When comic writer Charles Soule released 27 last year, the comic shot up the charts like a hit on the Billboard 100. Soule found success in part because the subject matter was a personal one. Dare we say it? He has music in his Soule. Now he answers 10 Questions for Shadowline and gives a sneak peak into the encore performance of 27: Second Set.
1. 27 is so deeply rooted in music, it makes one wonder: Who are your biggest musical influences?
This is a harder question than it seems at first glance. I listen to everything, and I like to think I take something away from everything I hear. But to at least give it a shot, I'll say Jimi Hendrix, for the way he just channeled his approach to guitar - there's no "thinking" behind his playing. He just played, and it was brilliant and pure. Elvis Costello, for his universal take on music. He'll take any genre, any type of music at all, and make it his own. A similar, slightly more recent example of the same thing is Sufjan Stevens. I think that guy's a genius. Finally, how about James Brown, for his absolute exuberance as a performer? You've really got to put it all out there when you're doing something creative, I think, and JB certainly did that.
2. Did you always envision 27 as a finite story that could be finished in a few issues, or did the success of 'First Set' allow you to use your original ideas for additional material?
Well, I've learned that it's self-defeating to get too excited about a huge story arc, for two reasons. First, it's just a truth of comics these days that it's really hard to actually get to do twenty issues or more of any series, and second, because you tend to save at least some of what you consider the "good stuff" for later parts of the story. The truth is, though, every arc should be as fantastic as you can make it. You just have to trust that the good ideas will keep coming if you get the opportunity to write more. With 27, specifically, I tried to make the first arc as complete and satisfying as possible, but I left the door open a crack in case I would get to do more. Very fortunately, I've got 27: Second Set hitting this fall, and I'm going to take a similar approach there. Self-contained, a great read in its own right, but with room to grow.
3. If you could bring back any of the famous musicians who died at age 27, who would you bring back and why?
Well, all of them. But I think my answer to the first question suggests who I would bring back if I only was able to pick one. I think Hendrix was just getting started with what he would have brought to music. The brilliance of his first several albums suggest that he could have done so much more. But really, I think twenty-seven is too young for anyone to go.
4. What are your thoughts on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook?
I use them both, quite a bit (Ahem: http://www.twitter.com/charlessoule ). I also keep a blog going at http://charlessoule.wordpress.com. The reality of trying to succeed these days as a creator of content (I hesitate to call myself an "artist,") is that connecting with fans is extraordinarily important. It always was, I'm sure, but Twitter and Facebook allow an immediacy that's nothing like we've ever had before. I use social media to give readers a sense of what I'm like as a person, to talk about upcoming projects, discuss and support other creators, and participate in the ever-spinning dialogue on pop culture. I try to manage my social media usage pretty carefully, though, just because I think there's a dark side to providing too much access to one's life. There are entire areas of what I do in my day to day life that I wall off from Twitter and so on. I don't talk about my family, friends (unless it's via a Twitter conversation with one of them, perhaps) or all sorts of other things that, frankly, I think might not be the internet's business. I use social media for work - and I have a lot of fun doing it.
5. Whose idea was it to mimic those famous artist photos with the covers to 27?
That's a while back, at this point, and I have to say I don't specifically recall. It was either Jim Valentino or me, but whoever had the idea, it was a good one. We're keeping it going with Second Set, too, although we're moving away from the 27 Club members to focus on another very potent set of rock and roll legends. Or, perhaps not legends - more like cautionary tales. The cover for 27: Second Set #1 (in Previews now!) should be pretty easy to spot, and once you get that you'll have the theme, but I'm not going to spoil it. Editor's Note: The cover to 27: Second Set #1 is at the beginning of this interview
6. Do you have any musical talents?
Talent? I don't know about that. I do play a bunch of instruments, though. I've been playing violin since I was three, and guitar since I was fourteen or so. I picked up a bunch of other instruments along the way to varying degrees of proficiency, but those are the main two. I studied music theory and composition in college, and I've composed in a lot of different genres, from classical to jazz to rock. I love playing music, and I do it as much as I can. I have a few bands, and I sing, and... yeah, I do a lot with music. Writing 27 was sort of a natural fit for me.
7. Based on the lack of a winner at this point, the puzzle you crafted for the 27 series appears to be a bit more difficult than you expected. Where did you come up with the idea for this?
I've always liked puzzles and codes, since I was little. I decided to build a puzzle into 27 in part because I thought it would just be something fun to do, and also because I thought it might not hurt from a marketing angle. I guess I did make it harder than I thought it would be. You have to know a little bit about music theory to solve it, but nothing that an elementary-school piano student wouldn't know. I put the solution into the trade, and I'll be interested to see how people react when they see the answer. From what I've heard, and the questions I've gotten, I think people are making it more complicated than it really is. We'll see - either way, I'm having a blast with it, and I hope everyone who's worked on it has enjoyed it as well.
8. Which was your favorite growing up, G.I. Joe or Transformers?
I was a Transformers kid. I liked G.I. Joe, and a lot of my friends had them, but my parents had a policy that we weren't allowed to have realistic war-related toys, fake guns, that sort of thing. Star Wars figures, or giant transforming robots, fine - G.I. Joe, no. (This "no realistic weaponry" policy was clearly put into place before folks like Serpentor started showing up in the G.I. Joe toy line.)
9. Describe a typical day in the life of Charles Soule.
I'm a slow starter, more of a night person. But, I'll get up, and depending on the day I might go for a run. After that, it's at least eight hours, more often ten or twelve, of furiously balancing everything I have going on - writing, the PR side of writing, whatever music obligations I have, work, family. If I have songs to learn, or edits to do, or drafts to write or polish, I'll often do that stuff in the evening. Hmm. I clearly need to take a vacation (one where I leave my phone and laptop at home.)
10. You've just finished rocking out on stage and the audience calls you out for an encore: What do you play?
Assuming I'm going to play a cover, and not one of mine, then I'm not sure there's a better encore tune than Purple Rain. It slays, every time.
The 27 TPB collection hits comic shop shelves June 29th, and among the bonus material contains a story that was previously unreleased in the original issues.