writing


I have four books out today, which is pretty incredible – in fact, it’s moved me to type up a blog post for the first time in a good while. It’s been a very, very busy spring, and the idea of adding words that weren’t strictly necessary to the total I needed to produce felt a little crazy. I’m good with workload – it’s part of the Charles Soule Brand, I’d say – but there were a few moments here and there when even I, gentle reader, yes, even I felt like it might be nice to take a damn break for a minute or two.

But breaks don’t get you four books out in a single day. Those books are:

Daredevil #7 – featuring art from Matteo Buffagni, colors by Matt Milla, letters from Clayton Cowles and a story covering the second half of my Elektra tale. That deadly Greek assassin-lady has always been one of my favorite characters in all of the DD mythos, and it’s been amazing to write her in the title where she debuted. I even own a copy of that issue – #168, part of Frank Miller’s run. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of the way the issue ends, in particular. Elektra expresses a sentiment that I think is completely in line with her character, but isn’t something we see said all that often. Biggest thing to know about this issue is that it’s far from the last planned appearance from Ms. Natchios in the title. She’s a big part of the overall blueprint for the story I’m telling, so stay tuned.

Here’s the cover for the issue, by the incomparable Bill Sienkewicz:

DD7 Cover

Letter 44 #25 – We made it to issue 25! That is an incredible landmark for a creator-owned series these days. Or, it seems, almost any title that doesn’t have a superhero or a movie or both associated with it. #25 is part four of the big “Saviors” arc, which is itself the fourth chunk of the main series.

Art here is by my good friend Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, with colors by Dan Jackson, letters from Crank!, and they created one of my absolute favorite covers for the whole series so far:

letter44-25-marketing_preview-1

Poor, poor Mr. President. Also, the reference for this image was from a self-portrait I took in April, flames and all. April was a tough month.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #5 – Man, I sure do love writing Star Wars stories. Obi-Wan & Anakin is the second of three tales I’ve been lucky enough to create in the SW Universe. My Lando series with Alex Maleev and Paul Mounts was first, and then I got this gig (with Marco Chechetto (art), Andres Mossa (colors) and Joe Caramagna (letters)), and I’m also doing a Poe Dameron ongoing with Phil Noto.

This issue is the final chapter (it was always conceived as a miniseries), and I am so proud of the work we did here, and sorry to see it go. It was a bit of a challenge to write a story set between Episodes I and II, which contain some elements that are, let’s just say divisive within Star Wars fandom. That said, I think the characters that George Lucas created are incredibly strong, and it was my job just to dig in and make them tick. Plus, writing a story set in a period when the Jedi were ascendant – just awesome.

Obi is one of my favorite characters in all of the Star Wars mythology, and getting to give him some lines was a huge thrill. Not to mention Sheev, aka Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine, aka good old Uncle Palpy. I think the Emperor is my #1 favorite guy in all of Star Wars so far, and I’ll write him any chance I get. There’s also another cameo in this issue, one of the most challenging to write dialogue for – but I think I did okay.

The cover!

OWA5 Cover

Uncanny Inhumans #9 – One of the really fun things about writing Uncanny Inhumans is the way the characters (and there are a bunch of them, all different from one another) let me take sidesteps between different genres from time to time. It doesn’t all have to be huge superhero action – although there’s plenty of that. Issues 5-6 were sort of a farce. Issue 7 was a detective/crime story. Issue 8 was a romance. And now, Issue 9 is a melodrama, set against an epic Marvel Universe backdrop, with a cast of thousands. In a nutshell, the story revolves around the reaction of Crystal, sister of Queen Medusa of the Inhumans, when she learns that Medusa has been secretly dating her ex, Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. I’ve wanted to write this one ever since I decided to put Medusa and Johnny together, and it was so much fun to do.

Art is by Kev Walker, colors by David Curiel, letters once again from Clayton Cowles, all of whom did a great job with a tricky script. The cover here is by my friend Mahmud Asrar:

UIH 9 Cover

So those are the four books out today! It’s pretty amazing, and I feel very lucky to have such a diverse slate of titles. The stories in those comics call for four very different types of writing, and it’s nice to be able to stretch my muscles that way.

