CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY: AN INTERVIEW WITH L.A. CHAVEZ
Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen recently corresponded with L.A. Chavez, writer of the Kickstarter comic Heirs of Dim Mak, to discuss branching out in action-driven storytelling, along with detailing his favorite martial arts actors.
COMIC BOOK YETI: L.A., thank you for joining me today. First things first, can you let us know the premise for Heirs of Dim Mak?
L.A. CHAVEZ: Heirs of Dim Mak is about Reina, the last student of the deadliest woman alive, who hopes to pass that title to her to follow in her footsteps as an assassin. Reina will have to decide if she wants to honor her master’s wishes or forge her own path, even as the other heirs to the title show up to fight for it!
CBY: Martial arts stories, and especially fighting games, are known for having a colorful cast of characters, which seems to be alive and well in Heirs of Dim Mak. Can you give us a rundown of the core roster of fighters?
LC: Sure! There’s 6 “Heirs” present in the story, meaning they were all trained by Dim Mak at one point. The two main ones and most important are Reina, her last student, and the protagonist, who is a Venezuelan trying to figure out if she wants to be an assassin as well, despite her loyalty to Dim Mak.
Then you have Mui Kara, a Chinese fighter from Hong Kong with a big chip on her shoulder to her former master. I think of her as the Rival character like you see in Shonen manga, like a Vegeta to Goku.
Then you get some of the more archetype fighters like Bullion, the former spy, my take on 007. Or The Ratel, a Boston Superhero that’s almost a parody of Daredevil. Calamity, the French MMA fighter gal with muscles to spare! And Mi-Reu, a Korean movie star genius! He’s kind of the exception to the group, qualifying by cheating in a way.
"...It was very satisfying to bring in fight sequences and see how that also lets the characters speak in a way."
CBY: What were some of your major influences behind Heirs of Dim Mak?
LC: Oh, I’m a big fan of action movies, grew up watching Jackie Chan & Jet Li, and playing Mortal Kombat & Street Fighter. Not to mention I’ve practiced martial arts myself. When I was a kid, I took karate until I reached high school and even practiced Wing Chun for about a year in college when I was living next to Chinatown. So I’ve always had a fascination with the genre, and this became a story I’ve always wanted to tell in many ways.
CBY: Ok, I've gotta ask... what are some of your favorite fighting games and who are some of the characters that you main?
LC: Well, pretty much Steet Fighter & Mortal Kombat, to be honest, lol. But as far as mains, for each, it would be Chun Li & Vega and Sub Zero & Scorpion.
CBY: Obviously, fight scenes are a staple of martial arts stories. Did you map out the fights
yourself or was it a collaborative effort with the creative team?
LC: A collaborative effort for sure! I tried to be as specific as possible when writing my scripts, but you have to leave some room for the artist to play with as well. Thankfully, my co-creator is an amazing action artist who gets how to make the movements dynamic and stand out!
CBY: Can you describe your scriptwriting process to us? Were there any unique challenges you had to overcome when writing this specific story?
LC: Honestly, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to balance the action with the drama. So far, all my scripts have been very character & dialogue heavy. It’s my favorite thing to write, so I hadn’t done almost any action before. In a way, I saw this project as an opportunity to change that and expand my writing. It was very satisfying to bring in fight sequences and see how that also lets the characters speak in a way.
CBY: The mini-comics concept is such a fun idea and an effective way to give the supporting cast more room to shine. Can you give us more of your thought process behind making them?
LC: That’s something I’ve always loved and which I’ve seen a lot of mainstream comics embrace more as of late. You see more and more DC comics, including short bonus comics at the end of every issue that help expand on the main story, and it occurred to me that, given the nature of martial arts stories, where the side fighters just show up, we never really get to know them or invest much in them. I reached out to a couple of artists I wanted to work with and was delighted they all liked the project and wanted to give it a go. It also became a great marketing technique, too.
CBY: Without spoiling anything, is this a world and characters you'd like to revisit with future installments?
LC: I think of this story as a movie in a way, rather than a single issue. I wanted to try and tell a complete story in one go, and hopefully, I’ve done that. But is there room for a sequel? Absolutely! I’d be down to show what happens next if we can.
CBY: What are some of your favorite martial arts properties throughout media?
LC: I mentioned a few earlier, but Power Rangers & TMNT were some of the earliest properties I watched with martial arts. And I keep going back to one of my favorite movies, Bloodsport, which is from where I first heard the name of Dim Mak. Despite the hilarious phony backstory of that movie, it was absolutely inspiring to see. Jean Claude Van Damme was the real deal, maybe not his acting, lol, but his moves are real. His quest to win felt genuine. And that movie made us want to learn martial arts in the first place, so it did something right.
CBY: Who is your favorite martial arts actor?
LC: I think Jackie Chan is a genius the likes of which we won’t see again. His ability to push himself to the limit, blend comedy and his environment in every fight scene is unique. Sammo Hung is another legend of the Hong Kong films that isn’t as known in the west, but deserves just as much recognition. I’m also a big fan of Michiko Nishiwaki, who started as an actress playing mostly villains in those 80’s films before becoming a stunt person for many big Hollywood films.
CBY: When is the deadline for the Kickstarter?
LC: August 4th, so we still got a few days left! I don’t know if we’ll make the goal in that time, but I will tell you that if we don’t, I plan to launch it again soon for half the goal to make the comic in 2 parts instead. Maybe make it more manageable that way, but I believe in this story and want to see it get made!
CBY: Where can we find you on social media?
LC: I’m always on Twitter, lol. Follow me @lachwriter or check out my website at:
CBY: L.A., thank you so much for your time.