I was lucky enough to attend New York Comic Con this past Sunday, and had the even better fortune to chat with comic book writer, attorney and all around polymath Charles Soule about his latest ongoing series for Oni Press, called Letter 44. The title, the first issue of which was released this week, follows the changing worldview of an incoming president upon learning that government scientists have detected extraterrestrials lurking in the asteroid belt beyond Mars, and that their motivations are unknown.
Soule racked up a degree in Asian and Middle Eastern studies before attending law school and eventually building his own practice. Turning in a completely different direction, he’s recently become known for trying to introduce more realistic science into comic books, starting with his Strange Attractors from earlier this year, which describes how a genius mathematician saves New York City with complexity theory. Here’s what he had to say about his latest.
AiPT: So, Letter 44, there are aliens out in the asteroid belt, we don’t know what they’re doing, why they’re there. There’s been some written by a guy named George Michael – not the T-shirt and jeans and guitar guy – but somebody who’s a political scientist from the University of Virginia. He wrote an article recently [that I referenced in last week’s Reality Check] kind of down on the idea of extraterrestrial invasion. It would be too hard to get here, they’d have different ways to figure out how to get food and resources; why would they have to go across the galaxy to find them? What do you think? In your research that you did for this book, what’s your opinion?
Soule: I would say that I think those arguments are pretty valid. I think that, with respect to this particular book, I’m aware of those arguments and I’ve taken them into account.
AiPT: It’s a story.
Soule: Yeah, it is, but it’s also more that I’m literally taking them into account. I’m addressing those issues in the story. I’m very aware of the state of play as far as why aliens would be here, what they might do when they come, their reasons for being here, and I’m kind of trying to address those in the story and make it as realistic as I can.
AiPT: So with all your diverse interests, how did you become interested in putting science into your stories? It’s not like law or Middle Eastern studies.
Soule: Mostly it’s an area that I’ve always really loved and I think if my life had taken a different turn I would have maybe been an engineer or a researcher. So it’s an opportunity for me to sort of half-ass my way into those subjects that I don’t really have.
AiPTM: It’s an excuse to learn about it.
Soule: It is, which is great. So I get to read the books, and sort of dive in. It’s really fun.
AiPT: You’re doing sort of mystical stuff, too, with Swamp Thing, and you’re bringing Ghost Rider into Thunderbolts. How do you make that distinction between your science stuff, or does it kind of meld? Do you kind of compartmentalize it?
Soule: I compartmentalize it for sure. I try to have systems and rules for the magic, so it’s not just like they can do anything they want, because that’s not as fun to write. It sort of goes back and forth, but generally speaking, as long as you have an underlying logic to magic, I think it can work really well.
AiPT: Final question, what’s your favorite beer?
Soule: Probably Newcastle.
AiPT: Have you tried the new ones from Newcastle?
Soule: I just like a Newcastle brown, but there’s also a beer I had just the other night that is a real contender. It was a Kentucky bourbon beer. I had it at a bar. They basically age it in bourbon casks, and it was phenomenal.
Charles Soule has apparently decided that down time is for the birds, as he’s also writing Red Lanterns, Superman/Wonder Woman and next year’s new She-Hulk ongoing. Soule appeared at a World Science Festival sponsored panel called “When Science Gets Graphic,” examining the use and benefits of science in comic books, that I’ll cover in greater detail right here next week!