AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks to Chuck Dixon about ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR, Batman, personal politics, and more!
@’s by ALIEN LEGION Writer
Ambush Bug here. There are tons of comic book writers out there I love to read and Chuck Dixon is one of those that is and has always been at the top of that list. From BATMAN, to GREEN ARROW, to his excellent Tim Drake run on ROBIN, to BIRDS OF PREY, to ALIEN LEGION, to GI JOE, to WINTERWORLD, Dixon always delivers top notch, hard edged action like few others.
Recently, Dixon spoke about his own personal right-leaning politics and has received quite a backlash in regards to it. Personally, I feel it’s pretty ridiculous that in a day and age when skin color, sexual orientation, culture, religion, and any other aspect that makes us unique is supposed to be accepted by all (which is the right thing to do, BTW), identifying oneself as Conservative or Liberal seems to be the one distinguishing factor that matters for so many. It seems if someone leans one way or another politically, people immediately run from the hills to either damn or praise that person. I really love what Dixon says below and respect him more for saying it.
So before, you rush to the talkbacks to call him a kook, think of how off-putting it is to read soap-boxing in comics. Personally, when I see a political agenda in comics—whether it’s from of the left or the right, it’s a deal breaker for me and I tune right the fuck out. I’d rather read a solid story. And having read ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1 and WINTERWORLD #1 (which also is released recently from IDW and an excellent read at that), Dixon’s still got it in the story department.
But enough verbalizing from me, here’s what Mr. Dixon had to say when I got to chat him up last week…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Can you give readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept of ALIEN LEGION a brief rundown of what the comic is all about?
CHUCK DIXON (CD): It’s a fighting force made up of sentient beings from all over the universe who battle for a union of planets. Force Nomad, which our main characters serve in, is a kind of shock troop “first to fight” unit. The hard luck critters who get all the rough assignments.
BUG: What is it like coming back to the ALIEN LEGION property after all of these years?
CD: Like putting on a favorite shirt. It always surprises me how easily this stuff comes back to me.
BUG: And reteaming with Larry Stroman and Carl Potts; was it like riding a bike with the three of you working together again or was there a period of adjustment to get back into the swing of things?
CD: No adjustments at all. Carl and I spoke a few times about the general plot and direction. I built off of Carl’s ideas and then relied on Larry to bring that magic. It all clicked like there was never an interruption.
BUG: Though it feels like Jugger Grimrod is the obvious answer, who would you say your favorite ALIEN LEGION character is and why?
CD: The Ik Brothers are a lot of fun. They’re battling armadillo types and they believe Jugger is their mentor. But, actually, they annoy the crap out of him and he does what he can to put them in the most dangerous jams possible.
BUG: There's a hand to hand, down and dirty, boots on the ground feel to ALIEN LEGION that you usually don't see in modern sci fi war comics which rely on big space battles, long range laser fights and such. This is a much more in your face type of book. What influences did you pull from when first writing ALIEN LEGION and writing it now?
CD: I suppose from watching a lot of war movies growing up. Thinking about it now I suppose the novels of Sven Hassel were an influence. Readers in the UK will be familiar with him. He wrote a ton of books about a penal unit in the SS during WWII. They had this cynical vibe, many had criminal backgrounds and they often did not get along with one another. There’s a lot of that kind of tension in ALIEN LEGION.
BUG: How has Force Nomad changed in the years since we last saw them?
CD: They’re still the toughest, and often the most unpleasant, space warriors ever. Nothing has changed. These guys don’t really “evolve.” And they don’t need a re-boot. Everything that made them fan favorites before is still intact.
BUG: The role of the Harkilons have changed slightly as seen in the first issue of ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR. Why the change and what is it going to mean for Force Nomad?
CD: The Harks have had a schism in their ranks that swiftly went from mutiny to rebellion to open civil war. Now thousands of refugee ships are heading into the demilitarized quadrants and it’s Nomad’s job to go in and sort them out.
It’s weird isn’t it? I wrote the series a while back but here we have a story about an elite force being inserted into the middle of a bloody civil war with a strong difference of opinion between two ideologies. This isn’t just today, it’s THIS AFTERNOON!
BUG: What was it like writing for Epic Comics back in the day compared to writing today?
CD: You had the biggest comic company in the USA behind a creator-owned imprint. That’s the biggest difference. Then you had editors like Carl and Archie Goodwin and Marcus McLaurin. They had vision and took risks and knew how to attract talent. Those were good days.
