When not soaring through the air with “Superman/Wonder Woman,” inhabiting Ysmault with the “Red Lanterns” or working in a myriad of other comic book worlds, writer Charles Soule is helping defend the Green with Alec Holland in DC Comics‘ “Swamp Thing.”
Taking over the title from New 52 launch writer Scott Snyder last year, Soule teamed up first with artist Kano and next with artist Javier Pina to explore Alec Holland, Avatar of the Green, and expand the Swamp Thing cast and mythology. Kicking off a brand new three-part arc with Jesus Saiz, “The Gift Of The Sureen,” “Swamp Thing” #29 brought readers a glimpse into the schemes now-human ex-Avatars and the Sureen, a group that claimed to help Avatars before robbing Alec of his Avatar body and leaving him to die in a new human one.
With “Swamp Thing” #29 starting a brand new arc, CBR News caught up with Soule to discuss his series, the sinister Sureen and why Alec Holland alone of the Green Avatars still longs to be human.
CBR News: Charles, you’ve spoken before about your influences and your love of the Alan Moore “Swamp Thing,” and Jesus Saiz’s double page spread in this issue obviously touches on that. When you began this arc, did you know you wanted to bring him on to help pay homage to Moore’s era of the comic due to his visual skill?
Charles Soule: Well, first of all, you cannot leave out Matthew Wilson who does the coloring on this book, he’s a brilliant artist; Jesus Saiz brings his A-plus-game to this, but so does Matt. The double page spread you’re talking about in particular is a really great example of the skill sets both bring to this book. But as far as thinking about Jesus and how I wanted to approach the plot points, the great thing about him and Matt and Javier Pina and Kano and all the artists who have worked on the book is once you get a sense of what they’re capable of you can write literally anything and they are going to blow it out of the water. It’s not about an homage to any previous writer’s work, as great as they were, it’s more about, “How do I use the talents I’m really fortunate to be working with on this book?” There are elements of previous runs in that Swamp Thing generates a fruit that has people doing crazy things, but it goes to a very different place, and that I think has hopefully been a hallmark of my run from the start.
One of the big aspects of your run so far is the difference between Alec and the other Avatars, and it felt like this issue really brought that out as the Wolf and Lady Weeds feel that being human again is almost a punishment, while Alec longs for it. What interested you in bringing this theme to the forefront in this arc and exploring the idea of who wants to be human versus avatar?
That is an excellent and very apt observation, that’s exactly what I’m playing with in this story — the way to think about it is that the Wolf and Lady Weeds and Brother Jonah even, they were people who were the Avatar themselves. They were beings of ultimate power, just as powerful as Swamp Thing is now, and then they retired to the Green where they were also beings of ultimate power. They went to heaven pretty much: they didn’t have to struggle too much, they could make any dream they wanted to come true immediately, etc. Now Alec Holland has basically pulled their heaven down around them and put them back where they have to sweat and struggle and do the things normal people have to do all the time. They’re not too thrilled about it, but they’re approaching it in different ways. Brother Jonah, for example, is like, “You know what? I’m going to try to make the best of this.” That’s the kind of guy he is. The Wolf and Lady Weeds are immediately trying to scheme how they can get their own power bases back.
For Alec, this is issue #29 that just came out, but if you look at the stories that have been told, Alec has not been the Swamp Thing for very long. He still remembers all the good things about being human. It’s kind of like when you have a break up and enough time passes that you don’t remember the huge fights and the bad things, all you remember is the good stuff. That’s kind of where Alec is; he’s thinking, “Man, I could go out on a date, I could go out to the movies, I could have a beer!” There are things he still remembers about being a person he thinks he can get back for a little while. Obviously we’ll see how that goes, but that’s where he is mentally in this issue.
All the Avatars are doing disparate things — Wolf and Weeds are plotting and getting tattoos, Brother Jonas seems to be hitting on Capucine — and at the end, Alec alone decides to do the body switch while everyone else is gone. You’ve spent a lot of time building up a supporting cast for Alec, but are the supporting cast members people he should trust? Are these people who actually have his best interest at heart?
Well, Capucine for sure is someone he can absolutely trust. I think that’s been proven over the course of the book so far. I mean it’s a self-interested trust on Capucine’s part because she’s looking for something from Alec, but if Alec goes, she goes too, so he can rely on her. As far as the others, time will tell. They’re all deep characters who have a lot going on, and how they all play out will be a lot of fun to see. Speaking of Lady Weeds getting those tattoos, I just saw the final color pages of what those tattoos end up looking like, and they are gorgeous. Again it’s the Jesus Saiz and Matt Wilson firing on all cylinders, it’s super fun!
And there’s the contrast where Wolf is badgering his way back to power and changing into a suit while Weeds is getting tats.
Yeah, the Swamp Thing characters always change their appearances all the time, but these are people who are used to doing that and can’t anymore so now they’re doing what they can to make that happen.
Now in “Swamp Thing” #29, the Sureen obviously have a different agenda then what they’ve stated. They’ve misled Alec, but how much have they actually been lying about, especially when it comes to the locum body switching and the point of the Sureen’s entire existence?
Here’s what I’ll say: the Sureen are the real thing and the locum is the real thing, the Sureen exists to help the Avatar and from time to time swap out and be human again and just make his job a little easier. So they are super real, they are super legit, they have the Avatar’s interest in mind. The question is whether those guys are actually the Sureen or not — which is be answered in the next two or three issues! [Laughs]
Looking forward, you’ve got a visit from Vandal Savage coming up for the book. What can you tell us about what’s next for the Swamp Thing crew?
Yep, Vandal Savage shows up in issue #30. He has a very cool cameo that is basically crucial to moving the plot forward. Vandal Savage has always been one of my favorite characters, the immortal cave man who’s been making the best out of being immortal, and I just think he’s great! One of the great things about writing comics is if you can find a way to put a character into a book and it doesn’t contradict too much other stuff, you get to do it. So that’s what Vandal Savage’s appearance is about in issue #30, and I think people will get a kick out of it — literally!
Plus we have the avatars who were creatures of immense power and very old, and Vandal’s a man used to immense power and very old, so you’ve got that theme to play with as well.
To a certain extent, yeah — one of the fun things about writing “Swamp Thing” is that it’s a book that can literally stand billions of years of history and I’ve tried to play with that in the story as much as I can thus far. Bringing Vandal Savage in is a different angle to the same idea.
You’re also writing “Red Lanterns,” “Superman/Wonder Woman,” various series at Marvel, creator-owned work — going into your own future, are there projects you really want fans to pay more attention to, in your sea of many books coming out?
I’ll tell you, the next issue of “Superman/Wonder Woman” comes out Wednesday and it’s the end of our first arc on that title that Tony Daniel and I have been working on. It is spectacular, it’s a huge landmark issue and a lot of really big things happen in it, so I’m looking forward to people checking that out. Then in the future of the Superman titles we’re doing the big “Doomed” event, which has already been solicited and people are beginning to talk about a little bit. I was just in the DC offices yesterday with Greg Pak and on the phone with Scott Lobdell talking about what we’re going to be doing, and it is just gigantic. It’s really big and cool and we’re really excited about it. So I’d say those two things!
“Swamp Thing” #30 hits shelves April 2.