AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks with Charles Soule about SWAMP THING, THUNDERBOLTS, RED LANTERNS, & STRANGE ATTRACTORS!
@’s by STRANGE ATTRACTORS’
Writer Charles Soule!!!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So I’m here with Charles Soule. I’ve actually reviewed quite a few of your books a couple of the other guys at my site have, too. Humphrey Lee has covered a lot of 27 and I love STRONG MAN. I think it’s a really amazing book.
CHARLES SOULE (CS): Thank you so much.
BUG: But you have a new book coming out here with Archaia. Can you tell us about it and what it’s all about?
CS: Absolutely. It’s called STRANG ATTRACTORS. It’s viewing here at the show this weekend. It’s a book about New York City, which is where I live. I’ve been living there for sixteen years. It’s basically about two genius mathematicians, believe it or not. There’s a young one and an old one and they use complexity theory like the butterfly effect to turn the whole city into a machine or an engine. It’s about what happens when they turn it on. So think of it kind of like INCEPTION or a story like that, or MOMENTO maybe, except it’s got complexity theory as opposed to dreams or a guy who doesn’t have any memory. It’s fun.
BUG: It’s interesting with these types of books that are about these geniuses. How much research goes into this? What do you have to learn? Do you have to be one of these geniuses to write one of these geniuses? What’s the secret?
CS: Of course you have to be a genius. (Laughs) Thanks so much for asking. No, the trick is… what I do is I do a lot of research for this book. I wanted it to read in a way that… the book is not full of math. You don’t have to know the math or anything to enjoy it, and I took great pains to have characters who were not experts in this material, so that you could have the experts explaining it to them, which gave me the chance to have basic level exposition, so people could kind of get what I was talking about. So I think you can write characters that are smarter than everyone else, because you know what’s going to happen. It’s not as hard as it sounds and I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s definitely a trick to it, but as long as you know how it’s going to end before the other characters do, you can make somebody look really smart.
BUG: As long as you’re playing god.
CS: Yeah, you get to be god, so you’re the smartest one in the room when you’re writing a book.
BUG: That’s great. So tell me about the artist. Who is doing all of the art? How did you get a hold of him?
CS: One of the things, again I’m saying this a lot, but this is very much a New York City book. It’s New York through and through and so one of the things that was really important to me was to get an artist who knew New York. The guy’s name is Greg Scott. He’s based in Staten Island and has lived there his entire life as far as I know, and no one can see this, but the art in the book is really spectacularly detailed and there’s scenes of Central Park and downtown and all over that just look like you’re there and he would take actual reference from street corners and so on. So he’s really good. The colorists are Art Line and Mathew Pest who are both brilliant. Matt lives in New York as well. Within the book there are these amazing maps or diagrams, which are what the math guys use to make their machine. We had a fine artist names Robert Saywiss come in and do those and they are just beautiful. There’s a four page fold out in the book.
BUG: I saw that as I was flipping through it. It was pretty cool.
CS: Yeah, which is like this huge gape hole that’s all one of these complexity maps and it has a really cool point in the story where it hits and I’m just really proud of the way the book looks and feels and how it all came together.
BUG: Speaking of which, Archaia always makes the most beautiful books. They are like library quality hard cover books. Was it important to you to have it presented in this way?
CS: It absolutely was. This is a book that I put a lot of love and time and all of the team did and I wanted to make sure that the presentation reflected that. It never hurts to have something that feels good in your hands. It’s easier to sell, you know? It’s something people want to have and touch and hold and have.
BUG: Were you ever considering this to e a limited series, like single issues? How did you come to Archaia? I know they don’t do a lot of single issue stuff.
CS: Right, well I think this is a story that… It’s funny, because I always conceptualized it as a graphic novel, as opposed to something that was serialized. That said, the book was serialized digitally on Comixology and you can still get it there now. It’s in five chapters and they did that for a number of their new titles and the idea I think is to generate some interest and get people talking about it before the actual hard cover comes out. So we found a way to split it up into chapters, but I always thought of it as one big graphic novel.
BUG: You talked about New York and how you’ve been there this whole time. Does it go back in history or is it all about the architecture?
