Writer Chuck Dixon is a staple in any comic book fan’s collection. He’s written some of the best Punisher stories for Marvel Comics as well as working on a number of fantastic Batman stories. You might know him as the creator of Bane alongside artist Graham Nolan. In fact, Dixon and Nolan are currently in the middle of a 12 issue Bane: Conquest series. While Dixon is a prolific comic book writer, he’s also taken his talents into the world of prose and crafted a series about a Marine turned mercenary named Levon Cade. The latest installment in the series just came out, Levon’s War.
We chatted with Chuck about Levon’s War, his work with Vox Day’s Castalia House, as well as some of the current controversy around blacklists in comics. We definitely enjoyed chatting with Chuck and I’m sure you will enjoy our conversation as well!
Bounding Into Comics (BIC): You’ve got a bunch of projects lined up and just released a brand new novel, Levon’s War, which is about Levon Cade a Marine turned mercenary who’s fighting in Mosul. What inspired you to write about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East?
Chuck Dixon: I planned this book from the beginning of the series. I didn’t want to do a flashback story of his time in the War on Terror but I did want to give readers a glimpse of what Levon was like on the battlefield. This book throws him right in the middle of the ISIS caliphate.
BIC: What can you tell us about Levon? Aside from fighting ISIS, what other struggles does he face?
Chuck: He has his demons, but he’s never one to complain. He’s the original stoic warrior. There’s a stark contrast between Levon, the badass hunter/killer, and Levon, the loving father. He’s trying to raise his daughter and keep her safe from his past and the consequences of some of the decisions he’s made as a civilian. The two have their share of adventures together and I think Merry is a whole lot tougher than her daddy thinks she is. The apple did not fall far from the tree.
BIC: Along with Levon’s War, you are also working on a number of projects with Vox Day’s Castalia House publishing. You’ve got Avalon which is expected to come out this March. The book will feature the crime fighting duo of King Ace and Fazer, what can you tell us about these two?
Chuck: King and Fazer are just a part of a larger ensemble cast of super-powered heroes and outlaws. To say King and Fazer’s relationship is complicated is an understatement. King Ace is a kind of Superman type, a big beefcake who’s bullet-resistant, super-strong and can leap long distances. Fazer has the ability to pass through solid objects. They’re powers complement one another even though their personalities are very much at odds.
We also have Cash, a mercenary crimefighter who battles evil for tips and Vendetta, a female vigilante, whose motives and mission provide much of the core story for the first six issues of the book.
But the true star of the book is the city of Avalon itself. It’s an east coast town that’s seen better days and getting rather tired of being ground zero for super-fights between good guys and bad guys.
BIC: You are working with Frank Fosco on Avalon, what’s it like working with him?
Chuck: We worked together a bunch of times back at DC. Frank’s current style has an idiosyncratic style that I think is perfect for this series. There’s an honest, real world feel to the book. Sure, there’s lots of fantastic superhero stuff going on. But Frank makes sure it stays rooted in the reality we’re creating. Somehow, he and I really jibe on this title. He brings a LOT to the party.
BIC: Is there a difference between how you script out Avalon and when you write prose for Levon’s War?
Chuck: Comics and prose are very different. I spent decades writing very prosaic panel descriptions for artists to follow. There was no call for being artful and certainly no room for any kind of subtlety. I don’t want to say that prose demands something more poetic but it does require more wordsmithing. You also don’t need action in prose to keep the reader’s attention. And there’s simply acres more room for character development and world-building.
I found prose intimidating for a very long time. Let’s face it, the list of “great” comic books writers is a relatively short one. The list of great prose writers is another deal. It took a lot of encouragement from my wife and other folks I know (thank you, Scott Peterson and Erik Burnham!) to get me to try my hand at short stories and novels.
BIC: You still have the Bane Conquest miniseries ongoing, issue nine just came out. What can we expect as it comes to a close?
Chuck: Complete gonzo, action-wracked adventure with plenty of twists, turn arounds, and surprises. Graham and I put EVERYTHING into this maxi-series in order to make it a standalone gangster epic. And the ending will be something that fans will argue about for a very long time.
BIC: Do you have any other DC projects in the works? Could we see a follow-up to Bane Conquest?
Chuck: Not at the moment.