BUG: You can't have war without politics. How much of the current political climate have you used in forming this new conflict for Force Nomad?
CD: As I said, I wrote this a few years ago but it seems even more topical right now. Nomad is always jumping into situations where, often, they’re shooting at the wrong guys or, even more often, should be shooting at everybody. That’s kind of where the world is right now, shifting allegiances and unintended outcomes.
BUG: Your thoughts on politics and comic books has been the talk of the town recently. Any response or retort to some of the criticisms you have received since your Wall Street Journal story was published?
CD: I was unfairly characterized as me and Paul Rivoche whining about our careers. In fact, we were simply stating that the iconic superheroes have been diluted, they are not as pure of purpose and have becoming morally ambivalent. Now you can say that this is a good thing and see it as deepening the characters’ personalities or making them more relatable. The one thing you CAN’T do is deny that there’s been a marked change in the last decade as to how many of these characters are portrayed. I prefer my comics with ZERO political content. Not sure what the downside of that is.
BUG: There isn't a more polarizing subject today than politics. It seems once the subject is breached people go running to the right or the left. Having talked about your political views publically, do you feel this has helped or hindered your career in as a writer?
CD: I would have discussions in private with creators or editors. Sports, movies, politics. We didn’t talk about comics all the time. I’m not one to not join a debate so I expressed my opinions. Then we’d all go back to work. No harm. No foul. But apparently some editors, most of whom I never actually worked with, objected to my personal views and made it their mission to deny me as much work as possible. And all of this over my PERSONAL views. I never have and never will put my politics in my work.
BUG: I find it interesting that one of my favorite Dixon runs was your work on GREEN ARROW, one of the more liberal characters in comics. How did you approach the character that might have challenged your own beliefs then and how would you approach the character now?
CD: I wrote Ollie as I was given him, a good-hearted guy with a quick temper. He was a hot-head and often charged in where angels feared to tread without really thinking it through. I wasn’t there to ridicule him or use him as the butt of jokes to reduce him in any way. But I did do a story where his efforts to ‘make a change’ led to unintended consequences and his own death. But I saw that as in character. A ‘comic book’ death anyway.
BUG: In my opinion, your run on BATMAN, ROBIN, and his other titles were highly influential in the Batman Universe we all know today from movies and comics. What was your favorite thing about writing that extended run on the Gotham titles?
CD: Building the world from the ground up. Naming streets and places. Making sense of the city. A lot of that was started before me but I really dug into it to make Gotham as much of a character in the books as Batman and company. Most of it is intuitive to the bat writers. It’s scary to what degree we all agree on the details of Bruce Wayne’s world. Like we’ve BEEN there. I just doubled down on that to bring the readers in on the gag. Plus it let me slip stuff in like the Westward Bridge; a nod to Adam West and Burt Ward.
BUG: What do you think of the way Batman is written today and how would you approach the character if you ever had a chance to revisit?
CD: I don’t really read the books since I left. If I went back? I’d do what I did before. Story first, character second. Readers know who Batman is. They don’t need me to explain him. They just want to see him being a badass in suspenseful stories. I see nothing to change about that.
BUG: Back to ALIEN LEGION, how long will UNCIVIL WAR run and can we expect further adventures of Force Nomad in future miniseries from Titan Comics?
CD: It’s a four issue limited series. And I hope it leads to more stories. I’ll be here if it does.
BUG: What else do you have coming up non-ALIEN LEGION wise?
CD: I’ve returned to WINTERWORLD, a series I created in ’88 with the late Jorge Zaffino. IDW is publishing a new monthly in conjunction with a development deal for a live action event with X Box. The first arc has stunning art by my buddy Butch Guice and the first issue is on sale now. I’m also writing a series of time travel adventure novels not for the faint of heart. The series is BAD TIMES and it’s available on Amazon in paper and on Kindle.
BUG: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Dixon. I'm a huge fan of your work and can't wait to read the rest of the ALIEN LEGION series.
CD: Thank you! Great questions! Hope you enjoy the story!
BUG: from You can read my review of Dixon’s ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR here and check it our for yourself tomorrow as it hits the shelves this Wednesday from Titan Comics. Also check out WINTERWORLD #1 by Dixon and Butch Guice which was released last week from IDW Publishing.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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