2018 YEAR IN REVIEW... AND LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019! - 12/30/18

2018’s almost over, and I think I told some good stories, and laid the groundwork for stories to come. There are many highlights, more than you can know right now (because I’m NDAed or can’t discuss them yet for other reasons), but I can tell you about a few things that stand out.

In April, my first novel was released, THE ORACLE YEAR. If you follow me here or on social media or have come anywhere near me in the last eighteen months or so, you already know about this project. It exceeded every possible expectation I had. Writing a novel was a bit of a leap into the unknown, because I’ve been a comics writer up to this point in my career. (I actually started with novels before getting into comics, but the first attempt remains in a drawer and will probably never see the light of day – I don’t think it’s terrible, it’s just very different from the type of stories I’m telling now.)

The book was greeted with wonderful reviews, very strong sales and accolades, and made a number of important lists. Putting out a project like a novel – something you’ve worked on for years, something that has to work, or many people will be pretty damn disappointed and there’s every chance you won’t be able to do another one – is an intense situation. It all comes down to the buzz you can generate before release, and then in the week of release. I toured all over, did as many events and signings as I could… and it seems to have paid off. The Oracle Year’s sales are still very strong in hardcover for a book released almost nine months ago, and the paperback out in April should open up a new audience, too. I know a lot of people reading this got behind the story in a big way, and I hugely appreciate it. It doesn’t matter how many tweets I tweet – it matters that other people took the time to read, review and recommend. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can pick it up here or head to the Oracle Year page on the site to check out reviews, and get more information. I sell signed copies in the Store here, too.

But something else happened in April, which was that I got word back from the wonderful people at Harper Perennial that they wanted to buy my second book. They read an early version of the first thirteen chapters and a detailed outline of the rest, and thought it was worth rolling the dice with me again. I remember the exact moment when I got the news – I was in a car with my friend Scott, in Virginia. We were headed to visit someplace cool together (one of the things I can’t really tell you, although man I wish I could) and I got word, and it just meant… well, it meant I could keep doing it. It meant choices. It meant I could decide the sort of stories I wanted to tell. It meant everything, arguably even more than The Oracle Year being well-received. It meant moving forward to new horizons and new challenges, things I’ve always wanted.

So, yeah – good trip to Virginia.

Over the summer, another amazing moment – I was invited to be part of something I still can’t believe. I… hmm. No, I hate the “here’s another great thing that happened that I can’t talk about” sort of post. The rest of the list I could make is a lot of that. I’m just in a weird place. My whole life changed drastically this year. I was all but shoved into a new paradigm (not that I mind), and I can’t tell you the big stuff. It’s strange to navigate. I suppose it’ll all come out in time, but the truth is when you’re a comics writer, your work is very much in the public eye constantly, and if you’re good at what you do you make sure it is. Whereas, the new things I’m doing tend to have much longer timelines and can’t be talked up or tweeted in the same way by their nature. It’s an adjustment.

2018 was a mostly behind-the-scenes, invisible leveling up, and we’ll see how I do in 2019.

I ended a lot of long runs on comics in 2018, too – 31 issues on Poe Dameron, more than 50 on Daredevil, 25 on Darth Vader. I engineered the return of Wolverine Prime to the Marvel Universe, after my career at Marvel largely began when Steve McNiven and I killed him off with Death of Wolverine back in 2014. Return of Wolverine has a few installments left to run, #4 with art from Declan Shalvey and the oversized finale in #5 with more of that amazing McNiven art (all colors by Laura Martin.) It’ll be interesting to see what people think of the wrap-up. Someday I’ll tell the story of how that project came to be, how it adjusted and evolved over time. It could have been something very different, but I’m very happy with where it landed.

I’m so proud of all of it, and so happy that I got to work with so many amazing collaborators. The relationships are one of the best things about working in comics.

Perhaps a few words about the things I’m working on now? Opaque, hard-to-interpret teases? Sure, why not.

1.      NOVEL 2 – my second novel is now in its fifth draft. It has notes back from a wide array of readers, all of whom are wonderful people who have been generous with their time and insight. Several more are reading it now (five or six, I think, some for a second time), after which I’ll make some additional tweaks and send it in to the editor for her second review. If she digs it, off it’ll go for copy-editing and then the wheels begin to churn toward publication in November 2019. It’s a holiday release, which is pretty cool – feels like a vote of confidence. I’ll be able to talk more about it pretty soon, including telling you the title and a bit of the story. The first chapter will be in the back of the ORACLE YEAR paperback out in April, too. I am very happy with the book. It’s a little different than TOY, a little darker, but I think it has everything my first novel did and a lot of things it didn’t. In particular, it seems to have the same, propulsive “can’t-put-it-down” quality that I really wanted to include. It’s very tough not to be hyping it up now… but all things in time.

