10 Questions With Charles Soule


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27 #1 CoverCharles Soule is one of those genuinely nice people and I first met him at Baltimore Comic Con this year.  We checked out his comic Strongman and got a hint of the smash hint 27 (which we knew then would be the success it is).  Again, I saw him randomly at New York Comic Con and we hung out as he introduced me to a lot more folks in the industry.

So, it’s appropriate that with the success of 27, that I turned to Charles to take part in 10 Questions and for the first time not have to focus on politics, but on another love of mine, music.

Graphic Policy: First congrats on the success and overwhelmingly positive reviews for 27.  The comic is very original and unique in its subject.  Where did the concept come from?

Charles Soule: I’m a musician myself.  I’ve been playing the violin since I was three, and guitar since I was about fifteen or sixteen.  Growing up in music exposed me to all of the amazing mythology that we invent around our musical heroes – it’s as rich as anything you find in superhero comics, movies, you name it.  Rock stars are mythic figures, period.  They satisfy a lot of the same needs that Batman or Spider-Man do.  With all that in mind, I thought it would be a blast to write a story around one of the most interesting myths in rockdom: the “27 Club,” the long list of brilliant musicians and artists who have died at age twenty-seven.  Once I had the idea of a famous guitarist today struggling against being inducted into the club, the rest just flowed.  It’s also a great opportunity for me to write about creativity and fame, which are two subjects I find extremely interesting – where creativity comes from, the lengths people will go to obtain or maintain fame… things like that.

GP: Is there any musicians or bands that influenced the comic?  Any particular albums you listened to while you wrote it or inspired you?

CS: Well, obviously you’ve got the 27 Club people.  I’ve always been a massive fan of Hendrix – he’s probably my favorite guitarist of all time (although Eddie Van Halen is a very, very close second.)  The music played by Will Garland, the main character of the book, is probably closer to Radiohead or even Coldplay, so I would listen to that from time to time, definitely.  Mostly just guitar rock.  I know how hard it is to play some of the parts and solos – the years of work that go into being able to make it sound so effortless – so listening to it really brought home how terrible it would be if it were suddenly taken away.  After all, that’s what happens to Garland – he turns 27 and his left hand stops working.  He can’t do the one thing he loves the most… play.

GP: If you could put together a “27 Soundtrack” what would the five tracks be?

CS: ”Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix.  “Eruption” – Van Halen.  “The Bends” – Radiohead.  “Break On Through” – the Doors.  “Hellhound on My Trail” – Robert Johnson.

GP: Can you tell us about the code and contest you’re running in 27?

CS: I decided that it would be interesting to build a little puzzle into the book, something to make it (hopefully) even more fun to read.  Basically, certain pages of each issue have little hidden “puzzle pieces.”  Each puzzle piece is part of a code, which, when decoded, will provide a set of instructions.  I’m going to reward the first person to follow those instructions with a plane ticket to the comic convention of their choice in the year after they solve the puzzle.  I think it’s pretty cool – the puzzle pieces are located on pages with page numbers thematically related to the book, and the pieces themselves are as well.  I’ve put up some additional details on my blog, at http://charlessoule.wordpress.com – just scroll down if it’s not the top post.

GP: You’ve got your own band, what type of music do you play?  How long have you been playing?

CS: I do!  My band sounds a little like Elvis Costello crossed with Ben Folds.  I play guitar and sing, and it’s always a blast.  I’m going to update the band’s site soon with some new material – it’s been floundering in a myspace wasteland over at myspace.com/charlessouleband for a loooong time – but I do love playing.  It’s a great, cathartic release.  We mostly play in New York, and we’ve played just about everywhere non-famous bands play over the years.  As for how long, I’ve been playing guitar since I was a teenager, and this particular band has been together in various incarnations for about ten years, I’d say.

GP: I asked what music influenced the comic, but what about you?  Any personal favorites?

CS: Think I more or less addressed a lot of this up above, but I do like guitar hero stuff (real guitar heroes, not that damn game.)  I also have a hidden weakness for really well-produced and well-structured pop songs – I’m a sucker for melody, basically.  (And there goes my credibility, at least as far as some readers are concerned, but I think there’s brilliance in every genre, if you look for it with an open mind – from death metal to klezmer to Muzak, there’s always something.  Well, maybe not Muzak.)

GP: What currently are the top five songs on your iPod?

CS: I don’t know about the top five songs on my iPod, but I’ll say that She and Him is a band I’ve really been enjoying recently, and Sufjan Stevens, and Katy Perry’s new record too.  Say what you want, but her people can write a perfect tune.  I like but don’t love the new Kings of Leon.  The new Kanye record is brilliant, and Mark Ronson’s new album is super cool. The Scott Pilgrim soundtrack introduced me to a great Canadian band called Metric that I’ve been all over.  I also listen to (and play) a lot of jazz – Brad Mehldau, The Bad Plus, neat acts like that.

GP: You’ve published Strongman with SLG and now 27 with Image.  Any advice you have for up and coming comic book writers?

CS: Don’t stop working – always improve.  Don’t expect overnight success.  Go to cons and network – this is the only way I’ve seen to get anywhere at all.  Be cool – no one wants to publish an asshole.  Be patient and don’t give up.  Be good.

GP: With such success can we expect a second volume of 27?

CS: I would love to keep Garland’s story going.  I have some big plans for the character and his universe, and assuming there’s an audience for more, I’ll write more.

GP: What do you have up next?

CS: Beyond 27, I have the sequel to last year’s Strongman from SLG, entitled Strongman Vol. 2: Oaxaca Tapout.  It’s an amazing action/crime book starring a 65-year-old Mexican masked wrestler, and I’m extraordinarily proud of it.  That should be out in the early part of 2011, and there’s a preview of the first 22 pages available at the publisher’s website at www.slgcomic.com.  I will say, though, that it’s available for preorder on Amazon now at: http://www.amazon.com/Strongman-Two-Oaxaca-Charles-Soule/dp/1593622066/ , or through your local comics retailer with Previews code NOV100688 .  Strongman 2 is some of the strongest work I’ve ever done, but the truth of the industry these days is that books being put out by companies other than the Big 2 really need extra support.  If you liked Strongman 1 (and I see that you did: http://graphicpolicy.com/2010/09/20/review-strongman/), or 27, or just want to support good comics, please preorder it… now!

I also have a deal in place for my next creator-owned thing that isn’t Strongman OR 27, which will be a graphic novel set in modern-day New York, about a massive mechanism that’s secretly been running the lives of the city’s inhabitants for decades… but more about that in due time.  I’m excited about it, though!

For a bonus, check out Charles pitching his comics at Baltimore Comic Con.