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CBR TV: Palahniuk & Mack Talk "Fight Club 2," Sensitive Subjects & Cover Controversies

One year ago, Dark Horse Comics announced they would publish "Fight Club 2," the comic book sequel to the acclaimed 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, written by the author with art by Cameron Stewart and covers by David Mack. By the time Comic-Con International in San Diego rolled around this year, the first two issues of the 10-issue limited series had been released, and the book was living up to the high bar set by the original.

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Jonah Weiland welcomed Palahniuk and Mack to the world famous CBR Tiki Room at Comic-Con to discuss the book's journey, what the first-time comic book writer has learned about the medium, and how he manages to write about touchy subjects in a way that's more likely to elicit a laugh than provoke outrage. The duo also discuss how the covers are made, which concept almost went too far, and whether or not they plan to collaborate on a "Kabuki" tale or another project when "Fight Club 2" is over.

On how the author decided to break down his script by panel, rather than page-by-page:

Chuck Palahniuk: I bought a book called "The Idiot's Guide to Writing Comic Scripts" and it said you could do it any way you want. One method they gave was just to list it panel 1 through panel whatever, just the way you would a movie script. The bear of that is if you add or remove a panel you have to renumber everything after that. That's the worst part. ... There are conventions within any storytelling form and you want to at least get the basic conventions down, otherwise Cameron's gonna be working with a mess and it's gonna be unreadable.

On getting away with writing about very sensitive subjects in order to get a laugh:

Palahniuk: The way I always get away with it is to make it consensual. These are people who are not victimizing one another, they are people who are having to do violent things, but they're doing them in agreement. And they're doing them for a nobler cause, so nobody's being victimized.

On whether there would be as long a gap between this book and a potential sequel as there was between "Fight Club 2" and the original novel:

Palahniuk: It's been so much fun to learn from people like David and Cameron and Scott [Allie] who are so much younger than me, and also so good at what they do that for once I can relax. I don't have to be the person in charge, and I like having that lower status and I like being the person in the room that's learning the most. It's not an uncomfortable task yet I'm having a great deal of fun.

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On whether any cover ideas have been changed due to worry over retailer reactions:

David Mack: With the third issue, which comes out next -- and Scott told me has been like the highest reordered issue this year or something like that -- and it's the one with the two children on the cover. When I originally drew it -- and the idea is that maybe it's the Sebastian character as a child next to his invisible friend, young Tyler, or you can interpret it as maybe it's his son standing next to a young Tyler. They're right next to each other, and if you look close they're touching each other and there's not actually a separation from where they're touching, almost like they're a zygote that hasn't completely separated but they're one thing still. And I put them next to each other like that almost thinking of like the Stanley Kubrick "Shining," the two girls or something.

Chuck's thinking was, "Iinstead of having them just stand there looking at you, have the Tyler child pointing a gun to the head of the other child. Because, you know, kids and guns, it's gonna be great." I thought well, "That's different. I don't know how comfortable I'll feel doing that." But also, I felt like that maybe turns the threat inward rather than make them a striking outward threat. So I thought, what if I have him like holding the gun down? But he's still holding the gun. Better yet, what if instead of a gun -- did you suggest the grenade or did I suggest the grenade?

Palahniuk: And we'd also talked about, because they're wearing T-shirts, and the innocent boy has a penguin with the word "slide" on it and the Tyler boy has a finger that says "I'm with stupid." Originally the compromise was to make it a gun, "I'm with stupid." And then we came from there to the hand grenade. And with a hand grenade the ideas was to do one of those photorealistic overlays so that the pin could be shown loose on the cover, kind of out of the context. Are you doing that?

Mack: Yeah, I did that. I said, "Well, okay, we'll have him holding a grenade." And it's in his hand, so it's something dangerous, but a lot of people use guns, this is something a little different, something a little explosive. And we have their home burning in the background, too. And then that was the note that came in and Scott said, "David, I need you to find an actual grenade and have the pin overlay. We'll have that on top of the logo and the gauze under the logo." So I got an actual grenade and used the pin for it.

SDCC: "Fight Club 2" Team on Scratch-and-Sniff Bookmarks, Creative Freedom

On picking the scents for the scratch-n-sniff bookmarks contest:

Palahniuk: I originally went with a company that would give me dog shit. Ugh, I so wanted dog shit. Because the first issue has dog feces in it, but that company was so unreliable. And the second company I finally went with the to make the comics didn't have dog shit in their inventory. There's some really sketchy things, but nothing as good as dog shit.

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