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Lela Gwenn Interview – Bad Luck Chuck

Lela GwennAn intriguing new comic mini-series is heading our way in March from Dark Horse Comics. Billed as ‘slapstick noir’ from the writer, Lela Gwenn, it’s about the cursed Charlene “Chuck” Manchester who decides to monetise her own bad luck. With art by Matthew Dow Smith, colours by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and letters by Frank Cvetkovic, it looks and sounds pretty wonderful—and I was lucky enough to grab a quick chat with Lela to find out more.

The Blurb

Cursed at birth, Charlene “Chuck” Manchester hires out her own bad luck, providing disaster where someone else can profit. She can get you that insurance pay-out fortune—for a price. But bad luck doesn’t always go as planned, and when Chuck gets stuck between a dissatisfied crime boss client, a cult leader, and a dogged insurance-fraud investigator, things get…explosive. Everything that could go wrong does—and only about half of it by accident. She’ll need more than a rabbit’s foot to get through this.

The Interview

Bad Luck Chuck is such a brilliant premise. Where did the idea come from?

My inspiration was the fact that when anyone is good at anything these days, someone is encouraging them to sell that thing. It makes it hard to enjoy your hobbies, because it feels like if it can’t be monetized it isn’t worthwhile. I thought about this and how it would be better if we could sell the crappy parts of life—and then I ran with it. 

You’ve gone from this great idea to it being your debut with the legendary Dark Horse. Can you tell us a little more about how that all happened?

Bad Luck Chuck (cover art)I wrote it originally as a backup story for Matt [Dow Smith, artist] that would maybe get put into an issue of October Girl one day. Then an opportunity for a twenty-page version of the story presented itself while I was hanging out with Matt at his table at ECCC. That never manifested, but by then we basically had a whole issue written, and sample art done, so we went for it. Matt wanted to work with Kelly [Fitzpatrick, colourist], and I’d known Kelly for years—so I brought her in. Frank [Cvetkovic] has lettered everything I’ve been able to get him to letter, so that was a no brainer for me.

And the sell to Dark Horse?

I already had art by Matt in the bag. I had a kick-ass concept, a bad-ass team and this story is really right down the middle of what Dark Horse is known for.

You’ve coined this story as ‘slapstick noir’ (which I love)—is that a style you always had in mind for Bad Luck Chuck or something that developed as you wrote?

Bad Luck Chuck (page 1 sm)Matt’s style lends itself to noir, and combined with Kelly’s bold color, it was an easy way to go. But I know these people, they have a zany side and I needed this story to be balanced out with the ridiculousness of her curse and the circuitous path that the curse will sometimes take to “get” Chuck.

From what I’ve seen so far it looks like you’re keeping this fantastical concept grounded in some level of reality. How did you and Matt approach the story in terms of the visuals and keeping things ‘real’?

Again, I have to give a big nod to Matt’s art style. You think about the work he’s done in X-Files—this isn’t that different. He renders people and places so beautifully, you (as the reader) can’t help but believe them.

Can you tell us a little more about your process while writing this script?

Oh my goodness. There are so many places where Matt, Kelly and I made choices that aren’t necessarily in the script that just make the story so much clearer and more immediate. I’m so lucky to get to learn from them. I’m becoming a better writer through the process. 

Any tips for aspiring comic writers to help them get started?

  1. Make friends and treat them well. None of this could have happened without these wonderful, established professionals taking a chance on me. 
  2. Do as many anthologies as you can possibly get yourself into. Think of them as audition pieces for the rest of your career.
  3. Write. Draw. Do your art. I have a million things that will likely never see the light of day. I learned from all of that.
  4. And the last thing goes back to the first thing: find people you trust to give you critique and learn to use that. Also, give back to those people because they are valuable!
Bad Luck Chuck (banner)

Bad Luck Chuck is a four-issue miniseries. But with such a brilliant concept at the heart of this story, is there a chance we’ll be seeing more of Charlene “Chuck” Manchester in future?

We give a complete story with the four issues, but the hijinks could go on forever (or until the curse is broken). I’d love to do more with Chuck.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I DUNNO! Editors, get at me. I have stories! 

Thanks so much to Lela for her time and good luck to the team for Bad Luck Chuck, out on 27 March 2019! You can preorder it from Comixology here.

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