At Special Edition NYC this past weekend (one hell of a good convention, by the way – completely focused on comics), if you swung by my table, or the table of my esteemed collaborator on the Star Wars Lando Calrissian comic for Marvel, the incredible Alex Maleev, you may have noticed an email signup sheet to get more information about a special cover he and I put together for Lando #1, which will hit stores on July 8, 2015. We think of it almost like our own “action figure” for the book.

However, since it’s quite likely that many of you reading this did not happen to be in NYC this past weekend, I thought I would put up a post to explain. This is a “variant” – a special limited run of the issue with the same story on the inside, but a special, unique cover on the outside. And speaking of that gorgeous, painted cover art from Mr. Maleev, let’s take a look at it:

STWLANDO2015001_DCX51 (no UPC)Pretty damn lovely. We tried to set it up with minimal extra “stuff” on the front – no bar code, etc. (that’s on the back.) The idea was to try to make it seem like an art piece, to the extent we could.

How can you get one, assuming you’re interested? Well, you get it from us. These won’t be in stores (unless stores get some from us, but it’s not a sure thing that your store will do that, of course.) Alex and I are having the entire damn run of these things shipped to us (we both live in Brooklyn), and we’ll turn around and send them back out after signing, re-packing, whatever. Should be a pretty fun day, actually. The expectation is that we’ll have them out around the street date of July 8, with some possible flex there depending on logistics. But we’ll do our best.

If you think you might want one, send an email to soulecomics@gmail.com expressing your interest, and we’ll get back to you with all the details. We didn’t do a huge run here, so it’s first come, first served.

Now, if you don’t want one, no sweat – you’ll be able to get the regular cover everywhere on July 8, both digitally and at your local comics shop. Speaking for Alex and myself, we certainly hope you do!

It’s the Monday before Emerald City Comicon, which is heralded by many in the biz as the official start of convention season, running through New York Comicon in October. I think that’s less true than it used to be – I’ve already done two shows this year, for example. However, it still feels like ECCC is the first big show that tons of my friends attend, many of the publishers set up, etc. (That said, I’ve heard great things about Planet Comicon in Kansas City. That one just happened a few weeks ago, and I may try to put it on the list for next year.)

I’ve been attending ECCC since 2009 (with one exception in 2010 – I was scheduled to go, but my father passed away a few weeks beforehand, so I had to miss that one.) I’ve posted about it here almost every year as well. You can do a search on “emerald” or “ECCC” if you’re interested in seeing the timeline. I found it to be pretty interesting.  Here’s my first post about the show, from 2009. Here’s another from 2011. Things have changed since those days, both for me and the show. Emerald is now a huge endeavor, just acquired by Reed Expo, one of the biggest players in the comic convention business. And I’ve gone from hoping to get a few people to check out my very first published work (Strongman) to writing a new chapter for Civil War, one of the biggest events in Marvel Comics’ history.

But more on that in a minute. First, let me give you my schedule for the convention this weekend. I’ll be set up for most of the show at table W-05, which is between two of my current collaborators, Steve McNiven and Ray Fawkes. Steve and I did Death of Wolverine together, and we’re also working on the upcoming Uncanny Inhumans series. Ray and I are doing the Wolverines weekly series. Bring your issues out, and we’ll sign ’em.

I expect to have the following items available:

1.Letter 44 Volumes 1 and 2! The second trade collection of Letter 44 is debuting at the show. It looks incredible:

51pZev0B7YL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It’s shiny! I’ll also have some of the single issues that haven’t been collected yet, including some cool variants of issues #1 and #8 (which started the first arc) and the Letter 44 mission patches.

2. Death of Wolverine HC (both covers – McNiven’s original and the Joe Quesada variant,) as well as some variant covers of the single issues. I expect these to go fast.

3. Strange Attractors HC.

4. 27 Vols 1 and 2 (probably limited copies)

5. She-Hulk, Inhuman, Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns trades, as well as some singles. If there’s something specific you want from any of these runs, ask me in the comments. I may have it, but I may not bring it unless you specifically request it.

Random other stuff too, probably. I’ll have a good batch of material. I expect to be at my table for the entire convention, unless I’m at a signing or panel. Here’s that schedule:

Friday, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Writers Unite! This is a long-running panel I’ve been doing with my pal Jim Zub for many years – who I actually met at ECCC for the first time in 2011. We had pizza at the Alibi Room, along with Nathan Edmondson and Bryan J. Glass, who I also met for the first time that weekend. Funny to see what’s happened to all of us in the intervening years. Good times.