 2.      WOLVERINE – THE VIGIL – this is my stealth Wolverine OGN, being published in 10-page chunks in the Marvel Comics Presents anthology series that begins in January and will run throughout the year. Each chapter in the story will leap ahead a decade, and so we’ll see Logan in the 40s, 50s, 60s, etc., dealing with an overarching story that keeps pulling him back in. It’s a really unique challenge, especially doing each chapter with only ten pages. Fortunately, the art is spectacular, from Paulo Siqueira, someone I’ve had some awesome collaborations with. I feel like this one’s a bit under-hyped compared to, say, Return of Wolverine, but I also think that’s good. It means I can step away from the idea that I have to deliver something that needs to hit a ton of targets and just tell a super-cool Logan story. I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s some amazing art from the first installment:

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3.      CURSE WORDS – The best comic book that has ever been or ever will be is still going strong! Issue 19 is out this coming week, I believe, and #20 will be out by month’s-end, completing the fourth arc. Ryan Browne and I have decided to end the series at #25, because that seemed like the right place for the story to stop – we didn’t want to extend it past its natural life. We will be doing a Spring Special, with art from Mike Norton, and then #21-25. So, you have eight more issues of Curse Words to look forward to. It’ll all be over by the fall, but there are still plenty of amazing adventures to come from Wizord, Margaret and the gang. Here’s some art from one of my favorite scenes in #19:

Curse Words #19  really puts poor Margaret through the wringer.

Curse Words #19 really puts poor Margaret through the wringer.

There’s also some other very cool Curse Words stuff in development, sooooooo close to being ready to be discussed… but not yet. Believe me, my sincere hope is that my January update will have some super cool Wizord-related news.

4.      RYAN BROWNE/CHARLES SOULE POST-CURSE WORDS PROJECT! Have I talked about this before publicly? I think not. Ryan and I are deep into planning the next thing we’re doing together, which should start not too long after Curse Words ends. Less than a year, for sure. It’s shorter, seven issues, with an EXTREMELY HIGH CONCEPT, possibly the highest concept I’ve ever gotten anywhere near. It started as one of Ryan’s weird throwaway gags he drops into things from time to time, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. “Thar’s gold in them thar throwaway gag, I tells ya,” I said to Ryan, and he said “PROVE IT,” all hostile-like how he can be – you know how he gets – and so I did, and now that’s the thing we’re doing next. Ryan and I got to hang out a bit over Christmas (we both have family in Detroit) and man, it’s great to work with that guy. I hope we do books forever and ever. And ever. Amen.

 5.      BIG THING FOR MARVEL – Some of you, the sharper folks out there, may have noticed that unlike literally every day for the last 4-5 years, I don’t seem to be writing at least 6 issues of comics per month. I’m still working with Marvel (and very happy to be!) but I’m no longer working with them exclusively, which means I can do work in other areas that I’ve been interested in exploring for a long time. Novels, sure, but other things as well. I was so happy to have that contract and do that much work for Marvel over the past four years – it made my career and I would never say any different – but it’s very challenging to squeeze in other types of work when you’re generating the equivalent of six episodes of TV per month, storywise. (I know it’s apples and oranges there – the mediums aren’t equivalent – but it’s not a terrible analogy.) For instance, I’m a huge music person (composing, performing) and it’s slipped in the last few years. Now I think I have time to bring some of that back. I don’t intend to leave comics behind, though, and certainly not Marvel work. Beyond the Wolverine story I mentioned above, I’m writing a huge ongoing series for them that won’t be announced for some time – I’m banking scripts for it now so we can aim to do the thing that’s almost impossible to do under the heavy deadlines of Big 2 comics: get ahead. Beyond that, we’ll see what happens. There are several awesome things under discussion, and I’m sure there are plenty of super, heroic things in my future.

 6.      HUGE CREATOR-OWNED THING – this project has been in the works for, oh, at least two years, maybe more. It’s something I’m co-writing with a very close friend, someone I’ve wanted to collaborate with forever. The artist is on board is awesome, perfect for this, and I’ve worked with them before. We should have issue 1 on stands by New York Comicon in the fall, barring something insane happening. I think it’ll go. We’ve never gotten this close before to actually producing the book, and I know we all want it to happen. It’s a mini, probably 5-6 issues, and it’s about America.

 7.      OTHER HUGE CREATOR-OWNED THING – I’ve also been working on another project for about a year or so, also with a co-writer, someone I’ve known for ages. We’ve been trying to get this story going in a big way for a while, and had a huge, almost shocking thing happen with it earlier this year that ramped it all up into high gear. It’s sort of a superhero story with a female lead, and it’s also about America, but in a different way than Project #6. Kris Anka (of Runaways fame, among other great work) designed several looks for Nisha Sen, the lead, and I can’t wait to show them off.

 8.      THE BIG DEAL OH MY GOD THING – I don’t believe this happened, I can’t believe it’s happening, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. Soonish. (So much for me not wanting to write a “here’s a great thing I can’t really talk about” post, eh?) Anyway, it’s great, and taking a lot of my time and focus right now – which is good.

 That’s pretty much the list right now. I’m sure it will evolve, and some of the things I’m sure will happen won’t, and new things will pop up. Tends to be the way. It’ll be neat to see what comes from all of this.

