Charles Soule staat voornamelijk bekend om zijn werk in de wereld van Marvel Comics (waar natuurlijk ook de Star Wars comics onder vallen) en in wat mindere mate DC comics. In het Star Wars landschap heeft hij inmiddels ook een flinke voetafdruk achtergelaten, aangezien hij met titels als Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith (2017), The Rise of Kylo Ren (2019) en Poe Dameron (2016) een aantal vaak gelezen comics op zijn naam heeft en inmiddels zelfs een sleutelfiguur is geweest bij de vorming van The High Republic.
Sinds vorig jaar is Soule bij Lucasfilm betrokken als Creative Consultant en met zijn eerste boek Light of the Jedi (2021) gaf hij de aftrap aan The High Republic, een mediaproject met (audio)boeken, comics en andere mediavormen over Star Wars verhalen die zich honderden jaren vóór de films afspelen. Ben jij geïnteresseerd in The High Republic? Doe dan mee met onze Star Wars community, waar we regelmatig Star Wars verhalen uit The High Republic behandelen in onze leesclub!
Op Heroes Dutch Comic Con in november 2022 kregen wij de gelegenheid om Charles Soule even te spreken, het interview met hem lees je hieronder!
What was it like for you to write Light of the Jedi and kick off The High Republic that way?
It was one of the greatest pleasures of my career so far, Star Wars: The High Republic is a brand new Star Wars right? It’s set several hundred years before Episode I, so all of the characters, except for like Yoda, are completely new. And it’s in an era before the Sith kind of corrupted the Jedi and cause problems, so, there are many-many Jedi – it’s a golden age for the Jedi and for the Republic, so that meant that I – along with the other four co-creators of the High Republic – got to create brand-new Jedi and make them as cool as I could think of. And make up an amazing new bad guy in Marchion Ro and the Nihil and make him as evil as I could think of.
And we had a freedom to it that Star Wars, you know if you’re writing in the time period between Episode I and and IX, many storypoints have already been established. So you’d have to work within that, which is very exciting and I do a lot of that work too. But this was open in a way that was really thrilling for us as writers, and it seems that it was really thrilling for the fans too. Because you don’t know how the story ends, you don’t know who’s gonna live or die and so forth. That has been a very exciting challenge, but also a real privilege.
Was it difficult keeping Project Luminous (de oorspronkelijke werktitel van The High Republic) a secret in the period the High Republic outline and stories were being prepared and written?
All of Star Wars is about keeping secrets, if you work with Star Wars you always know things you can’t talk about. Project Luminous was certainly one of the big ones. It mostly was difficult because we were all really excited about it, and we really wanted to share what we’re doing with the fans, but if you can’t keep secrets then you can’t work with Star Wars. So we all knew how to do it. And there’s so many things, even now as I’m sitting here, there’s many secrets I know that I will not tell you, but it’s just part of the job and that’s OK.
There are secrets that you obviously can’t talk about, but I can imagine that sometimes you bring up an idea that eventually doesn’t end up being used. Could you give us an example of an idea that didn’t get through?
Generally speaking the way that that works, there’s an organization within Lucasfilm called Story Group. Star Wars fans may have even heard of it. And their job is that all their Star Wars storytelling lines up and it’s all supposed to be part of the same history. If Yoda is on this planet in this time, he shouldn’t be on another planet in that moment – things like that.
As an example, I was working on my Poe Dameron comic for Marvel and I had an idea for my bad guy, Agent Terex, to be dressed up all in white. I thought that’d be really cool, and they said “Well you know, let’s not do that, as there is another bad guy coming up all in white” and that was Orson Krennic from Rogue One. But I didn’t know the reason at the time, but whenever they say something like that you get to go like “okay”, I’ve been working the job long enough that I know what it means when you get involved like that, somebody else got there first, and that’s okay.
Yoda lives, I’ll give you that one: spoiler – Yoda lives!
It’s insane, because I follow some of the guys from the Story Group online, like Matt Martin and Pablo Hidalgo, and the limits that you have and don’t have are crazy.
