Swamp Thing #19Writer Charles Soule may have had a tough act to follow as he took over Swamp Thing after the conclusion of "Rot World," but recruited one of DC's big guns to help him start off his run: Superman.
As the gatefold cover for Swamp Thing #19 revealed, Swamp Thing is dealing with Superman in the first story arc by the new creative team.
Soule, who's also writing Red Lanterns beginning in June, took over Swamp Thing with this month's #19, working with artist Kano. He kicked off his first story by pitting Swampy against the Scarecrow, but now Superman is getting involved in the conflict.
Newsarama talked to Soule to find out more about happened in the first issue of his Swamp Thing run, and what he's got planned coming up.
Newsarama: Charles, now that we've seen your first issue, was it important for you to establish who Alec is as a hero now? That he's not really a "superhero" for man, but a servant to the world of plants?
Charles Soule: That’s where Alec currently sits – he’s trying to deal with the “job” he’s been given, and understanding that he may not get to be as free with his powers as he thought he would. I think of it like a guy who’s given an awesome sales pitch to take a new gig – wined and dined, told he’s the number one choice, made to feel amazing – and so he accepts, and then on day 1 all that stops and he actually realizes there’s work to be done. In a way, you might think of Rotworld as that sales pitch, and now he has to sit down and see what it really means to be an avatar of the Green.Swamp Thing #20 Of course, he has the power to do great things to help humanity – but he isn’t always “allowed” to do them. That conflict will be a major engine for the next little while in the book.
Nrama: Alec seems to be trying to convince himself that he doesn't care about what he's having to do, but it's obvious that's not the whole story. Will you be exploring his true feelings about his situation?
Soule: Of course. Issue 20 delves into that in a big way. Swamp Thing is a book where you can really explore the inner life of the main character, and I plan to take full advantage of that. That said, he still gets to be a badass – all the time. I’d be angry with myself if I didn’t show our boy Swampy kicking some ass.
Nrama: What were your thoughts behind having the title character run into Scarecrow and Superman in the first couple issues? Was that part of a strategy as you establish Swampy's world?
Soule: I had a few thoughts there. First, I knew that my first few issues were going to be at least partially internalized, as I dealt with some of the themes I mentioned in the questions above. So, I wanted to give readers some very familiar characters to bounce Swampy off, to ground the stories a bit. Introducing a new on-screen villain might have been too much to ask. Plus, we haven’t seen Alec interact with these characters all that often, so it offered some new scenarios I thought would be interesting to explore.
Nrama: In the next issue, what does Superman's appearance mean for Swamp Thing?
Soule: Well, you can see from the cover that it doesn’t necessarily go all that well. Swamp Thing came to Metropolis in the first place expressly because he thought he might be able to get some advice from Superman about integrating into a human world when your powers and very existence alienate you to a large degree from everyone else on Earth. Of course, is Superman really that alienated? Supes might be, but Clark Kent isn’t. That’s the difference between Superman and Swamp Thing. Alec doesn’t have a Clark to retreat to from time to time. He doesn’t need a Fortress of Solitude – he is solitude.
Nrama: How has it been writing Superman?
Soule: A blast, and I hope I get to do more of it someday. I’m not going to lie – the first time I typed “SUPERMAN: ” I took my hands off the keyboard for a bit, just to savor the moment. Superman’s interesting – I don’t think I’m alone in saying that finding scenarios that challenge him can be difficult… I mean, he’s a Super Man. Still, that’s a milestone I’m not going to forget any time soon.
Nrama: How do you utilize the story to compare/contrast Superman with Swamp Thing?
Soule: I thought Superman would be interesting as a very pointed contrast to Swamp Thing. Some of this is alluded to in 19 with that “salad” line, but the idea is that as much as Superman is often portrayed as the quintessential outsider or alien, he’s not really that alien – he looks just like us. He has a full life where he successfully passes as a human being. Alec Holland can never do that again. Swampy is looking to Superman for answers, but Superman might not be the best place to look, really.
Nrama: What theme are you exploring in this first arc?
Soule: This first story – which is just two issues long (I’m planning tight, one- to three-issue arcs for some time yet) – seeks to establish the idea that Alec Holland might just be in way over his head. He’s given up everything he ever knew, for a job he doesn’t completely understand. The ramifications of that inform both this first story and the next several to come.
The scariest thing about the first few issues of Swamp Thing, at least to me, is the idea that Alec Holland has been given so much power and he doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to be using it for. Imagine someone’s given a machine gun and told they have to fire it – but when, and at whom – that’s up to the person holding that gun. That’s Swamp Thing right now.
