Exclusive Interview: Charles Soule guides Marvel's Thunderbolts through Infinity
Writer Charles Soule begins a new gig in June chronicling the adventures of the Red Lanterns. Two months later, the scribe begins his first Marvel assignment by recording the derring-do of the Thunderbolts … just as this summer’s Infinity event hits!
To find out his plans for Ross & Co., Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer sat down with Soule and exclusively dissected the writer’s plans for these heroes gone wrong (or is that villains gone right?).
Cosmic Book News: You just began writing Red Lanterns which takes place in outer space and now you are arriving just in time to take the Thunderbolts into Infinity, Marvel's summer blockbuster! What role will these anti-heroes play in the event?
Charles Soule: The Tbolts happen to be in the midst of a mission in New York City when the Infinity event comes down on the Big Apple like a ton of bricks. They need to navigate the crazy happenings in the city while still trying to complete their mission -- more on that below. It's been really fun to write this team going up against a cosmic threat. They're all pretty much street-level characters, and throwing them up against aliens (spoiler: there are aliens) and other strange beasties is undeniably cool.
Charles Soule: The current Thunderbolts team doesn't have a direct association with the prior versions, but it has a lot of thematic similarities. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (get it?) aka Red Hulk is the leader. The rest of the team includes Punisher, Elektra, Deadpool, Venom, and a crimsonized version of Sam Sterns known as Red Leader. A cool Hulk villain from the ‘90s named Mercy is floating around as well, although her role on the team has been left a bit purposely vague. You'll learn much more about what Mercy's up to in Issue #13, the second issue of my run.
There are two sides to the team's mission: first, Thunderbolt Ross brought them all together so they could help him clean up messes from his past decades hunting the Hulk. There are a bunch of old weapons programs, gamma-infused creatures and so on that he had a direct hand in creating that he wants to deal with. Now, you're probably wondering why the Punisher, or any of the others, would care even a tiny bit about Ross' problems. You'd be right. But Issue #14 will address this directly. It seems that Ross got all of these people who don't play well with others to join the team by making them all the same promise: "Do a few gamma-related missions for me, and then the team will undertake a mission for you. Anything you want, no questions asked." The team will take turns, basically drawing names out of a hat. Since each member has something they can't handle on their own, they see it as a good deal. The Punisher's mission is the first one picked, and that's why they head to NYC.
Charles Soule: That would be telling! I will say that the actions Thanos takes during the Infinity event, and the repercussions that spill out from them, will have a direct, permanent effect on the 'Bolts.
Charles Soule: I have to say, I love writing Punisher and Elektra. I like them all, but I'm having a blast with those two. You can go really dark with them, but somehow they're still accessible. I do have some plans for new members, including one character I've wanted to write since I was about nine, but that won't happen for a little bit yet. Here's a hint: the letters E and H are in the character's name and a prominent part of their backstory. (Yes, I realize that's a terrible hint.)
Charles Soule: Certainly. My pleasure. (laughs) Thunderbolt Ross dies on page seven of Issue #14. Elektra takes a spike to the eye in Issue #15. Punisher gets eaten by this alien dragon thing on the last page of #16. Venom and Deadpool kill each other in a suicide pact in #17. Mercy and Red Leader get married in #18 (I didn't want to kill off the entire cast.) That'll be really cool. The Maestro will be the officiant. (laughs)
No, I'm not going to tell you if anyone dies in the Infinity arc! Or gets married! (laughs)
Charles Soule: First of all, he really doesn't want you to call him “The General.” Ross (at this point) feels like he's lost his way. He let his hatred of the Hulk bring him to do some fairly terrible things, and he's doing what he can to atone for those actions. And of course, he's become the thing he hates the most: a gamma-irradiated freak. The neat thing about the "rotating missions" concept is that Ross has to give up control of the team from time to time, and giving up control isn't something he's particularly fond of. He'll work out his frustrations by smashing a whole bunch of stuff, though.
Charles Soule: Red Leader has a LOT going on, which you'll see pretty early on in the Infinity arc. I like writing super-geniuses, and even though poor Sam Sterns has been through a lot (including getting a bullet to the dome courtesy of Frank Castle), he's still one of the sharpest guys in the entire Marvel U.I want to keep him ambiguous for a while yet, but you'll get a lot of clues as to what he's up to in the next bunch of issues.
Charles Soule: I want to get the current team through the first few adventures before I start spinning older continuity into the setup, but it's definitely on my to-do list. If nothing else, it will give me a chance to read those stories again. Any excuse to dig into the back issues is fine by me!
Charles Soule: It's just a blast, as you might expect. I love playing in the Marvel sandbox, especially with this particular set of characters. It's a great fit for my particular sensibilities, and I have a lot of ideas for where I can take the team. I hope my run goes on for a good, long time -- so buy the book!
Charles Soule: 2013 is the busiest year in comics I've ever had. Beyond Thunderbolts, I'm writing Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns for DC Comics. I also have a beautiful hardcover OGN that was just released by Archaia called Strange Attractors, about two genius mathematicians who turn New York City into an engine using high-level applications of the Butterfly Effect. I have another ongoing creator-owned sci-fi series for Oni called Letter 44 that will start in October. It's pretty amazing, and I wouldn't trade it, but it's definitely keeping me on my toes! If you want to keep up with my upcoming projects, the best way is probably to follow me on Twitter @charlessoule, friend me on Facebook or check out my site/blog. If you think you might like to read Strange Attractors, you can pick it up at your local comic shop, via Amazon or digitally for ipad and so on from Comixology. Thanks for reading!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Charles Soule for taking the time to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Marvel’s own Arune Singh and James Viscardi who helped make this interview possible.
“Thunderbolts” #12, Soule’s first issue, hits shelves in July!