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Chuck Dixon on El Cazador: Q&A

Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Posted By: Tim O'Shea

Chuck Dixon is a writer that defies a brief introduction. He’s written so many books for so many companies over the years that we’d never get to the interview on El Cazador until sometime in the 10th paragraph. This week marks the release of the CrossGen one-shot El Cazador: The Bloody Ballad Of Blackjack Tom. SBC recently was able to interview Dixon about the ongoing El Cazador monthly for CrossGen. Thanks to Dixon for his time/thoughts and CrossGen’s Bill Rosemann for facilitating the interview.

Tim O’Shea: What's been more fun for you in the creative process, researching the background to write El Cazador or the actual writing of the series itself?

Chuck Dixon: The writing! While the research is fun for me it's still more like work. But I need to do a certain level of hitting the history books before I'm comfortable with a period. But it'll always be the "makin' stuff up" part that I like best about writing.

TO: Captain Sin's real name is quite lengthy, did you create her actual name partially for comedic fodder?

CD: Spanish Donessa's tended to have a lot of names. It just naturally lent itself to a bit. We had to go to Italian female names for a name that would contract down to "Sin", though.

TO: Any plans for prequel tales involving Captain Sin's late brother? The character showed great potential...right before he got killed in the first issue, of course.

CD: There's always that opening. I'm sure he got into trouble in Old Mexico while he was there.

TO: How much of the critical success of the book do you attribute to Steve Epting's role?

CD: Is 110% too much? Without Steve the book could not be done. There's only a handful of guys currently working that could have handled this book. Steve was at the top of the list the whole time. He's working so hard on this book. And it shows!

TO: With the CrossGen trade paperback efforts set to gear up again, do you hope to gain even a larger audience through libraries and librarians eager to have books with strong female leads (still a rarity in the current market)?

CD: My hopes for El Cazador have always ridden on the book market. There's a ready audience for period nautical fiction there. I've been very pleasantly surprised by the direct market's reaction to El Cazador and this buoys my hopes even more that it'll do big business in the bookstores and libraries.

TO: How large is Lady Sin's family and do you plan on introducing more family members as the series evolves?

CD: No plans for right now. But her father is certainly lurking out there, don't you think? And what's a Spanish Don going to think of his little girl going pirate?

TO: Were there any characters you initially planned to kill in the series, but decided to keep on, as they grew on you as you wrote their scenes?

CD: Nope. They'll die by the bushel and no looking back. It's a hallmark of good historical fiction that the characters' lives be brutal and short. In the fifth book of Alexander Kent's excellent Bolitho novels, of life in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Era, there's a death of a supporting character that shocked me as a reader. I assumed this character was in the series for its entire run. I actually felt Bolitho's loss when the guy died.

TO: Have you intentionally set out to portray Redhand Harry as someone in between a villain and a hero?

CD: It's hard to find true heroes in the history books. Most folks, who were fortunate enough, made their own rules back in the day. Harry is a tough SOB but he's haunted by the sins of his past. A tragic, flawed hero who is so far from God he no longer seeks redemption.

TO: What is the importance (to you and to the overall book's theme) of setting it in the final days of the Golden Age of Piracy?

CD: I made the decision purely based on weaponry. Near the close of the Pirate Era, cannons were becoming more accurate and pistols were more commonly seen as the flintlock action was introduced. The ships were also more elegantly built and better sailed. Most of our popular pirate imagery comes from this era.

TO: How many dialects have you utilized in the book and how do you keep them all straight?

CD: I have help from a comics fan down in Mexico for the Spanish. Andrea DiVito (penciler on Brath) corrects my Italian. Letterer Dave Lamphear knows enough Dutch to help us get by and I run the French past my buddy Dale Eaglesham since his wife is a French Canadian. The torture of the King's English is all me. There's also some Manx mixed into the dialects from the Isle of Man. That's the source of "scuttin'"; a word that sounds filthy enough to pass as a curse but obscure enough not to offend.

TO: Not every creator would attempt a cannibalism subplot (as you did in a recent issue). How dicey a scene was that to write without making it get too graphic, while still creating tension/horror at the same time?

CD: I relied on Steve for that scene. Steve is very adept at implying horror. And I think that's actually far more impactful than showing it graphically.

TO: Pacing-wise, some characters returned to the book quicker than I had expected. If this were a DC or Marvel book would you be letting some of these subplots play out a little longer, or would the pacing been the same, no matter the fictional universe?

CD: I tend to pace the same way no matter where I am. El Cazador presents some unique pacing problems. Because sailing is not exactly the fastest mode of travel known I have to consider time as a factor more than is usual. Things have to be timed so the appearance and convergence of characters and subplots is believable in a world where time is measured in months not moments.

TO: What do you hope readers take away from reading El Cazador?

CD: A thirst for more period adventure that cannot be satisfied.

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