Interview “Shakespeare’s language” with Chuck Dixon !

Chuck Dixon is an American comic book writer who distinguished himself in the comics industry notably with his run on DC’s unique dark knight, Batman or with his strong writing on The Punisher for Marvel Comics…The insane Bane, insanely played by Tom Hardy, in « The Dark Knigth rises », was created by him. Well done, Chuck!  And, welcome to les Chroniques des Fontaines.

1/ ADF: Chuck, how did things started for you in comic books? What was your first job in the industry? Tell us about your influences?

CD: My first paying comics work was for a magazine called Gasm. It was a cheap knock-off of Heavy Metal magazine. They paid me $40 a page for script, art and lettering! But I was a happy man. They were paying me to do comics!
My biggest influence for writing was, and is, Archie Goodwin. His ability to marry words to pictures was flawless. I learned economy of writing from him as well as how to write more believable dialogue.

2/ ADF: Any sound advices for neophyte artistes who would like to work in the comic book industry?

CD: The rules are always changing. The best path in is to create your own work and use social media and other outlets to get it noticed. With crowdfunding, it’s possible to actually have a career if the quality of your work is high enough to attract an audience.

3/ ADF: The “heroes” you scripted in comics, I should say, “vigilantes”, Batman, particularly, The Punisher, are violent men or women, and often torture their preys, informers, criminals, etc. to get some answers. Do you agree with their methods? Do you think violence or guns are the right answers to chaos and disorder? Don’t you think violence begets violence? (you know how, in France, we hate firearms, but are kind of hypocrites, too, because, we sell weapons to other countries, and feed wars, like Americans, at the other end of the world)?

CD: Well, I don’t know how you solve a problem like Hitler without violence. They tried talking to him but he wouldn’t listen, right?
Vigilante fiction is like gangster fiction, it’s about characters who work outside the law to get their own brand of justice done. That’s the attraction. The shedding of the niceties of legal procedures and getting to the root of the problem. And I’d like to defend Batman and the Punisher. They use fear and intimidation to get information from their prey but never torture. The most famous Punisher scene I ever wrote is about Frank Castle going out of his way to make his subject think he’s being tortured. But then, Frank also murders people.
Americans can be hypocrites too. The crime rates here are highest in the cities with the strictest gun laws. We have lots of laws but not enough enforcement.

4/ ADF: Chuck, I read recently, you agreed to work with Vox Day and his brand new comic called « Alt-Hero » which is, apparently promoting a white nationalist message (which we condemn, on these pages). What can you say about this association ? Do you approve these ideas ? Or is it a big misunderstanding (I hope so) ?

CD: Vox deals with issues of race WAY more than I ever will. But he is not a white supremacist. In truth, he’s not even technically “white.” And there’s nothing in Alt-Hero that promotes any message like that. If there is a political message in Alt-Hero, and there is, it’s about the perils of globalism. Vox is merely using the long-established trope of rugged individualism and bringing a political focus to it.
My own superhero book for him, Avalon, uses the same theme.

Vox certainly holds opinions that are unpopular to many in the American comics community. But, then again, so do I. 

5/ ADF: You claimed in the past, that you had been blackballed at DC for your conservative politics. Is it true ? Can you enlighten us and our readers ?

CD: In 2003, I was asked to apologize to an editor for remarks I made in an interview. I had expressed an opinion about Marvel’s decision to portray Rawhide Kid as gay. I felt that, if they were serious about having a gay character, they should have created a new character for that role. It turned out they weren’t terribly serious, after all. But I was labeled a homophobe. This editor, at DC Comics, is gay and complained to the publisher that he was offended by my remarks and demanded an apology. I was told that I could not work for them unless I apologized. I called this editor, whom I had known for over ten years at the time and worked for often, and told him that I said nothing meant to offend anyone and would not apologize or change my opinion. I went on the black list.

6/ ADF: On a lighter note, what are your favorite moments of your iconic runs on Batman (me, I would pick the crossover “No Man’s Land”) and The Punisher?

CD: Detective Annual #7, a special issue with batman as a pirate on the  Spanish Main with brilliant art by Quique Alcatena. And, as the years go by, I have the fondest memories for my run on Punisher War Journal when Gary Kwapisz and I were given free rein to go as wild as we liked on the character. I most recall Frank in an armored costume fighting hillbilly meth dealers in a high rise slum.

7/ ADF: So, Chuck, can you name, among these series you scripted, your favorite runs on Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Birds of Prey (which you created), and The Punisher (yours? You can say it!)?

CD: I really enjoyed the Robin run where his father sent him to a boarding school with Pete Woods on the art. That first year of Nightwing with Scott McDaniel where we were establishing the city of Bludhaven and the cast of characters. On Batman it was the Captain Fear storyline with Graham Nolan. But our editors hated it! On Birds of prey I loved the time travel arc with Viking Prince and gorgeous art by Butch Guice. And that run on Punisher with Gary that I mentioned above. I didn’t create the Punisher (ADF : right, Conway/ Andru/ Romita Sr. did)

8/ ADF: Your favorite comic book author (you? You can say it, don’t be shy!)? Artist? Inker? Colorist (too often forgotten!)?

CD: Archie Goodwin. Steve Ditko. Joe Sinnott. Chris Garcia.

9/ ADF: These days, comic book characters are rebooted on a regular basis (now once a year). DC has rebooted with The New 52 in 2011, Marvel has, in a way, rebooted its universe with Marvel Now in 2012, then, comes DC Rebirth in 2016, etc (I have lost count). Do these relaunches mean the comic books are dying?

CD: It means they are out of ideas. What they need is get all-new people in the leadership positions. The last six failed re-boots have been run by the same people. It’s time to re-boot the staff.

10/ ADF: Would you reboot your own runs if you could (like your major Batman stories, Knightfall/ KnigthsEnd, for example? Well, I’m kind of Joking)?

CD: I’d like to reboot the recent Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle event. They got that ALL wrong.

11/ ADF: Do you think, in the future, people will stop venturing in movie theaters and only watch movies on streaming (eaten like most series, etc. by the ogres Netflix/ Disney/ Amazon) and cease reading books?

CD: That’s the trend, obviously. Movie theaters will still exist because kids want to get out of the house now and then. And aren’t we all reading less these days?

12/ ADF: If you had to work with a french artist, writer or illustrator, who would you choose? We recently interviewed Jean-Yves Mitton, the french comic book author of Mikros, L’archer blanc, etc. Are you in touch with french artists?

CD: I am not. But the tricky thing with European artists is that you can’t be sure which country they’re from. Years ago, I found out that many of favorite “European” artists are from Argentina! Currently, I am loving the art of Olivier Schwartz. I am assuming he is French (or Belgian? ADF: French, of course!) I can’t be sure. And we DO NOT see enough of the awesome work of your artists here in the USA (ADF: a shame! Invite me!) Thank God for Amazon France ! 

13/ ADF: A message for french comic book readers (whatever you have in mind) who follow your work?

CD: I want to thank you all and confess that I Love getting the “album” treatment whenever that happens. Those editions are so beautiful.

14/ ADF: Last and least, you can’t avoid this question, who is your famous french author? Zola? Hugo? Musset? Moliere? Myself? Who?

CD: Albert Camus. Major influence on my prose writing. And Marc Behm, who wrote in French despite being an American.

Thanks a lot, Chuck. 

If you like Chuck’s work, just venture here :

Arnaud Delporte-Fontaine