The prolific writer on some of his biggest moments in the galaxy far, far away and reaching a milestone with Star Wars #25.
Since Marvel returned to publishing Star Wars comics in 2015, few writers have made as great an impact on the galaxy far, far away as Charles Soule. The scribe took his first steps with 2016’s Lando, a five-issue miniseries that garnered significant acclaim. From there, Soule’s Star Wars star continued to rise, as he racked up credits including Poe Dameron, The Rise of Kylo Ren, War of the Bounty Hunters, and more, often with major contributions to lore; when it came time to shape what would become the Star Wars: The High Republic initiative, Soule was one of five writers recruited as an architect of its first stories. Today, Soule is at the helm of Marvel’s flagship Star Wars series, which is celebrating a milestone along with its writer: Star Wars #25, now available, is Soule’s 100th Star Wars comic. And it’s no ordinary issue. The comic includes four short stories that all see Soule return to characters from his prior runs -- Obi-Wan and Anakin, Darth Vader and Palpatine, Kylo Ren, and Poe Dameron -- while reuniting with the artists from each respective title. To mark the occasion, StarWars.com spoke with Soule about hitting the 100-issue mark, why Ben Solo bleeding his kyber crystal was so important, and why two stories from Star Wars #25 will be particularly “resonant.”
StarWars.com: To start, I want to say congratulations on the milestone. That's pretty amazing. What does it mean to you?
Charles Soule: When all of this occurred to me, it was really just late last year, probably. I was just, “I wonder how many of these things I've written,” and I just started adding it up because it was something that you do to procrastinate from doing the actual work of writing the issues. I realized how close I was to writing a hundred. Like, I was very, very close. I think, when I ran the numbers, it was like 97 or something like that. And so I was like, “Man, that's crazy.” And then I did some more procrastination slash research slash analysis, and looked to see what some of the other prominent Star Wars comic book writers had done. And I realized that, at least in the modern canon, no one else had gotten there.
It meant to me that I had kind of definitively done what I always wanted to do in Star Wars, which was to make a mark, contribute in some significant way to this thing that I'd loved since I was really little. And you don't have to write a hundred comics to do that. You can do that with one story. You can do that by being a fan. You can do that by loving Star Wars, however you want to love it. You don't have to do this thing. But for me, it just felt like a really solid, real milestone that made me feel really good. I mean, that's thousands of pages of material, thousands of pages of story that I got to create with some of the best artists in all of comics, and told stories that resonated with the fans, and have really given me the Star Wars career I have today, which is significant and goes beyond comics.
So it felt great, I guess, which is what I could have said very quickly [Laughs.] as opposed to going through that long spiel. Certain things happen in your career that bring things home for you in a way, right? That make it clear to you where you are or what you've achieved, or maybe how your work is received, that pull you out of the day to day, constant applied effort of making the stuff. And for me, this really was one of those, realizing that I had done or was about to do 100 of them.
StarWars.com: What would you say you've learned when it comes to writing Star Wars that you might not have known when you started?
Charles Soule: Honestly, I think writing Star Wars is like playing an instrument, and I use that metaphor a lot when applying it to just different things that you have to have a constant, sort of, applied effort. I've used that phrase twice in this interview, but like, it's about practice and working hard and incremental improvement. And so every story you tell is both a story in and of itself, but it's also a stepping stone to the next story you're going to tell. I think there are a lot of things about writing Star Wars as well that you don't get on project one. You have to figure out how to dance between the raindrops in the way that so much of the story has kind of already been told, and you're working within an established history. You can't tell the story of the death of Luke Skywalker, because we know the story of the death of Luke Skywalker, for example. It's a very particular muscle to be able to tell stories that matter in and among all the other stories that matter, with characters for whom we've seen many of the most significant events in their lives -- their birth to their death, in many cases. So, figuring out how to do that, that feels like a very Star Warsy muscle in particular. Like, telling good Star Wars stories within the existing Skywalker Saga stuff.