I thought it might be a good idea to also quickly update you on other things I’m working on, just to give you an overview of the entire Souliverse (which is not a thing, except that these stories do all come from the same place, I suppose…)

DAREDEVIL – as mentioned, there’s a big, huge plan in play. You’ll learn more about the overarching idea in issue 9, although there are still many things to be revealed. Ron Garney (the amazing artist with whom I launched the title) will be back with Issue 10, to draw the entirety of an important arc called Dark Art. Here’s the first cover for that story:

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Serious new villain being introduced in this story. After that, another story with a familiar bad guy, then a big story in which we’ll look at how Matt got his secret identity back, and after that… well, the trap will snap closed on Daredevil. Big stuff to come.

POE DAMERON – Phil Noto and I are moving along nicely! He’s just the best guy, too. So great to work with, and he knocks it out of the park every time. I can’t say a ton about upcoming storylines here, but I will say that I was really gratified by the reaction to the introduction in issue #2 of Agent Terex, the series’ main bad guy (so far). He’s more or less an evil version of Lando Calrissian, and man, does he have some cool moments coming up.

I wish I could show you some upcoming art from the series, but I really can’t – so instead, I will give you the greatest gift of all, my own portrait of Poe, done at a recent signing at Acme Comics:

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Incredible, I know.

Daredevil/Punisher – a miniseries I’ve been working on as part of Marvel’s “Infinite” line, which is published first as a digital comic optimized for reading on ipads and similar screens. The reading experience is super cool – each swipe is a transition that changes the image on the page, either to add some element of motion to the existing image, change the dialogue, or bring up an entirely new panel. It feels very cinematic. It is also being published as print comics, however, so you can read it that way too – Issue #1 is already out, and I think #2 will be out at the end of the month. Should run to four issues, I believe, and six of the eight digital parts have already been released. You can get those here.

Layouts on the series have been by Reilly Brown and Mast, with interior art from Szymon Kudranski. It’s a fun story, about Daredevil trying to get a truly bad guy to JFK Airport before Punisher can kill him. Why is DD trying to put this scumbag on a plane? Will Daredevil and Punisher discuss the limits of vigilante justice? Will Blindspot have cool invisiblity moments? Does a billy club get stuck in a tailpipe? Answers: you’ll find out, yes, yes, and duh. Here’s the awesome cover to #2, by Reilly Brown:

DDPUN 2 Cover

UNCANNY INHUMANS – So, we have #9 today, and then #10, which is an issue featuring Reader, one of my favorite new characters that I’ve created for the MU. His superpower is to make anything he reads become real – but he’s blind. So, he carries these little Braille tabs around on his belt, which he uses to fight. He also has an amazing seeing eye dog named Forey. That dog was stolen from him in Issue 7, and now he’s going to get him back, come hell or high water.

This is one of the most narratively complex stories I’ve ever attempted, with lots of fun bits and easter eggs related to Reader’s power and how it operates – I really hope everyone checks it out. Kev Walker went above and beyond for this one, for sure. The cover:

UIH 10 COver

Once that story’s complete, we move into a huge story connected to the big Civil War II event – my part of that will be the Inhumans vs. Tony Stark, and it’s gigantic, with massive ramifications for the entire Inhuman world (and the Marvel Universe as a whole.) End of #11 is one hell of a moment. I can’t believe I got to do it.

After that… stay tuned. Once Uncanny goes big, it doesn’t let up.

LETTER 44 – As many longtime readers know, Letter 44 was always planned to end at #35. I’m working on the final chunk of issues now, and it’s some sad business – not just because of the story elements, but also because it will be about saying good-bye to a story that’s been a constant companion for years. Letter 44 is the type of sci-fi epic I dreamed of writing when I was 12, and the idea that I actually got to do it still blows my mind. The book has brought me many new fans, trips to far off lands, the chance to work with Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, the opportunity to make connections at NASA and other space-y places… and I will miss it very much when it’s gone.

The current Saviors arc runs through #27. Then we get another of those focus issues that have appeared every seventh issue, looking at the backstory for Manesh and Kyoko. And then… it’s off to the races. Everything falls down. We’ll see if anything stands back up.

NEW CREATOR-OWNED THING – When one door closes, another opens, I guess? With Letter 44 in its wrap up phase, I thought it was time to dive back into creator-owned waters with a new series. You’ll learn much more about it later this year, but the upshot is that I’m in active production on a title that I can’t wait for you to see. The artist is one of my all-time favorite collaborators (and people) in the business, and I just think he’s a stellar talent all around.

