Monday, September 13, 2010
CHUCK DIXON TALKS ABOUT WINTERWORLD in time for winter
I’ve always enjoyed Chuck Dixon’s writing. And he has a considerable portion of my comic book TPB bookshelf. The work he did that I would consider to be my favorite is Winterworld. The good people at IDW released a collection of it, as well as the second part of the saga, and I am pleased to present this interview with Chuck Dixon about the work, and his place in the comic world.
I’ve given away so many sets of Winterworld I feel as if I’ve perhaps shrunk the potential audience for your new IDW collection of the first series and the previously unpublished Winter Sea. When the work first came out, what was your goal in writing and telling the story? Was it a story that was any part political, any part bigger picture allegory, or was it just a ripping good adventure in a stark environment? If the last, are those kind of stories still arriving on the comic market shelves or has the glory of a story written without agenda passed?
CHUCK DIXON: Winterworld was entirely inspired by seeing Jorge Zaffino's artwork for the first time. I had not even an inkling of this story until I saw Jorge's portfolio. My visceral reaction was, "I gotta create something for this guy!"
Winterworld was designed to take advantage of everything Jorge did so well. Evocative characters, convincing action, dangerous settings and the treachery of Mother Nature. This guy drew the best weather since Joe Kubert.
I had no political agenda and the first editions contained a disclaimer that Winterworld was not meant as a cautionary tale about the environment.
Most of what I see in today's "mature" comics seems to have either a political angle to it or a conscious effort to be meaningful. I've always aimed only to write escapist fiction.
What influenced the story regarding environment, historic tales, fictional tales, what writers, what artists?
A lot of Winterworld probably grew out of being a kid back in the "duck and cover" days of the Cold War. We had air raid drills at school and were even sent home one day and told to have our parents write down the time of our arrival so that it could be determined whether or not to send us home to die with our families. I remember bomb shelters and covers of Life magazine showing Soviet rockets raining down on Manhattan. All this fueled by lots of Twilight Zone episodes and movies like Fail Safe. A rich, dark fantasy life evolved from all that in which I would imagine a post-nuclear war and how my family would survive against our neighbors. I'm kind of hard-wired for creating bitter, cynical survivalist adventures.
With the world gripped by fears of global climate change and global warming, however accurate or not those fears are, do you think that such a book as Winterworld is actually a refreshing change from that sort of paradigm, or, does that not play into how you see it? Why or why not?
Mark Twain said that "everyone talks about the weather but no one ever does anything about it." Now we're in a very weird age of co-mingled hubris and fear in which we are terrified of the climate but feel we can change it. We seem to be afraid of everything now so that even a mild hurricane off the East Coast throws the media into a panic. Once only the weatherman commented on how hot or cold it is. Newscasts now lead with the startling revelation that it is hot in July. Supposedly educational cable channels are crowded with apocalyptic predictions featuring hours and hours of the same half-dozen scientists describing doomsday scenarios in great detail and CGI animation. I suppose that Winterworld now plays into those fears with it's violent disruption. I never meant it that way. I just wanted to write a thrilling adventure in an unimaginable world.
You seemed to really hit on something with Jorge Zaffino, where you wrote works that his pencils were perfect for, how rare is it to find an artist and writer so sympatico creatively, and, if not for his tragic death at a modest age of 42, what would his legacy of work look like now?
Despite the language barrier, Jorge and I always seemed to be of one mind as to how the stories should be presented. In one instance, in Seven Block, I wrote a character telling another to go "eff yourself." The editor felt the line was too strong even for a mature comic so I cut it. Jorge never saw the line. When the artwork was handed in, Jorge had drawn the character giving the finger to the other guy.
Some kind of vulgar psychic connection there.
I'm not sure what Jorge would have done if he'd had the opportunity. I had lots of proposals out for him but American editors had a hard time finding a place for him. They're never sure what to do with a guy who doesn't draw the world of superheroes.
Who do you see as being the perfect artist to complete the trilogy with the chapter Winterwar? If you started together right now with that prospective artist on that series, how soon could we expect to see it?
Hard to say who could come into finish up. Rodolfo Damaggio would be a choice but he's far too successful in the movie world these days. Someone mentioned Tommy Lee Edwards to me once. That would certainly be a worthy successor. There's other guys I know but I think they're too in awe of Jorge's work to step in.
If you were to see a mass response to this collection and the third part were to occur, what actors could you see playing the main roles in a movie of the story? Would it have to be CGI? Or just go to Minnesota in February and use hand held cameras and shot guns and flash bombs for effects?
I don't really play the casting game. I think of Winterworld as a comic first and last. Were it ever to be adapted to film then that's a whole different deal and I'd have little say in how it all turned out. But for me, the comic is my last word on Winterworld.
But there's no reason a fine movie could not be shot in some frigid location with little or no effects. Not to sound like some Hollywood hosebag but it's all about the characters.
Is IDW the intellectual inheritor of the mantle of Eclipse comics, the original publisher of Winterworld? Or is there one out there right now?
IDW is absolutely the closest thing to Eclipse that's out there right now. With its combination of licensed properties, creator-owned stuff and archival projects it's like time has caught up to Jan and Dean's original vision of a company that fully embraces comics as a medium. For the creators, it's the least corporate of the companies out there right now. Not to say that it's not run by actual grown-ups. But there's none of the show-biz phony doubletalk that's so common in comics right now. No one talks in terms of synergy or similar BS. Dealing with Ted Adams and the rest of the folks reminds me of dealing with Dean Mullaney back in the day. You present them with an idea and they come back with whether or not it will work and real world reasons why or why not. No lame excuses or gladhanding.
As some people read a while back, a long while back, in my column at PopThought.com, we discussed how Eclipse was a ripe area for talents like yourself and Timothy Truman, Beau Smith, Alan Moore even, and others, to spread your wings outside of the constrictions of an over arching continuity and genres found at Marvel or DC. Do you see the market allowing such a broadly minded publisher rising again?
As I answered above, I think IDW is that company. But times have changed. When Eclipse was going strong the market for comics was hot. While you can have a talent gain heat these days it seems to be a heat that burns hot and fast. The criteria for "hotness" is no longer subjective. You have it being determined on one end by the increasingly irrelevant Wizard magazine and like websites for the superhero market and on the other end Entertainment Weekly for the boutique "precious" comics market.
Within comics you are a “famously conservative” creative talent. How do you see that, if at all, as affecting the layers of your stories and ideas filling your work? Is it possible for a creative talent to create OUTSIDE of his ideas and beliefs? If so, how? I have no idea.
Make that "infamously" conservative. I try not to place any of my political beliefs in my work. Batman or GI Joe are escapist entertainment and not a platform for my views. Even when I write The Simpsons I skewer both sides.
Last question, are there any plans for an Evangeline series in similar collection? For those who never read it, it is a kick ass Nun in an apocalyptic sort of future...
The ownership of Evangeline is murky at best. I doubt it's worth the time and expense it would take to disentangle it.
Thank you Chuck Dixon.
I hope all interested readers will visit The Dixonverse, IDW, and IDW’s page for Winterworld