by Mickey Rivera. In 1999, the self-destructive words of a sexy young American terrorist infected the minds of a generation of young men who saw nothing but stale, salaried boredom waiting for them in adulthood: “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.” Despite some initial lackluster sales, Fight Club, both the movie and the 1996 novel, began to take hold of the boys in my generation. Before 9/11 gave them a war to fight, before a new wave of feminism and gender theory gave them reason to look within, these young men found some kind of hope in the philosophical pugilism of the book’s simultaneous hero and villain, Tyler Durden.
In other words, Fight Club was a huge success. Which makes it somewhat surprising that it took so long for its author to cash in on it’s virility and make a sequel. As the story goes, Fight Club 2 was born when Chuck Palahniuk was ambushed at a dinner party by established comic pros Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Brian Michael Bendis. After enduring what I imagine to have been a barrage of motivational campaigning for the virtues and possibilities of the comics medium, Chuck agreed. He had never made a comic, and it had been nearly two decades since the source material had been released. No one knew what to expect.
With glorious interior art from Cameron Stewart, Dave Stewart and Nate Piekos, Fight Club 2 graced comic shop shelves between May 2015 and March 2016. No fan of the movie or book could have foreseen where Palahniuk, by then an obsessive writer who churned out damn near a book per year since 2001, was going to take the characters that brought him fame. Despite being a comic book novice, he immediately eschewed safe storytelling for the experimental, and whacked readers in the face with more surrealism and cartoon violence than anything found in the original. Fight Club 2 was a sequel that turns the original’s accelerationist tendencies up to 11.
Now that Fight Club 3 is around the corner (it drops January 7), the gear shift that fans experienced in the first sequel makes it difficult to know what to expect. DoomRocket was lucky enough to get the chance to gently pick Chuck’s brain about what this next installment is about. The Fight Club of 1996 purposely revels in its own disease, in the failure of masculinity to live up to its own promise of strength and self-reliance. Fight Club 2 follows the infection as it spreads across the world. What fresh hell will Durden unleash next?
1. The hatred between Balthazar (aka Sebastian, aka The Narrator) is at an all-time high by now. Tyler spent most of ‘Fight Club 2’ brainwashing Balthazar’s kid, screwing his wife, trying to burn civilization to the ground. But in ‘Fight Club’, before he’s revealed to be Balthazar’s delusion, Tyler acted as a crazed Kenobi-style life coach who just wanted to save his drinking buddy from self-hatred and materialism. Now that it appears the two have to work together again, what kind of dynamic are we going to see between them?
Chuck Palahniuk: Consider how many social movements begin with one man’s decision to take action. Picture St. Francis setting out alone to rebuild a ruined church. Tyler is the catalyst that shows the narrator access to a new possibility, attainable through destroying his established good-boy self. But now the social movement they hatched has grown without their knowing. It’s still their baby, but it’s become a threat to them. Tyler and the narrator must investigate together and attempt to regain control. Of course Tyler will do the dirty work, with relish, while the narrator recoils in squeamish disdain.
2. You’ve said elsewhere that a large part of your writing process is testing things out on other people, getting different takes and variations on an idea and then pulling something universal out of it all. Given the collaborative nature of this project, how did that process factor in when you brought your ideas to the art team?
CP: As Andy Warhol said, “Art is what you can get away with.” A large part of my collaborating is testing to see what artists will refuse to depict. Fight Club 3 depends on plot events that mix living people with the dead — yes, just like Dante’s Inferno. Thus Art Bell and Stephen Hawking become FC3 characters. Thus we explore the copyright of images and whether or not artists will depict dead celebrities in the sketchy scenarios I create. That said, it’s a minefield of ethics. Thank God I have none. It might not be too late to write David Bowie into the script…
3. ‘Fight Club’ felt very much like a book about angry and incomplete men, in which the one major female character, Marla Singer, plays the role of a strung-out damsel in distress. For ‘Fight Club 2’, you gave Marla much more agency, her own sense of anger and incompleteness to wrestle with. With a second child on the way and the continued stress of a bizarre, two-person love triangle, what’s in store for Marla in ‘Fight Club 3’?
CP: In Fight Club 2 we saw how the narrator’s parents were resolved. In FC3 look for the backstory on Marla, the tragic/comic events that destroyed her family — how Tyler destroyed her family, even as she was a small child — and left her the chain-smoking realist we know today. And how an eternity of scheming has set up both her and the narrator for a vast, cosmic experiment.
4. Though sex, violence and anti-consumerism is at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of ‘Fight Club’, the series has also been about groups of troubled individuals coming together to try and help each other, and more often than not failing or falling into self-destructive traps. Sometimes they turn into full-blown terrorist organizations. What kind of new “support group” will Tyler and Balthazar be pitted against in ‘Fight Club 3’?
CP: As in FC2, the goal of the deeply submerged social movement will be to create a lasting peace — through whatever means possible. In FC3, that’s the same goal, but on a scale beyond the world and humanity. Is that vague enough for you?
5. Despite ‘Fight Club 2’ being your first comic it seemed like you were having a great time playing around with what was possible in the medium. How does it feel coming back to comics?
CP: Comics make me a better prose writer; for example, FC2 taught me how to juggle multiple loosely related plot lines. It’s that improved skill that allowed me to write this year’s novel, Adjustment Day, with its zillion interwoven stories. Subsequently FC3 allows me to leverage even more storytelling skill to pull off a bigger experiment than I’d ever risk in the past. The goal is always to do the impossible — one keystroke at a time.
‘Fight Club 3’ hits stores January 7, 2019.
Check out this ‘Fight Club 3’ five-page preview and cover gallery, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!
Chuck Palahniuk head shot by Allan Amato.
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