BIC: You will also be working with Will Caligan. Have you figured out which novels you will adapt into graphic novels?
Chuck: We’re adapting Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright. The novel really lends itself to comics. Loads of great eye candy and a story that gets off the blocks on page one and never slows down.
BIC: Will also lost his job because of his very personal Christian and conservative beliefs. There have been a number of people who hold similar conservative and Christian beliefs who have also had their careers threatened or lost. Do you see this as a serious problem in the comic book industry?
Chuck: Damn right. A lot of great talent is either unemployed or underemployed because of either their personal religious or political beliefs. Their personal beliefs. The blacklists are very real and a lot of careers have been damaged. And as bad as this kind of discrimination is, the effect of silencing other creators who fear for their livelihoods is even more far-reaching. It’s intimidation, pure and simple; a radical core of far-left editors and publishers forcing their ideologies on the creator community as well as the readership.
Most damaging, in the long term, is the hiring of staff and assigning of freelancers based on their political beliefs rather than any kind of merit. The result is the current crop of, frankly, mediocre efforts from companies that used to be the industry leaders. It’s hard to find even a competently written and drawn comic let alone anything that could be called exemplary examples of the medium.
We’re all paying for this with depressed sales overall and the loss of readers who may never come back.
BIC: Blacklists seem to be a pretty hot topic right now. One Twitter user even created a pretty lengthy list for customers to boycott certain professionals. He labeled these professionals as the “main contributors… to the declining quality” of comic books. What are your thoughts on this list?
Chuck: I don’t like lists of any kind. Blacklists, redlists, enemies lists or ****lists. While it’s true that a number of people on the list I saw are guilty of writing agenda-driven comics, a few on that list are vocal personally on political matters, but not in their work. The declining quality of comics is due to creators who prioritize their ideology above their professional standards. So much of the stuff I’ve seen is simply poorly crafted comics. They call attention to themselves by doing crap work. No lists needed.
BIC: I also read Marvel has had you on a blacklist for over 15 years. Is that true? How do you go from writing one of their best-selling comics with Punisher: War Zone to completely blacklisted?
Chuck: When you don’t fall in lockstep with everything Axel Alonso believes. Of course, which of us is still working in comics today?
BIC: Where do you see the comic book industry in the future. Do you see it sticking with the tried and true DC and Marvel or will we start to see it fracture along political lines?
Chuck: I think it will become like the music industry. Garage band kinds of comics that will find their own audience. The big comic book publishers have never really known, or tried to really market their product. Now that, for all intents, the major publishers have skipped a generation of readers, they’re going to have to work to get them back. And I don’t think they have the first clue as to how to do that.
We’ll be looking at more and more creator-owned, creator-marketed comics that don’t do huge numbers but are financially rewarding enough for the creators to keep doing what they love.
BIC: You were brought in to potentially work on the Expendables sequel, do you have any movie or TV projects in the works?
Chuck: Two of my novels have been optioned and are in development. One has a fast-play low-budget horror flick and the other from a higher-end studio. It’s still early days but the projects are moving along.
BIC: Are these original projects or are they adaptations?
Chuck: They’re adaptations of a couple of my novels.
BIC: What other projects do you have lined up?
Chuck: Me and Gary Kwapisz are adapting P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves into comics form for Castalia. The first issue is available for Kindle now. It’s a longtime dream for me to reimagine Wodehouse for comics. The shocker was that my good buddy Gary was a fan too.
I have a creator-owned limited series coming July from IDW. UN-Prepped is a survivalist, apocalyptic comedy. It’s something different and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s by me and Scott Beatty and Marlin Shoop.
Also doing a “hot girls and horror” book for Zenescope. I did a Van Helsing mini for them recently and now tackling a Robyn Hood mini. It’s fun, drive-in, grindhouse kind of action horror stuff.
And a bunch of other projects in early stages. A twelve issue maxi and a couple of limited series.
BIC: What’s the best way for folks to follow you and keep up to date with all of the projects you have going on?
BIC: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! I can’t wait for the conclusion of Bane Conquest and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on Avalon!
Chuck: All good!
Chuck Dixon’s Levon’s War is currently available on Amazon. The latest issue of Bane: Conquest is available at your local comic shop, and the first issue of Right Ho, Jeeves is available on Kindle!