Remember the story of the American explorers Lewis and Clark and their rambling journey west to explore the American continent? It was all a lie. They went; that much is true. But what they were looking for and what they found was never recorded in the history books.
We’re talking monsters.
Coming out of the Skybound imprint that brings you The Walking Dead and Ghosted comes a bold and far-ranging story that mixes historical fact with pure science fiction in the new ongoing series Manifest Destiny. Set to launch on November 13, Manifest Destiny comes from television writer Chris Dingess (Being Human, Reaper) and military veteran/artist Matthew Roberts. Newsarama spoke with Dingess about this eye-opening high concept and what Lewis and Clark will find as they cross into the great unknown of the American west.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about Manifest Destiny, Chris?
Chris Dingess: Manifest Destiny is a fun re-imagining of the story of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery. According to this book, the Journal of Lewis & Clark that we read in middle school is the first big lie sold to the American people by the government. The reason the Louisiana Purchase was so cheap: the country was full of monsters!
The Corps of Discovery was actually a black ops mission to destroy creatures and demons, paving the wave for the United States to expand westward.
Nrama: Lewis and Clark versus monsters – how’d that idea develop in your mind?
Dingess: I was out drinking with friends and whining (I whine all the time) about the trend of taking historical figures, both real and fictional, and putting them in supernatural situations. I've actually never read or seen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, but that doesn't stop me from whining about them. I said: "You could just take, say... Lewis and Clark and say they were actually hunting monsters." Then I thought about it and said, "Hey, that might be fun and maybe I can make money from it!" I am, above all else, a cheap whore with no convictions.
Nrama: Settle down there, Chris. What kind of monsters will your fictional Lewis and Clark be facing?
Dingess: I don't want to give too much away. We want to create our own creatures and well as draw from mythology and American folklore.
Nrama: People know of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark more as historical figures, but what are they like as people in Manifest Destiny?
In Manifest Destiny, we try to chip away at the legend that makes Lewis and Clark stereotypical heroes. I want to make them more human and flawed. They're men of their times and they're deeply flawed. They've slaughtered Native Americans. They own slaves. All incredibly despicable stuff. It's impossible for me look past that stuff. But they are human. They're loyal and brave at times and we will see that they are haunted by their less evolved actions.
Nrama: The title says “destiny,” so what’s the destiny that these two are walking towards?
Dingess: These two are walking, riding, swimming, and crawling towards a destiny that is entwined with many other characters and will involve a humongous decision and sacrifice that will change their world. Is that grand, yet vague and useless, enough?
Nrama: The idea of taking historical figures and putting them in supernatural situations is nothing new as you said earlier, but in doing this first-hand what do you think doing a mash-up like this reveals for the concepts?
Dingess: The supernatural stuff is fun. But for me the joy of writing historical figures is dealing with the aspects of character that either don't exist or we all work to suppress in this day and age. People could be more outwardly ugly back in the day.
Nrama: These are some fictional monsters, but it’s some real world places. Where will Lewis & Clark be exploring here?
Dingess: I plan on sticking a close as possible to the trail Lewis & Clark blazed on their actual journey. We might take them on some detours to other states and dimensions though, especially if Matt Roberts keeps drawing amazing and crazy stuff!
Nrama: Speaking of Matt, how did you two come together to do Manifest Destiny and do it with Skybound and Image?
Dingess: I was introduced to Matt after I'd started outlining the book. I knew he was just getting back into comics after serving overseas. I was so excited to work with him after I saw some of his sample Lewis and Clark drawings. I used those as inspiration for the first batch of issues.
Nrama: So what brought you to comics in the first place? I see your name on some of my favorite shows like Reaper and SyFy’s Being Human, but how’d you end up in comics?
Dingess: I've been a huge fan of comic books since I can remember, but my other love was film and television and that path was clearer so that's the way I went. I had intended to write Manifest Destiny as a pilot for television, but as I thought about it I realized it was too expensive to shoot so I kind of forgot about it. Then, like any L.A. story, I met a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Robert Kirkman. I mentioned the idea for Manifest Destiny and he passed it along and next thing I know they hooked me up with Matt and I'm writing the damned thing!
Nrama: Last question before I let you get back to it: what can readers look forward to in the first issue this November?
Dingess: They can look forward to scenery! Mystery! Treachery! Creaturey!... wait, I don't think that last one's an actual word...