The story is set in the present day (mostly). It has some fantasy elements, but it’s not a fantasy, really. It’s a big tale – we’re aiming for the fences, for sure. It’s scary, and funny, and kind of mean. Way too early to show you much, but I can give you this:

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STRANGE ATTRACTORS!! (emphasis added) – Boom! Studios is re-releasing my creator-owned graphic novel Strange Attractors in five serialized installments starting this June. This is just fantastic, from where I’m sitting, because it means that a story I love, originally published in 2012, has a chance to access an entirely new audience. The book tells the story of two geniuses, one young and one old, who discover that all of New York City is about to be destroyed by a huge catastrophe. They believe that the only way they can save it is to connect all of the city’s many systems and bits of infrastructure into a huge, massively complex machine/engine. The story’s about what happens when they turn it on.

I LOVED working on this book when it came out – I’m a long-time New Yorker, and this is absolutely my love letter to the book. You can see a big interview I did about the re-release here, as well as some nice coverage from Bleeding Cool here.

As you’ll note in those stories, this isn’t just a double-dip. I also wrote an entirely new story that will run alongside the main tale, with art from Soo Lee (also a New Yorker, as are most of the people who worked and are working on the book). That’s called Antithesis, and the idea is to cast sort of a reflection on the original story… make it more complex, in essence.

The first issue is out in early June, and I really can’t wait for you guys to check it out. Here’s the amazing variant cover for Issue 1, by my very good friend Ryan Stegman:

StrangeAttractors_001_B_Incentive-600x911

I have a number of other things in the works – a massive, unannounced thing for Marvel that will be taking up a ton of my time over the summer, some additional creator-owned work, and more. One of the biggest things on my plate is my novel, a project I’ve been working on for quite a while called The Oracle Year. I think it’s done, though, and man, I hope you guys get to see it one of these days. Time will tell!

Thanks for reading, both my books and this way too long post. See you at the comic shop!

 

2015 was possibly the best year of my life. Top three, for sure. Bragging about good fortune is ugly, but I also think that failing to acknowledge the good in your life is a sort of arrogance as well. Mostly, I’m thankful – to the people who read my books, the people who sell them, and the people who help me make them. For my friends, old and new. For my family. For inspiration (long may it continue). For energy, and, in general, more optimism than pessimism.

I am also grateful to you, specifically – the person reading this. I don’t know anything about you (unless I do…), but the fact that you decided to read this means you’re at least provisionally interested in whatever I’ve decided to say here – which is still amazing to me. I hope you had a great 2015 as well, and if you didn’t, well, that stupid year is OVER.

I did a similar post back at the beginning of the year to look at 2014-15, and I thought it would be fun to look at some of the projects I described there to see where we ended up. It’s crazy – at this time last year, my runs on She-Hulk and Swamp Thing hadn’t yet ended, I was knee deep in Wolverines, etc. Here’s that post, if you want to review. In there, you’ll see that I was a little coy about some of the stuff I had coming up. I thought I’d reveal what those various books were, since they’ve all been announced by this point.

The Nervewracker – Daredevil

The Oh My God! – Lando

The Tricky One – Civil War

The Romantic One – Attilan Rising

Right now, most of my unannounced stuff is creator-owned, although there is one thing… one huge unannounced thing… I think folks will go crazy for it. The artist is one of my absolute favorites, and it should just be a blast on all sides. I’ve been working on it since… wow, the summer? It’s an ongoing, and continuing the theme in the post I linked to above, the Moleskine I’m using for it is black. I’ll definitely be writing more about this series once the word is out, which I think will be next week.

Beyond that, I’m working away on Daredevil, Uncanny Inhumans, Obi-Wan & Anakin and Letter 44, as well as the novel I’ve been working on for what feels like a million years – The Oracle Year. That last one’s challenging. I’m trying to do something special with it (or, barring that, something I can sell!) The machinery seems to be in place to give it a good push into the world (great agent, strong plan, all that,) which means if it doesn’t work, it’s no one’s fault but mine. The thing I’m finding most difficult is knowing what not to write. I have a trillion ideas, all the time, and the challenge is leaving some of them out. But that’s writing, and that’s what revisions are for. I am hopeful that you’ll see it soon, but I also realize that it’s almost a luxury not to have a deadline on it, and I’d like it to be as good as I can make it. So… typing away.

And then… creator-owned! Letter 44 starts its fourth arc this Wednesday, with Issue 22, the same day that Volume 3 hits the shelves. If you’ve been reading the series in trade, I think this will be a big one for you – it’s where everything really takes a quantum leap forward. Here’s a preview from #22:

 

L44 22 ImageAlberto Jimenez Albuquerque, as always, does incredible work.

