Interview: Chuck Dixon

Dodano: 4 July 2013

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An interview by Łukasz Chmielewski, you can find out more about him here.

 

Charles “Chuck” Dixon (born April 14, 1954) is an American comic book writer, best known as an author of Punisher and his long runs on Batman titles in the 1990s and early 2000s. He is currently writing G.I. Joe comics for IDW. In Bat-universe he is best known for his Nightwing, Birds of Prey and Robin run.

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What are your recollections of working in the ’90s, when you were one of the main architects of the Batman series of comic books?

 

It was a GREAT time to be in comics. Sales were strong across the board and readership was expanding beyond the insular comics fan base.

 

I worked with a lot of editors both at DC and Marvel who had faith in my abilities and just let me rip on a variety of titles. I got to write stories for a lot of artists I’d idolized since I was a kid. Russ Heath. Joe Kubert. John Buscema. Those were awesome days.

  

Together with Graham Nolan you have created Bane, a character who turned out to be not only one of the crucial comic book villains of the ’90s, but also remarkable enough to be featured in other media, like Christopher Nolan’s movie trilogy, alongside such icons as the Joker, Two-Face, Ra’s al Ghul or Scarecrow. How was the character created?

 

Knightfall was in the planning for a few months and we were all working on the issues leading up to it. We all understood that we wanted to create a brand new villain to break Batman’s back but nothing had been discussed about him. Denny thought we should come out the other end of the stunt with a new badguy. A lot of the elements of the event had been worked out around the creation of this new character but no ideas had been put forward by anyone about who this new badass would be. We were treating him as a blank that needed to be filled in.

 

My wife was pregnant and I couldn’t travel to New York City because she was close to her due date. Denny O’Neil kindly travelled down to Pennsylvania with Scott Peterson, his associate editor at the time for a kind of mini-summit. I think Jordan Gorfinkel was along too. Part of the agenda was suggestions for this new villain.

 

We knew we would basically be replacing KGBeast in the role of the brutal-but-intelligent badguy. KGBeast had become old news with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The KG-used to Be. We also knew that he would be powered by Venom, the addictive super-steroid that Denny had come up with for an arc in Legends of the Dark Knight. And Denny promoted the idea of creating new villains with each event in the hopes of lightning striking. I liked this idea because I always thought DC’s villain bench was weak unlike Marvel where there are hundreds of great badguys to choose from. I think that’s still true today especially with DC’s penchant for knocking off characters left and right.

 

I never really imagined I’d be tapped to create the character. I assumed Denny had his own ideas or that we’d do it committee style with everyone submitting suggestions. But no one was really stepping up. I was the newest guy on the Bat-team so didn’t think it was my place.

 

Anyway, I was concerned about trying to manufacture a character based on the need for him to be popular. I told Denny that popular characters were often created as afterthoughts or accidents. Wolverine and Silver Surfer come to mind. A lot of people have failed in trying to cobble together a character based solely on their desire that the comic readers love him. Since I was so sceptical about our success, and no one else was coming up with anything, Denny assigned me to figure our the origin of this character (who we were calling Doc Toxic at the time) and write an extra-length special for me. I think Denny was relying on my obsessive approach to this stuff. He knew I’d sweat it.

 

The name “Bane” popped out at me while looking through a thesaurus to compile a list of possible names. That’s the name I kept coming back to when I thought of him and I eventually brought everyone else around to calling him that. The worry was that the name was too simple. I think that’s its charm; snappy and elegant and on-message. This guy is the bane of everyone he touches.

 

Did you like what they did with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises movie?

 

They treated him as a viable serious threat for Batman. That’s the best I could hope for. I wish he’d turned out to the mastermind in the end. But they made him a household name and I’m grateful for that.

 

You have created the Spoiler, a character who has gained cult status among the American fans. What would you say is her appeal? Why did she manage to win the hearts and minds of comic book enthusiasts?

 

I’d like to think it’s her humble roots. She’s being raised by a single mom. Her dad is a louse. She lives in a lower middle class neighbourhood. She didn’t have a lot of experience or cool gadgets. But she had a lot of heart. I think a LOT of readers identified with her.

 

Despite her immense popularity, the Spoiler is (for the time being) abandoned. Would you care to comment on DC Comics’ – and particularly, Dan DiDio’s – approach to this character?

