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Charles Soule Prepares “She-Hulk’s” Closing Argument

by  in Comic News Comment
Charles Soule Prepares “She-Hulk’s” Closing Argument

The Marvel Universe may be full of fantastic beings, but it’s still a universe that is governed by laws — and sometimes super powers and courts of law collide in bizarre and interesting ways. As a character possessed of both a law degree and super human physical strength, Jennifer Walters — also known as the sensational She-Hulk — has become an expert at navigating the complex, bizarre and often dangerous world of super human law

In the ongoing “She-Hulk” series, writer Charles Soule and artists Javier Pulido and Ron Wimberly have put Jen’s legal acumen and super powers to the test by embroiling her and the staff of her fledgling law firm in a number of high profile and perilous legal cases. This January, “She-Hulk” comes to a close with issue #12 and CBR News spoke with Soule about the critically acclaimed title and his plans for the series’ final issues — which include wrapping up a case involving Daredevil and Captain America, a confrontation with Jen’s arch-enemy Titania and solving the mystery of the Blue File case that has plagued Jen and her colleagues since the series began.

CBR News: Let’s talk about the big news first. “She-Hulk” will conclude in January with issue #12. Were you given enough time to bring the book’s ongoing mysteries to what you felt was a sufficient conclusion?

Charles Soule: I absolutely was — if I were to show you my original 12-issue pitch for “She-Hulk,” it would include the stories you’re seeing. The only one I wasn’t sure about back then was the Daredevil/She-Hulk court battle, which we’re seeing now in issues #8-10, because I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but apparently between then and now I decided to just jump off the cliff and go for it. This wasn’t a “let’s yank the book” situation, exactly. It was more like, “let’s conclude this story gracefully as Volume 1.”

These 12 issues will work as a very nicely self-contained piece of work that tells a complete story, which will also allow for more stories to be told if the situation presents itself. And honestly, the incredible outpouring of support for the book since the announcement that #12 will be the final issue of this story has absolutely been noticed. I put up a blog post recently with some thoughts about how people can continue to send the message that they like books like this, and all of that still holds true: pick up the remaining issues — #9 is on shelves now and #10-12 will be out monthly through January; preorder them if you can, pick up the trades and if you already have all of that stuff, just spread the word.

You’ve only been working in comics for a relatively short time, but in that time you’ve been very prolific. “She-Hulk” may be the first occasion for you to experience what comic writers go through when a critically-acclaimed book comes to an end. How does that feel? What did “She-Hulk” mean to you? What are you taking away from your experiences working on the book?

It’s true — I know this is something that happens. There are many incredible titles that ended up with shorter runs than we all might have liked — “Thor: The Mighty Avenger” comes to mind. I’m really more focused on what we all did with this title — I’ve been hearing repeatedly that this is a book that reaches an audience outside what might be considered a “standard” set of readers of superhero comics. Lots of people are sharing “She-Hulk” with their young daughters, for example, which makes me incredibly happy. I dunno — we made something we’re all very proud of, it connected with people and it’s not like it will all disappear once issue #12 hits the stands. The stories will still be here.

IN YOUR FACE JAM: “She-Hulk” and the False Promise of ‘Ongoing’

Let’s talk a little bit about your cast of characters starting with Jen and her investigator, Patsy Walker — the ex-Avenger codenamed Hellcat. What were your original goals with these characters when you began the book? What made you want to bring Patsy in as Jen’s investigator?

I brought Patsy in because I wanted to write Hellcat. There’s a character in my original pitch with the placeholder name “Trainwreck” — not the most flattering term now that we know it ended up being Hellcat. Jen is sometimes depicted as being pretty freewheeling and possibly not making the smartest decisions herself all the time, especially with respect to her personal life. I wanted to bring in another character who made even worse decisions, which would force Jen to evaluate her own choices while trying to help her friend. My wonderful editor on the title, Jeanine Schaefer, suggested that Hellcat might be a great fit for that role and I jumped on it immediately. Regular readers will note that the portrayal evolved a bit from my original concept, but that happens. I love Patsy Walker and I’m so glad I get to use her in the book. She’s the best.

Your other main character in “She-Hulk” is Jen’s mysterious paralegal Angie Huang. I understand if you can’t say much because Angie is a character still shrouded in mystery, but what inspired Angie’s creation?

A number of things — first, I wanted a heroic paralegal. Not necessarily in the superhero sense, but in the sense that paralegaling is a tough gig. I did it for a year before law school, I’ve worked with tons of them, and they are the unsung heroes of the legal profession. They do everything. I also wanted to include a character who’s a little bit atypical in superhero comics as far as physique, affect, even country of origin. Even with all of that in mind, Angie Huang — and her monkey Hei Hei — are just as important as any of the other characters, which is great. Javier Pulido really leaned into that idea, too — Angie’s design and depiction throughout the series are fantastic.

As far as some of the weirder things about her — just to name one, she was shot in the head but was brought back to life by her monkey. Huh. Yeah, that is pretty odd. I wonder what’s up with her?

Looking back on the book, what were some of the stories and moments you most enjoyed?

Man. It’s tough to say. I loved everything about this book. The stuff with the Giant Doombot stands out in issue #3, how smooth Nightwatch was in issue 6, Tony Stark’s holographic twin receptionists in issue #1, this amazing moment with Steve Rogers in issue #10 when he — stands up. Sorry, you’ll see it soon!

Also, a real highlight was being interviewed by the ABA Journal about the book. That’s the American Bar Association’s “newspaper,” basically — one of the most-read professional publications for attorneys in the United States. There’s no way they would have ever talked to me about my lawyering — I’m a tiny fish in that world, as much as I like my practice — but Jen Walters got me in. She-Hulk is just that tough.