The series’ fourth arc is called “Saviors,” and it really starts to bring things home. Letter 44 will end with issue 35, and I’ve written through issue 27, which means I really don’t have that much left to write for it. I know what happens in every one of those remaining issues (pretty much), and that is a strange thing. I know what the series will be when all is said and done, and the emotional experience I’m trying to create. I knew the ending when I started, but the path has certainly had some twists and turns, and the feeling of it isn’t necessarily what I expected. I set out to write a huge sci-fi epic, and I think it’ll be that when it’s done, but there’s more to it. It’s like a song, about inevitability. I hope, if you haven’t already tried the series, you’ll give it a shot. You may notice that I’ve updated the links to the right – you can now find a direct link to the Letter 44 page on Amazon, which will be updated with Volume 3 as soon as it’s out. Really looking forward to hearing people’s reactions.

In other Letter 44 news, the series was chosen as part of the official slate (it’s a selection officiele) for the 2016 Angouleme festival in France later this month. That’s hard to process – it means that the book was picked as one of the best comics publications in the French language this past year. (My friends at Glenat, the French publisher for the series, did an amazing job putting the book out there – which is self-evident.) It’s an honor and a thrill and it makes me nervous, but it’s also part of that incredible 2015 I mentioned at the start of the post. I’ll be heading to France in about three weeks to attend the fest, which everyone tells me is magnifique indeed. I’ll brush up on my French, too – I’ll be doing some signings in Paris, and it would be nice to chat with people over there. (Like a silly-sounding three year-old, perhaps, but I will make the effort.)

Shifting gears to Daredevil, I have been so incredibly thrilled with the reaction to the new series I’ve been doing with Ron Garney and Matt Milla. It seems like we’ve got a good springboard to tell some awesome stories about ol’ Hornhead, and I hope you’ll stick along for the ride. Here’s a tease of Issue 3 – Ron really had a workout as far as fight choreography for this issue:

DD 3 stripI’ve completed two stories in the run so far – the Tenfingers tale you’re reading now, and a new one about Elektra. I’ll start scripting the third story this week, which will introduce another new character that I hope will be a great new foil for Daredevil.

The first issue of Obi-Wan & Anakin appears on stands this Wednesday, with art from Marco Chechetto. It is beautiful, as you can see:

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It’s a 5-issue mini, and tells the story of an adventure Obi and Ani had between Episodes I and II. I tried to do a similar thing here as I did with the Lando series – digging into the characters and thinking about what they might actually be thinking and feeling at this point in their lives, around three years after Phantom Menace. Anakin’s been in the Jedi Temple for a little while, and Obi’s been training him for all that time – but they’re both starting to ask questions. Big ones. I hope you’ll check it out.

Uncanny Inhumans! Steve McNiven finished the first big story arc a bit ago, and the final issue of the huge adventure that began all the way back in April with Uncanny Inhumans #0 will conclude soon with #4. Here’s a little taste of that, with Randac and Kang the Conqueror in an epic staring contest:

Uncanny 4 PreviewMan, isn’t McNiven great? Inks on this were from Jay Leisten (also super great), and colors from Sunny Gho (who, also, is wonderfully great!)

All-New Inhumans is featuring some great work from James Asmus, and all in all, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going in the Inhumans corner of the Marvel U. Some very long-term plans are going to start to kick in a little later this year, but I’ve said it before and will say it again – anything can happen in the Inhuman books, especially Uncanny. The concept is broad enough to support a million different kinds of stories, and that’s what we’re planning to tell. The second arc, running through issues 5-7, has a different tone than this first story – less of a Shakespearean superhero tale and more about modern life in the Inhuman world. Brandon Peterson’s drawing that, and he’s also just nailing it.

I’ll wrap up with new creator-owned, since that’s an area I’ve been working to develop for a while now. The wheels move slowly, but I had some serious movement on that front just before the end of 2015, and I’ve got a ton of stuff that seems like it’s pretty close to appearing. With Letter 44 in its wrap-up phase, it’s important to me to get new material out, and unless I screw things up, that should be happening in the next twelve months. More about all of those projects when it’s all a bit more locked down.

So there we are – see you on the other side!

ddchinatown

There. That’s the image that let me know I’d be in fantastic shape art-wise for my run on Daredevil – the long-running series from Marvel Comics that commences its next chapter with a new #1 issue today. I wrote it, Ron Garney did unbelievable work penciling and inking it and Matt Milla colored it. The image above is one of the very first things Ron drew as we were talking about the series. I knew that a lot of the action (at least early on) would be set in Chinatown, due to the fact that Daredevil’s new apprentice – a fellow named Sam Chung who goes by the hero name Blindspot – was based down there. In addition, Matt’s new job, as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, is based downtown as well. So, Ron was able to put together this little mockup of what that might look like… and wow, right?

