Writing a follow-up story to a cultural touchstone like Fight Club is a pretty damn brassy thing to tackle, but then Chuck Palahniuk isn’t just any writer. In a little under two weeks, the first issue of the miniseries to Fight Club 2, the Dark Horse Comics sequel to the original novel hits comic book stores and, trust me, it’s well worth the wait. Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie took time out of his schedule to discuss how this new tale of Tyler Durden and company came to fruition and where we find the characters nearly two decades late.
FreakSugar: How did the project for Fight Club 2 come about?
Scott Allie: One of Chuck’s best friends is one of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s best friends. This led to dinner conversations about comics, the idea that Chuck had to do one, and his idea that a sequel to Fight Club had to happen in a medium that it hadn’t been in before …
FS: Where do we find the narrator, Tyler, and Marla at the beginning of issue 1?
SA: The narrator is now named Sebastian. He’s ten years older, out of the asylum that he was in at the end of the novel. He’s married to Marla, they had a child, they’re bored out of their minds with their life together, with Tyler gone for the last decade, but now something is stirring …
FS: One thing that struck me while reading the first issue is how Sebastian’s struggles seem to have grown with his audience. The original book and film touched on the idea of disaffectedness in a person’s 20s and 30s, while that longing seems to still be there, but in a different form, in Fight Club 2. Was that a conscious decision on Chuck’s part?
SA: Well, the struggles grew with his author. We’re all older now, and we speak to different experiences. It was a conscious decision on Chuck’s part, but it was also sort of inevitable, unless he deliberately clung to the same things he’d been dealing with twenty years ago.
FS: What was the process like for Chuck, who is known for his novels, adapting his ideas to the comic book format?
SA: He had the best teacher, Matt Fraction, although Matt downplays how much help he really gave Chuck. But Chuck talked to him before writing the first draft—the day I met Chuck he handed me a complete first draft. Whatever those two talked about, that was what primed Chuck for writing the book. As we’ve proceeded, he’s rewritten and rewritten. The first draft was seven very long issues, and then he rewrote for ten issues. He did that through the time we were negotiating and talking about artwork. I was asking him a lot of questions, showing him a lot of stuff, trying to figure out how to translate his aesthetic to comics. Through those conversations his understanding of what he wanted to do grew. We picked [artist] Cameron [Stewart] pretty quickly, and then Cameron got to Portland for a couple months, and we all met up, with the letterer and the colorist as well, and we talked about how experimental we wanted to get in the book—and those conversations informed further rewrites from Chuck, including a major change to the ending—all his idea, but I think he was unsure about it until he saw our giddy responses. And now, since Cameron has been drawing pages, Chuck’s been paying attention to how Cameron works with the scripts. Every time Cameron is ready to start a new issue, Chuck does a rewrite of that, so Cameron’s working from a fresh script. And most recently, the rewrites have really embraced how Cameron tells a story—Chuck is doing what the best writers do, and writing to the artist.
FS: The culture and our use of technology has changed so much since the novel was published. How has that change affected the characters in the comic?
SA: Not too much in their personal lives, but some of the strategies of Project Mayhem are informed by advances in technology … The characters have cell phones, and use them in the story, and the narrator from the novel, now called Sebastian, his job is a product of newer technology. But as people they aren’t that much affected.
FS: Something that made me smile is how the first issue reminded me that, really, all of the folks in the Fight Club universe are pretty broken, terrible people, leaving readers the choice to decide which character will be the protagonist they rally behind, if any.
SA: You know, I love how you just said that. I mean, I am never a person who requires a story to give me likable characters, that phrase is one reason I hate reading reviews, the chance of ever coming across that as a condemnation. But you made a great point—by letting characters be unlikable, you leave the reader with the choice of who to root for, if anyone. Maybe that’s why I don’t chase around likable characters. Give me interesting characters. I don’t need to want to hang out with them. I need to be interested. And Chuck is pretty good at that.
FS: Going into this project, being such a lover of the original story, you had to know that fans were going to have high expectations. The reviews have all seemed to be extremely positive, including ours at FreakSugar. What’s it like to know that the book is being so well received? With just one issue in, I think it holds up incredibly well with the novel and the movie and more than keeps stride. Truly, congratulations for this, sir.
SA: It’s nice, but it’s never more than nice. You can never get too much joy out of the reviews, or anything like that. It’s fleeting, and it can turn on you. You do this stuff to do it. So it is great to hear the reviews are positive, but I haven’t read them, Chuck hasn’t read them. Too fraught. And if you read seven, and one is awful, it’s the one you remember. Reviews are for readers, and thank god they’re good, but if they turn on us, please don’t tell me.
FS: Cameron Stewart’s visuals are stunning and the different styles he uses within the issue are a testament to his talent. How did Cameron become involved with the book?
SA: Cameron heard this was kicking around, and he inquired. I could not be a bigger Cameron Stewart fan. I think he’s one of the best out there, one of the best cartoonists out there, meaning writer and artist. I love his work. I loved his web comic Sin Titulo, which we published at Dark Horse. Once I knew Cameron was interested, I put him in front of Chuck. We were still negotiating then, he was still being courted by the competition. That was a little risky, because I knew, worst case scenario, Chuck could love Cameron and prefer a different publisher, and Cameron would be drawing the book there. Best case, showing Cameron to Chuck helped convince him that I understood the project. I do think that helped seal the deal.
FS: Has Chuck’s involvement in this project piqued his interest in doing other comic book tales for Dark Horse?
SA: Yes, we talk about it, I push and poke, but there’s nothing on the horizon at this time.
FS: Without giving too much away, what can we expect down the line?
SA: Fight Club was Chuck’s first published novel, and it made him a part of this “dangerous writers” group. He’s only gotten more dangerous with his work. I was reading his upcoming collection of short stories at the airport the other day, and as always happens with his stuff, I found myself unable to look at other people in the terminal because the pictures in my head were too screwed up to meet anyone’s eyes. I’ve gotten that more than once from reading Chuck’s work. I was sitting next to this friendly old couple on a plane when I read Guts for the first time, and I couldn’t even respond to them. People who’ve read Guts will understand. So as nutso as Fight Club was, this is 2015 Palahniuk. Things are gonna get weird.
Fight Club 2 #1 hits comic book shops Wednesday, May 27. Be sure to check out our 10/10 advance review!