Those moments you particularly enjoyed were depicted by artists Javier Pulido and Ron Wimberly, who gave the series its signature look and feel. What was it like working with Javier and Ron? How important were they to the series unique look and humor? What did they add to your scripts?

They both added a lot. I think you can look at things like the chase across Los Angeles that ends issue #9, or the warehouse fight in issue #6 as perfect examples. I don’t like to choreograph action too much for artists because the idea that I’d be able to add much to what they’re doing is borderline offensive. With both of those spreads, I just told them the beats I needed, the story we wanted to tell with the images, and then let them go to town. This is what I asked for on the “chase across LA” spread:

“Idea here is that we have Jen chasing Daredevil through Los Angeles. He’s running across rooftops, swinging from building to building using his billy club, etc., while Jen chases him. She’s trying to catch him with big leaps from roof to roof, all that good stuff, but he’s slippery, and she can’t quite catch him. She’s annoyed that he won’t just talk to her, but that’s apparently not his plan. Lots of life in this sequence – despite everything, Jen and Matt are both having fun running through LA at night.”

I also provided some suggestions about landmarks he might include, and a general path they’re taking, but really, everything else there is Javier. There are many segments where things are more tightly scripted, but with visual stylists on the level of Ron and Javier, it’s really foolish to get in their way. Even with the tighter segments, there was always an expectation that if the art team had an idea, it was worth checking out.

Let’s move to your final plans for “She-Hulk.” In November you conclude “The Good Old Days,” a story line that finds Jen, Matt Murdock and a now-elderly Steve Rogers all in court. What inspired this story? What was it like bouncing these three main characters off each other in one tale?

Extremely challenging. I’ve been privileged to get to know Mark Waid a little bit and we talked about this story ahead of time, since I wanted to clear what I was thinking of doing with Matt Murdock, and of course he’s in the middle of an incredible run on “Daredevil.” I asked him why he never did something like this, and while I’m paraphrasing, he essentially said that it would be sort of a thankless task — balancing the story so neither Matt or Jen is demonized while still making it seem like a real legal battle, with each of them giving their all — not simple. They both have to still be heroes on the other side of the story. And then I decided to shoot myself in the foot even further by having Captain America, Steve Rogers, as the defendant — for murder, more or less. It’s actually a civil wrongful death lawsuit, but hey, no one likes legalese less than me.

The basic idea behind going this big with it was pretty simple — I was astonished to find out that She-Hulk and Daredevil, the two most prominent attorneys in the Marvel Universe, had never faced off in court before. It was like learning that Spider-Man had never fought the Hulk. It’s so hard to break new ground in superhero comics, since they’ve been around for so long, I just decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and with my legal background I thought I might be able to do something that would be an interesting read. And once I decided to do it, I figured I would need a defendant that was worthy of such an epic clash of legal titans — it doesn’t get much bigger than putting Steve Rogers on trial for murder. Then, it became about writing a story that would be important for Cap’s history too — bah. Tied my mind in knots, honestly.

I had a nine-hour car drive down from the mountains in South India to Bangalore this past June. The scenery was amazing, but nine hours is nine hours. Fortunately, I also had my green She-Hulk notebook and that drive is where most of this story clicked into place. So, if people like this arc, blame incredibly slow traffic patterns in India.

After that, you kick off your final story which pits Jen against a character who is pretty much her arch-enemy, Titania. What’s your sense of the relationship between She-Hulk and Titania? Is it simply a case of Titania loathing Jen, or is their hatred mutual?

I thought that if I was going to write a She-Hulk story, I needed to include a huge throw down with Titania. That story, which appears in #11, also includes another villain we haven’t seen in a very long time, I believe, who was fun to write, just as sort of a different feel as an opponent for Jen. I don’t want to talk too much about it yet, but part of my idea was to really lean in to the idea that some people just hate lawyers. In this particular story, Titania is a stand-in for all of that. I’m not saying I don’t understand the point of view, but — we ain’t all bad.

What other hints and teases can you offer up about “She-Hulk” #11-12? I understand these issues involve the mystery of the Blue File?

They do! The Blue File is the big overarching mystery that’s run through the series so far. I can promise that the whole thing will be wrapped up by the end of #12 and we’ll know exactly what happened, when, who was involved, all of that. In a way, it involves the entire Marvel Universe. It’s a meta-commentary about something I find very interesting about comic book universes in general. I always liked the way Brian Michael Bendis would find ways to comment on the medium in his “Alias” series — same with Dan Slott in his landmark run on “She-Hulk” that preceded mine — and the Blue File is sort of my version of that.

Charles Soule Investigates “She-Hulk’s” Blue File

Finally, will you miss Jen or any of your other cast members when you wrap up “She-Hulk”? Is there a chance they might appear in some of your other Marvel work?

Very much. I already have plans to have Jen appear here or there when I can. One nice thing — an amazing thing — is that I know that some of the stuff we’ve built has been appearing in other parts of the MU. For example, Bendis featured Jen, Angie and Hei Hei in one of his [“Uncanny X-Men”] issues, and I happen to know that another prominent Marvel Universe hero will be taking up residence soon in the same office building/small business incubator where She-Hulk has her law practice. I would love to do something like a “She-Hulk Holiday Special” someday, too — we’ll see!

Thank you to the readers, retailers, press and everyone else who supports the series! Just because it’s ending at #12 doesn’t mean it’s already gone. A full twenty-five percent of the series is yet to come out, and then the second collection for issues #6-12, of course. I hope people will keep reading, and keep the green flame burning — who knows what the future might bring?

“She-Hulk” #10 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.

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