Introducing CHRISTOPHER CHAOS
James Tynion IV introduces everyone to the main character of his new Substack Original series, THE ODDLY PEDESTRIAN LIFE OF CHRISTOPHER CHAOS
Let’s start this off with a flashback.
It’s my Junior year of college, and I’m in a creative writing workshop taught by this guy named Scott Snyder who I’ve struck up a friendship with (Still about a year away from Scott’s first published comic book being released). It’s the first time in a workshop that I feel like I genuinely have the freedom to explore genre fiction to the extent that I want to explore genre fiction. Over the course of the semester, I write three short stories. The first was called “The Angel of Archer’s Peak.” It was about a town trying to solve a series of child killings at the hands of a horror monster, who was revealed to be an Angel. I was really obsessed with the idea of using Angels as horror monsters for a while there (eagle-eyed readers will remember that that is the title of the first arc of Something is Killing the Children, and that I returned to the fictional town of Archer’s Peak in that series). The second was a Cowboy Bebop-style space western called “Welcome To Dreamland,” which was admittedly more world-building than it was a story.
The final story was called “The Oddly Pedestrian Life of Christopher Chaos.” It was written in the style of a young readers’ chapter book and featured a psychopathic young evil genius forced to go through his day-to-day life in the fourth grade. It was actually a trilogy of short chapters, each escalating in their horror, until a final one where young Christopher actually kills someone. Which really upset a few of my classmates, and delighted me. Those Christopher Chaos stories are some of my favorite that I wrote in college, but more than anything it was the title that stayed with me. The story itself was kind of a shallow joke and an experiment to play on my readers’ expectations. It didn’t feel like there was depth there. But the title lingered in my mind. It just felt like a name without the right idea attached to it.
It was right there with “Something is Killing the Children” (A title I came out for a short story I wrote that same year but did NOT actually write for my Snyder workshop). I knew there was power in these names, and I wanted to find them the stories and characters worthy of those stories. So I tucked them away in a drawer, only to pull them out every now and then to look at them. It was actually in the aftermath of the SIKTC release that I pulled the TOPLOCC name back out of the drawer and considered it again. I felt like I had cracked something with Erica Slaughter. There was a rising generation of comic book readers who wanted their own heroes, protagonists that they could work with. I started reworking the Christopher Chaos idea…
I wanted to do something that played with the history of horror fiction, in the same way that The Department of Truth played with Conspiracy Theories. Christopher would turn into a teenage mad scientist trapped in a painfully ordinary world, stumbling into a world filled with mysteries and monsters. I wrote a pitch and talked about it with a couple of artists, but ultimately, I got too busy and I put it back in a drawer. Every now and then I would open the drawer and add a few ideas. The successful launch of Punchline and Clownhunter gave me new ideas of how to push the characters in a more aesthetically interesting direction, while still building on the original concept.
But the fact was, I was writing all the books I could manage to write myself, and a few more on top of that. I knew there were the kernels of another long-form comic series brewing in my head, but I didn’t know when I would be able to give it the focus to nurture it into what it could be. There were moments I started thinking about developing it with a writing partner, but I knew that this was a more long-form idea and that if I gave it to a publisher interested in an IP stake, there was a chance the story would never get a chance to finish. And otherwise, I couldn’t afford to pay all of the people needed to get a project like this off the ground.
Once I was offered The Substack Pro grant, I knew that I wanted to try and bring Christopher Chaos to life. I had a whole pitch document, laying out the broad strokes of the world. I also knew that my bandwidth wouldn’t allow me to write it myself, especially if this turned into a multi-year project like so many of my books tend to do. But there was a model in my head that I was fascinated by. I had a bunch of ideas that, like projects like SIKTC or DOT, were long-form in their scope and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get around to writing them for years. But in the same way, I had occasionally shepherded DC Superhero comics that I didn’t write myself, I wondered if I could build a whole universe by bringing in an incredible cast of creative talent, and basically steer the ship, while still giving everyone involved a good paycheck and a stake in the project.
I knew this could ONLY work with the right creative talent.
At the start of last year, I had started developing the first arc of HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER with Tate Brombal. I quickly saw a kindred soul in Tate, with a lot of habits (like going off and writing elaborate world-building story documents that nobody asked for) that I recognized myself having in my early writing career. So, I turned to him with the raw pieces of the story and asked if he wanted to help me flesh out this world and these characters and write the book for me. Tate said yes!
Next up, I reached out to the incredible Nick Robles to join the team as our character designer and cover artist. And then I reached out to the incredible Isaac Goodhart, who had been leveling up like crazy after a few years working on graphic novels for DC’s YA line to join us on the interior art. Isaac pointed me in the direction of Kurt Michael Russell, whose work I had loved on Money Shot, and who had worked with Isaac back on the Top Cow series Postal, and I was thrilled to have him join the team. And then we got the lettering maestro Aditya Bidikar to round out the TOPLOCC brain trust.
It’s been wild building this series in the dark over the last six months. We spent months just fleshing out the world and the rules of the world before Tate started putting the script down on paper. The Oddly Pedestrian Life of Christopher Chaos has a bit of YA to it. It’s a coming-of-age story about extraordinary teenagers, getting wrapped up in a larger-than-life mystery. But like all of my work, we’re not going to shy away from violence, language, or the jagged edges of young life. I think the key comparison point that I’d say is INVINCIBLE. And like I said before, this isn’t quite a superhero comic, but it IS the closest thing to a superhero comic I’m working on, or am likely to work on for a good long while.
So, now… I want you to meet Christopher Chaos. Teenage Mad Scientist. He’s going to be the one who tumbles sideways out of his ordinary world into something extraordinary. The Pigeon in his hood is named Peggy. She is a good pigeon. These designs are by the extraordinary Nick Robles.
And yes, I very much plan on making that T-Shirt available to buy through the Tiny Onion store later this year. Hahahahaha.
Next week, you’re going to get your first glimpse into the world of Christopher Chaos and meet a few more denizens of that world. There’s a big one that will help give you a sense of the scope of the story we’re looking to tell. The whole first issue will release later this spring, but we’re going to keep unpacking the world of the series as the drumbeat before we drop the whole first issue in your laps.
I can’t wait to reveal more! This is ONLY THE BEGINNING!
The Oddly Pedestrian Life of Christopher Chaos is based on an idea by James Tynion IV
Script by Tate Brombal
Art by Isaac Goodhart
Color by Kurt Michael Russell
Letters by Aditya Bidikar
Character Designs and Covers by Nick Robles
Design by Dylan Todd
Edited by Greg Lockard
I’m very excited to have this out in the world now. I had to stop myself from showing off the incredible cover that Nick Robles did for Issue #1 because dang, it is GORGEOUS. We’ll be back next week with the 10-page prologue to the series.
I also just want to give an extra shout-out to the whole creative team, here. It is FUN to make comic books with your friends, and just build a whole big world to play in together. We’ve got plans for years of Christopher Chaos stories, so I can’t wait for you all to come along for the ride we’ve got in store for you.
We’ve got more to come. Paid subscribers have a DOT: WILD FICTION coming to their inboxes on Friday, and I’ll be back on Monday with another Tiny Update.
James Tynion IV