Yeah it’s really, you know, their job, and they will say this – I know all those guys really well, they will say that they are not trying to prevent people from telling Star Wars stories. Their job is only to make sure that it all feels cohesive. It’s really difficult to do it, because as you said: there are so many stories that matter, so many stories that count, so many things that have happened, I mean, Luke Skywalker alone, we’ve seen his birth and so much of his life, and we’ve seen his death. Darth Vader, his birth we haven’t seen, but we’ve seen so much of his life and so many experiences. So when you’re working through finding new stories to tell for them – all of those things happened. So, you know, I’m not going to tell you the story of Luke Skywalker’s birth, because we’ve all seen it.
So earlier this year you have been promoted to Creative Consultant, how did that change your work? Do you still write as much as you want? Did the main focus of your work become very different?
I’m not writing less, I’m writing as much as I ever have. That job was very flattering, very exciting for me, because I love Star Wars. But the way that it works is, you know, there are many-many stories being told in Star Wars all the time, some of them have my name on it but many of them do not. Previously I was only involved with my own stories, and now I discuss and give thoughts on stories that don’t have my name on them. That’s all it is. But it’s great, it lets me know more about what’s happening in the galaxy and things to come, and I love getting to do this as it’s a great opportunity.
And is that different, comparing The High Republic to your other Star Wars work? Or is that similar in that aspect?
No, they’re very different. You know, it’s as if you’re writing a story set in Roman times versus a time set in the 1960s. They’re very different times, the technology, the way people think, the feeling of the characters, the feeling of what’s possible and what’s out there. You have to put your head in a different place, and that’s good, it’s a good challenge.
You’ve also written a lot of Darth Vader stories, what do you think is key to writing that character, and the dialogue for example?
Well you don’t write much, that’s for one thing, he doesn’t say very much. He says, he’s like Boba Fett you know, he only uses the words he has to use and if he – you know, imagine the guy at a party standing in the corner and he’s just mad at anyone. He doesn’t want to talk, and if he does talk it’s basically “fuck you”, you know? That’s all he would say.
So that’s kind of Darth Vader. He’s just seething all the time, he’s not a happy person as we all know. So you just keep that in mind, that he’s always angry, he’s always in pain, he’s always hateful. In a way that goes beyond what you’d think a person could be or stay in, and that’s Darth Vader.
Do you prefer to write villains in your stories?
Villains are very interesting to write, because they’re free. Villains can do things that the heroes can’t. So when you’re writing them, you get to write a story about a person who does not limit themselves. Ofcourse they do evil things, but they can be really fun to write as a character because they don’t care as much about the consequences or who they’ll hurt. I don’t care how things change or fall apart because of my action, I’m just gonna do it! And the interesting part is that these characters become drivers of change for the rest of the story and for the heroes and all of that. So yeah, I love writing those!
You’ve also written The Rise of Kylo Ren ofcourse, what was that like? Because while reading the story, I thought “Wow, the writer has gotten a lot of creative freedom in this one!”
I mean, I did create that run together with Will Sliney the artist, and we felt like it was challenging to write a story about Kylo Ren and Ben Solo, since it’s a character that the fandom is very invested in and cares about a lot. And so it’s important to us to tell a story that was both – I mean, it was interesting because we had to take into account how important that story was going to be to the fans, but also not necessarily do things exactly the way people would expect. Because that’s not being true to our own work or art, you know? So that was definitely a tricky one, but it seems like people enjoyed it. I think we did a good job with it. It was hard though!
If I’m correct, you’ve had an education as a lawyer. Does that help you in any way with your writing?
Oh yes, because as an attorney you have to be very detail-oriented, you have to be very meticulous, you’re gonna have to say: “I’m gonna sit down, and do this work until it’s done.” You have to be very focused. All those things are important aspects about being an attorney, and as you can understand they’re also very useful in being a writer. Also regarding your research, and you’re sitting down and typing for eight hours straight – discipline is key. Both for being a lawyer and a writer. So yes, I think it has helped me very much.