This time around, we’ll be joined by Kieron Gillen, and we’ll be providing some really solid tips to aspiring comics writers. I really vouch for this one. If you want to write comics, it’s very useful.

Friday, 2:00 – 3:00 PM – Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way. Just as it sounds. I’ve done this one before, and I always enjoy it. I’ll be talking alongside a rogues’ gallery of great Marvel writers and artists about how we got into the industry. Always fun.

Friday, 4:00-5:00 PM – Signing at the Oni Booth. I’ll be signing the new volume of Letter 44 as well as whatever else you want to slap down in front of me. This is my only scheduled signing at Oni for the weekend.

Saturday, 3:00-4:00 PM – Marvel, From Black Vortex to Secret Wars. This should be the big “here’s what’s coming up at Marvel” panel, with cool art teases and a fun Q&A. Always a good time.

Sunday, 12:30 AM -1:30 PM – Science in Comics. The idea here is to talk about realistic depictions of science in comics – I was asked to participate because of my work on Letter 44 and Strange Attractors. I believe Frank Barbiere, Michael Moreci and some other great folks will be joining me as well.

Otherwise, I’ll be at W-05. Friday night I’ll be at a very long-running tradition for ECCC, a secret karaoke evening I do every year with a few friends. Very hush-hush and on the DL.

Now, Civil War… as announced by CNN on Friday evening, I am writing a new story set during the superhero Civil War that raged through the Marvel Universe back in 2006-2007. The book is being drawn by Leinil Yu, the incredible artist who did Secret Invasion for Marvel, among other great stories.

The original story was written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven. It revolved around a gigantic fight between Captain America and Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) over ideological differences related to something called the Super Hero Registration Act (SHRA). The idea of the SHRA was that people with significant metahuman powers or tech should register with the government and be trained up, almost as a super-powered police force. Iron Man was for this idea, because he thought it would make the world safer, while Cap was against it, because he thought it infringed too much on the freedom of the people who were being forced to register.

I did an interview with Marvel.com about the series, which goes into some additional detail about what will happen in the story. I’m sure those who read the Millar/McNiven original are wondering how the hell we can tell another Civil War story, as the war ended in that book with Cap’s surrender to Tony. You’ll see. The way it works allows me to cleanly, and in continuity, take the Civil War and expand it out across an enormous canvas in space, time and scope.

I’ve been working very, very hard on it since the end of last year, and I’m very pleased with how it all works so far. We’ll see how it’s received. I don’t want to talk too much about it at this point beyond the comments here and in that interview, but if you have questions, go ahead and hit me up in the comments or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule).

See you in Seattle!

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the last of twelve essays I’ve written, one per day leading up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea was to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we got to that last one.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

You may have noticed that this post is going up on Thursday, February 19, while the final issue of She-Hulk actually hit shelves yesterday, on the 18th. I decided to wait to post this for two reasons. First, I really, really wanted to finish the script for the fifth issue of [redacted] yesterday, and it took longer than I expected. That’s a tricky project.

Second, this post will feature spoilers, as have all of my little writeups, and I wanted to give people a chance to find the issue and read it before they accidentally stumble across my thoughts here. I actually went to three shops looking for a copy before I could find one – the first two places were sold out, which seems like a nice thing.

Anyway, issue 12 – the ride’s over for now. Let’s talk about this last installment.

Lots to wrap up in this issue – I needed to explain all of the little bits and pieces in the Blue File mystery in a satisfying way, figure out how to get some punching going, say goodbye to these characters (for now) and work in a Howard the Duck cameo:

HowardTurns out that good ol’ Howard is taking office space in Jen’s IdeaHive building down in DUMBO, which we’ll see in Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck series, starting any minute from Marvel. I love that so much. (Also, I’ve read the first issue, and it’s pretty darn delightful.)

If you want to see more of Jen, Patsy, Angie and Hei Hei, that’s the first place to look.

