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Chuck Dixon is renowned in the comic-book world for his work with such eternally popular characters as Bat man, Robin, the Green Lantern, and the Punisher. Over the course of his constantly evolving career he has written hundreds of comics and created a number of crowd-pleasing new titles of his own.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
A Boy and His Comics
Dixon was born on April 14, 1954, in Philadelphia. on his web site, Dixonverse.com, he describes his earliest years as ”unremarkable” and ”full of movies and TV and pick-up softball and backyard shoot-em-ups.” What distinguished his childhood most was his voracious love of comic books. ”I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in comics,” he explained in an interview with Web site Geek in the City. ”I seemed to be drawing my own comics before I could talk and going through piles of them long before I could read.” On his web site, he further explains, ”I amassed a huge collection by haunting garage sales and paper pulpers and buying out neighborhood kids’ collections for pennies-a-comic. See, they outgrew them but I knew I never would.” Making his own comics, his focus shifted from drawing to writing. As he states, ”By thirteen I realized I would never be a comic artist like my idol, Steve Ditko. So I began to turn more toward writing comics.”
Although he loved reading all genres of comics, his particular fondness for Steve Ditko, the artist and writer who cocreated the superheroes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel comics, was telling. Dixon would eventually make his name in the kind of superhero comics he loved as a child, but the first character he created was quite different from the likes of Spider-Man.
The Early Creations
Dixon’s first creation, Evangeline, was quite a shift from the characters he fell in love with as a boy. The title character was not only ”a sexy killer vigilante nun” but also a feminist, an unusual creation for the politically conservative Dixon. Dixon’s wife at the time, Judith Hunt, provided the rich pen and ink illustrations that adorned its pages, as well as the hand-painted images featured in the comic’s first few issues published by Comico Comics in 1984.
Never having achieved more than a cult following with Evangeline, Dixon still sought to make a bigger splash in the world of comics. He got his chance to work for the publisher of so many of the comics he adored as a child in 1985. That year he was hired to write backup stories for a comic called The Savage Sword of Conan for famed Marvel Comics. Dixon expanded his enterprise the following year, when he took a job at Eclipse Comics, where he wrote for a horror comic anthology series called Tales of Terror. That same year he began writing for the long-running series of aviator adventures entitled Airboy. By 1987, Dixon now found himself to be one of the hottest comic writers in the industry. Along with his continued work on Tales of Terror and Airboy, he wrote for the Alien Legion series on the Marvel imprint Epic Comics and collaborated with artist Paul Gulacy on a new series called Valkyrie for Eclipse. By the end of the 1980s, he could also add a comic adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkein’s fantasy classic The Hobbit and work on Marc Spector: Moon Knight to his resume. However, it was his work in the 1990s that would transform Dixon into a star.
Years of Fame and Hard Work
Dixon first worked on the tremendously popular Punisher Marvel Comic series in 1990. The comics follow the title vigilante anti-hero as he uses such extreme techniques as kidnapping, torture, extortion, and murder in the pursuit of his concept of justice. The dark, sometimes brutal Punisher comics propelled Dixon to his greatest success yet and caught the attention of an editor from that other giant of American comics, DC Comics, publisher of such perennial favorites as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Editor Denny O’Neil approached Dixon to write a Bat man spin-off series focusing on the Caped Crusader’s Boy-Wonder sidekick, Robin. Dixon jumped at the opportunity. The Robin miniseries became such a success that Dixon began work on two more Batman-related titles: The Joker’s Wild in 1991 and Cry of the Huntress the following year. He also launched a triad of other Bat man offshoots—Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl—and regularly wrote for Catwoman.
Dixon’s work was not limited to tales set in Batman’s Gotham City, though. He also created the superhero teams Birds of Prey for DC and Team 7 for Wild Storm/Image and launched a series titled Prophet for Extreme Studios.
The Writer Today
After several years working on projects for other studios, Dixon found himself back at the DC offices. There he worked on titles like Richard Dragon and Green Arrow and a number of comic adaptations of popular films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Snakes on a Plane. He also returned to the Batman universe with work on Robin and Batman and the Outsiders.
