SPOILER WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for “Manifest Destiny” #19, on sale May 18.
Dating back to when he was just a young boy, Chris Dingess has long been fascinated by Bigfoot. So it was only a matter of time before Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the rest of the Corps of Discovery came face-to-face with sasquatches in Dingess’ popular Skybound series, “Manifest Destiny.”
A writer/producer for TV series including “Agent Carter” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, Dingess is highly adept at combining action and drama and “Manifest Destiny” boasts plenty of both as he and artist Matthew Roberts re-imagine the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the early 1800s as a horror/fantasy series for Robert Kirkman’s Image Comics imprint.
With a new arc launching with “Manifest Destiny” #19 on May 18, CBR News connected with Dingess to discuss Lewis and Clark’s epic encounter with the biggest mammal in all the land and learn quickly that this take on the sasquatch is as much based in classic mythology as it is in Americana. Dingess also shared his thoughts on Sacagawea’s pregnancy, the importance of the other expedition and juggling between fact and fiction when it comes to historical accounts of what happened to the brave men and women that explored the American west, mapping the newly acquired territory for President Thomas Jefferson and ensuring safe passage for their fellow countrymen.
CBR News: Do you believe in Bigfoot?
Chris Dingess: I don’t know but I doubt it. I think something would have been found by now. Wasn’t there a tribe in South America discovered a couple of years ago? There was no previous videos or photographs of them. But no, I don’t think sasquatches exist.
If they don’t exist, why does the obsession continue? Well, I guess it’s not quite an obsession for most, but why does our fascination with Bigfoot continue?
When I was a little kid, I remembering seeing the grainy footage of the guy walking through the woods in the suit on I think it was “In Search of…”, the Leonard Nimoy show that was on Saturday afternoons. And when I saw that as a kid, it broke my brain. I was like, “Why are we not focusing all of our money and resources on finding this creature?” Sasquatches are like America’s Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot is up there with Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed as far as tall tales go. And he’s cooler than those tall tales because everyone has their spin on it, which is what we are doing in “Manifest Destiny.”
A look ahead to the solicited cover for “Manifest Destiny” #21 shows that these sasquatches look a lot like a cyclops and eerily similar to the one-eyed skull Thomas Jefferson showed Lewis back in “Manifest Destiny” #12 that launched the infamous Lewis-Clark expedition and effectively, your story. One and the same?
Yes. I figured it was time. That is revealed in the first issue of the new arc too so I am not really spoiling anything. One of the things that I get back from fans of the book, who are all great, is that “Manifest Destiny” has all of these setups and questions to answer but so far, there really hasn’t been too many payoffs so I felt that this was something that we could payoff at this point of the journey.
But because Lewis and Clark have found the skull, and ultimately the sasquatches, does not mean that the story is coming to its end, does it?
No. Not at all, man. They are still in North Dakota. They have a long way to go and they still need to go all of the way back. [Laughs]
Why the decision to make your sasquatches one-eyed Cyclopes versus traditional two-eyed cryptozoological creatures?
It was purely a creative decision. It’s like what happened with the buffalo people in the fist arc. My first idea was to do more of a centaur from classic mythology. And I think it was Robert [Kirkman] or it was Sean Mackiewicz, who was the editor at the time early on in the book, who suggested that we take classic mythology and combine it with Americana. And that turned our really well. And [artist] Matt Roberts can really sink his teeth into that sort of stuff. That’s right in his wheelhouse so when it came to the time that we thought about doing sasquatches, we thought about what kind of cool spin we could put on it and we came up with the Cyclops.
So this arc has been a long time in the making?
I always knew we had to answer the question: “What’s the evidence?” There has to be something that makes Lewis think that maybe the President is not completely off. And it had to be something fantastical. So what if the cyclopses of this book were sasquatches? And I actually was going to wait until they were a little bit further into the trip, closer to the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest but I felt like I wanted to pay something off here and I do go online and look up urban legends and the cryptozoology of different places and people have claimed top have seen a Bigfoot at some point in that area. And I am sure that if you went to almost any state, there would be someone telling you that they saw a Bigfoot.