Anyway, back to the list of to-dos for this issue. You may note that there’s a big item missing from that list – a good explanation of what the hell is up with Angie and Hei Hei. I was reading some reviews of this issue (I try not to read reviews, but I am only human, and I really wanted to see what folks thought of this one,) and one referred to Angie as a sort of “paralegal Mary Poppins,” offering her services to attorneys in need across the Marvel Universe.

That’s not exactly it, but that made me laugh, so for now, let’s say that’s what Angie and Hei Hei are, until I get an opportunity to tell their story in more detail. The truth is, I felt like I didn’t have enough space here to do their story justice. It deserves at least a few issues, and I didn’t want to shortchange them with a few throwaway lines at the end of this story. Whether or not I get to tell that story… we’ll see. I know exactly when and how I would like to do it, but of course that will depend on many other factors. We’ll get to that.

For now, all you get is that apparently she can do this:

SpellI hope readers weren’t too bummed that I didn’t fully explain Angie here, but I felt strongly that if I couldn’t do it right, I didn’t want to do it at all. If the stars never align for me to write it the way I want to, I’ll make sure the truth gets out eventually, either here or somewhere like it.

I loved writing the flashback sequence that opened the issue – it’s always fun to go back and use older versions of characters.

HeroesI’ve always loved that Captain Marvel costume in particular. Such a great design.

By this point you’ve (hopefully) read the issue, so you know what happened – Nightwatch executed an in-story retcon to change the Marvel U’s perception of him from the villain Nighteater to the hero Nightwatch. He did so by murdering a town’s worth of people and using their “mental energy” to power a spell that would rewrite reality.

Dr. Druid was the magician behind it – one interesting note that I haven’t heard about yet, although I thought I would – Dr. Druid is technically a hero himself. So what the hell is he doing here, working with villains like Nighteater, Shocker and Vibro? Well, it turns out Dr. Druid’s continuity includes some pretty tough times. At least once, he was possessed by an evil spirit of a sort, after which none of the other heroes trusted him all that much. He was forced to take odd jobs to survive, some of which were for bad guys – and this is something that happened during that phase.

Nighteater is a new creation for this series. I actually thought he came off pretty badass for a guy we only see for a few pages:

Nighteater

That’s one hell of a cool design and color scheme – once again, kudos to Javier and Muntsa. I actually liked Nighteater more than Nightwatch – at least Nighteater is honest about who he is (for a while.) Nightwatch is just a lying liar.

I’d like to point you to a review I read today from the folks at Retcon-Punch, a site I’ve come to love for their very sharp reviews and discussion not just of my books, but many other titles as well. They did a writeup on this issue as well as what they thought it meant in context of the series as a whole that really nails a lot of the themes I was trying to work with here. You can read it here, if you want to. Rather than me go through all of that here, I thought I could just piggyback on their hard work. You know me – nothing like a quick, easy shortcut.

I hope the whole thing works well when you read it as a unit – these mysteries are hard to build, and sometimes you forget something you intended to do when you laid in a clue in an issue you wrote nine months before. But that said, what you see is pretty much what I was planning from the beginning.  (One funny thing, though – the D-list Marvel hero I was originally going to retcon wasn’t Nightwatch. It was determined that using the one I originally wanted would hypothetically invalidate a bunch of Fantastic Four stories, or at least put them in a strange and not necessarily desirable light. I think Nightwatch worked out really well, but the other character would have been fun too. And no, I won’t tell you who it was. The FF mention is enough of a clue.)

Favorite panel: This seems like the perfect opportunity to make special mention of an element of this book I haven’t talked about enough to date – Kevin Wada’s unbelievable covers. His work helped to lock in the title’s vibe – it’s not a cheesecake book, it’s about a kickass icon. The cover for this last issue might have been my favorite out of all 12 (including the amazing triptych covers for 8-10), and even though it’s technically not a panel, I think we can stretch the rules just this once:

tumblr_nhtmfqv7ol1qbkgzfo1_1280Look at her expression! Kevin has promised to paint me a Jen I can stick on my wall, but he is not exactly the least busy guy in the world. Hopefully I’ll get one eventually.

Favorite character: Jen Walters, especially in this panel:

SorryShe is the best.

And that, as they say… is that. I will miss working on this series immensely – everything I said in the little note that ends the physical copy of this issue is completely true. Will we do more? I can’t announce anything – there’s nothing to announce – but the door remains open. If my schedule permits and Marvel’s schedule permits, then hopefully we’ll get that season 2. In the meantime… I’d say keep your eyes on Wolverines, the weekly series I’m writing. Especially around the beginning of April.