On my Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule), I asked for questions I could answer here. This was a transparent attempt to increase my newsletter followers (and it worked), but I’d be a jerk if I didn’t answer some of them. It was a nice spread of questions about work past and future – so with that in mind, here we go (I’ve paraphrased some of them for brevity)…

Q: What’s your process for writing a comic book?

A: I generally do it in three phases: first, I figure out the general scope of the issue, the ideas I want to use. I do that in a Moleskine notebook, longhand – each project has its own. Then, I “break” the issue out into pages, so I know exactly what will happen on page 14, and 5, and 20. That’s also in longhand, in the same notebook. From there, it’s scripting, which I do on a laptop. I usually tweak or revise the finished script a little before turning it in. As far as timing – I can and have done all of that in a single day, but it wears me right the hell out. My preference is a day to break, and then scripting over the next two days.

Q: What was your inspiration for Blindspot? Do you have secret hopes for where future writers will take him? I imagine it had to be a good feeling to see Sam show up on Netflix!

A: Blindspot, aka Sam Chung, is a character I created in my Daredevil run, who functions basically as Daredevil’s apprentice. Not his sidekick, as he has his own stuff going on, but certainly someone who Matt takes under his wing and teaches. I was inspired to create him because of my time as an immigration attorney (over fifteen years, with my own practice, etc.) Sam Chung is a DREAMer, as they’re called – someone who was brought to the US as a child, without papers, and now lives in a weird quasi-world where he isn’t really legal to but has to exist in this country in any case. It wasn’t a choice he made to come here – but now he’s here and doesn’t really know anything else. He’s an American by every definition except on paper. I met many people in this situation in my practice – there are over a million in the US, by most estimates – and I thought it was worth trying to represent their point of view in Daredevil. That’s particularly true because DD is a law-related book, which meant I could speak about all of it with some authority, and integrate the issues into the book in a seamless way. I certainly hope other writers decide to use Blindspot – I think he has tons of potential, and I might use him myself if a situation arises. I was thrilled when he showed up on the Iron Fist TV show, and (being honest) was sorely disappointed when those shows were cancelled – I think we had a good shot of seeing Blindspot in live action. Oh well – the wheel turns, and maybe it’ll turn again.

Q: Do editors ask you to pitch your own ideas, or do they tell you what they’re looking for?

A: You pitch, but it’s often with some guidance from the editors about the type of book they want. It’s all over the map depending on the project. Generally, you are “cast” for the quality of your ideas, and I have found that editors want to hear what you want to do more than anything else. You might get a direction, or a tone note, but that’s about it.

There were a TON of Star Wars-related questions. I decided to answer a few, both about my recently-concluded run on Darth Vader. If you want to know more about that run, check out the comprehensive interview I did with Starwars.com here.

Q: Were there any surprising bizarre rules you had to follow when you were working on Darth Vader?

A: Not really. It was mostly about adhering to the restrictions of that point in the timeline. For instance, at the beginning of the series, Stormtroopers hadn’t been phased in to the Imperial Army. It was still clones, more or less. TIEs weren’t around either. But by the end, all of that was in place. I’m a big fan of behind-the-scenes logistics with respect to fictional universes, so it was neat to reverse-engineer a bunch of that. The Lucasfilm Story Group was a huge help here, as they always are.

Q: Was the vision of Ahsoka in Darth Vader #25 in the future?

A: Absolutely. This is the moment that Vader refers to in the Rebels Season 2 episode “Twilight of the Apprentice” when he says something like “This meeting has long been foretold.”

Q: What was developing the first story in Star Wars to go past Episode VIII like?

A: For those who don’t know, this happened with Poe Dameron #26-31, my final arc on the series. I’ve explained elsewhere how it came about – basically I asked, explained why I wanted to do it, and Lucasfilm said yes. As far as I know, those six issues remain the only storytelling in all of Star Wars that goes past The Last Jedi. Until we see that trailer for Episode IX, that’s the only look at what’s coming. It was, for this Star Wars writer who is also, first and foremost a Star Wars fan, spectacular. I always want to try to tell stories that are meaningful within the SW universe – it’s important to me – and whenever I get the chance I take it very seriously.

Q: Fave Album of 2018?

A: Not all of these were released in 2018, but I found them this year, so they count. The self-titled Broken Social Scene record, Skinny Puppy’s We Like it Here, a bunch of Max Richter, Masseduction by St. Vincent, The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell, Go Farther in Lightness by Gang of Youths, Good Things by Leon Bridges, the new Ben Allison records Layers of the City and Quiet Revolution and lots more.

Q: When will those people who voted start showing up in your comics?

A: Okay. I’m working on this. I turned it into a whole thing. Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque is drawing it – he did Letter 44 with me, so it seems very appropriate. Should exist… soon. It’s fun.

Q: If only we could set you up with a partner named Hart, then you could be Hart and Soule.

A: This is not a question… BUT I LOVE IT!

All right, this is definitely long enough, I’d say. Thank you all very much for following my work in 2018. I hope you all have a fabulous New Year, and that 2019 treats you right from Day 1! We did it!

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