The first rule of Fight Club might be not to talk about Fight Club, but we just couldn’t resist when we found out we’d be doing a Q&A with bestselling cult author, Chuck Palahniuk. As the mastermind behind the famous novel that later became something of cinematic legend, Palahniuk has generated an extensive and dedicated following over the years. There’s no doubt that Fight Club itself has left a huge cultural impact, but now – 20 years later – Palahniuk is back again with a sequel, Fight Club 2 (out June 28th!).
If you thought the story of Tyler Durden was over, you’ve been mistaken. Fight Club 2 begins ten years after the start of Project Mayhem and leads the reader through a series of chaotic new scenarios – all in a comic book format. That’s right, Fight Club 2 is available exclusively as a graphic novel.
We were intrigued by the new format and were curious about the process of creating the highly-anticipated sequel. Fortunately, Chuck Palahniuk was kind enough to answer our questions.
You’re known for writing about dark and controversial topics, which has proven to be successful for you. Why do you think this type of subject matter is so appealing to readers? What attracted you to it?
CP: My theory is that an author should take advantage of the strengths of any medium. Movies, television and music must conform to certain rules of propriety because their profitability depends on reaching a large audience. Books reach one person at a time, and the reader must be literate and actively work to consume the product. Books also cost so little to produce compared to other media. Those factors allow books to tackle more challenging, possibly upsetting topics. As an author, I want to tell stories that only books can risk telling.
On a similar note, you’ve never given up on this style of writing– even when publishers wouldn’t embrace it. Why did you insist on diving into such dark tones?
CP: Who wants to waste his life doing the safe, conventional task – especially in the pretend world of fiction? There’s never any guarantee of a reward for writing. The money and recognition are such long shots. That’s why I take my pleasure on the front end, writing stories that keep me engaged and, hopefully, shocking myself. Not an easy thing to do. I’m always amazed when an editor gives me free reign. The editor on ‘Fight Club 2’, Scott Allie, was game for every weird, tasteless idea I proposed. Such editors are hen’s teeth. Scott is the white lilac of editors.
Looking back, did you ever anticipate the level of success you’re at now?
CP: I’m glad it looks like success from the outside. Writing has never felt like valid work to me, not like digging ditches, so I doubt if I’ll ever feel like a success. Only a sham artist. If I’d made good money as a ditch digger then I could bask in a sense of real success.
The original Fight Club was released back in 1996! What made you decide to move forward with a follow-up nearly 20 years later?
CP: ‘Fight Club 2’ came into the world at a dinner party hosted by the thriller writer Chelsea Cain. She introduced me to comic world greats Matt Fraction and Brian Michael Bendis, and they encouraged me and taught me the craft. When I had a draft – albeit a tawdry, wordy, weak draft – Chelsea hooked me up with Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, one of the most patient, generous teachers I’ve had in my career. Scott proposed Cameron Stewart illustrate the book, and David Mack draw the covers. Scott and Chelsea are the parents I wish I’d had.
Did you always know you would continue the story of Tyler Durden eventually, or was this a more recent development? Was this something you had to come up with as you began the comics?
CP: To be honest, I’d never imagined the original book would be published. The film was another impossibility. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to return to Tyler and expand him from a hallucination into a mythological trickster-type character whose influence stretches into the past and the future.
Have you always known how you would continue the story of Tyler Durden, or was this something you had to come up with as you began the comics?
CP: My guess is that most writers live a conflicted coexistence with their best characters. It’s irritating to imagine I’ll become corpse dust while Tyler is likely to live onward in people’s minds. That said, I dreamed of resolving this rivalry by killing off the blond bastard. Scott Allie said, “Be my guest.” The enabler!
We have to ask! For what reasons did you decide to switch things up for the sequel and create a graphic novel? Were you skeptical about this change at all?
CP: Thank you for using an exclamation mark! Such marks are the redheaded stepchildren of writing. To answer your question, the book and the film had built such fervent audiences that I knew a sequel would have to use a third medium if it stood any chance of establishing itself. As another book or movie, the sequel would be compared to the previous version and suffer. A graphic novel could become its own person.
Besides being comprised of comics, are there any major ways in which Fight Club 2 differs from Fight Club?
CP: In the sequel Marla Singer grows to be more than the girlfriend or grail object she is in the original novel. She drives her own plot thread, apart from the boys, and brings the book to resolution. The other surprise is that my writers group, which includes Chelsea Cain, Monica Drake, Suzy Vitello and Lidia Yuknavitch appear as comic characters which is only fitting because we all contribute ideas to each others work. Cameron made sure to add a smart, hidden Scott Allie joke. The book is packed with those insider jokes.
For Fight Club 2, you paired up with Cameron Stewart, an award winning comic book artist who is known for his work in Catwoman and Batman and Robin. How did this pairing come about?
CP: Once more, Scott is to blame. Cameron is sometimes criticized for using a style that’s “too cartoony”, so much so that he publishes an annual book of his best work, titled “Too Cartoony”. For ‘Fight Club 2’ I wanted to depict elements that would be heartbreaking if drawn too realistically. The reader would need some wiggle room between the story and reality. Cameron’s style is literal enough to carry the dense plot, full of constant reveals and twists, yet stylized enough to not emotionally exhaust the reader. Scott recommended Cameron.
You’ve actually been releasing each comic roughly every month since last May – a total of 10 issues. Which issue has been the favorite amongst readers so far? Which one is your favorite?
CP: My favorite? That’s a tough call. I love Issue Two because the narrator and Marla battle out their marriage resentments in a comic fight. And I love Issue Three because I finally got to use some great ideas from Joseph Campbell, ideas that inspired the original book. Each issue has its highlights, but perhaps Issue Ten is my favorite simply because Cameron makes my arms look HUGE. To paraphrase Bret Easton Ellis, big arms are the new breasts. Words to live by.
After hearing from Chuck Palahniuk himself, we couldn’t be more excited about this sequel. Have you read any of the comics yet? Share your feedback with us in the comments below, or shoot us a tweet – @BNcollege. Also, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Fight Club 2, which includes all 10 comics, when it comes out this June!