Thank you all for reading, both these posts and the series. This has been a fair amount of work to put together, but I’ve enjoyed the look back. As always, if you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the eleventh of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I’m @charlessoule) – I’d love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it’s a re-read or you’re checking them out for the first time.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Tomorrow’s might be a bit delayed, fyi, because I expect it to be filled with spoilers for the last issue of the series, and I don’t necessarily want to have people accidentally reading it before they’ve had a chance to get the issue.

But we aren’t there yet, are we? Nope – today’s Issue #11, “Titanium Blues.”

I wanted to check off two boxes with this issue, both of which I suspect were pretty obvious. First, I wanted to write a big fight between Titania and She-Hulk. Second, I wanted to write a big fight. And that’s Issue 11!

Titania is a very cool character – she’s pretty much She-Hulk’s big bad. They’ve had some truly epic battles over the years, and in much the way it’s almost mandatory for a Batman writer to eventually write a Joker story, I think She-Hulk writers tend to find their way to Titania eventually.

The lady’s real name is Mary MacPherran, and she has an interesting history. She was powered up by Dr. Doom in the original Secret Wars miniseries back in the 80s, along with her best bud Volcana (who we also see in this issue.) You can bop on over to her Wikipedia entry if you want to know all the ins and outs, but the thing about Titania that most interested me was that she’s always been something of a blue collar character.  Some writers have hit that harder than others, but I thought it could make her a good stand-in for general anti-lawyer bias.

I mean, let’s face it – some folks think lawyers are just greedy scum, using the system to their own advantage. And let’s also face it – some lawyers are exactly like that. Many, many more are not, of course, but one bad apple…

ApplesSo, Titania doesn’t like lawyers – from where she’s standing, it all comes easy to them. They don’t really do anything, but they get to live the good life off the fees they charge honest, hard-working people.

While she and Volcana were hired to attack Jen as punishment for her continuing investigation of the Blue File, it’s always better if you can make a fight personal. So, throwing in the anti-lawyer thing alongside the long antagonism between Titania and She-Hulk seemed like it would be a nice engine for this battle.

I also wanted to write a fight issue after 8-10, which were very talky. It would be sort of a palate-cleanser both for the readers and for Javier/Muntsa. Superhero fights are fun to construct, and I hear they’re fun to draw. Reversals, unexpected allies/enemies arriving…

Friends(Note the way Hellcat’s crowbar is superheated after smacking Volcana in panels 1-2, by the way – that’s some amazing work from Muntsa. Also, of course, the Fantasticar, a callback to Issue 3 – apparently Jen parked it on the roof of her building and never gave it back to the Fantastic Four.)

Both sides need to seem like they’re winning and losing in almost equal measure. The fight needs to have an ebb and flow to it, like a really good song or a classical composition. As many surprises as you can come up with, really.

Such as… Hei Hei being whipped about five miles into the air by Titania, after which this happens:

Super Hei HeiAs Angie Huang put it back in Issue 2:

ImpressiveSo, we have a monkey that has a winged battle mode, and we also see Angie directly using what appears to be some sort of magic or superpowers in this issue. Pretty weird. What is the deal with those two?

Another neat little thing about this issue – I knew I wanted to stage the fight north of the city, because Jen would want to get civilians out of the line of fire. She’s thrown down enough with Titania to know that serious property damage tends to result. Up north of NYC, we get into the Hudson Valley, where it’s less populated, especially in the mountains along the river. So, I was poking around for a specific place to set the fight, and found this:

BreakneckI realize that’s a little small, but I wanted to get the awesome color work from Muntsa in here for the leaps – She-Hulk is green, and Titania is purple. So good. If you can’t read it, the name of the mountain where they end up is Breakneck Mountain – a real place. If there’s a better place in the world to set a Titania/She-Hulk fight, I don’t know where it could be. Just one of those awesome happy accidents like finding the county of Divide in North Dakota (see Issue 5) or the fact that Mark of Zorro was playing at Mann’s Chinese back in November 1940 (see Issue 10.)

Other things about this issue – you’ll note that when Titania is doing her big rant about how much she hates lawyers because they just talk all the time… who’s not talking there? Jen says almost nothing during the entire fight, in fact. When it’s time to get down to business, she gets down to business.

