“The first rule about Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.”
Well, it looks like some rules are meant to be broken, as fans of the critically-acclaimed novel and film anxiously await the release of Chuck Palahniuk’s sequel in comics from Dark Horse Comics on May 27.
The original Fight Club seemed to tap into the frustration over changing gender norms many men seemed to be experiencing at the time of its publication in 1996, which led to not only critical and popular praise, but also a movie deal starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in what would become career-changing opportunities for both Hollywood A-listers. Over sixteen years since the release of the film from 20th Century Fox – and nineteen years since the book’s debut – readers will get the chance to see what life looks like now for the previously unnamed protagonist, who now goes by the name “Sebastian” (one of his old aliases). So, what does life look like after walking away from membership to the Fight Club?
Newsarama had the opportunity to break that first rule and speak with Fight Club 2 editor and Dark Horse Comics Editor-In-Chief Scott Allie about the upcoming series, his experience working with Palahniuk, putting the creative team together, and hints of what else may come after Fight Club 2.
Newsarama: In the past year, there have been many changes at Dark Horse in terms of the way you are doing business – the end of the Star Wars licensing to the increased presence of creator-owned series. How has bringing Fight Club 2 into your line-up changed things and what else do you think it could mean for Dark Horse?
Scott Allie: Fight Club 2 is probably single most exciting acquisition of my career - one of the most exciting things I’ve worked on. Bringing it to comics has been a blast. So, I think of the book as a thing all unto itself, it’s own thing. Place it in the larger context of the company, and it was certainly a great thing to be able to talk about instead of talking about the departure of Star Wars. No single license, no single title could replace Star Wars. Instead, we’re focused on filling that void, so to speak, with amazing books by tremendous talents—whether they’re creator owned books like Fight Club 2 and Black Hammer, or amazing licensed projects like Archie vs. Predator and some of the books we’ll be announcing for the fall with amazing teams. It reflects a great refreshing of our publishing line, which we need every once in a while.
Nrama: Scott, bringing Fight Club 2 to comics – from where did this idea originate?
Allie: Chuck had dinner with Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue Deconnick, and some other friends, and it evolved out of that. Chuck’s local, here in Portland, and I was able to get in touch with him sort of indirectly through those folks. Over a short period of time, we were able to work out a deal to do the book here.
Nrama: This being his first time writing comics scripts, what were those early days like? What sort of advice did you give and what material did you recommend his begin reading?
Allie: He’d already had a bit of a crash course from Matt Fraction. Chuck had already written a first draft of the series by the time I met him, though it’s been greatly revised since then. It went from a seven-issue thing to ten issues, with major story changes and additions along the way, in part inspired by how he was collaborating with the team. Through that revision process, we talked a lot about how to make it work best, and how to write a script for an artist. On the most recent rewrites for the later issues, he’s really begun writing to the things that Cameron does best, and adding some of the form-bending ideas that came about through the whole creative team’s talks.
Nrama: Now, the original Fight Club was actually a published novel, though many more people are likely to point towards the Edward Norton/Brad Pitt film adapation. What have been some of the challenges you identified in moving the world of Fight Club into this third medium?
Allie: Well, one of them is that people are much more likely to remember the movie. The average person. David Fincher’s film was very faithful to Chuck’s novel, but it was different in some key ways, and it’s very important to know that this is Chuck’s Fight Club, not Fox’s. We have to carefully avoid anything that doesn’t come from the novel, or we’ll have Fox’s lawyers at the door. One thing I realized early on when re-reading the novel was how different the ending of the film was. I suggested doing a short adaptation of the end of the novel, first as an installment in Dark Horse Presents, and then changing it to our Free Comic Book Day project. Putting it in there made sure the most people possible would see it, have their memories refreshed, so to speak, and also promote the hell out of the release of the book.
Nrama: I may be asking a question where you’d be a bit biased here, but in what ways do you find comics to be a superior form for this story? In a culture that thrives on cinematic sequels, Chuck could have taken this to Hollywood, but he didn’t. What about comics lends itself to being the best choice for this story?