I also think it's been very informative in terms of working within a larger shared universe that keeps a consistent history, because there's a lot of what you'd call “stakeholders,” right? Lucasfilm Story Group has a very significant role in making sure that the stories that are told work within the larger stories of the galaxy. I would say the fans are stakeholders in a pretty significant way. Like, you're telling stories for a group of fans who love this thing as much as you do. And then of course, there's Marvel too, right? Because when you write comics for Star Wars, you're working with incredible people at Marvel, but you're also working with incredible people at Lucasfilm. And you're also working directly with an artist, and a colorist, and a letterer, and the creative team. And you're also kind of working with yourself and your own relationship with Star Wars. So that's a lot to navigate. It gives you some very valuable skills in terms of doing this particular job, but also jobs like it that might exist out in the world.
StarWars.com: I'd like to go through what I think are some of like the bigger moments in some of your comics, and I'll just say what they are, and you can just kind of share memories of coming up with the idea, pitching them to Lucasfilm, anything you want to talk about.
Charles Soule: Sure, sure.
StarWars.com: First, the introduction of Momin’s mask. Lando #3.
Charles Soule: There’s a Sith Lord, basically, in Star Wars, who has a long running backstory through several different projects that I've worked on. He popped up in the very first Star Wars project I ever did, which was Lando, my series with Alex Maleev and Paul Mounts. And then he's referenced other places; He has a very significant role in the Darth Vader series I did with Giuseppe Camuncoli and David Curiel. But I didn't know when I introduced Momin that he was going to be the person who designed Darth Vader’s castle. When I introduced Momin, Darth Vader's castle did not exist, except on like a [piece of] concept or at the Lucasfilm archives, you know?
So when I introduced Momin, that was in the very first Star Wars series that I ever did, which was the Lando miniseries. I had no idea if I was ever going to be able to tell anymore Star Wars stuff. So when I did that, I was like, “I'm going to tell the coolest things I can think of, because this might be my only chance to ever do it.” One of those things was a spooky, possessed mask of a Sith Lord that could do some crazy stuff. The extent of the crazy stuff it ended up being able to do, I didn't know that day, but I knew it felt cool. And I knew that I would dig it as a fan and other fans could hopefully dig it too. And, you know, I had no idea how significant that character was going to become to me, or for many fans, but I'm glad it did.
StarWars.com: Okay, next, the return of Qi’ra. War of the Bounty Hunters #1.
Charles Soule: This was a great one. I had the War of the Bounty Hunters idea as part of my original pitch document for the Star Wars series, the flagship Marvel Star Wars series, when I knew I was going to be taking it over. Because I wanted to build to a crossover that was going to hit right around when War of the Bounty Hunters hits in the series, which is like issue 13 or something like that. And I knew that Boba Fett was going to lose the carbonite-frozen Han solo, and everybody was going to fight over him, and all the different bounty hunters were going to go after him because, you know, he had all these different elements -- criminal elements, and the rebels, and even the Imperials, who wanted Solo. So it seemed like you had a great McGuffin, or an engine for a story there.
There was a creative summit at the Marvel offices back -- I'm going to say it was in 2019, maybe something like that. It was before the pandemic, certainly, when we were all talking about the idea. And I was like, “You know who would be the best person to have stolen Han is Qi’ra”. And so we started talking about the idea live in the room. [Lucasfilm’s] Matt Martin was there, [Lucasfilm Publishing creative director] and Mike Siglain was there, and a number of other Lucasfilm folks were there along with folks from Marvel, [editor] Mark Paniccia and so on. It just started to feel really good in the way that ideas sometimes do. And I wouldn't say it was undeniable at that point. Qi’ra was a character that had not appeared any place else other than, I think, a short story here or there. Like, very, very minor appearances since the Solo film.
I thought, I think a lot of people at Lucasfilm thought, that there was a lot of meat on the bone there as far as that character. We all started talking it through in the room. I didn't have it when I first came up with War of the Bounty Hunters. It was something that just organically evolved out of the process of thinking about and talking through that story, but I'm so glad it did. I think the reaction to Qi’ra's return was phenomenal. People were so excited. I was so excited. And the things that we've been able to do with her since then, I think it's awesome. She's all over this period of Star Wars now, set between Episode V and Episode VI. And to me, anyway, it doesn't feel forced. It feels like she's doing the things that she was set up to do back in the Solo film. You know, this feels like a very good culmination of her story, at least this chapter of it. So it's a lot of fun.