CS: How does it work? It’s pretty much…. It takes place now, very much an analog of current present day New York, but the way that their machine works is so they might move a trash can into the middle of a sidewalk, so that disrupts pedestrian traffic, like people have to move around differently and so then that has a ripple effect that spreads out and spreads out and they know what’s going to happen. So then that has some very specific thing they are trying to achieve and they can chain those things up, so they can do like five, six, or ten things to make some bigger adjustment happen and as the story goes, it’s clear that there’s something really bad that’s going to happen in the city unless they can pull off the most incredible versions of one of these adjustments they’ve ever done. So the book works almost as a puzzle or a machine too where you’re seeing the pieces come together until the end when it all clicks and you’re like “Holy shit, that guy knew what he was doing when he wrote it,” hopefully.
BUG: Nice. You have some other projects that you’re working on right now. You seem to be all over the place. I remember I first heard of you with STRONG MAN. Is that still going on or have you retired the Strong Man? What’s going on with him?
CS: No, STRONG MAN is still happening. That was my first big published work. It came out from SLG in two-thousand-nine. It’s sort of an action crime thing starring a washed up old luchador. It’s sort of like SIN CITY, but uplifting and the first volume came out in two-thousand-nine and we actually finished a full hundred and fifty page second volume of it in two-thousand-eleven and for various reasons that I will not get into in this interview, it has not come out yet, although you can sometimes get a limited run of it through cons if I do it myself and we are also going to put it up digitally on Comixology soon and then people really seem to like that book and that series. I don’t know that a million people know about it, but it’s definitely something I like a lot and I would love to revisit it at some point if I can.
BUG: Are you interested in Mexican wrestling? Has this been a hobby of yours? How did you first come into contact with that?
CS: Well, it was a way to write a super hero, but without having a super hero in it. Those guys, the luchadores who wear the masks all the time are as close as you can get in real life as a super hero. They don’t take their masks off. You could be at the grocery store and the guy down the isle is shopping for milk with a mask on. They are larger than life individuals and it seemed like you could do a lot with a person who was already like that in real life and then you heighten it in a comic book and you can go anywhere you want.
BUG: Very cool. And then TWENTY SEVEN, I think that’s where a lot of people first heard of you. What’s going on with that? I know you’ve had a couple of series with TWENTY SEVEN. Are you still planning on developing that?
CS: I am. So TWENTY SEVEN is my Image series. We’ve had two trades of it out so far, two arcs have been collected. I want to do at least one more and it’s really a matter of... My workload right now is pretty intense, so I definitely want to do it. I know Rungrid Widess is very interested in doing it, and it seems like more and more people are finding my older work because of the stuff I’m doing now. If interest continues to build for that, then I’ll absolutely do another series.
BUG: Speaking of which, you are doing SWAMP THING right now. What’s it like to follow up Scott Snyder on that title?
CS: You know Scott Snyder is a truly nice guy. I mean when I pitched on the book and when it looked like I was maybe going to do it, he reached out to me directly and said “I want to make sure you are cool with doing this. What can I do to help you? What can I put in the end of my run that will help you in yours?” None of those were things he at all had to do and he would talk at the panels and stuff, so I was nervous at first. I mean obviously Scott is arguably one of the biggest writers in comics right now, so you don’t want to screw up any of the amazing ground work he’s already laid down and you also don’t want anybody saying “Oh my god, why can’t we have Scott Snyder back?” So I decided with my take to certainly use all of the tools he gave me and build on what he made, but then take a different approach. I want people to say “Scott Snyder killed it and then Charles Soule killed it.” I mean isn’t that what everybody wants?
BUG: Definitely. So what is coming up for SWAMP THING?
CS: Right, so with SWAMP THING one of the things that I’m doing in my arc that I’m pretty happy with is I’m doing really tight little arcs, so you’re have one issue, two issue, three issues, but usually not more than that and each one will be self contained. They will all have different locations and different big beats. My goal is to have you be able to specifically be able to remember the big moments from each one of my SWAMP THING issues. I don’t want them to blur together at all. I want each to be very unique and distinct. As far as what those specific moments will be, the first issue came out, number nineteen, about a month ago. The next issue, twenty, is coming out this Wednesday. In the first issue you see Swamp Thing fighting Scarecrow, which for people who haven’t read it yet, I’m not going to spoil what happens, but it goes south. He does not defeat Scarecrow for the moment an then the second issue is set in Metropolis where some of the fallout from not defeating Scarecrow plays out and you have Superman in it, becuase it’s in Metropolis, and so they kind of tangle and it’s fun. It’s distinct, and then the next issue after that I’m adding to the supporting cast with a thousand year old French female assassin and then after that we have a Constantine two-parter. One of the things when you write, at least for me, the idea of writing SWAMP THING is really tied up with the idea of “Oh my god, I’ll get to write Constantine as well, because those two characters have been linked forever.” So I wanted to write an arc that has touchstones. I wanted to do it quickly, because I wanted to make sure I had the chance to do it, just in case, and I wanted to set it in Britain somewhere, because that’s where I think Constantine shines. So the two-parter with Constantine is set in Scotland and a little village in the Highlands and I don’t know if you remember in the Alan Moore run there’s that bit where they go to the town that’s been flooded by a dam and there’s all of the underwater vampires there and stuff?