And then, of course, the reveal on the last page – Nightwatch is behind the Blue File, and everything bad we’ve seen related to it in the series so far. But how? And why? You’ll find out… tomorrow.

Favorite panel:

RunIt’s really four panels, but you get so much from them. Such a great sense of time passing, especially across the three “sky” panels. This might be one of my favorite bits in the whole series, actually.

Favorite character: Super Hei Hei.

Super Hei Hei 2Right on, Super Hei Hei. Right on.

Tomorrow… it all comes to an end.

If you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.

 

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the tenth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I’m @charlessoule) – I’d love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it’s a re-read or you’re checking them out for the first time.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

So, it’s Monday, and the last issue of this run of She-Hulk hits Wednesday – that’s awfully soon. I just got back from a convention, and I heard a lot about this little series from you guys. Thank you for supporting it as much as you have.

Now, though, let’s move on to this issue, the third and final part of the She-Hulk/Daredevil trial, with Steve Rogers in the midst of a wrongful death suit related to events back in 1940, before he became Captain America. We’ve already heard the other side’s version of events, and it doesn’t look great for Cap. In fact, it looks like he might have significantly contributed to the death of someone, and then fled to the Army to escape responsibility. In fact, when Matt Murdock puts him on the stand, he actually says that the entire story is true. Uh-oh.

But maybe he’ll be okay after all. Why?

StoryOh, all right then. Phew.

When we get Cap’s version of events, we learn that the bad guys in the story were actually Nazi Fifth Columnists, and Steve was trying to help out a young man to save his brother from them. While Steve absolutely did antagonize them, and one could say that his actions resulted in the death of that young man, the legal question here revolves more about whether he could have reasonably known that would happen, whether there were mitigating factors, and so on. Actually, Jen and Matt lay it out pretty well in their closing arguments, and you can make your own call. You’ve got the issues itself if you want to read about the case.

I’d like to focus more on a few cool elements from this story – just background beats I happened to like.

First, the bad guy isn’t just a nameless Nazi. He’s actually a character from Marvel history named Saurespritze (which is German for “Acid Syringe,” according to Google Translate, but I think we could go with Acid Sprayer, something like that.) This is what he looked like back in the day:

Saurespritze_(Earth-616)

He was a member of the Das Vernichtungs-Kommandos (or the Death Squad) – a trio of Nazi supervillains, each with their own evil power. Saurespritze was sort of the non-speaking scary henchman, from what I can tell – he mostly sprayed acid at people. I mean, I think there are two kinds of people in the world. Some, when their parents name them Acid Sprayer, struggle their entire lives to overcome that – maybe they never even spray acid on anyone at all.

Saurespritze is pretty clearly not the other kind of person. That’s okay. Sometimes you gotta own it.

Here’s how Javier redesigned him for this story:

SaurespritzePretty awesome, I think. It’s not too far off the original design, but it has that simplification and elegance that characterizes Javier’s (and Muntsa’s) work.

Another beat from the flashback story I wanted to highlight – you remember in yesterday’s post about Issue 9 when I mentioned that there was something important about the date in which this story was set? Well, you look back at Issue 8, this panel:

MannsThat’s Steve and Sam Fogler, the buddy he went to LA with, the poor guy who dies in the story. They’re outside Mann’s Chinese Theater IN Hollywood. As we learn in this issue, it’s the one good thing Steve remembers about the trip, before everything went to hell.

Like I said in the prior post, this story had to take place in the first week of November, because of timing and continuity questions. And what was playing at Mann’s Chinese that week? Well…

ZorroThe Mark of Zorro!

This is a pretty important film in comics history – it’s also the movie Bruce Wayne went to see with his parents the night they were killed.

9G3jd4MWhen I looked up the old schedule for Mann’s for that week, I couldn’t believe my luck. I had no idea ahead of time that Mark of Zorro was playing the same week as the story in which I’d had to set my story – total happy accident, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to ignore it once I knew.

So, the same movie contributes to Cap being Cap and Batman being Batman – pretty cool.

Favorite panel – there are two, both related:

Copperplate WhamI just love Faustus’ ever-so-elegant handwriting in the first panel, and I think the way that punch was handled in the second example is top notch.

Favorite character – young Steve. Tough kid.

