Charles Soule. His name becomes ever more familiar to comic readers as the months tick by, but especially so after Marvel’s slew of Wolverine-related announcements at San Diego Comic-Con. He writes books for Marvel, DC, and Oni. He’s published graphic novels via Image, Archaia, and Slave Labor Graphics. He’s also still running a law practice on the side (as well as on Twitter, and his blog). Some wonder if Charles is a robot, or possibly has clones hidden somewhere. My goal, when I met him for this interview at the DC Comics booth, was to finally get answers to those questions. Sadly, he quickly lulled me into a hypnotic trance, and before long we were talking about comics, the process of collaborative writing assignments, and the future of Swamp Thing as he introduces the Singularity to the world of Alec Holland.
Nerdist: As we speak, you, Greg Pak and Scott Lobdell are in the midst of releasing Superman: Doomed. Take us through the origins of that book…
Charles Soule: Superman: Doomed is a big, huge Superman-spanning crossover event. It hits all the titles in the line. It’s been going since June, and it all started with a huge fight between Superman and Doomsday. Of course, you know Doomsday from the ’90s Death and Return of Superman, and since Doomsday hasn’t been seen in the New 52 yet, we felt now was the time to bring Superman and Doomsday together again.
N: How much of the inclusion of Doomsday in this story was based on a nostalgic love for the character?
CS: There was a balance. We wanted to make sure we’re using the recognition the original character has as the guy that killed Superman, a real super badass, and the rest. At the same time we weren’t interested at all in doing what had been done before. We wanted to put our mark on the character in a way that was innovatie. So we spent a lot of time figuring out how to reposition Doomsday. Do we make him talk? Make him intelligent? Give him motivations that are more than just showing up and punching Superman to death. I think we found a way that sort of threads the needle between old Doomsday and this new version. He’s almost more of a force of nature in our story. His purpose is to destroy life and make more Doomsdays. He’s kind of a virus.
N: An alien invasion by way of viral infection.
CS: Exactly. And when you’re sick, what do you do? You fight the virus. You try and get rid of it so your body can heal. When Superman finally understands what Doomsday is and what he is going to do, he has to cross a line he’s never crossed before and he sort of rips him in half. We’re left with no more Doomsday, but this releases a cloud of spores. Superman breathes this in to make sure no one else is infected by this and, of course, is infected himself. So the storyline that’s playing out is that Superman is turning into a kind of a new Doomsday. Imagine Superman plus Doomsday… it’d be a disaster.
N: It started as an homage to the Death of Superman arc, but very quickly reveals itself to be a much bigger story. Superman leaves Earth with this infection, but he’s forced to return when Brainiac makes his presence known by blowing up a bunch of stuff. A common thread in a lot of your books is this ability to reveal an unexpected, but logical twist somewhere along the way. For example, Swamp Thing, was seeded (pun intended) as a continuation of the stuff Scott Snyder had done. However, over your run you’ve expanded the mythology of The Green and the concept of Avatars quiet a bit.
CS: Yes. So the sort of big, sort of meta thread throughout my whole run of Swamp Thing has been a past/present/future theme. So the first arc, dealth with ST just getting the job, learn everything real fast, and getting advice from The Parliment of Trees (a sort of advisory body for the The Green’s current Avatar) and at the end of that arc he realizes… I’ll do it on my own. He fires his advisors and then we moved onto the second arc. Now the second has been about the present. Defining, for Alec Holland, what his run as Avatar is going to be. That’s also been, for me as the writer, what I’ve been talking about too. So the first arc was me thinking about all the amazing guys and stories that have come before: Alan Moore, Scott Snyder, Dysart, Brian K. Vaughn, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar. Everyone you can think of. So the second arc has been about me saying, okay this is the kind of world-building and mythology building that I’m about as the writer of Swamp Thing, and now we’re moving into the third arc, which is the future. The title of it is, “The Machine Queen”.
N: But wait… Swamp Thing doesn’t care about machines, right? He’s all organic and such.
CS: Right, but the basic idea is that you’ve got plants, animals, fungus, death and they all have their own kingdoms; red, the rot, the green, the grey. And each kingdom has their own avatar. So you have the superhero of plants. The superhero of animals.
N: Swamp Thing and Animal Man.
CS: Right, and we’ve seen a number of those characters in this book up to this point, but the idea has always been that those kingdoms have been around for millions of years, there have been many avatars and they’ve been established for a really long time. What we’re seeing in this new arc, is the rise of a new kingdom, the machine kingdom. You know, so your phone starts to think for itself, your cable connection, your ATM, everything.
N: It’s a singularity.
CS: Yes, so a singularity occurs but when it occurs they’re like, hey we should have our own avatar. That becomes a point of great conflict because the other kingdoms are like… well… you guys are really babies, you don’t know what you’re doing yet. The machines are like, “No. We’re perfect.”
N: They’re not emotional.
CS: Yes, all that stuff, and the fun thing about it that DC has a ton of machine-related characters: Cyborg, The Metal Men, Doom Patrol. So an avatar of that kingdom can manipulate any machine-related system. Just like Alec Holland can manipulate any plants. So this is a way to make a Swamp Thing story that could hit every corner of the DCU.
N: This sounds like your biggest story yet, and that’s saying something because you’ve been telling an absolutely epic story over in Red Lanterns. This title is huge, cosmic, there are multiple alien races, and new planets… What has been the biggest challenge working on a book of that scale?
CS: It’s funny, it’s like when you walk into a bookstore… do they still have book stores?
N: I don’t think so.
CS: CD stores?
N: Sure. Those are everywhere!
CS: Well, imagine when you used to walk into a bookstore, and you would go… “Man, there’s a book I want to read,” but then you’re presented with so many different options you kind of forget what it was you went in for in the first place. That’s what writing one of these big cosmic books is like. You have the entire universe at your disposal. Any possibility is available to you. It’s like the entire universe is staring you in the face. So, anytime you’re faced with that, what I do is I step back and look at the characters. For this, I decided I wanted to tell an awesome space-revenge saga.
N: Starring Guy Gardner!
CS: That’s right, Gardner is know as a hothead dude, and he takes over the Red Lantern Corp from Atrocitus, who had been running it as sort of a very religious cult. Gardener gets rid of Atrocitus, and turns the Corp into more of a biker gang. He grows a sweet handlebar mustache and the tone of the book and the corp radically changes. It becomes like… they’re going around the universe having sweet adventures. There’s this looming threat in the background that Atrocitus, rescued by his Space Cat, is planning a come back. Hoping to rebuild a power base and taking the corp back. He wants to brutalize Guy Gardner. That’s where we are now. So check it out.
And you should! I’m most excited for the “Machine Queen” stuff. What about you? Let me know via the Twitters or in the comments below!