Charles Soule’s profile has been steadily rising with the superhero crowd since the launch of the New 52. After taking over for Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing, Soule took over writing Red Lanterns at the end of the Geoff Johns Lantern epic. He also has the task of selling the lightning-rod pairing of Superman and Wonder Woman in their eponymous book this fall. Soule and I sat down at Baltimore Comic Con in early September to talk about Guy Gardner, workplace dating, and his new creator-owned political sci-fi thriller.
Charles Soule: Oh my God yes! Red Lanterns is a very, very fun book to work on, and Guy is a very fun character to write. The nice thing about Red Lanterns is you know the very nature of the title allows you to do all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s a title about angry rage-fueled space aliens and Guy Gardner on top of it. He’s kind of an angry guy himself, so you can get away with a lot of things. Not that I’m really pushing the envelope too much, but you can do stuff in Red Lanterns that’s really fun and I’m enjoying it.
AB: The tone of it is very different from the other Lantern books. Is it a challenge trying to coordinate them together, to fit your tone in? I mean, your book is a book starring essentially “bad guys.”
CS: We [the other Lantern writers, Robert Venditti, Van Jensen and Justin Jordan] talk a lot, for one thing. And in another sense I think it’s actually great that all the books sort of have their own tone because if they’re all the same thing then it’s not four books it’s just one book.
As far as, you know, how to write a book with bad guys as the heroes, I don’t see them necessarily as bad, I see them as just having a different sense of morality. Their versions of solutions to problems aren’t the same solutions that a Hal Jordan might find. Which is great, it just opens things up. It’s a flexible structure.
AB: Switching gears, you have a very highly anticipated book coming out, Superman/Wonder Woman. They’re a controversial pairing; what would you say to the fans who are skeptical about the relationship to get them in to this?
CS: Well I guess it would depend on where their skepticism comes from in the first place. If they are skeptical because they think it’s going to be too romantic or just sort of not like a superhero book, I would say that it absolutely is going to be a superhero adventure. The tone of the book when I normally describe it to people is sort of like Empire Strikes Back, right? Empire Strikes Back was a…(jokingly) you guys have seen that movie, right? Star Wars movie, you know it?
AB: (laughs) I had Darth Vader license plates for six years.
CS: Nice, not screwing around! Anyway, so Empire Strikes Back was at its heart a really amazing dramatic adventure with all kinds of cool twists and turns with great bad guys and everything like that. It also happened to have a really strong romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia. The Han/Leia romance is not what made that story, but it certainly made that story better, right? So, the Superman/Wonder Woman book is going to have the fact that the main characters are dating as a plot element. It’s going to be part of the book, but it’s not the only thing that happens and it’s not necessarily what drives everything. It’s not them going on dates every second.
On the other hand, they do go on dates, we see them having romantic moments together. And for me, I think writing a book that has a broader emotional spectrum to it is amazing. It means I can do things between the two main characters that you don’t always get to do in superhero books at all ever. Superhero books don’t always have emotional depth. Sometimes it’s all about ‘let’s get to the fight as quick as we can!’ What I can do with Superman/Wonder Woman is write big action sequences and fight scenes that have an emotional power to them that just makes it resonate much more strongly.
It looks beautiful, we’re getting to really expand the Superman and Wonder Woman mythology in these books. We get to see Wonder Woman outside of the context that we see in Justice League and her own flagship title; she’s doing different things. And I think Wonder Woman can use as much exposure as she can get. I really like writing her as a character, I think she’s awesome, I think she’s badass, and it’s fun. I hope that reduces some skepticism.
AB: What kind of relationship are you writing between them, what kind of couple are they? Are they Dinah & Ollie? Are they Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris?
CS: Well I’d say they are Superman and Wonder Woman. And the way I am writing Superman and Wonder Woman is as a couple that are still relatively new to each other, there’s a lot that they don’t know about each other, they’re very much in their “oh my god this is so awesome” honeymoon phase. It’s not like they’ve been dating for ten years and really know each other that deeply as people, you know they have a lot of faith in each other, they trust each other. They know each other’s sort of physical capabilities and powers because they’ve fought together a lot, but there’s an emotional side to it that they are not as familiar with yet. So they want it to be all sunshine and light, but maybe it stays that way but maybe it doesn’t.
AB: Are you going to play with the adage “you shouldn’t dip your pen in the company ink”? They work together really well, but they’re in a relationship – are there any conflicts centered around whether they can keep that stuff separate?
CS: Well sure. The reason you don’t dip your pen in the company ink, so to speak, is because of the breakup, right? You know it goes bad, things get terrible, you can’t work together. Right now they’re all psyched and everything is good, so if at any point they ever do have trouble, then maybe you would see more of that. And certainly there’s going to be some of the other people they work with, some of their colleagues, will have some misgivings about it, and it’s going to be neat.
AB: I’d like to talk about an upcoming non-DC project of yours. You’ve got Letter 44 coming out from Oni Press. The press kit that came out was really impressive, and made it clear there’s a world built around this. Where did this idea come from?
CS: The premise of Letter 44 is its sort of a mixed kind of a political thriller sci-fi story about a [U.S.] President. You know when the President takes office, he gets a letter on his Oval Office desk and the letter has sort of tips and tricks from the previous president. It’s secret, nobody knows what’s in it, nobody ever gets to read it except for the President. And his particular letter says, “Hey man you know good luck, this job is really tough, you’re going to need all the help you can get, particularly because seven years ago we found aliens in the asteroid belt and we didn’t tell anyone about it, and now it’s your problem.” The P.S. of the letter says, “Oh also by the way we sent a mission about three years ago to see what’s up there, they’re about six months away from finding out, they’re all heroes, take care of them too.” So the ‘A’ story of the book is the President down on earth trying to deal with all this and the ‘B’ story is the astronauts in this increasingly rickety spaceship getting closer and closer to seeing what’s really there.
As far as where it came from, I love real space travel, you know the Apollo missions and space shuttles, and the ISS* and all that. It’s always been a huge deep abiding interest of mine. So to write a story about, like the things that those guys do, it’s unbelievable. You literally strap yourself onto a rocket and just hope for the best. They’re all geniuses, just so much about them is incredibly compelling, so I wanted to write a story with that as an element. And I also like presidents and political stuff, so it seemed like a nice mix, and when I had the whole secret letter idea, I was like well that’s a nice story. People really want to know what’s in that letter, and that’s pretty much it.
AB: It’s almost like The Manchurian Candidate.
CS: Yeah, layers upon layers. It’s very fun. That’s out in October.
AB: Well I appreciate you sitting down to chat and being so generous with your time. Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to promote?
CS: Nah, I’m just very gratified this year by the response to the work I’ve been doing and I hope people keep reading and keep enjoying it!
Letter 44 debuts from Oni Press next Wednesday, October 16. The inaugural issue of Superman/Wonder Woman, written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Tony Daniel, will hit shelves this coming Wednesday, October 9. Soule’s work can also be seen monthly in the pages of Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns from DC Comics, and soon She-Hulk from Marvel Comics.
Many thanks to Karen Dorula and Scott Berry for assisting with this interview.