Charles Soule enjoyed early success with his creator-owned Image Comics hit “27.” Now, the Brooklyn-based writer and musician finds himself smack dab in middle of DC Comics’ New 52 as the new writer of “Swamp Thing,” replacing the soon-to-be-departing Scott Snyder.
Joined by artist KANO, Soule’s run launches in April with “Swamp Thing” #19, and the writer told CBR News that not unlike the way he approached his”27″ protagonist, in which he explored a young guitarist who has literally lost his mojo, he plans to dig deep into the heart of the six-foot-seven monster and see what makes him tick.
Noting popular genre TV series like “Lost” and “Fringe” as influences on his approach to pacing his run, Soule plans to develop a large, overarching story during his run on “Swamp Thing,” though individual storylines will likely only run two to three issues apiece.
He also hinted at the possibility of playing Swamp Thing off Justice League members in future issues as he prepares to set the Avatar of the Green against the Scarecrow, segueing from horror tales to superhero stories and back again.
CBR News: Let’s start at the very beginning: What was your introduction to the Swamp Thing?
Charles Soule: I have to say that I have only seen the live action and cartoon versions of the “Swamp Thing” tangentially, and it’s been a long time. They’re all brilliant, and I think that’s why people still talk about them today, but most of my experience with the character has been through the comic runs.
I first came across him, like many, many readers did, with the Alan Moore run. I went through my own big Alan Moore junkie phase early on in my reading. That was a beautiful, seminal run, which set up a lot of the character’s back story that is still considered canon today. But I’ve also read most of the other runs.
Rick Veitch took it over after Alan for a while. Brian K. Vaughan did a fantastic run, which I think was about 14 issues. Those were great. Joshua Dysart did some wonderful things and then, obviously, I’m very up-to-speed with everything that Scott Snyder has been doing since the New 52 brought the character back to the DCU. I think he’s been doing awesome work, which really harkens back to the old Alan Moore stuff in a way that’s not slavish to it but really uses the ideas in a very interesting, innovative way. It’s a real treat to follow it.
Was this your pitch to DC Comics, or did they come looking for you? And do you know if it was “27” or “Strongman” that piqued their interest?
I think it was the general body of work that attracted them. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I think it was probably “27” because you can see some parallels between “27” and “Swamp Thing,” just in the way the subject matter plays out.
When we first started talking, they asked me if there were any characters that I liked to write. “Are there any characters that spark your interest?” I never though “Swamp Thing” was even a possibility, because I knew Scott was doing such amazing things on the book. I guess I sort of talked about the kinds of characters that I like and said, “If anything ever comes up, please let me know.” Eventually, they got in touch and said, “What do you have for ‘Swamp Thing?'” And here we are.
I’m glad that you mentioned “27” as I agree that there are similarities between Will Garland and Swamp Thing. In “27,” you were able to dig pretty deep into Will’s soul and explore what truly makes him tick. Does “Swamp Thing” allow for that same type of personal exploration?
I certainly hope, so because that’s basically what I am planning to do with it. What I want to do in my run, at least at the start, is really explore what it would be like to be a human being who has become a giant, six-foot-seven swamp monster.
It’s a situation where I think Alec Holland gave up a lot to be a hero, to be Swamp Thing, to take that role to essentially save the world. It’s a big, huge step, and you have to think what that would do to a person. When the heat of battle has died down, where would you be? What would you think about? Now you have to go live in the swamp every day. There would be amazing things about it — you’d be tied into the Green, you’d be able to understand the world in way that you weren’t able to do so before. Alec Holland is a botanist, so he’s basically sunk deep into everything that he loves the most. It’s what he would have devoted his life to anyway, so there are certainly compensations for it. But at the same time, it’s not like you are going to sit around and watch Netflix on a Saturday night. You’re out in the swamp, and that’s that.
Do you consider “Swamp Thing” to be a horror book, a superhero book or something else entirely?
I think “Swamp Thing” can be almost anything. “Swamp Thing” stories have been deeply philosophical over the years, but you have some terrifying stories, like what’s going on in the “Rotworld” arc right now. And you can also do the superhero, punchy stuff.
â€¨I plan to do all of those things. I think “Swamp Thing” is really fun because it’s incredibly fluid and incredibly fast-moving. People don’t bring a lot misconceptions to it as readers, so if it is an issue and it’s all gore, that’s totally fine, but the next one might a little trippier or something a little more out there — that’s still acceptable, too.
And if there’s an issue where he’s playing off the Justice League, because he now belongs to the more standardized DC continuity, that’s possible, too. I haven’t written any “Swamp Thing”/”Justice League” crossover stories yet, but it’s definitely possible.
Scott and Jeff Lemire have been telling their massive “Rotworld” story in “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man” from the get-go of the New 52. Are you telling a big story too, or are you aiming for smaller, self-contained tales?
My plan is to have my cake and eat it too. There is going to be a big overarching story, but the model that I’m planning to adhere to is something like a season of “Lost.” Each episode has its own, internal consistency, and you might even have a little bit of crossover from issue to issue. Then every once in a while, we’ll dip into the larger mythology. “Fringe” is another show that’s similar.
Certainly, what I’m planning to do is set up a big, overarching story fairly early and then I can dip in and out of it as I need to or choose to, because the comics that I remember growing up that I really had a lot fun with were the ones that don’t necessarily have to be done-in-one issues, but there is one big idea in an issue that makes you remember it because one particular thing happened. Or maybe it’s the setting. Maybe it’s set in the Arctic. And then maybe putting the characters in a snow setting makes it unique and memorable.
I think doing that with “Swamp Thing” can be a lot of fun because, again, he’s a flexible character and you can put him in awful situations. Part of the fun of the book is going to be putting him in a lot of different places, putting him in a lot of different environments in the world. Seeing how he reacts, seeing how he changes. I don’t want to spoil too much, really, but imagine Swamp Thing underwater. What would that look like? That’s one of a whole bunch of ideas that I would like to explore and that I would be a lot if fun.
I’m going to try and stick to tighter stories, one to three issues, each, while weaving in and out of the deeper story, which will hopefully wrap up a little bit down the road.
In the April solicitations, your first issue is teased with the premise: “What could Swamp Thing possibly fear more than the Scarecrow?” That could be read two ways. Is that rhetorical, in that is there something worse out there than Scarecrow, or is that something or someone actually Batman’s rogue that he’s going to face off against.
You are absolutely going to find out what he fears more than the Scarecrow. The fun thing about Swamp Thing is that he really doesn’t have a lot to fear. You can’t hurt him in most traditional ways.He’s incredibly strong, he’s incredibly powerful and, acting as Avatar of the Green, he’s still figuring out what he would be afraid of, which was a really fun part of writing that issue. I think people are really going to enjoy it. I can’t wait till it’s out — just a few more months!
Finally, have you seen any pages from KANO yet?
I have seen some of his work, and it is spectacular. I’ve always been a fan of his art — some of my other writer buddies had worked with him and had nothing but strong reviews for him. Working with him is a huge thrill.
The first script has some really challenging imagery in it. There are some really cool things to draw. It’s really detailed. It’s really spooky and he’s really nailing it. And Andy Brase on covers is really cool too.
“Swamp Thing” #19, written by Charles Soule and featuring art by KANO, goes on sale April 3.