This May, "Fight Club" is back.
Last summer, Dark Horse Comics announced the comic book sequel to Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel (the basis for the 1996 David Fincher film), and at Emerald City Comicon, Palahniuk, artist Cameron Stewart, cover artist David Mack and editor Scott Allie, provided panel attendees with an ashcan of the first issue. In the ashcan, which will be given away on Free Comic Book Day, the narrator and Marla are married, have a kid -- and things are not going well. The stage is set for Tyler Durden to return.
"I wrote Chuck a letter in 2006 or 2007, and he was kind enough to respond," Mack recalled of the genesis of the project. Palahniuk responded, and their correspondence continued until the writer eventually invited Mack to meet him the next time he was in Portland.
Palahniuk spoke glowingly of the collaborative nature of comics. "The idea of working with talented people... that's the sexy thing about movies," he said. "In this case, it's very much the same, to work with people who are the very best at what they do. Unlike movies, where I'm a tourist, with comics I feel like I'm part of the team."
"I contacted Scott [Allie] and I said, 'If you're doing this "Fight Club" thing, I want to be part of it," Stewart said. "If I don't do it, someone else is going to do it, and they're going to ruin it.' What I ended up doing, voluntarily, was adapting one of the chapters of the novel into a comic as a proof-of-concept."
One major departure "Fight Club 2" takes from the novel and film is that the protagonist now has a name -- sort of. "He had to have a name," Palahniuk explained. "In the book, I forgot to give him a name. It's such a shitty convention to have the character say, 'Hi, my name is...' or to catch himself in a mirror and give a description." Palahniuk deliberately kept the character vague in the novel, so that the reader would identify with them, but when it came to choosing a name for the sequel, he "wanted it to be Cornelius, which is the name of the monkey played by Roddie McDowell [in 'Planet of the Apes'], but I defaulted to Sebastian, my second-favorite name." Asked whether Sebastian is the narrator's real name, Palahniuk replied, "That's dealt with in the Free Comic Book Day comic."
Palahniuk also spoke on Stewart's ability to insert visual references and allusions in the art that he did not make explicit in the text. "These little non-verbal things are always more fun to recognize," Palahniuk said. "You don't want to be spoon-fed. You want to recognize this object from one point to the next. That's why I hate modernism... You're smart enough to figure it out. You don't need to be told what you're thinking or what you're feeling."
Palahniuk also spoke about his love of horror, gore, old EC Comics, and why he thought Stewart was a perfect artist for the project. "One reason why Cameron's work was so compelling was that I needed a bit of a buffer between the horrible things I wanted to depict and how they wanted to depict them. When people complained that Cameron's work was cartoonish, I thought that was perfect. It's kind of punk... I also wanted to combine my work with the old EC horror stuff that I loved so much, but do some things that they couldn't get away with... With that little cartoony edge or that surrealistic thing that he brings, you can depict things with an edge that aren't off-putting."
Palahniuk also spoke generally about his other work, with one audience member asking how he came up with his often disturbing ideas. "It always starts with one little story," he replied. "Someone will start with one story you cannot assimilate. I was in LA... someone had a gravel fireplace, and couldn't figure out why it stank." The owners later found out that their cat had been using the fireplace as a litter box when they turned it on one day and lit up "eighty pounds of cat piss." Palahniuk recalled about how he embellished that story to them flipping the switch and the cat, presently using the fireplace as a litter box, being set on fire, running around the living room, burning the house down. "My degree is in journalism," he said. "That's what I do, this kind of Studs Terkel-thing of accumulation."
"Fight Club 2" is one of Dark Horse Comics' Free Comic Book Day offerings, on May 2. "Fight Club 2" #1 arrives in stores May 27.