Allie: Yeah, more than the challenges of presenting it in comics, I saw the opportunities, and Chuck saw the opportunities. This is a great medium, and I think one of the main reasons we’re doing this is that because Fight Club had such a vivid life of its own in both prose and film, Chuck felt that for the next step to really be its own thing, it would benefit by breaking out into a new medium. Chuck was also interested in bringing his work to a new audience, the comics audience, and he saw, in meeting Matt and Kelly and those guys, a great community in comics, and a collaborative process unlike any other. In prose, you work alone. In film, it takes a million people to get anything done. In comics, you can have a tight, small team, everyone pulling their weight, everyone bringing their top game. So, there are all those behind the scenes advantages to comics. In terms of the work itself, Chuck’s prose has such a precise, powerful style to it, and much of that style translates in an interesting way into comics. Chuck is light on dialogue, and comics, with the right artist, can work great without dialogue. Chuck often writes in short impactful sentences, and those translate very well into panels. Chuck loves arresting images; Cameron’s search history will never be the same.
Nrama: Now, once it became clear Chuck wanted to take his long-awaited sequel through Dark Horse, how did you go about deciding on the team who would help adapt his writing into comic form?
Allie: The first clear decisions were getting Nate Piekos and Dave Stewart on board. I knew both to be Palahniuk fans, but more important, I knew they’d be the perfect teammates for what we hoped to build here. They were on the team that showed me how much fun real teamwork could be on Umbrella Academy, and they’re among the best and most inventive creators in their respective disciplines. David Mack was also instrumental in getting Chuck to come to Dark Horse, as the two of them have been friends about ten years. Chuck really wanted David on the team, and I really wanted to do more work with David, so covers seemed the right thing.
Nrama: You also have a few other people contributing variants as well, including Anthony Palumbo, whose variant cover to Fight Club 2 #4we’re debuting here on Newsarama, right?
Allie: Anthony Palumbo has done covers for us for Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I met him at “Illustrators Master Class” in Massachusetts when I was on faculty and got him doing work for us right away.
Nrama: Then there’s Cameron Stewart, who seems to be both a smart and yet interesting choice for taking the lead with the art. He’s a veteran artist who’s worked with many of the biggest names in the industry, and yet his aesthetic almost seems to be counterintuitive with its slightly more animated leanings when taking into account the rough-edged and visceral tone of Fight Club. Can you talk about your decision to match these two creators together?
Allie: Yeah, the interior artist was of course, the biggest decision. And I know why you’d say he was a counterintuitive choice, but he was the best possible choice. Read Sin Titulo. Chuck did. A lot went into choosing Cameron. Chuck and I spent a lot of time talking about comics, talking about the emotional effect he was going for with Fight Club 2, the tone, and just his tastes in art. A lot of people figured Sean Phillips, someone like that, was the natural choice. While Sean is one of my favorite artists, and I love working with guys like Sebastian Fiumara and Laurence Campbell, that’s not the right tone. Chuck’s stuff is funny, it’s crazy, strange, and weird. Playing the art too straight would dull the edge of the writing. Cameron can go from dead serious, or ugly, to bizarre, absurd, without a shift in style.
Chuck and I spent a day at a comic shop in Portland looking at artwork, and everything he gravitated to was on that cartoony side. He loved Gabriel Ba’s work on Umbrella Academy, and Ba or Fabio Moon would’ve been perfect choices for the book, too.
Another thing that my personal experience told me was that I’d be well-served pairing Chuck with an artist who could write well, and Cameron is a brilliant writer. If all Chuck gave us for Fight Club 2 was an outline, I’d’ve asked Cameron to write it and draw it. Of course, the best thing for Fight Club 2 is Chuck writing it himself … but since Chuck was new to comics, we gained a lot by giving him a collaborator who could solve any storytelling problems from the perspective of both writer and artist.
Nrama: In a way, it’s almost as if Cameron was providing editorial or co-writing support here as well.
Allie: Chuck’s script was actually fairly sparse in the pane descriptions, and we talked through the intent of the story a lot, and so Cameron, with the full range of his skills, was able to bring a tremendous amount of texture to the story that was only suggested in the panel descriptions.