I loved writing this arc, as challenging as it was. I was traveling (again) in India when I was working through most of this, and I spent almost the entirety of a nine-hour car ride from the southern mountains to Bangalore trying to figure out how the hell it would work, especially the ending. It put me through the wringer – but I think it all worked, and it was a chance to write Daredevil, Steve Rogers and She-Hulk in one story. Dream come true.

Tomorrow – back to the Blue File, and lots of punchy punchy.

If you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.

 

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the ninth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I’m @charlessoule) – I’d love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it’s a re-read or you’re checking them out for the first time.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

I’ve been pretty good about staying ahead on these posts – I usually type up each one a few days ahead of time and schedule it to auto-post at noon on the day in question. This one, however, I’m typing up on the fly, just a few hours before it goes live. If it feels like it has more urgency, that’s why.

I knew this weekend would be tough timewise because it’s a con weekend – I’m attending the Amazing Arizona Comic Con in Phoenix. Cons are awesome, but it can be all but impossible to get anything else done. Much like…

…when you’re at trial! (That’s a segue, folks.) Trial can be all-consuming. Most of my experience with it comes from time spent as a paralegal (or, as you may know it, an Angie Huang) before going to law school. I worked for a very large firm at that time, and they worked on gigantic corporate litigations. For those, you fly to the place where the trial is happening and live there for as long as it lasts, working out of a hotel or a satellite office. You’re in the courtroom all day and you’re preparing all night for the next day (more or less, depending on what’s going on). Really grueling. You sort of have to, though, because, well, you have to win. You lose enough cases and you probably won’t be a lawyer for all that long.

The experience of litigation can be very different depending on which level of the judicial system you’re talking about, or area of law, but I chose to make the Steve Rogers case we look at in issues 8-10 a real meatgrinder. In issue 9, we start to see more of what Cap is actually being accused of, through “dying declaration” testimony from a childhood acquaintance of Steve’s. I heard from some attorneys on this one – the way I use dying declaration here maybe isn’t the way it’s always used in California, but I based it on Rule 804(b)(2) in the Federal Rules of Evidence, which states that a witness statement relayed to someone else just prior to death can be admissible in court if it is:

(2) Statement Under the Belief of Imminent Death. In a prosecution for homicide or in a civil case, a statement that the declarant, while believing the declarant’s death to be imminent, made about its cause or circumstances.

I always thought that was a fascinating rule – I mean, like people can’t lie when they think they’re about to die? It seems very based in what the framers of that law believed about human nature – or wanted to be true. This rule comes from the “common law,” which is a set of laws or rules that existed before law was formally codified – almost like very binding rules of thumb that society (especially English society, since that’s where much of our legal system comes from) used to handle disputes.

Dying DeclarationAs an aside, poor Javier, right? I gave him so much text to handle in this arc, and he worked with it beautifully. The chase scene at the end of this issue was included specifically to give him a bit of action to draw, considering that so much of the rest was talking heads.

Now, as far as the actual substance of this dying declaration – we hear that just before the US entered World War II Steve Rogers apparently antagonized a criminal into killing the older brother of the declarant. It doesn’t sound good for Steve, but it seems like it could be plausible. That was the key.

Shut UpYou’ll note in this sequence that it’s written in the “voice” of Harold Fogler, the dead guy, even though it’s supposedly being relayed by the policeman who heard the testimony back in the hospital. The captions here aren’t the way the court heard it, exactly – but I felt that adding a lot of “and then Harold said this…” would have taken a lot of the immediacy out of the scene. I thought it was important to get Harold’s voice here, to convey his pain about what happened back in that LA warehouse.

Once we get the testimony, Matt Murdoch begins to build his case.

ArchivistThat date, November 6, 1940, was settled upon because there was actually a very tiny window, both historically and in Marvel U history, for this story to happen. We actually know pretty much exactly when Steve signed up for Project Rebirth – the program that ended up with him getting the super-soldier serum and becoming Captain America. We also know when the US entered the war, and, more importantly, when the draft was imposed (the law was approved on September 16, 1940, and it went into effect a month later.) We know from Cap’s lore that he tried to volunteer for the Army but was classified 4-F (unfit for service), which was something that was part of the draft rules. We also know that Captain America #1 hit shelves on December 20, 1940.