StarWars.com: Next, Vader's vision, which is essentially all of Darth Vader #25.
Charles Soule: Yeah. This one I did have more clearly set up from the beginning. One of the things that was kind of fun about the Vader book was that I was told the project was a 25-issue project, just like Kieron Gillen’s run before mine. So I knew that I had a chunk of time that I could use to accomplish the goal that I had set for myself with that series, which is that “no to yes” thing I've talked about in other interviews. Vader goes from, “No, I will not accept this new reality that I'm in. I don't believe you that my wife can't be returned to me, all these things. I'm going to fight, fight, fight,” do everything Vader does. And then at the end of the series, his last word is “yes.” He's accepted that this is who he is now. To bring up something that just appeared in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, he has killed Anakin.
You have that happening over the course of the series in a lot of different ways. The sort of slow murder that he does of Anakin Skywalker and, in the end, I knew that he needed to confront himself in a way that was very direct. Vader doesn't have an internal monologue because, for me anyway, the way I was writing that series, I didn't want to have caption boxes with like, “This is what Vader's thinking about at this particular moment.” It’s better if you're always a little removed from him. There's a reason Vader wears a mask. This was a way for him to go into direct dialogue with the next version of himself, right? It was the dark side giving him the opportunity to really let go of his past, to see what was ahead for him, to come to terms with the fact that Padmé was gone forever. Like, the thing that he had become was not something that Padmé would even want anymore.
Sometimes, these big issues, the ones that people talk about later -- like, Vader 18's another one, Star Wars 18’s another one -- they just sort of happen. I just start and then I just go and it works. I do remember there was an element in the original script for Darth Vader 25 -- there were all these quotes, like Vader is hearing words throughout the issue. They were lines from, basically, Star Wars films, and other media that had been repurposed. Like, at one point he hears “Let the past die, kill it if you have to,” he hears “I am your father,” he hears these lines. And the original version of that was for those to appear integrated into the backgrounds of the art, like a mountain side might have the words carved into it, that kind of thing. And we kicked it around, Giuseppe Camuncoli and myself, trying to find a way that it would work without getting in the way of the things that Vader actually needed to physically do in the panels. And we couldn't quite get there. So we used caption boxes, which look amazing, I think the issue came out perfectly well, but that's one of those ideas that, you know, it evolved throughout the course of the production of that issue. But I remember we all spent a lot of time on it and we all knew how important it was. I think the results on that really speak for themselves.
StarWars.com: I've always been a fan of the prequels and that issue, and your run as a whole, seemed to really embrace them. Was that on your mind at all as you were writing it?
Charles Soule: I like all of Star Wars. There is not a Star Wars thing that I don't like and, you know, sometimes you have to say, or I have to be like, “Okay, well, there's some things that are some creative choices here that maybe I wouldn't have made if I was doing this,” but there's also all this amazing stuff that is incredible. And the prequels are a great example of that. You can single out certain elements of them that kind of make them of their time or make them idiosyncratic, because they're expressing certain creators’ views or whatever was going on when those were being made. But they're still awesome. They're super, super cool. And more importantly, they happened, and whether it's the way you would've done it or the way you wanted to see it, the minute you start treating every piece of Star Wars storytelling as part of the history, then it doesn't matter whether you liked it or not. It happened. There are elements of real-world history I don't particularly like, but they happened. And so when you're telling a story, you have to incorporate those things, and through the lens of history we look at certain events differently. We look at the way things happen with the lens of hindsight in a different way. And I always thought there was a lot of cool stuff to be taken from the journey of Anakin Skywalker to become Darth Vader. And because the Vader series was directly connected to that, I was able to just pick the elements that I liked and build new stories from them, which is what I think good Star Wars storytellers do. I think we saw a lot of the same stuff in Obi-Wan Kenobi. There’s a reason that all of that landed as well as it did, whether you're talking about the Vader series or Obi-Wan Kenobi. And it's because the core story of the prequels is amazing. It's this beautiful, epic tragedy. It's great.