Nrama: Looking at the story, we see the protagonist – now identified as “Sebastian” – some ten years after the events of the original Fight Club. The monotony of middle-aged life has replaced the monotony of being an up-and-coming 20-something yuppie.
In what ways do you see this story tackling something new, or instead, continuing to strike out against the daily grind that many readers – originally centered on male readers at the time – experience now as they did when the book and film originally released?
Allie: Well, Chuck is more interested in appealing to female readers with this book than he was in the original book. So, that’s one way in which he’s striking out in a new direction. And Sebastian is battling different demons now, in addition to the central demon of Tyler. He has responsibilities that it’s not cool to shirk. He’s a man, not a boy, trying to figure out how to be a man—but he’s still pretty lousy at it. Instead of looking at his situation and saying, “This is bullshit. I should be Alexander the Great conquering the world,” he has to look at the present reality and say, “I sort of was a narcissistic Alexander, but I left it behind, and I’m sort of hollow now.” It’s a much different malaise that reflects a different stage in a person’s life, not to mention that he’s facing all of this in a world that is different because there was a Fight Club, and there was a Tyler Durden … Tyler is a burden, a reminder.
Nrama: In Fight Club, Marla plays only a secondary role to “Sebastian” / Tyler Durden whereas now she plays a much more significant role as the wife and mother of the household. You mentioned that Chuck had an interest in expanding the scope of readers for Fight Club 2 to include women as well. Will he be aiming to address the frustrations of many contemporary women just as Tyler provides an outlet for “Sebastian”?
Allie: Yeah, completely. The young man who wrote Fight Club did not seem to have been thinking too hard on how his debut novel would connect to a female readership. But Marla did speak to them. The original “Suicide Girl.” Twenty years later, that same writer has a phenomenal and devoted female readership who’ve followed his work for years, with lots of female characters who bear no resemblance to Marla Singer.
Nrama: Given how polarizing the original book and film are even still, did you find yourself having to rein Chuck in at all? Were there areas that didn’t make the cut that you can tell us about?
Allie: God no, man! I’ve read his work, I knew what I was getting into. The whole point here was to do the full Palahniuk. I think there was one idea, something on one cover, where we almost had a kid pointing a gun at another kid’s head, and we decided against that. But the decision to not do that was as much Chuck’s as anyone, as he’s not really into guns and feels that other forms of conflict are more interesting, more fraught. There was another thing where Chuck told me Dark Horse might want to draw the line, and he made me read the script without telling me which part it was. I read it, and I was pretty sure I knew what he meant—I said, “Were you worried about the thing in the _____ …?”—but no, we never wanted to censor him.
Nrama: I guess we’ll have to wait and see that’s “in the _____________!” So, with the first issue debuting at the end of the month – and the preview released on Free Comic Book Day – what is the one thing you’re most excited about for this comic?
Allie: I’ve been excited to have it out there for ten months now. I’m excited to see how his readers react to getting the story in installments in this way, and I’m excited to see what the comics audience thinks of this bizarre runaway train we’ve created. I’m excited to see the reactions to a few key scenes, the one I alluded to above, something that happens near the end, some stuff early on. It’ll be polarizing. It isn’t what people necessarily expect. I think Chuck’s readers are used to that, so they’ll be along for the ride. Readers who remember the film and wanna see Brad Pitt’s sweaty abs are not gonna get as much of that as they might expect. So, I’m curious to see how expectations collide with reality on this book. It’s the strangest story I’ve ever worked on.
Nrama: Last question: Although Fight Club is Chuck’s best-known work, it’s certainly not his only one. Can you talk about any future plans to collaborate with him on additional series for Dark Horse?
Allie: I cannot! But we’ve talked about some possibilities, and I hope that we’re able to talk about them before too long. I think he has a lot to offer this art form. I’ve worked with a lot of writers coming in from other media, and I’ve been excited about how some of them take to it. Chuck brings a fresh perspective, he brings an aesthetic that evolves the medium a bit, at least a little bit—and I want to read more of his comics.