Charles Soule Set to Write Every Comic Ever
By Brian Walton on May 2, 2014
Just like Hansel, Charles Soule is so hot right now. In addition to his creator-owned book Letter 44, Soule is juggling more books than you’d think possible. DC Comics has enlisted the writer on the excellent Superman/Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing, and Marvel just announced this weekend that he would be overseeing Wolverine’s last days in “Three Months to Die.” We caught up to the in-demand author at Emerald City Comicon to ask about the pressures of writing so many titles, the legacy of Swamp Thing and what we can expect from our favorite books.
Nerdist: You are doing a lot of books. First off, how do you keep that momentum going? Do you pick up one book and write it for a day? Do you finish a full issue and then move on to another book? How does that process work?
Charles Soule: Generally speaking, I have a detailed schedule – surprise, surprise! It has all of the due dates of all of the books that I have to work on, as far as generating script. Usually, I will finish one issue, turn it in, and then I will turn to the next one. I have kind of a pre-writing process involving outlining and breaking the story a little bit. Then I turn it into an issue usually in a day. So I’ll sit down in the morning, and by the end of the day, the issue is done, and then I move on to the next one. So that’s pretty much how that works.
Nerdist: That’s awesome! That’s a speedy process. Do you find yourself – when you get into the writing, are you plotting things out, or do you just let it flow? Does it come quickly?
Charles: What I have when I sit down to write a script is usually a fairly detailed page-by-page outline, so I know what’s going to happen on each page, and how many pages a given scene will take. But it doesn’t have dialogue, it doesn’t have action beats. Those are the things I tend to find while I’m writing. If there’s something I know I’m going to include, like a particular research angle, like, there’s a Swamp Thing story line coming up that had a fair amount of German in it, for a reason, so I ended up knowing that I was going to need that, so I looked up and researched the German stuff I needed ahead of time. So I was ready to kind of deploy it like ammunition when I was writing the script.
Nerdist: Getting into Superman/Wonder Woman, you’re doing something quite unique. You’re telling great, giant visual stories, but you’re also telling a very human story between two people, and a lot of people are calling your version of Wonder Woman the best out there right now, and I tend to agree. When approaching those characters, what was the core thing that you wanted to bring out in both of them?
Charles: Well, first of all, thank you very much for the kind words on Wonder Woman. I think there’s a lot of good takes on Wonder Woman at DC right now, which is nice, because whatever Wonder Woman you like, there’s one there for you. But as far as my approach to the book and the characters, one of the things that really attracted me to the Superman and Wonder Woman in the first place was that we haven’t seen them, Wonder Woman and Superman, in a relationship of this type before in a way that’s been explored to this level of detail and emotional depth.
There have been little story lines here and there where they’ve been together, but this is the longest term I think we’ve ever seen it in their publishing history, so for me, the appeal was doing something new with the characters that hadn’t necessarily been done before. It’s almost impossible to find with Superman and Wonder Woman, because they’ve been around for 75 years. I wanted to – I felt as if their relationship gave me an access point to them emotionally that would let me tell very personal stories, and get into their characters in a way that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.
I mean, there’s a point in Superman/Wonder Woman 4, I think it is, when Clark is explaining to Diana why he’s a writer. He basically says, “I’m a writer because writing is hard, and so many things are easy for me, I wanted to do something that would be challenging so it would remind me that there are challenges for everyone on this Earth.” Things like that – like that’s not necessarily – he’s not going to tell Batman that! It’s one of those things that you tell to someone you’re in a relationship with. Being able to play beats like that was something that really attracted me to Superman and Wonder Woman in the first place.
Nerdist: One thing that I really admired in the book is that you’re not… the challenges that they’re facing and the frustration that they’re facing as a couple, they’re not always seeing eye-to-eye. One of them thinks that their relationship should just be out there and not an issue, and the other one is like, “I need this separate.” When you’re finding those dynamics, what are you looking to for inspiration for the relationship beat?
Charles: When you’re approaching something like this – I’m trying to write them as real people to the extent that I can. They’re not real people; I know they’re made up. I also know that they are people who have abilities, as written, that are so far beyond what you or I are able to do that it’s tricky.