In June of 2008, Dixon’s long-running relationship with DC came to a sudden end. The huge western fan has since taken on work from publisher Dynamite Entertainment, where he will be writing a series based on the character known as The Man with No Name, famously portrayed by Clint Eastwood in a trilogy of films directed by Sergio Leone. He is also slotted to write a series based on the long-running G.I. Joe comics for IDW Publishing.
Works in Literary Context
Much of Dixon’s career has been spent writing about superheroes. A longtime staple of comic books, the superhero can be traced back to 1938 when the most famous such character debuted in the first issue of DC Comics’ Action Comics. Superman embodied many of the traits that would come to be associated with superheroes. He possessed a number of superhuman abilities, defended ”Freedom, justice, and the American way,” concealed his powers by adopting a ”secret identity,” and dressed in an outlandish costume. Not all superheroes would possess all of these traits. Batman, Bob Kane’s character that debuted a year after Super man’s first appearance, did not have any superhuman abilities. Instead, his chief gimmick was the many gadgets in his arsenal, which he designed himself and funded with his immense fortune. While the superhero’s origin lies firmly in the realm of comic books, superheroes have since become staples on television and in the movies as well.
Perhaps the most controversial genre in comic-book history, horror comics, first became popular in the early 1950s after William Gaines inherited Educational Comics from his father and changed the focus from education to entertainment. He commenced publishing a line of comics including Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, each of which contained gruesome yet moralistic stories. The success of Gaines’s horror comics was short-lived; a 1954 book titled Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham accused horror comics of inspiring a rise in juvenile delinquency. The book led to a trial in which the horror comic industry was persecuted. Gaines’s career publishing horror comics was ruined by the trial, but the genre has proven to be a most enduring and influential one, spawning modern comics like Tales of Terror, a series for which Dixon wrote during its 1985-1987 run.
Works in Critical Context
Comic fans have long responded enthusiastically to Dixon’s writing. One of his first major series was the Batman spin-off titled Robin, which Web site Pop Culture Shock.com deems is ”one of his most memorable.” Web site IGN.com was especially enthusiastic about Dixon’s Robin, declaring this in its review of the series’ final issue:
I know I sound like a broken record pointing this out in nearly all of my reviews of Dixon’s but when it’s firing on all cylinders, his run on the title can feel like the best of Spiderman, with a teenage hero wisecracking his way through dangerous situations and common adolescent experiences alike.
Batman and the Outsiders
Dixon’s work on the Batman and the Outsiders series is among his most well-known. In a review on IGN.com, the series is said to have taken some time to develop a distinctive personality amongst the myriad Batman comic series, but the site declares that by its seventh issue it is ”at last developing into an exciting cloak and dagger series that sees Bat man’s operatives thrown into one stickier situation after another.” Still, the series was not above some criticism. IGN goes on to note, ”For the entire series so far, Bat man and his Outsiders have been up against a rather lifeless evil corporation, a device that has been far too common in DC comics these days.”
- Comic Book DB.com: The Comic Book Database. Charles ‘Chuck’ Dixon. Accessed November 19, 2008, from http://www.comicbookdb.com/creator.php?ID=747.
- Comic Book Resources. Chuck Dixon to Write G.I. Joe For IDW. Posted September 8, 2008, from http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id= 17962.
- The Official Home Page of Chuck Dixon. Accessed November 19, 2008, from http://dixonverse.net.
- Geek in the City.com. Talking with Chuck Dixon! Accessed November 30,2008, from http://www.geekinthecity.com/comics/talking_with_ch.php.
- com. Batman and the Outsiders #7 Review. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http://comics.ign.com/articles/875/875923p1.html.
- com Robin #174 Review. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http://comics.ign.com/articles/875/ 875922p1.html.
- Media.com. Chuck Dixon, “The Simpsons” comic book writer: Mr. Media Interview. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http://www.mrmedia.com/2007/ 07/chuck-dixon-simpsons-comic-book-writer_05.html.
- Chuck Dixon to Write the Man With No Name. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http:// www.newsarama.com/comics/080820-Dixon MWNN.html.
- Popular Culture Shock.com. Chuck Dixon Returning to Robin. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http:// www.popcultureshock.com/blogs/chuck-dixon-returning-to-robin/.
- Chuck Dixon Interview. Accessed November 30, 2008, from http://transfans.net/interviews_ dixon.php.
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