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Domo and Tuzi Yeye Christmas Ride

I’d like to share a passage from Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm with you. This passage was brought to my attention by my lovely wife. She’s a better reader than me for several reasons. One reason is that I’ve resigned myself to primarily reading books with pictures in them, but that’s a relatively new thing. The reason that impresses me the most is that she’s well-read in two languages. Her decision to read The Ice Storm follows in the foot steps of Li Ang, another Chinese genius who reads Western literature. You may remember than Li Ang directed the film adaptation of the book. It featured the acting talents of Sigourney Weaver and does not resemble that abomination Avatar. My wife’s been reading this book for the past few days and keeps telling me that she finally understands the American Suburbs and why I’m fucked up.

Anyway, here’s the passage:

Sure, Paul had tried DC Comics. He had read Batman and Justice League of America, and he had followed some of the other Marvel titles too: Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, and X-Men and especially those titles that were F.F. spin-offs, The Silver Surfer and The Sub-Mariner. He had tried them all. He had ranged far and wide. But he kept coming back to the F.F. Batman was cool: his skills were not supernatural. He was just smart and rich. Superman was a moral force. The Hulk had hubris. Silver Surfer was definitely created by a mind on psychedelics. Thor was the comic you read if you wanted to work for one of those touring Renaissance festivals, if you wanted to wear a shirt that was called a blouse.

So why the Fantastic Four? First of all, Paul couldn’t shake the uncanny coincidence that his father had the same first name as Benjamin Grimm, the Thing. When he was younger, he actually thought of his father as the Thing: chunky, homely, self-pitying. When Paul was a kid, his dad raged around his house like a pachyderm taking down underbrush. His father would find a damp towel clumped on the bathroom floor and sprint to Paul’s room to accuse him. His father would lay in wait for the tiniest noise, the scantest footfall, and then he would howl from the bottom of the stairs. But his dad was always coming around to apologize, too. He couldn’t terrorize with real commitment. He was like the Thing. He hated the world, hated mankind, but loved people, loved kids and dogs.

And his mother was the Invisible Girl. Although, on the other hand, sometimes she was like Crystal, the Elemental, the prophetess, a seer. And sometimes his dad was Reed Richards, the elastic scientist. And sometimes Paul himself was Be Grimm, and sometimes he was Peter Parker, a.k.a. the Spider-Man. These models never worked exactly. Still, the F.F., with all their mistakes and allegiances, their infighting and dependability, told some true tale about family. When Paul started reading these books, the corny melodram of New Canaan lost its sting.

Panda ornament

The pictures are from our tree. If you want to look at more of our ornaments, I suggest you click here and enjoy some of the ways the Christmas spirit manifested in our apartment. If you want to make us an ornament, that would be pretty cool.

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2013 is turning out to be a busy year for Charles Soule. Debuting his creator-owned series Strange Attractors and his first issues on two of my personal favorite DC properties Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns, Mr. Soule is one of the reason’s your local comic rack suddenly got so much more exciting. While I’ve enjoyed the Green Lantern run under the reign of Geoff Johns, DC has picked some incredible creative teams to take over the Green Lanterns, bringing up some of independent comics’ most innovative talent including Mr. Soule.

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INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES SOULE

WAYNEXIAOLONG: First of all, congratulations on being chosen to write two of what I consider to be DC’s best titles right now, Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns. These two titles are pretty different from each other. Can we expect to see any overlap between the two books?

CHARLES SOULE: Well, you said it yourself – these two titles are quite different from each other.  The fantasy/horror tone of Swamp Thing doesn’t obviously mesh with the sci-fi space opera of Red Lanterns, but it’s comics, so never say never.  In the short term, I’m trying to do a bunch of world-building in each title, to really give them their own identity.  Once that’s established, though, why not? No specific plans, but one of the great joys of working in a big shared universe is actually sharing the universe.  We’ll see where it goes.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: From your comics and your blog, you demonstrate a fiercely independent spirit, reminiscent of grassroots activists and punk rockers. Are you having any trouble reconciling that spirit with the fact that you are now working for the Man?

CHARLES SOULE: Ha! Creating comics is hardly the same as slaving away over a set of accounts ledgers.  My experience with writing company-owned characters has been remarkably open so far, to be honest.  I think DC (and any other comics publisher) just wants fantastic stories that push things in interesting directions.  There are certainly bullet points to be hit in any story, and you can’t really burn a franchise to the ground, but since that’s not something I particularly want to do, it’s all good.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Like you, I am an historian and I’m thrilled whenever someone with a strong sense of history translates that into comics. Recently, fans like myself have been blessed with far out works like 68, The Manhattan Projects, and your brilliant 27 that mess with historical conventions to reveal some invisible cracks in the narratives we use to comfort ourselves.  Likewise, the past twenty years have shown a significant rise in the study of environmental elements of social history. What kind of research have you done in preparation for writing Swamp Thing?

CHARLES SOULE: A fair amount – I like to immerse myself in whatever subject I’m writing about, just as a matter of course.  If you do enough homework, you get to the point where cool details rise to the surface while you’re scripting in a completely organic way.  I’ve also been a big history guy for ages, and I really enjoy integrating that into my stories.  Swamp Thing in particular is a great character for that, because part of his established history is that there have been Swamp Things on earth for billions of years, covering all of recorded history.  So, I can delve into any period I like.  In  Swamp Thing 21, we see the Avatar who was active in the 13th Century, and the upcoming Annual will cover a huge swath of Swamp Thing history. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing that title.

As far as non-historical reference goes, I took a trip down to New Orleans earlier this year and went out into the swamps in the Atchafalaya Basin region.  I checked out Houma, LA – which is the traditional “home” of old Swampy.  I just immersed myself as much as I could, so I could write about the region with a little authority.  Plus, I got to hang out in New Orleans a bit, which wasn’t half bad either.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: You’ve studied Chinese history and culture. How do you feel about how China has been represented in the New 52?

CHARLES SOULE: That’s a good question.  One of my favorite character groups in the DCU is the Great Ten – the China-based superhero team.  I know a bit has been done with them so far, but it would be fun to see them brought out in a more significant way.  I actually have a story idea for Accomplished Perfect Physician that it would be fun to write up one of these days.  Put it in the stack with that Swamp Thing/Red Lanterns crossover idea – we’ll see!

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Which figure in Chinese history do you think a Green Lantern ring would most likely have chosen?

CHARLES SOULE: This might be a bit inside baseball (or inside Chinese history), but I think Zhu Yuanzhang, aka the Hongwu Emperor.  He’s the guy who started out as a Chinese peasant during the latter years of the Yuan Dynasty (which was when the Mongols – guys like Genghis Khan – were running China).  He ended up fronting a revolution against the Yuan, and, eventually, taking over the whole country and founding the Ming Dynasty.  Talk about willpower.  I actually shudder to think of what the world would look like today if that guy had gotten his hands on a ring. He did plenty with nothing other than what he was born with.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Which figure in human history do you think would be most justified in putting on a Red Lantern ring?

CHARLES SOULE: Red rings are given to people who have experienced great rage. You know who’s always seemed incredibly ticked off about just about everything? John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.  Harlan Ellison, too – neither one of those guys seems to get through a day without flipping out about something or other.  I realize you might have been looking for someone more like Boudicca (the revenge-crazy Celtic queen who whipped through Roman Britain like a well-sharpened scythe), but hey, there’s plenty of room in the Reds for everyone.

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