He hasn’t gotten any less busy since the last time we chatted but Charles Soule was kind enough to sit down with me after the big Marvel panel at Star Wars Celebration last week. We talked about his relatively recently announced Darth Vader book and his continuing work on Poe Dameron including a very in depth look at today’s issue.
Warning! This interview contains spoilers for Poe Dameron #13 and I mean major spoilers. They are all in the back half of the interview so you can safely read until the first mention of the Poe book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bria for Tosche Station: So you still haven’t talked them into giving you a Palpatine book then? Just a Vader one?
Charles Soule: Yeah but a Vader book is by definition almost a Palpatine book at the same time. They’re still very, very intertwined. The story that I’m telling in the Vader book has Palpatine as the only point of connection that Vader has left anymore. He’s the only person he can turn to for any sort of advice or guidance. His physicality is completely different and completely changed. He has no anchor point except Palpatine, which Palpatine of course knows and realizes and uses to manipulate Vader further in the great tragedy that is Darth Vader’s life.
In the panel we just got out of, you mentioned that there’s a spectrum from Anakin to Vader. Obviously you’ve written Anakin before but not Vader Proper so how did you go about getting into his mindset since he’s literally just become Vader?
Writing the pitch for the series helped immensely because I knew the time period but then it was like, “What would you be thinking?” and it’s like I just mentioned a few moments ago; all of his points of connection are gone. Padmé’s gone, Obi-Wan’s gone, the Jedi Council, the Jedi Temple… all of it’s gone. The Empire has risen and even his body is gone. The face he sees when he looks in the mirror is gone. That would drive me insane. That would probably drive you insane. I would just be a stark raving maniac so I was like, “How would he continue to function?” I’m writing it almost as if he’s going on a bender. He’s diving deep into the most dark, evil things he can. They’re almost like his drug because it’s the only thing that keeps him from thinking too much about what he’s done, what’s happened to him, and what’s happened to the people he loved. He’s chasing a high. He’s got to find the next atrocity to commit which when you start thinking about that mindset, the book becomes horrifying very quickly. Vader almost never speaks in the book. He has lines here and there but he speaks when he has to. Unless there’s a really strong reason for him to say a word, he never says anything. He’s like a specter. He’s like Jason in Friday the 13th almost which is cool but it’s also really—it hits you but I also find it kind of cathartic in a way. I put it on the page instead of wherever else I might put it.
You mentioned on the panel that we haven’t really seen the Sith get their red lightsaber crystals so that’s something new for the canon. What is it like for you to be one of the first people to write about this?
I’ve gotten to do some other pretty amazing firsts in Star Wars continuity but this one feels really, really dramatic. The process I’m going to show is going to be something that presumably—I mean you can always write around stuff but presumably this is going to be the way it’s done and we’re going to see it as close we’d be able to see it on a film. Comics are just a step away. We’re going to see how it happens, how it’s done, the process, what a kyber crystal thinks or feels about being turned into a tool for evil or the dark side rather. Light, dark, evil, good, who knows but a tool for the dark side. I’m really excited about it. I haven’t written that issue yet. It’s the next one I’m going to write and I know the mechanics of it in my head but the emotion of it is what’s really going to sell it. I’m just really hoping to get into the right place of—in a way, I think of it like the crystal is almost going to be fighting for its life and for its existence in the same way that Vader is doing. I think that juxtaposition—if I can pull it off… that’s what I want it to be. We’ll see if I can actually pull it off.
I have total faith. I haven’t disliked anything you’ve done in Star Wars so far.
So just a quick sidebar: as a writer, you obviously have a lot of roots in Marvel. Is it different writing in a shared universe like that as opposed to writing in the shared universe of Star Wars?
Yeah, it really is in part because the series in the Star Wars world are very specifically carved out before you start to write them. You know the real estate you have to play with generally speaking because you work with the Story Group very closely before you write a script to make sure you know what pieces you have to use whereas Marvel is a little more fluid in that way. If somebody else decides they want to start putting Daredevil in a book in issue #19 of their run, yeah we discuss it but it’s not like I didn’t know ahead of time that that was going to happen. It’s more amorphous which allows for more freedom in a way which can be really cool which means I get to have all those tools as well but it can be unpredictable in a way that the Star Wars galaxy sort of isn’t. But they’re both great in their own way.
