Author, musician and attorney, Charles Soule recently took over writing duties for Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns. Soule talks with DCN about the future of two of DC’s most renowned titles.
DCComicsNews.com: First off, I love the way you write Alec Holland, you really get the character. Now that Alec has fully accepted his role in the Green and moved away from humanity, how will that affect him psychologically? The nightmare sequence from issue 20 seemed to indicate he’s starting to have some doubts about the Green and whether he made the right choice.
Charles Soule: You’re absolutely right—those are threads that I’m going to play out for a while. My thinking is that Alec took the job as the Avatar in a moment of great tension and stress, and there wasn’t really time for him to ask all the questions he possibly should have asked before giving up his entire human existence for all time. He’s starting to understand what he’s actually supposed to do in this role, and we’ll see him go through some growing pains—in classic, awesome comic book style.
DCN: Over the past two issues, we’ve seen two DCU characters make an appearance on Swamp Thing, and Constantine is up next. With all these other DCU characters in the mix, how do you keep the story focused on Alec and maintain the tone that makes Swamp Thing so unique?
CS: I think the trick is mostly just to make sure that whoever shows up in any issue, it’s still a Swamp Thing story through and through. As long as we see events primarily from Alec’s perspective, and he’s the guy who gets put through the wringer but ultimately succeeds, it’ll read as a Swampy tale no matter who shows up for him to interact with. For what it’s worth, too, I think there’s such a long history of Swamp Thing interacting with John Constantine that I don’t even see him as a “guest star,” but more of a member of Swampy’s extended supporting cast. The story featuring John, by the way, is one of my favorite things I’ve done on the title so far. It’s a horror-infused story set in the Scottish highlands called The Whiskey Tree, and it goes to some really fun, dark places.
DCN: Last issue we were introduced to Capucine, a new ally of Swamp Thing. Will she become a full-on sidekick to Alec like Abigail was in the previous run, or will she have more of a recurring role?
CS: We’ll be seeing a lot of Capucine. I brought her in as a conscious effort to expand Swampy’s supporting cast a bit, especially since we just had a great arc from Scott Snyder that featured Abby Arcane pretty heavily before my run began. I think Alec is ready to make some new friends, and he could do worse than a cool thousand-year-old assassin lady from France. Capucine has a pretty neat backstory (if I do say so myself), and I’m looking forward to teasing out bits and pieces of it over the next several months.
DCN: Let’s talk about the big bad for this first arc, Seeder. As this arc has progressed, we’ve seen Seeder attempt to help people with his powers rather than hinder them. Can you tell us anything about Seeder’s motivations, and what this seemingly positive initiative brings to him as a character?
CS: Seeder is pretty complicated. We’ll learn more about him in issue #24. His motivations do appear to be fairly noble, as you point out, but you know what they say about the road to Hell. I think the Seeder/Swamp Thing dynamic plays out in a really cool way—what we’ve seen teased so far is just the start of where it eventually goes. I don’t want him to just be a typical “bad guy.” It’ll go deeper than that, and I can’t wait to see what people think.
DCN: With such a clean slate in front of you, could you tell us about some of the themes and motifs you plan to continue writing about in this series?
CS: The Red Lanterns are by their nature pretty damaged individuals—if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be Red Lanterns in the first place. They’re all looking for some sort of equilibrium; trying to balance some of the awful things that have happened to them (and their corresponding desire for revenge) against their need to move forward in this strange new existence that has found them. I mean, they live on an empty, ugly planet with a blood lake as its one prominent feature, and zip out into space from time to time to participate in gigantic, universe-changing battles. It’s weird. So, while I want to keep the huge scale of the stories intact, I also want to delve down a bit and see how these guys work day-to-day. It can’t be all RRAAGGEE all the time, right?
DCN: Can you talk a bit about the positives of working with such a large cast of characters?