So what you do is you think the one thing I absolutely have in common with Superman is that I’ve been in relationships. We’ve all been in relationships, of any kind. And so there are certain commonalities, and one of the things that tends to come across is in every relationship is that you start out being intrigued by some of these differences, and thinking it’s so awesome to be with somebody who isn’t you. But then over time that can evolve into more like, man, I wish they were just like me.
Those differences between people and how you feel about them are something that tends to shift and change over the course of a new relationship. That’s something that’s going to affect these two characters. Again, it’s all about – for me, it’s all about character access points. Finding ways to make them real people and the relationship stuff is really a good way to do it.
Nerdist: That brings up a good point. You have these very well-rounded, deep characters. your run on Swamp Thing has been – you’ve kind of, I don’t want to say something that’s a little loaded, but brought a book back to its level of acclaim that it once had. Finding those rich character beats and being able to bring out stuff that was there and not fully explored, and really bringing out that voice – how much of that do you feel is a challenge that you want to take on because this is what you want to do in the book, and how much of it is what came before, and trying to find a balance?
Charles: Right. That is the legacy – the Swamp Thing legacy is really a great question, and a good thing to talk about, because Swamp Thing has had some of the most prominent of the creators in the business work on it for years, writing-wise. We’ve had, obviously, Alan Moore’s run. I mean, Len Wein made the dude up, but then Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughan, Josh Dysart, [and] Scott Snyder most recently.
So what they were able to put together was an astonishingly deep mythology, right? So when I jumped on to the title – first of all, it was my first DC project. For all I knew, I was only going to get one or two issues out of it, so I wanted to swing for the fences from the get-go. I also recognized that Swamp Thing was an opportunity to really write a deep mythological series in a way that you can’t always do the same sorts of things with other characters. Swamp Thing lends itself to kind of weird, supernatural, strange happenings in a way that some other titles don’t. It’s always been a title where almost anything can happen, so I just wanted to do that.
Again, if I was only going to get one shot at it, I was going to swing for the fences as hard as I possibly could, and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been on the title now for a good little while, and I’m getting to keep doing amazing things, and I hope to keep doing amazing things while I’m on this feature.
Nerdist: That’s great. Of all the books you’re writing right now, do you have a favorite for yourself? Is there one where you feel like you really get to express a very personal – your own voice?
Charles: You know, I feel like they all have my voice in them, to greater or lesser degrees. I’ve never been in a biker gang, but I still love writing Red Lantern. They all scratch different itches for me. Every project I’m working on I’ve chosen consciously to allow me to sort of exercise different parts of my brain. So this is going to sound like a cop-out answer, but I really do love every project I’m on, and I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t.
Nerdist: So with your creator-owned book, with Letter 44, you’re doing a very cool, unique story. There was a whole issue, “Sex in Space” – you’re finding very interesting things, and I’m curious – how long have you had some of the questions that you’re trying to posit answers to in this book?
Charles: So how long have I been wondering about some of these questions?
Charles: I’ve always been absolutely fascinated with what I call “real-world space problems,” so no life-savers, no warp drives, but more like how NASA actually gets astronauts into space, which is the most dangerous – you’re killing yourself just by going to space. Space is not a survivable environment, whether you’re in a spaceship or not.
So I just think the men and women who do it are actual super heroes. They’re all geniuses, specifically incredible specimens. It’s just, I don’t know – it blows my mind. So I wanted to tell a story that would sort of pay homage to them, and also I wanted to sort of posit the question based on idea of what would actually get us back into space. What would cause us to gear up a huge manned space program again. Because we kind of just stopped doing it to the degree we used to. That would be something that would make me very happy, and probably Level 44 is going to make that happen. For sure.
Nerdist: And then of all the characters out there right now that might be unclaimed, is there anything you have your eye on, and you’re, like, “I want that one”?
Charles: Oh, you know, I would be – I’m writing a lot of books right now. I’m getting to write amazing characters. I’m already probably a little greedy with the number of books I’m doing. There are certainly guys I’d like to write in the future, and gals, but for the moment, I could not be happier.
Charles Soule currently writes DC Comics’ ‘Superman/Wonder Woman’ and ‘Swamp Thing’, and is set to work on Marvel’s ‘Death of Wolverine’ this summer.