Switching over to Poe, congratulations on the book still going very strongly. Issue #13 is coming out next week (today!) when we’re releasing this interview and it features something you teased the last time we talked at New York Comic Con… Mister Bones!
Yeah, Mister Bones finally!
Can we talk a little about how that came about?
I read the Aftermath books. When I came up with this, I hadn’t read Empire’s End but I’d read Life Debt and I’d read Aftermath, Chuck Wendig’s great series, and I just really liked Mister Bones. Everyone likes Mister Bones. He’s a great character and I was like… wouldn’t it be fun if—because Snap Wexley is in both books. He’s Temmin Wexley in the Aftermath series and then he’s Snap Wexley in my books and the films. It seems strange to me that this character that was so central to his young life wouldn’t ever exist for him again because a droid is essentially just programing and so I ran it by Chuck to see if he was okay with it. He was like, “Okay with it? Go for it!” as anybody would when somebody starts to use their characters in another medium but then it was about how would I get an antique battle droid into the story in way that would feel organic and make sense. In some ways, this last arc of the first year of Poe Dameron was all about figuring out a way to get Mister Bones in. It also turned into this great sort of espionage, intrigue Casablanca story at the same time. I’m really happy with it. I think it’s great. It ends in a very bittersweet, sad way but maybe that’s the next question you’re going to get to.
I was actually going to ask if you had a favorite part of writing Mister Bones.
Oh it’s all fun. He’s super… he’s all terror droid violence man. Anytime he says something like, “All the lovely meatpaste, all this delicious meatpaste!” That’s all pretty fun.
It’s all speculation obviously but do you think that Snap has used Mister Bones’ coding before or if there was a Bones Version II after Empire’s End?
You know that’s interesting. The way that I write it in the story is that he has a flash drive around his neck that he takes into battle with him all the time so he’s not actually using Mister Bones but he has his code with him just as a good luck charm. Presumably Mister Bones’ code wouldn’t work in any droid. It would have to be the right model but who knows? I like to think he’s popped up from time to time.
So circling back… obviously there’s a death in Issue #13.
Yup, there is.
Did you actually know there’s big fandom for L’ulo? Because when I tweeted that there was a death during the panel, about four people replied with “It better not be L’ulo!”
I found that out within the last two weeks when people started tweeting me about it and randomly! “Man, I love the book. L’ulo’s the best. Just make sure he doesn’t die!” Uh-oh… because I wrote this issue a long time ago. I just finished Issue #17 so I’m pretty far ahead and I knew for a long time that it was going to be L’ulo. I guess we’ll see what people say but I think that his death is earned. It’s particularly tragic because he goes out heroically but he goes out saving a character who we know as readers know doesn’t deserve to be saved sort of but at the same time, he does because there are a bunch of innocents… Anyways it’s complex as I think good stories should be and so the next several issues will deal with the fall out of this. L’ulo dies, we see his funeral in Issue #14 which is also a sideways tribute to Carrie Fisher in my limited way that I could do in a comic book but hopefully people will enjoy that. I didn’t want to just sweep it under the rug. The death of one of their squadmates, particularly someone who helped raise Poe, who has been fighting since the Rebellion… it’s a big loss for the Resistance. How Black Squadron feels about it, how the Resistance in general feels about it… it’s all sort of addressed. Hopefully it’ll feel legit and real because that’s what I try and do.
I was going to ask if there any upcoming moments in the comic that you can tease but you pretty much just answered that one.
There’s some really neat stuff. There’s a character from Issue #7 named Suralinda Javos who’s like a journalist snake person and she pops up again in a very cool way… doing something that it seems obvious that the Resistance would need but, to my knowledge, hasn’t really been addressed in Star Wars canon very much so that’ll be a really cool story. The book started with a storyline about Lor San Tekka and we have stepped away from it for a little while but that’s going to rear its head again and that should be awesome.
Very cool. At this point, who’s left on your Star Wars wishlist to write?
It’s hard to say. I’ve really, really been lucky with people I’ve been able to write. I’ll write more Palpatine any chance I get obviously. It’d be fun to do some stuff with Luke in any era. It’d be nice to do more with Agent Terex in a between Jedi and Force Awakens era but there are lots of possibilities. Who knows?
As always, thank you very much to Charles for taking the time to chat with us again. You can buy his runs on Lando and Obi-Wan and Anakin along with the first trade of Poe Dameron now and the second trade in July. Issue #1 of Darth Vader will launch in June.