Could you mention a few keywords or ingredients that you think The High Republic has added to Star Wars?
Well Star Wars already had a lot of things in it, you know, I think it’s a given that in different times, different stories add different things. But I think one of the things that it’s added is surprise – well not added, because I don’t want to suggest that the other stories don’t have these things right? But I think if you’re reading High Republic stories you can expect surprise, I think you can expect wonder, like the stories go to places that are surprising and beautiful. So surprise, and wonder, and stakes. You know, the stakes, the consequences in the story feel very strong. Because as I mentioned; you don’t know how these characters end. You don’t know if a certain character in any given situation could live or die – with the exception of Yoda, ofcourse. Yoda lives, I’ll give you that one: spoiler – Yoda lives!
But other than that, you don’t know! You don’t know what will happen to any of these characters, people, spaceships. So it feels like, you know, even when you’re in a relatively small fight or a small battle sequence or disaster, anything can happen at any time. And that idea is something that people are really connecting with.
How do you connect with the other writers, do they know what’s going to happen in your story?
Yes, we do that constantly. We talk all the time, we have this Slack group, we have Zoom calls, we meet in-person when we can, we talk all the time and we’re very close.
So it doesn’t happen that you decide to kill a character off, and someone else had other plans for that character?
No, we don’t do that! That’s one of the big rules, we talk about those things. Especially about big changes, we discuss.
Besides the Story Group, would you say that you have complete freedom in what you create?
It’s the same as it always is, you know. So if I want to make a villain who dressed all in purple for High Republic, and they’re like “Well, we’ve got a purple bad guy coming up in something else, we don’t want them to look the same”. So The High Republic has different rules and freedom, because it’s a different time. But it’s all still Star Wars. It’s all still part of the same history. You know, the example I used before about the Roman Empire vs. the 1960s, that’s how it is really. The stories in The High Republic in time will eventually become the stories that we’ve already seen.
Does that make it easier to write for The High Republic or not necessarily?
No, not necessarily. It’s all Star Wars, you just need to have good Star Wars muscles to do it.
You mentioned having to keep secrets earlier. Still, it can’t hurt to ask ofcourse, could you tell us something about what’s in store for the future?
All I can do is talk about things that have been announced. So one thing that I’ve got upcoming and that I am excited about is a comic series about a character named Porter Engle, who was in Light of the Jedi and a bunch of the other original stories. He was about 300 years old, he was one of the great Jedi swordsmen.
Is that the one called The Blade?
Yeah! So The Blade begins in December 2022. So I’m very excited for that series because we get to go back to when he was young, when he was in his prime. And it explains sort-of, how he became the person that he is. So I’m very excited for that one, Marco Castiello is the artist and he’s doing some beautiful stuff.
So we’ve got that coming, and at New York Comic Con a few products were announced that I think are very cool: there’s a big anthology project that involves stories from all of the High Republic writers – I think ten or nine of us, maybe eleven? I’ve lost track of the amount of writers we have, but something like that – and then I’m actually doing a story with my daughter, a picture book, called Yoda and the Younglings which is also set in the High Republic era. So that was announced at New York Comic Con too. So that was really fun; to work with my daughter on a Star Wars project. And she’s loving it and having a good time!
One final question then: we have a High Republic bookclub in our community…
Oh great, that ’s cool!
Yeah we discuss High Republic material on a weekly and sometimes daily basis! However, there’s one question that we were asked to ask you: could you clarify whether the Hyperspace Rush – a period of time in which there was a rush to map out all the hyperspace routes – take place within the High Republic, or was that before this time period?
Ehm, I think it’s still, it’s just like anything else you know? I mean space is big! And so there’s always, there’s a time when – you know, when you’re mapping, you always go further out right? What I can say is that in Phase 2 the stories that we’re just starting to read, is a time that is less mapped and explored than in Phase 1. In particular with stuff like communication networks and infrastructure. Linking everything together is a big part of what happens during The High Republic.
Thank you so much for your time! We hope to see you at Celebration in London.
Ofcourse, I appreciate it! And I’ll be at Celebration for sure!