Nrama: How does that lead into upcoming stories?
Soule: Well, Swampy starts to figure out what he’s going to do, although those choices are complicated by the presence of Seeder, the mysterious “big bad” we saw alluded to in #19. Seeder is someone (or something?) that clearly has the ability to manipulate the Green in a roughly similar manner to Swamp Thing, but who is using it for different purposes. Seeder’s approach to the Green versus Swampy’s emerging sense of his role will be a major driver in the first big chunk of my run.
I’m really looking forward to peeling away the layers on Seeder and using his goals to reflect and deepen our main character – which is what the best villains do, hopefully.
Nrama: You've said in the past that you want to expand Swamp Thing's supporting cast. Now that we're into the series, how would you describe what you're adding to the supporting cast?
Soule: Well, Seeder is one, of course. Issue #21 introduces a major new ally to Swampy, a woman named Capucine. Beyond those two, we’ll get a bit more focus on the Parliament and how it actually operates, plus a really cool “cult” of sorts that I’d like to introduce just a little further on.Swamp Thing #21 On the level of pure writing mechanics, I want to give Swamp Thing people to speak with, you know? It can’t be all caption boxes. Swampy needs to get out of his own head, or he’ll go nuts – and a crazy Avatar wouldn’t be the best thing for the planet, in my opinion.
Nrama: How would you describe Capucine, and what's the "Sanctuary of Green Leaves" that was teased in an upcoming solicitation?
Soule: We get a very brief glimpse of Capucine in #20, and then more detail on her in #21. She’s a very tough, focused woman who’s been around for a very long time. She’s extremely capable, but there’s something she needs – the sanctuary you mentioned – that only the Avatar can give her. What that is, why she needs it, how it works – I want to leave that for the issue to explain, but I’m very proud of #21 and Capucine as a character, and I hope the readers like her as well. Her back-story is particularly interesting, to me, at least, and it will be fun to explore it.
Nrama: How much are you planning to utilize the Swamp Things/avatars from the past? What can you tell us about the one we'll see in #21?
Soule: I want to use prior avatars as much as I can without the book becoming something like a Swamp Thing Corps. There are untold numbers of old avatars hanging out in the Green, from all periods of history and pre-history, and clearly they’re all going to be very different from each other. The one we see in 21 is a much more confident and together avatar than Alec – presumably he “died” after a long, successful tenure. He was active in a particularly interesting historical period – the 1300s – and the contrast between Alec and this guy in his prime will be marked. That’s not to say that Alec isn’t awesome – he is – but I wanted to use this other avatar as an example of what he could be, once he gets his feet under him a bit.
Nrama: It looks like you'll be reuniting John Constantine and Swamp Thing in issue #22. What are your thoughts behind bringing together that duo?
Soule: Swamp Thing and John Constantine go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Or, hmm – how about wasabi peas and a pint? Pushed that metaphor a bit, but you get the idea. One of the biggest attractions for me about writing Swamp Thing was that, ideally, I would one day be able to put Constantine in an issue or two as well, and I guess I just didn’t waste a lot of time getting there. Writing Constantine dialogue was arguably as cool as writing Superman.
Nrama: Anything you want to tell fans about the story in issue #22?
Soule: Issue #22 is the first half of a two-part story. It’s an outright horror story, more so than anything that comes before it. It is set in a small village in the Scottish Highlands called Fetters Hill, a depressed little hamlet without much going for it.Seeder plays a role in the story, but it quickly becomes a Swampy and Constantine tale. There’s some really dramatic and interesting imagery in it, and I can’t wait to see Kano’s version of a lot of this stuff. One of the things I like about writing Swamp Thing is finding ways to challenge him despite his near-endless powers, and the Constantine arc certainly does that.
Nrama: Then to conclude, what else can readers expect in upcoming months of Swamp Thing?
Soule: The Seeder uber-arc will take a big step forward once the Constantine two-parter is finished. I don’t want to leave that hanging for too long without providing some answers and setting up the stakes for their conflict. We have a cameo appearance coming up that I am incredibly excited for. Basically, I’m trying to go for broke and cram in every cool idea I can think of. I know people seemed to like the way Swampy changed his appearance in 19 based on his environment – we’ll see more of that. More interesting explorations of his powers. More moments thatNew SWAMP THING Writer Recruits SUPERMAN For 1st Arc More of what you want, and none of what you don’t.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!