different artist. They’ll explore a common theme but from different angles, and eventually they’ll be collected in a volume. That’s all I can say for now. And they will be very provocative.
FANGORIA: Is there any talk about snatching up FIGHT CLUB 2 to television or movies?
PALAHNIUK: Some television people are interested, but most production companies are waiting to see how well the comic catches on.
FANGORIA: Any upcoming works you’re interested in telling us about?
PALAHNIUK: My only dream project is a new novel, but one that Doubleday is unlikely to publish. It will be something extreme and funny, and online sales might be my only avenue. We have several movie projects trembling on the verge of production, and a television series. I’m teaching online. There’s plenty to keep me busy.