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DF Interview: Chris Dingess maps our Manifest Destiny
By Byron Brewer
A noted TV screenwriter, Chris Dingess has been tackling two of America's greatest explorers and sending them on a much different journey — with a lot more weirdness — than history books would have you believe in Manifest Destiny, an ongoing from Image Comics/Skybound.
Dingess takes the legend of Meriwether Lewis and William's Clark's famous three-year expedition in the early 19th century and posits it as America's first black-ops mission. With monsters!
To get to the heart of the matter, Dynamic Forces hired a Native American maiden and she guided us to the scribe. Here is what Dingess had to say.
Dynamic Forces: Chris, I understand this was your debut comic series. How did Manifest Destiny, which first popped into comics stores Nov. 13th of last year, come to be, and how did it happen to come to Skybound?
Chris Dingess: I was drinking with friends and complaining about a trend in pop culture to take historical characters, both real and fictitious, and jam them into a supernatural story. I blurted out, "You could just take Lewis and Clark and say they were actually America's first black ops mission and they were actually fighting monsters." Then I realized that might be fun to write, so I stopped complaining.
How did it come to be? I was introduced to someone familiar with Skybound. We got to talking about ideas and I remembered my "Lewis and Clark thing." I told him about it and he had me boil it down to a one line pitch so he could get it in front of Robert Kirkman. The rest is history.
DF: Haha! “History,” yes … Uh, I hear you had an early “history” with comic books going all the way back to your parents’ small market?
Chris Dingess: Yeah. When I was little, I'd hang around the store, reading comics and eating junk food in the store room.
DF: So, for the uninitiated, tell us about the storyline of Manifest Destiny.
Chris Dingess: Manifest Destiny is the REAL story of what happened during Lewis and Clark's exploration of America. As I said earlier, it was actually the first big lie sold to the American people. The Corps of Discovery were actually a black ops mission to destroy the monsters and demons that lived west of the Mississippi River so people could populate the West and eventually build strip malls.
DF: Who are your main protagonists?
Chris Dingess: Well, there's Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, leaders of the expedition. Lewis, I guess, is the more intellectual of the two and a bit of a rapscallion. Clark is more of a man of action. He's the stoic one of the two. Both are damaged from fighting in the "Indian Wars."
Which brings us to Sacagawea. According to history books, she was a guide on the mission. Here she's a bad ass fighter who, against her better judgment, saves our guys’ bacon more than once. As the book continues, we will learn that she also serves a larger purpose.
As the book continues, we hope to make it more of an ensemble amongst the various crew members.
DF: And what challenges are presented to them in the book?
Chris Dingess: Well, there's a whole bunch of monsters and demons that the Corps will discover and there's an ever-present threat that some of the men will mutiny out of fear over what lies ahead.
DF: Tell us about the career path that took you to television screenwriting, what properties you have been involved with, and did this help you at all with your first comic book?
Chris Dingess: I started out in Baltimore, Md., as an assistant on things like Homicide: Life on the Street. From there I moved to New York, where I finally landed a gig writing for a show called Ed. Eventually, I settle in Los Angeles, working on a bunch of stuff. Some of the more genre shows I've worked on are the American version Being Human and Reaper. I think those shows help me with combining humor and horror. But writing comics was a true learning experience for me.
DF: How has it been collaborating with artist Matthew Roberts?
Chris Dingess: It has been a DREAM! Matt is incredibly creative. He's a genius and just the best guy. I wish we lived closer together so we could have beers.
DF: Whet our curiosity: The third arc of your book begins with #13 in 2015. Where is your crew adventuring now?
Chris Dingess: They are pressing forward, moving through Iowa.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Chris Dingess for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Manifest Destiny #12 hits shelves today, December 17th!
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