Acclaimed novelist and “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk made his first trip out to the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The author was also making his first visit to the convention as part of the promotional push for “Fight Club 2,” a 10-issue series from Dark Horse Comics that serves as a sequel to his 1996 debut novel. The author, who had never written a comic before, talked about how the book ended up at Dark Horse, how he adjusted his process to fit the format and how long an idea for the sequel has been percolating. Palahniuk also went into detail about how his experience with depression and anxiety, as well the effects of the drugs used to treat them, inform the comic book sequel and explains his unique approach to the book’s convoluted story and the art by Cameron Stewart and cover artist David Mack.
On why he opted to create the sequel as a comic book rather than prose: David [Mack] was the initial reach-out, but what really made it happen was a thriller writer named Chelsea Cain who lives in Portland. Chelsea writes the “Heartsick” series; she has a new series starting called “Kick,” [“One Kick”] is the first book. Chelsea threw a dinner party where she kind of blind date set me up for this gangbang with Matt Fraction and his wife Kelly Sue [DeConnick], and Brian Bendis and his wife. Between the four of them, and Chelsea, they all just kind of brow beat me about why I should be doing comics.
They were saying you have much more creative control in comics; you’re working with a team of people instead of all by yourself — it’s so isolating to be a fiction writer; you’re collaborating, and when you go and do the promotion you’re also part of a team. Every aspect of the job is much more group focused and much more pleasant in that way. That was really appealing. Plus, a comic could sell in issues that would not violate my non-compete clauses with my current book contracts, so I could bring out ten issues of the “Fight Club” sequel and not be competing with my conventional books from Random House. So that was appealing. Just a lot of things, plus learning to tell a story in a brand new way. A story that was kind of like a movie, but kind of like a book, and I like that too.
On how the “Fight Club” sequel ended up at Dark Horse: Chelsea knows Scott Allie, the editor at Dark Horse, and so through Chelsea Scott was introduced. Most of the early exploring work was done with Matt Fraction. Matt was kind of my guide and Matt was steering me toward Image. Image seemed very appealing, everyone was pushing for Image, but the process seemed so collaborative and so foreign to me that I really wanted to do it with someone close to home. Dark Horse is in Portland, and I live near Portland, so this allows us to get together physically for them to teach me all these distinctions in person. And so I think I’ve had more of an education and a coaching from Dark Horse than I could have gotten from Image.
On how long the idea for the sequel has been with him: In a way, there was such a finality to having written “Fight Club.” I wrote it when I was 31. Studies show the last significant changes in the human brain come at the age of 31, and that for the rest of people’s lives if you ask them “How old do you feel?” no matter how old they are chronologically, people from the age of 31 to 100 will say, “You know, basically I feel 31. 31 is a kind of fixed point in our lives. I wrote “Fight Club” at 31, it seemed so complete — it even had a line in there about, “We will wear leather clothing that we will wear for our entire lives,” not realizing that we really don’t wear the same size clothing for our entire lives. There really was that sense of, at 31, things were so settled.
Having lived 20 years beyond 31, I realized that those characters could be revisited with different issues, plus we’re not just bringing the characters into the future. We’re making the narrator a father, after he spent so much time in “Fight Club” trashing fathers, making him a father who’s failing just as badly as his father failed. But also kind of taking the Tyler Durden mythology into the past and presenting Tyler as not something that one day appeared at the beach, but something that may have gone back for centuries or millennia and has affected generations long before the story that we saw. So in a way it’s kind of building a mythology in the way that Lovecraft would build one, or the way that Stephen King is so good at building mythologies that span a huge amount of time.
On how much his life experience in the 20 years since “Fight Club” has affected the story of the sequel: The biggest changes is that when I wrote the story, when I wrote “Fight Club,” I had never taken psychotropic medication. I had never taken anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills, and in the twenty years after after my father was killed I took Zoloft for a couple years. More recently, because of the pressure of being with so many people so much of the time I started taking Lorazepam when I was doing promotion — an anti-axiety drug. I’ve talked about this with Trent Reznor, and I’ve talked about this with so many creative people that when you’re on those drugs you can’t create. You can promote, you can perform, but you can’t create the thing itself. Part of the sequel to “Fight Club” is the fact that the narrator has spent the last 20 years on psychotropic drugs that suppress Tyler [Durden], and in doing so they kind of suppress and preclude the very best aspect of him. So he’s getting by, but to tell the truth, he hasn’t fucked Marla very well in 20 years, and Marla’s tired of being married to this guy who’s so not Tyler. And he’s a lousy father to his kid. He’s even-tempered, he’s boring — everything Tyler was not — and people are quietly working behind the scenes to try to bring Tyler back because they miss that aspect of the narrator, that crazy part.
On his artistic collaborators David Mack & Cameron Stewart: I think David Mack is perfect for covers because everything that he does is really a work of art, but I wasn’t sure if the really plot-heavy story I’d written would be served by David’s gorgeous, gorgeous drawings, gorgeous illustrations. Rather than risk not communicating everything in this plot that’s so convoluted, I liked Cameron Stewart. I liked him because his drawings were a little cartoony, and I thought it would be easier to show really extreme, really edgy things that might be banned in the marketplace if we showed them in a slightly cartoony way so that there was some sort of wiggle room, some distance from those being actual depictions of the horrible things that are happening.