So, this story had to take place between October 16, 1940 and December 20, 1940, and probably on the early side, to give Cap time to get back to Brooklyn, volunteer, be classified 4-F, and then get into the super-soldier program. A pretty tight window. However, it worked really well for this story because it supported the idea that Cap could be guilty – as you see, Murdoch is trying to build up the idea that Steve Rogers was so desperate to get into the Army because it could be a safe haven for him from the criminal consequences of causing the death in LA.

ExpertThere’s another reason that the dates here worked out so nicely, but we’ll get into that with Issue 10 tomorrow.

Jen does what she can to tear down Murdoch’s case, but he’s pretty surgical about it – which is in keeping with his character. He’s supposed to be brutally effective, and he needs to be, otherwise Jen isn’t in “danger,” and the story’s boring. We need, as readers, to really think that this might not work out for Cap. Jen certainly feels that way.

ScrewedBut don’t worry, Jen, you’ll get your chance tomorrow!

Favorite panel – there were a ton of possibilities here. The chase sequence across NYC (in which, you’ll note, Jen is wearing a Cap-branded pajama top and purple pants – both a nod to her Hulky roots and support for her client), something from the flashback sequence, that great split panel on the last page… but I think it’s this one:

BailiffJavier did such a lovely job here conveying the nervousness of the bailiff at the very idea that he has to swear in Captain America as a witness. Note the little trembles in his upraised hand and on the bible, and Steve’s comparably rock-steady hand. The fact that Steve Rogers casts an incredibly long shadow is a central part of this case, and this beat really supports that.

Favorite character: Daredevil. I love writing that guy, and I got to do much more with him here than I did in his prior appearance in Issue 4. Super fun.

Daredevil 2(Also, look at the colors in that bit, especially those silhouettes in the second panel. Muntsa Vicente is brilliant.)

Tomorrow, the conclusion of the case! Wow, we’re really getting close to Wednesday, aren’t we?

If you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.

 

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text one if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the eighth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I’m @charlessoule) – I’d love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it’s a re-read or you’re checking them out for the first time.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Issue 8: “The Good Old Days, Part 1″

Here we are with the start of a three-part story involving something that had never happened before in comics up to this point – She-Hulk vs. Daredevil in a court of law.

Once I started working on the story, I realized why. It was all but impossible to pull off, at least in regular continuity. You could do it in something like an Elseworlds / alternate reality setting, but in the real-deal Marvel Universe? Oof.

Let me explain. I’d been talking with my editor Jeanine Schaefer about doing this story for a while, and so it had been in the back of my mind for ages. When we started to get into specifics, it became clear that I’d be dealing with a few very significant bullet points. To wit:

  • She-Hulk must be heroic.
  • Daredevil must be heroic.

Tricky enough, because if you’re writing a court case that feels even a little bit realistic, one side probably comes off a bit looking a bit negative, if not both. Actual litigation can get extremely intense. Just to bring up one example, discrediting the other side’s witnesses by impugning their character happens quite often, and it can get vicious. As a lawyer, you’re obligated to do everything you can to serve your client, even if it means (sometimes especially if it means) screwing over the other side in some dastardly but perfectly legal and legitimate way (within the confines of our legal system, of course.)

In this story, all of those strategies were immediately off the table for both sides, even though Daredevil in particular has done some very morally questionable things in the past. There’s a reason he keeps getting disbarred.

So, tough enough to do this at all. The reason why no writer had tried this before started to become very apparent to me. At which point, I made my life ten times as hard by choosing the defendant – Steve Rogers, aka, at times, as Captain America. At the point in Marvel continuity where this happens, Steve has lost his super-serum-ness, which means he’s ninety-some years old. A hale, hearty ninety, for sure – he’d kick you off his lawn if he had one, which he doesn’t, because he lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and almost no one down there has lawns – but still, old.

I chose Cap because I wanted to do something momentous for the story, something worthy of the idea that Marvel’s two legal titans were doing battle for the first time. Generally speaking, Steve Rogers is morally unimpeachable, so putting him in a position where he was defending himself against a heinous accusation seemed like it would have some real juice. Of course, it brought up another problem:

  • Steve Rogers must be heroic.

Steve is the Marvel U’s moral arbiter, more or less. Putting him in a position where that was called into question was very sticky, and resulted in many emails back and forth with my wonderful editor Jeanine Schaefer, as well as Tom Brevoort. Both were very supportive of me doing the story, but they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to tarnish Steve’s carefully developed legacy.