CS: For one thing, it means you can explore a bunch of different personality types. If you want to write some comedy, you can use Zilius Zox (I don’t want to call that guy my comic relief character, because he’s definitely a scary, effective fighter—but I also think he’s hilarious), and if you want to go with some hard-edged broody stuff, you can use Skallox. I see Ratchet as the quiet guy in the background who could kill everyone in the room, if he wanted to. My point is that there are a lot of angles to play, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to exhaust the potential of the cast. I’m even adding to it—as I think will be pretty clear from the covers that have been released so far, everyone’s favorite redheaded Green Lantern will be switching sides for a while and joining the Reds. Guy is a blast to write, and I think he adds a lot to the potential storylines I can work with.
DCN: With Atrocitus almost welcoming challenges for leadership, is the power struggle going to be a part of the story going forward?
CS: Front and central. You put a seriously type-A personality like Guy Gardner anywhere near Atrocitus, and you know sparks will fly. That conflict is a big part of the very first issue of my run, and it plays out in a way that I think is particularly badass – especially the way Alessandro Vitti (the penciler/inker on the title) drew it. Seriously, some of the panels towards the end of the issue… you’ll see.
Being a DC staff writer
DCN: Could you talk about the differences between writing to a character like Swamp Thing, the Red Lanterns, and some of your independent work?
CS: Swamp Thing is essentially a fantasy series about a single character on a non-standard hero’s journey, while Red Lanterns is a team book that’s set in a sprawling sci-fi universe. My indie work is all over the place—I have an action/crime series starring a retired luchador (Strongman), an Inception-style thriller about a mathematician who turns NYC into an engine (Strange Attractors) and a supernatural series about a rock star trying to live past twenty-seven (27). They all hit completely different spaces as far as the details of each story. Still, there’s some consistency between all of them—I’m a high concept guy, and I like to cram as many details and story points into every issue as I can. I also like action scenes that are character-based (which is easy to say and sometimes hard to do, but I do my best!).
DCN: As a man wearing several hats, do you ever find your other jobs helping you as an author, musician, or lawyer?
CS: Of course—everyone is the sum of everything they do, and everything contributes to everything else. Sometimes the influence comes in a big, obvious way (like the way my music background pops up in my Image series 27, which is all about rock and pop music) and other ways it’s more subtle (my professional history gives me a work discipline that is extremely helpful—without it I’m not sure that I’d be able to do as much writing as I’m doing right now).
DCN Fans: Rankorr, being the first human Red Lantern, had the ability to create constructs. Will Guy Gardner also have similar abilities?
CS: Guy will not, in part because I think it’s very helpful from a storytelling perspective if the Reds all have slightly different strengths, weaknesses and (where possible), power sets. For example, we all know that Atrocitus is a big fan of the napalm blood puke move – but they don’t all do that. I think Skallox is more of a brawler, while Zilius would scare you half to death before he’d bite you, err, in half. I like Rankorr a lot, though, and he’ll have some cool stuff to do. They all will—every issue doesn’t have a big moment for every Red, but they’ll all get their time to shine.
DCN Fans: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you wanted to utilize more characters with a connection to the Green. Does this only refer to new characters like the Seeder, or do you plan on using old characters like Jason Woodrue/Floronic Man and Poison Ivy as well?
CS: The ones you mention (at some point), but also retired Avatars of the Green—every person (or thing) that has ever served the Green is still around, and that means I can do scenes set in almost any era of history. You saw some of that in issue #21, and in the Annual (which will hit in October), we get to see eleven previous Avatars—at least based on the current draft. The canvas on Swamp Thing is huge, and that’s part of why I love working on the title so much.
DCN Fans: Will we be seeing an increased emphasis on horror in the pages of Swampy any time soon?
CS: Right away, in fact! issues #22-23 are a straight up horror story with some truly scary stuff going on. Good times.
Thank you to Charles Soule for his valuable time, and to our fans who continue to submit excellent questions.