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Bad luck for sale: An interview with ‘Bad Luck Chuck’ creators Lela Gwenn and Matthew Dow Smith

The “slapstick noir” book about bad luck is out this week via Dark Horse Comics.

There’s something about feeling like you’re stuck with good or bad luck that’s simply magical. Whether it’s destiny, karma, or some deity lifting you onto a pillar or cursing your name, it’s like you’re truly special. Not just a mere cog in the boundless universal machine, but a creature worth more. Even if the cosmic engineer does want you dead.

In the new series Bad Luck Chuck, writer Lela Gwenn and artist Matthew Dow Smith explore that very idea. Here, the titular Chuck experiences bad luck, but she’s figured out a way to profit from that misery. It’s a tale of making lemonade from lemons – if they were infested with fruit flies and mold.

The first issue is out today, and we recently caught up with Gwenn and Smith to talk about the project. Plus, check out the exclusive interior pages below to get a taste of the book. Now that’s good luck.

AiPT!: Bad Luck Chuck has such a clever premise – what inspired the bud of the idea?

Lela Gwenn: My inspiration was the fact that if you are even a little bit good at anything, or if you make anything just for the joy of it, someone is there to tell you to sell it! Make money! I got to thinking that wouldn’t it be great if we could sell the crappy parts of life instead?

Matthew Dow Smith: It’s a great premise. Hooked me instantly when Lela pitched it to me. And can I just say, great title, too. When I write things, I always struggle with coming up with a good title, but this one so perfectly captures what we set out to do.

AiPT!: Lela, I’ve read you’ve dubbed the series “slapstick noir” (love that term!) What are some of your favorite film noir movies?

LG: I’m a big Bogart fan, so my fave of all time is probably the Maltese Falcon. For neo-noir, Brick is a really interesting film. Blade Runner is my unconventional pick. If anyone wants to argue with me that it isn’t noir, they can be wrong.

AiPT!: Matthew and Lela, how did you two connect to kick off the project?

LG: We’d been trying for a long time to find something to work on together, I was just not finding opportunities. Matthew invited me to write a 10-page story as a backup to his awesome October Girl and Chuck was born. A series of very lucky breaks made it possible for me to get the book in front of Dark Horse and the rest is history.

MDS: Yeah, I’ve known Lela for years and been following her career from pretty much the start. Always been impressed with her as a writer and as a person, and we’d been talking about working together for a while, we just needed the right project. When Lela told me this idea, I knew this was the thing we should do together. No doubt about it.

AiPT!: Having read the issue I almost want to think Chuck’s powers are good luck, in how they pan out over time. Do the powers work in short- and long-term ways?

LG: She’s learned to adapt, and she’s learned to mitigate, but her curse has cost her a lot. It’s literally always trying to kill her. As a chronically ill person, I can relate to the idea that something that is integrally part of you is also seeking your ultimate destruction. This book looks at that a little, but in a fun way!

AiPT!: Matthew you’ve drawn your fair share of detective comics (X-Files comes to mind). What is it about a detective story that’s so fun to draw?

MDS: I definitely have a tendency to go for projects that let me draw the ‘real’ world, or at least some variation of the world we know and see around us every day. I’ve always loved drawing real people in real clothes and bricks more than spandex and high tech. Done my share of that over the years, too, but any excuse to draw people in overcoats. Seriously, I love drawing overcoats. And one of the things I love about this project is that it allows me to go nuts with the whole film noir look. I’m a big movie nerd, and film noir in particular, so it’s been so much fun leaning in on those influences on something.

LG: I’m gonna butt in and remind y’all that Kelly is hitting ALL THE RIGHT NOTES with her colors, totally making the book feel noir and modern at the same time. *butts out*

MDS: Kelly’s fantastic! Been dying to work with her for a while, too. Nice to get to work with two incredibly talented friends on the same project.

AiPT!: I’m curious about the luck powers. Can they get exponentially more powerful given stress or any other factors?

LG: Chuck always carries good luck charms with her for protection. When she doesn’t have the charms, she’s vulnerable. The longer she goes without something bad happening, the worse the bad thing happening will be. She can also “tweak” her luck, using things that are “bad luck” to speed up or worsen the inevitable.

AiPT!: If Bad Luck Chuck was adapted into a film or TV show who would you like acting in the roles?

LG: Oh, this is tough. Chuck: Dichen Lachman or Nyima Nangchung. Fayola: Folake Olowofoyeku. Mrs Afolayan: CCH Pounder. Ean: Brendan Fraser. Papa Freedom: Billy Dee Williams. But this might just be a list of people I’d like to see work more…

MGS: Brendan Fraser is an interesting choice for Ean. I wouldn’t have thought of him for that role, but it’s perfect. Wish I’d thought of that before I started drawing this thing…

AiPT!: Thanks so much for your time!

LG: Thank you! And quick shout-out to our Letterer, Frank Cvetkovic. Couldn’t do this without you!

MDS: Thanks! And let me second the praise for the fantastic Frank! He’s been a dream to work with. This whole team has been great. It’s one of the things I love about comics — it’s a team effort — and this is a great team.

Bad Luck Chuck #1 is in comic shops today and can also be purchased digitally.

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