And I think Bigfoot is one of the dumbest names for this creature. Sasquatch sounds so much cooler than Bigfoot. When someone says, “Bigfoot,” I picture them scratching their butt while talking to you. [Laughs]
It all just came together nicely. And just thought it was a good time to pay this off. And it helps with the other parallel story that we are telling with the other explorers.
And I wanted to ask you about the other explorers. The new arc opens with another flashback to Captain Helm and his earlier expedition. Obviously, Lewis and Clark have lots to learn from Helm but as readers, should we be reading his journal entries closely, as well, for hints at what’s to come in “Manifest Destiny?”
I think you should pay attention to both Helm and Flewellyn. Their ultimate fate informs a lot of where Lewis and Clark are right now and where they have been throughout the journey. Lewis and Clark haven’t been wandering into this journey blind. They know more than the other men on their journey and there’s a reason for that.
I love the dynamic you’ve developed, and continue to develop, with Lewis and Clark. Who do you think has changed the most since “Manifest Destiny” launched and how would you define their relationship as we enter the fourth arc compared to when this great adventure started?
I think, if anything, the situation has forced a change a little bit. That said, I don’t think that they have shifted that much. You keep thinking that Clark is the man of action and Lewis is the man of science and then once Lewis tees off on that giant bug monster, you’re like, “Oh, Lewis actually has a dark side to him.” The wild territory that they are wandering through is starting to bring out that wild side in Lewis, as well. But Clark remains the anchor here.
Collins took center stage in the Ferzon arc. Will he continue to play a major role in the series moving forward?
The most difficult part that I have found with this book is that there are so many member of the crew that I want to give a story arc too. There is this balance of finding the page time because there is a lot of action and really cool stuff that I want to give Matt to draw and finding the space to tell these smaller stories for the individual members of the crew. You want to care about all of them. And I also have to have some cannon fodder for my monsters that I keep introducing. [Laughs] These guys are all marching into the meat grinder. [Laughs] So it’s a real weird juggling act. And that’s a big transition from writing for TV because if you write an ensemble show for television, like I just did a couple of episodes for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, and you are putting a bunch of characters in a scene, they have to have lines. While in a comic book, you don’t feel so bad putting your cast in the background. But to answer your question, Collins will continue to play a part in the future.
Sacagawea’s pregnancy concerns me. I keep having thoughts of the infamous “V” birthing scene. You know, with the baby lizard? Can you put mind at ease that we’re going to get a healthy baby boy?
You mean like the Starchild from “V?” [Laughs] She gave birth to a lovely little boy in the historical account and that’s all I can say.
And that’s a good place to ask you about the historical accounts. While Clark died, for the time, at the ripe old age of 68, Lewis died much younger at the age of 35. Historians concede it was likely a suicide but Lewis’ death somewhat remains a mystery. Will Lewis’s eventual demise be explored in “Manifest Destiny?”
That is a long ways away. [Laughs] I am constantly reading and re-reading stuff about Lewis and Clark. And it’s always the thing that jumps out at me. Getting off his horse and walking into a cabin and people saying, “We heard a gunshot!” It’s such a bizarre ending. He was still governor and he was only 35. Lewis was 30 and Clark was 34 or 35 when they were making this trip. I can’t really go into the ultimate fate of Lewis and/or Clark right now.
I would expect nothing less. You mentioned your work on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and you’re also a co-showrunner on “Agent Carter.” “Manifest Destiny,” it would seem, has all of the elements necessary for a successful TV series, doesn’t it?
It does seem right for a television show doesn’t it? That’s all I can say.
“Manifest Destiny” #19 by Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts is slated for release May 18 from Skybound Entertainment.
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