We’ll get more Chinatown-set action as the series continues, but this is where it began. So… I knew I’d be more than good on the art, all I had to do was write the damn thing.

Daredevil is a challenging gig. It’s known for really sophisticated, thoughtful takes on superhero-ing, the psychological impacts of vigilantism, the cost of the costumed life, and so on. It’s boasted some of the best writers and artists in comics history, from Stan Lee to Alex Maleev Frank Miller to Chris Samnee to Brian Michael Bendis to Paolo Rivera to Ed Brubaker to David Mazzucchelli to Ann Nocenti to Kevin Smith to Michael Lark to Joe Quesada to Klaus Janson and many others to… the guy I get to follow on the title, the amazing Mark Waid. Many of these folks are heroes of mine – the Bendis DD in particular was a seminal run for me in my “modern phase” of comics reading. Following all of that up – not easy.

There’s also the fact that I’m an attorney myself, which hypothetically *should* translate into me being able to write a great book about a superhero who is also a lawyer. I dunno about that bit. I know a lot of lawyers, and very few of them are running around on rooftops after hours smacking criminals around. They’re generally too beat from 60- 80- 100-hour weeks. But I don’t want to be disingenuous – my experience in the law *should* allow me to explore some new angles in the many trials of Matt Murdock. (HA! Get it? You won’t get THAT kind of business from a non-lawyer DD writer!)

Anyway, lots of pressure – Daredevil is a signature gig, and with the TV show airing on Netflix right now, the character’s exposure is possibly at its highest peak. If I get it right… all good. If I screw it up… not so good. So… how did I approach it?

First thing, I had to put aside pretty much everything you’ve read so far in this post, except knowing that I had the art in my back pocket. I had to step aside from everyone else’s take and find my own. I didn’t (and never) want to just ape someone else’s approach. What’s the point of that? I’d rather go down in flames for doing something I believed in, that was mine, than coast along by relying on the goodwill generated by another writer’s take. I LOVE Waid’s Daredevil. I’ve read that first issue over and over again – it’s perfect. But there’s more than one kind of DD – that’s part of the beauty of the character. So, I knew almost from the start that I would go a bit darker, a bit weirder. You’ll see as the story continues that the villains are odd. It’s not a supernatural book by any means, but it is a creepy book, from time to time. I don’t want it to feel safe.

That said, with a new #1 I think it’s smart to give readers a taste of what they might be expecting before going too far off the deep end – so Matt is back in New York City. He’s lawyering again – although now a prosecutor instead of a defense attorney. He has his secret identity back. He has this new apprentice kid, Blindspot.

(By the way, one of the early previews of the cover for Issue 1 had some people thinking that Blindspot was actually Gambit, a heavily Cajun-accented X-Man known for macking on any lady within arm’s reach. I was amazed that people would think that – what the hell kind of book would a Daredevil-Gambit story even be? Why would Gambit become DD’s apprentice? Just made me laugh – but then I thought about it, and if there’s ever a chance to get Gambit into a story during my run, maybe I’ll do it. I doubt Gambit fans would be too thrilled with the idea I’m currently playing with, though…)

Anyway, Daredevil #1 is designed to be a mix of what you know and what you don’t know. I’ve changed a lot about his setup – but yet it still should sort of feel like the Daredevil you know, the one you’ve been watching on Netflix. That will evolve over time as we move deeper into DD’s new world.

I see the run as a huge novel – I’ve currently plotted out through around Issue 24, the first two years on the title. So, things that happen in these early issues (and before this, in the eight month gap that’s taken place between the end of Mark and Chris’ run and this new #1) will have ramifications and resonance as we move forward. (How did Matt get his secret identity back?) We’ll interact with heroes and villains new and old, and we’ll see members of Matt Murdock’s supporting cast from prior runs (people like Foggy Nelson, Kirsten McDuffie and more.) I’m working on a big Elektra story right now. The way Matt is with them won’t necessarily be the way you’re used to – but I don’t believe my job on Daredevil, or any book, is to give you what you’re used to.

It’s to do my job.

“I’m glad you’re back. This city needs you. And I think you need this city, too.” – Steve Rogers, Daredevil #4

 

(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.

 

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