Out of the handful of Original Graphic Novels (OGN) I read a year, usually one or two strike me as having that certain magical something in the way they are constructed and executed. I always gravitate towards strong writing, and one such example of strong writing that struck me recently comes from Charles Soule who is the current writer on Swamp Thing for DC Comics and has just published an entertaining, intriguing, and optimistic new OGN entitled Strange Attractors from Archaia Entertainment. Strange Attractors has all the right kinds of storytelling chemistry working for it, including a lot of great imagination about the original big city of America, NYC. Charles Soule was nice enough to take time to answer my five questions about Strange Attractors and discuss music, storytelling, digital media, and upcoming projects.
JH: Strange Attractors reads not only as a love letter to NYC, but also as an extremely optimistic book. What writers/artists have influenced that optimism in your work? Was it always strictly comics, or was it a mix of prose, poetry, etc.?
CS: I think the optimism in Strange Attractors comes as much from my love of New York as anything else. The way the characters in the book talk about the city mirrors the way I feel about this crazy place (I’ve lived in NYC for sixteen years), and so if I had a chance to save the city from a massive catastrophe… well, I wanted to do it. I do read constantly, though—I’m a huge prose guy, as well as comics and more or less everything else. Neal Stephenson and China Mieville are particular favorites of mine, and I think you can see their influence in Strange Attractors. (Even though I wouldn’t say anything I’ve ever written comes close to the brilliance those guys achieve on a regular basis.)
JH: Music is a huge part of Strange Attractors, and your website/blog notes you are a musician. How did you first get into music, and how does music play a part in your regular writing/scripting process?
CS: I’ve been playing music since my mom signed me up for violin lessons at age 3—no joke. I shifted to guitar and other instruments in high school and college, but I’ve always been a musician, both as a performer and a writer. I’ve had tons of different bands, and I’ve played in every sort of gig scenario you can think of, from the diviest bars ever to festivals and some bigger venues. I try to play as much as I can even now that I’m getting busier with my writing work, and I doubt I’ll ever stop. Right now I’m listening to a Band of Horses record, and I listen to music more or less constantly while I write. It tends to help me disappear into my own head, which is essential when you’re trying to pull stories from other worlds.
JH: Other comic writers such as Grant Morrison and Alan Moore have waded into the deep waters of the metaphysical and scientific theories running throughout Strange Attractors. In your opinion, why are comics such a fertile ground for artists to pose stories that can stimulate below the surface discussions about theories of interconnectivity and chaos that cannot be found anywhere else in pop culture?
CS: It’s because comics don’t have to be any one thing, so they can be anything. No focus group was telling me that a book about complexity theory being applied to NYC wouldn’t sell, so I just wrote the story I wanted to write. Comics are still seen as an underground medium, without a ton of money or attention involved, which means that people aren’t worried about losing huge financial investments like they are in film, TV and other ‘bigger’ mediums. Comics ‘don’t matter,’ so they can be whatever they want to be. It’s fantastic.
JH: Comics are a storytelling medium, but they are currently going though growing pains as artists figure out new ways to tell stories in digital formats rather than just scanning and copying PDF’s of their work. With film celluloid being replaced by digital, and vinyl always battling back and forth with the 0s and 1s of digital music recording, do you have any ideas about how you might want to tell stories in comics in the coming years to fit new mass media platforms/devices; that is, if you could do some future casting of your own, what would you like to see happen or develop?
CS: I actually have an idea that I’m slowly developing about a new way to tell a story using digital media, but it’s nowhere near ready to go. Regardless, I think that storytelling will adapt to new technologies just like it always has. Someone will crack the ‘motion comic’ concept in a way that’s engaging and interesting—my friend Dan Govar has been developing some amazing software for digital comics viewing, for example. You can see more about it at his www.comicbookthinktank.com site.
JH: As you are writing for both creator-owned titles and the mainstream publishers (i.e. DC Comics), what is 2013 looking like for you? What is coming up next?
CS: 2013 is the busiest year in comics I’ve ever had. Beyond the release of Strange Attractors, I’m writing Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns for DC Comics, Thunderbolts for Marvel, and an ongoing creator-owned sci-fi series for Oni called Letter 44 that will start in October. It’s pretty amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it, but it’s definitely keeping me on my toes! If you want to keep up with my upcoming projects, the best way is probably to follow me on Twitter @charlessoule, friend me on Facebook or check out my site/blog at www.charlesoule.com. If you think you might like to read Strange Attractors, you can pick it up at your local comic shop, via Amazon here: http://http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Attractors-Charles-Soule/dp/193639362X or digitally for ipad and so on from Comixology here: http://www.comixology.com/Strange-Attractors/comics-series/9685.
My thanks to Charles Soule. Strange Attractors is available now from Archaia Entertainment.