Chuck Dixon Interview

Chuck Dixon's long list of writing credits includes such books as Marvel's Punisher, DC's Nightwing, and CrossGen's El Cazador and Way of the Rat. This month, he brings back DC martial artist Richard Dragon with artist Scott McDaniel and co-writes a Sojourn/Lady Death mini-series with Brian Pulido, featuring art by George Perez. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently caught up with Chuck to find out more about these projects.

Westfield:Many people may not realize that Richard Dragon is an old DC character. Who is he and why bring him back now?

Chuck Dixon: Dragon was created to cash in on the kung fu movie craze of the 70s. Denny O'Neil created him for a series of paperback novels that didn't go anywhere. I mean, I'd never heard of this paperback publisher and I was reading tons of those action series at the time. Anyhoo, Richard Dragon winds up at DC and has an 18 issue run and then disappears into the Dennyverse where he pops up now and again as a pivotal character in The Question.

Why bring him back now? 'Cause he's cool and deserves to be seen again. Most DCU fans know that Dragon trained a lot of the DC characters in martial arts including Batman, Batgirl and others. It's time he was in the limelight again.

Westfield: How much updating did you need to do to the character to make him work for a modern audience?

Dixon: Well, he's a kung fu badass and that's a pretty strong archetype to start with. Not much monkeying required there. But we do delve more into his past and telescope some events to make them work more cohesively. Denny will certainly admit that he was flying by the seat of his pants when he wrote this stuff twenty five plus years ago. It's easy for some punk to come in and change everything around once the groundwork's been done. But, as much as I'm playing with the continuity and backstory, Dragon is still a classic Denny O'Neil character; three-dimensional, flawed and fighting to redeem himself for past sins.

Westfield: What can people look forward to storywise in Richard Dragon?

Dixon: Fighting, fighting, fighting. And lots of angst and a rather twisted love story. Make that real twisted. Dragon is called from the very dark place he's been residing in to face longtime enemies that only he can defeat. To do this he has to risk re-visiting the most painful moments of his life.

Westfield: Will other DC martial arts characters be appearing in the book? If so, who?

Dixon: Bronze Tiger and Shiva are key. They're Dragon's yin and yang. Also, Nightwing makes an appearance early on. Look, it's Scott McDaniel and me back together. Does anyone think we could resist bringing our boy into the book? The other karate maniacs are new creations and Scott makes them all standouts. We'll also be seeing some of Dragon's former pupils in flashbacks. And I guarantee that one of them is a big surprise.

Westfield: As you mentioned, you're reunited with artist Scott McDaniel on Richard Dragon. What do you think he brings to the book?

Dixon: Everything. He can draw action that's crazy, compelling and clear. No matter how nuts and frantic and busy the actions scenes are you can always follow them. Scott establishes the setting, speed and confusion of a fight scene in such a way that the reader is drawn right where he wants them every time. That's a master at work. Anyone who recalls the kinetic helicopter chase or the breathless underwater bus rescue from Nightwing knows what I'm talking about. The man's visual memory and command of storytelling is always top drawer.

Westfield: Martial arts have played a part in many of the books you've written, with this and CrossGen's Way of the Rat starring martial arts heroes. What is your attraction to the martial arts and how did it come about?

Dixon: I think it's mostly due to my being pigeonholed in the "non super" superhero category. That leaves me with the guys who use guns or their fists. And the martial arts stuff is a comfortable fit 'cause I love those kind of movies. I was an avid moviegoer to see all the first wave of kung fu movies in the '70s and was one of the first guys I know to be haunting Chinatown in Philly and New York for the new wave of Hong Kong flicks in the early nineties.

Westfield: How much research do you do into martial arts?

Dixon: I've done a lot of reading on it for a non-practitioner. I'm no Mike Baron when it comes to this stuff. I only read about it. And working closely with Jeff Johnson on Way of the Rat taught me even more. Jeff is a practitioner in a big way and had lots of insights into fighting. Scott McD is doing mountains of research as well. You'll see some styles in Richard Dragon that you've probably never seen before unless you're an aficionado.

Westfield: You're also working on a Sojourn/Lady Death mini-series. What can you tell us about that?

Dixon: It's George Perez! I've never worked with him before and it's a kick. The first urge is to just hand him a skeleton plot and "let George do it." But I resisted that and threw in some twists. Crossovers and team-ups are a blast to write.

Westfield: You're co-writing the book with Brian Pulido. How do you divide the work? Who does what?

Dixon: I wrote up a nominal plot outline and we've been molding and shaping it as we go. We kind of split the scenes between us; with me writing the Arwyn sequences and Brain doing the Lady Death scenes. But Brian gets to write the massive catfight in the second issue.

Westfield: Is there anything you'd like to say about other books you're working on, either current or upcoming?

Dixon: I'm working on a few new projects for CrossGen that'll appear this summer. Way to early to talk about them now. And there's another big deal at DC pending until the artist has an open schedule. And, most people probably aren't aware of this, I do a lot of Simpsons stories for Bongo and there's several of them in the pipeline.