CS: It’s been a while.
BUG: I like “underwater vampires,” though. That sounds kind of awesome.
CS: It’s pretty cool. That whole run was amazing. So what I’m doing has nothing to do with underwater vampires, but I did like the idea of a town where something is self-contained and something happens and specifically a tree grows up in the middle of the town that dispenses like delicious beautiful amber whiskey that the town starts to enjoy and they are like “We’re back on the map. Everybody is going to want this stuff” and then it goes really south and Constantine shows up and Swamp Thing is there to save the day and that’s really fun. So that takes us through twenty-three.
BUG: Very good, and then you’re also taking over THUNDERBOLTS?
CS: Just yesterday at the Marvel panel I was announced as the ongoing writer for THUNDERBOLTS, which is also a really fun title. I mean it’s a teen book with all anti-heroes who do not want to work with other people. So it’s fun to smoosh everybody together. It’s got Red Hulk, Punisher, Elektra, Venom, Deadpool, and Red Leader who is the existing leader, except now he’s red instead of green. So getting all of those people to do something is pretty fun.
BUG: Is there a favorite in that book for you?
CS: There is. Punisher and Elektra are big. They are some of my favorite characters in comics, so I get to write them both at once. It’s great. I’m not going to neglect the other ones, but they are really fun.
BUG: Who’s going to be the artist on THUNDERBOLTS? Is it going to continue to use…
CS: Yes. Jefe Paulo, who did… The thing I know him from… I don’t know if you remember, but Fred Van Lente did a really cool TASKMASTER miniseries a couple of years ago.
BUG: I loved that series.
CS: Me too, it’s great. So the artist from that is doing it. He’s amazing. Before he jumps on for sort of the more ongoing run, I’m doing two one shots which are both in THUNDERBOLT. So THUNDERBOLTS 12 is a one shot that focuses on Punisher and THUNDERBOLTS 13 is one that focuses on Mercy, who’s an old Hulk villain from back in the day. She’s been kind of floating around the periphery of THUNDERBOLTS and so it’s focusing on her and answering a lot of questions. The artist for number twelve is Steve Dillon. I mean Steve Dillon drawing PUNISHER, that’s amazing, and then Phil Noto is doing the Mercy issue, so I’m not hurting for great artists at all.
BUG: Definitely. So with all of that, is there anything else that’s going on for you?
CS: There is. I’m also writing RED LANTERN for DC. That starts in June which Issue twenty-one, which will be fun. For that, the main hook that I’m giving is that I’m putting Guy Gardner on to the RED LANTERN as a full time member of that team. He’s gone red before, but it’s always been like in a moment of great crisis he will be red and then he gets out of it as soon as he can. I’m like, “What if he doesn’t want to get out of it as soon as he can? What if he hangs out and he does it and embraces the rage?” So that’s starting. The great Italian artist Alessandro Viti is drawing that and then I also have an ongoing that’s starting from Oni Press in October called LETTER 44, which is sort of a scifi thriller thing. I’m sure we’ll be talking to you guys about it a little closer to launch, but it’s kind of like 24 meets 2001. A new president comes into office, he gets a letter that his successor leaves on the desk for him and the letter says “Surprise, we found some sort of alien construction site up on an asteroid belt seven years ago. Now it’s your problem. Deal with it.” So it’s a pretty fun book.
BUG: Very cool. Well congratulations on all of your success. It’s great to see you start out with STRONG MAN… It really wasn’t all that long ago. I’m sure it seems like ages ago for you, but it’s great to see all of the success come to your right now.
CS: Thank you guys for all of the support since back then, I mean the Ain’t It Cool review of STRONG MAN was one of those… “All right, they liked it. I guess I’ll be okay.” So I appreciate it.
BUG: Good. Well have a great time with what’s left of it and have a safe trip back to New York.
CS: Great. Thanks.
BUG: Look for Charles Soule’s writing in DC’s SWAMP THING and RED LANTERNS, Marvel’s THUNDERBOLTS and the really great STRANGE ATTRACTORS from Archaia Entertainment in smarter comic shops now!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel through Hermes Press). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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