Interview with Manifest Destiny Writer Chris Dingess

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Manifest Destiny is one of the hottest breakouts in recent comic history. With Image Comics releasing its third (yes third) printing of issue #1, things are apparently just getting started. I spoke with writer Chris Dingess about his expedition into the world of comic books, and also a bit about writing for the popular SyFy series Being Human. He didn’t hold back at all.
…so without delay- let’s talk monsters.

Jeremy James: Manifest Destiny was a hit from issue #1, applauded wildly by critics from USA Today, MTV and Slate among others. What the heck gave you the idea for Lewis and Clark “monster hunters”?

Chris Dingess: I was drinking and complaining about how all someone needs to do to have a hit is jam monsters into history, fiction and non fiction. I said, “You could just take Lewis and Clark and say they were really hunting monsters in the american frontier.” Then I realized it wasn’t terrible idea and I could have fun and maybe make money with it. So I stopped complaining and here we are.

JJ: What is the most unusual comment you’ve heard from fans and critics about Manifest Destiny?

CD: For me, it’s when someone says/writes “The concept is plausible.” No it’s not plausible at all. It’s about monster hunters for god sakes!

JJ: You are also known for the writing you do on the popular SyFy series Being Human. With all of the supernatural genre television shows on right now, what is the approach you’ve taken to set Being Human apart from the rest?

CD: I think we, meaning all of the writers, LOVE all the horror and supernatural stuff in this show. However, we always approach each story with a focus on the humanity of each character. That’s the relatable stuff and it’s what drives the show.

JJ: How is writing for comics different than writing for a general tv audience? Is there another dimension of creative freedom in comics, or do you just lay it all out on the table regardless of what you’re writing?

CD: The pacing and timing of reveals is a bit different and you’re focused a bit more on visual elements with a comic. It’s like your calling out and describing every single camera shot.

The biggest freedom would be the fact that you don’t have to worry about a budget. There are so many brilliant ideas that come out of a writers’ room that are basically stillborn because of a show’s budget. And a lot of them aren’t even complicated or full of effects and explosions. It can simply come down to a matter of time. With a comic it’s wide open.

JJ: I looked everywhere online for your bio, and I found almost nothing. You are apparently a man of mystery. When and how did you get your start as a writer, and what should the world know about Chris Dingess?

CD: I was a writers assistant on a show called “Ed.” I wrote a spec script for the show (you’re not supposed to do that) and gave it to the Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, the Creators/Executive Producers. They read it and didn’t hate it. Then I begged them for a job and they finally gave me my break.

I don’t know what the world should know about me… I prefer being a man of mystery to being a bore and a jackass, so I’ll manifestrunkeep it to a minimum. I’m just a dummy from Maryland trying to make a living.

JJ: How did you end up with Skybound and Image Comics, and do you have any other creations lined up in the near future?

CD: I was hanging out with someone acquainted with Skybound and told them about my idea for a series on Lewis & Clark as monster hunters. He was excited about it and had me boil it down to a description of a sentence or two for Robert to look at. Robert liked the concept and got behind it and got rolling on it.

I don’t have any concrete plans for another book at the moment. I have some ideas. Television work keeps me fairly busy. I honestly don’t know how guys like Robert Kirkman and Marc Guggenheim bounce around and put out so much good stuff. They’re true workhorses and I bow at their feet. Or hooves. It is hooves if they’re work horses, right?

JJ: From the end of the first issue of Manifest Destiny, readers were foaming at the mouth to see what would happen next. We’ve already seen barbarian beasts and plant-like zombies. What kind of plans do you have up your sleeve for this series? Spoilers are controversial, but controversy is welcome.

CD: The series deals a lot about discovery. Matt Roberts and I want to keep with that and so we’re always trying to deal with different… elements I guess would be the word. In the first arc there was Flora and Fauna. So maybe we’ll go to the water and see some reptilian or amphibian related stuff soon. Maybe something Avian. Or insects! Insects are cool. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the biggest monsters in this book aren’t in the wilderness. They’re on the boat and they put their pants on one leg at a time. Was that non-information worthless enough for you? Glad I could be so specific.

Manifest Destiny #4 comes to a comic shop near you on February 12th, and a third printing of issue #1 is onsale now. Both feature the writing of Chris Dingess and the brilliant art of Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni.

Manifest Destiny #1

Manifest Destiny #1