This was particularly true because the case revolved around events in Steve’s past prior to becoming Captain America at the end of 1941. The story of Steve becoming Cap is serious canon in the Marvel U, and you screw around with it at your peril.

Juries

When all was said and done, here’s what this story needed to do, just from a mechanical standpoint:

  • She-Hulk must be heroic.
  • Daredevil must be heroic, with the corollary that we need a legitimate reason why he would take a case against Steve Rogers, an aged hero whom he has fought alongside many times.
  • Steve Rogers must be heroic, with the corollary that we need to believe that he could actually have done what he’s being accused of.
  • The legal case in the story must feel and read as a legitimate case, with serious potential consequences for Steve if it goes wrong.
  • Everything that happens needs to work with the continuity of all three characters.
  • All of the flashbacks need to work with real-world World War II history, or get damn close.
  • It has to resolve well, with neither She-Hulk or Daredevil looking like a bad lawyer, or using the rough and tumble tactics actual lawyers would probably use.

That list developed over the course of breaking and working on the story, and I’ll be honest – if I’d seen it laid out for me right from the start, I probably would have bailed on the whole idea and done something light and fun about Batroc the Leaper or whatever.

But now that it’s done, I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’ll talk more about the specifics of the story in future parts, but for now, let me hit a few things quickly. First, I have gotten questions from eagle-eyed readers about two things.

First, “why did She-Hulk need to temporarily associate herself with a California firm in order to defend Steve Rogers in an LA court, when she used to practice law in California years ago?”

There are two answers to this. First, Jen was admitted, a long time ago, but bar registrations expire. In New York, for example, you have to renew them every two years, and you also have to show that you’re taking Continuing Legal Education (or CLE) courses to stay up on your field. Jen didn’t do that for California, because she’s been working out of NY for so long, and so she’s no longer admitted to practice there. I could have explained that in this story, but it would have opened up a much longer set of things to explain. Space was tight here, and there were a ton of little things like this I opted not to include, because I wanted to focus on the bits that would build drama or actually serve the story I was telling.

The second answer is more writerly – it gave Jen a challenge to solve. I saw Matt Groening (creator of the Simpsons, Futurama, etc.) speak last night, and he said something that really struck me: “Struggle is funny.” That’s true for drama, too. You can get more out of a character who hasn’t made it yet than someone whose life is comfortable. So, you throw as many obstacles as you can in your character’s path, and see what you get from it. In this case, we got the incredible Matt Rocks (because he does), and I think that was one hell of an exchange.

Cause

The second question I’ve seen about this case was how the hell Jen could not know that Matt Murdock was the lawyer on the other side before she walked into that courtroom. In most cases, the attorneys on both sides know a ton about the other side’s case long before they ever step before the judge. It’s called the “discovery” process, and the idea that Jen wouldn’t know that Matt was the lawyer she was up against would ordinarily be ludicrous. Unless… Matt subbed in that very morning, via a motion to the judge, which is exactly what he did.

Hey Jen

Murdock knew that there would be some serious shock value from surprising Jen, and (spoiler), he also knew that Cap had ordered him to do his absolute best to win the case, so he engineered things to spring himself on She-Hulk at the last minute. I consulted with a California litigator on this point, and he confirmed that it would be possible, albeit the sort of thing that most would consider sketchy. I decided that it was worth the beat, and did it.

Favorite panel:

Flight Attendants

I loved the stuff with the robot lady flight attendants on Stark’s plane. This was a callback to Issue 1 and those holographic receptionists in his building. The fact that Stark lent his plane to Jen at all is also a little nod to the idea that I thought he would probably feel guilty about the events of that issue.

Favorite character: Matt Rocks. I considered a bunch of possible lawyers for Jen to partner up with in LA, including some of the characters from Dan Slott’s run, but ultimately I decided to make someone new. I’ve always loved Jamie Madrox, too – so much potential, as we saw in Peter David’s incredible X-Factor run. Javier did such a wonderful job with this guy, too – he’s got that perfect “charming ass” vibe I was looking for.

Rocks

Tomorrow: The case kicks into high gear, as we learn more about the terrible crime Steve is accused of!

If you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.

 

 

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