 

The Spoiler has been actively ignored by DC Comics in general. She has never had an action figure or appeared in any animation. That started before DiDio arrived. He did allow me to bring her back.

 

What is your opinion on the current state of affairs at DC Comics and on the reboot of the universe? Do you read comic books they publish?

 

I haven’t read one. None of them interest me at first or second glance. But I do know, from freelancers I talk to, that the line is micro-managed to death by editorial. You can read the constantly shifting talent line-up and guess that. The only creators in the line with job security are company executives.

 

While working on Batman, you have created several unforgettable characters: Bane, Gearhead, the Spoiler, and you have made Timothy Drake, the new (at the time) Robin, a huge star. Which of these characters (or perhaps some other) is your favourite and of which do you feel most proud?

 

Bane all day long. They made jokes about him on The Simpsons. He’s been a pasta shape in Spaghetti-Os. Few creators get to touch the pop culture to this degree. It’s very cool.

 

For years you have been one of the most busy comic book writers in the business. How did you manage to work on several series simultaneously? It seems like quite a serious workload. What was your daily schedule like when you were writing for both DC Comics and Marvel at the same time?

 

I stayed WAY ahead of schedule. That’s the trick. I still do that. I am seven months ahead of publication on my current GI Joe run. That allows me time to take other assignments if they come up. In the 90s I sometimes had eight monthly titles. I could keep up by picking a title and bearing down on for several arcs. When I started Nightwing I wrote nothing BUT Nightwing for two months until I finished the first year of continuity. I effectively didn’t have to think of the title for another year. That left room to pick another title and bear down on that.

 

Polish readers has become familiar with your work through comic books featuring Punisher and Batman. Which of these two characters was easier for you to work on, and which one was more fun from the artist’s point of view?

 

The Punisher. For some reason, I’d rather not think about, I relate to Frank Castle. I love hard-boiled crime stories and I’m a gun enthusiast. It’s a perfect fit.

 

In my opinion you are the pioneer of the modern comic book narrative, a model for such writers as Brian M. Bendis or Warren Ellis. I believe you were the first to move away from excessive first-person narration in favour of excellent, realistically sounding dialogues and storytelling realised through images rather than through text. What is your view of the matter?

 

Yeah. I can see that. I took a balanced approach to words and art. At the time I was breaking in, comic books were very caption and dialogue heavy. The art was seen as secondary. A lot of writers and editors rejected the idea that comics are related to cinema in many ways. My approach (which I learned by studying Archie Goodwin’s work on Creepy, Eerie and Blazing Combat) held me back from getting work in comics for many years. When I did get in my work was called “groundbreaking.” But all I was doing was classic comics ala Caniff. Kurtzman, Eisner etc.

 

In an environment dominated by strongly liberal views you are regarded as one of the few conservatives who does not shy away from expressing his beliefs. Liberals tend to disregard other viewpoints, even though their doctrine is founded on the idea of freedom in every domain, especially the freedom to express one’s views. I would like to know if your opinions have affected your functioning in the comic book show business in any way? I remember some comments, which I found particularly annoying, published after the announcement that Wildstorm has commissioned you to write the Grifter/Midnighter miniseries. Many thought that being a conservative you are not a good choice of a writer for a comic with a gay protagonist.

 

I’ve never featured my politics in my work. I’m not shy about speaking my mind in interviews and in person. But I don’t treat Batman or GI Joe or the Simpsons as mouthpieces for my views.

 

My career has suffered in the last decade or so as the Big Two publishers become more and more of and intolerant clique.

 

Is there any story about the Dark Knight which you did not manage to realise while working for DC Comics?

 

YES! Brian Stelfreeze and I completed most of great two-part story in which psychiatrists from Arkham capture Man-Bat believing him to be the Batman that so many of their inmates are terrified of. An editor with an axe to grind with me (who is no longer with DC) did everything he could to make sure the story was never published.

 

You can see some of the art here:

http://thedixonverse.com/blog/?p=1911

 

The Dark Knight is already seventy four years old. What do you think about his current condition?

 

Confused. They need to get back to the purity of the franchise.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

GI Joe for IDW, the occasional Simpsons or Spongebob story. A series of novels about the Navy SEALs available on kindle and a creator-owned project with my buddy Graham Nolan which you can see at www.joefrankenstein.com

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Visit my website at http://www.dixonverse.net/!

And come see me at http://www.comicspace.com/chuckdixon/

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