StarWars.com: Kylo Ren bleeding his kyber crystal. Rise of Kylo Ren #4.
Charles Soule: Yeah, that was a big one too. Four issues is not a huge amount of time to tell a story like that. I think Rise of Kylo Ren, Will [Sliney] and I could have made that series go on longer, for sure, and just flesh out some of the stuff. I think I pitched an issue between three and four, like more of the newly-minted Ben Solo Knight of Ren going around with them for a little bit. And ultimately, because of publishing schedules and various reasons, we stuck with four. There's a version of doing this job when you have all this space in the world, you have an infinite page count, like on a creator-owned series or something like that. And then there's when you're working in licensed properties or properties that have to hit their deadlines, and so the artists have to get the work done, and you have 20 pages and that is it. And you become very economical about trying to figure out the moments that will get the story across with the smallest amount of page count. And you choose moments that are very evocative for the reader. So like, one panel can provide you the mental equivalent of like 20 pages of storytelling. But there are some beats, even in a short series that you cannot stint on. You can't ignore them. They're too big. They need the space. And there are a lot of elements, particularly in Kylo Ren 4, that needed to be there. And him really, really becoming the person that he becomes -- Ben Solo really lets go of Ben Solo and becomes Kylo Ren in that issue [is one of them]. To me, there wasn't much of a better idea to do that than through the metaphor of him bleeding his crystal. Because when you take a kyber crystal and you make it red, what's actually happening is you are pouring all of your own pain and anger and fear into it. And then like, the living Force energy of the kyber crystal, its frequency changes. It's corrupted, almost. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. I'm going to say it was corrupted. It's so traumatized by all of that anger and pain and fear and rage that it literally turns from whatever color it originally is -- blue, in Ben's case -- to red.
The whole series, up to that point, was giving you all the reasons for Ben's rage and pain and fear. You saw, on the page, all the things he was angry about, all the things he was afraid of, all the reasons he had all of this inside him. And then it was a very visceral way to dump all of that out, to externalize all of that and put it someplace -- into the weapon that he's then going to use to fight and murder and kill and do all the terrible things Kylo Ren does. So, I knew that bit had to be there. There were some other parts I considered, like I considered stuff with the mask. I considered stuff with other things that Kylo Ren could possibly have done. But to me, bleeding the crystal was the one that was going to get the most kind of character bang for your buck. And Will drew the hell out of it. I think it worked really well.
StarWars.com: And finally, “Beat his ass, Chewbacca,” from War of the Bounty Hunters #3.
Charles Soule: [Laughs.] There's a reason I write Lando Calrissian as much as I do. He was the first character I ever wrote in Star Wars. I think Lando is just spectacular. The way that he stands out is utterly unique in Star Wars to me. Billy Dee Williams, Donald Glover, the, the many, many, many print and comics [appearances], he is always super, super cool. And in War of the Bounty Hunters, I had this opportunity to feature him and Chewbacca in a way that I hadn't really -- I mean, I kind of had written stuff like that, but when you see them in War of the Bounty Hunters, which is set after Empire Strikes Back when nobody really trusts Lando and he has betrayed the rebels, he's building his reputation up a little bit.
I think you need these moments where you're like, “Oh yeah, Lando is awesome.” I don't know, I was sure they would say no to that line. “Beat his ass, Chewbacca,” I mean, it's perfect. It's what Lando Calrissian would say. It doesn’t necessarily mean I was sure it would fly in a Star Wars comic published by Marvel in 2021. But they saw the possibilities in “Beat his ass, Chewbacca,” and now it is permanently enshrined in Star Wars canon, and I see it pretty often on Twitter as a little meme, which makes me happy. It does feel like, yeah, you could write Kylo Ren bleeding his crystal, you can write Darth Vader seeing a vision of Padmé, whatever, like, these deep [sequences]. But Star Wars works because it's not just that stuff. It's also sometimes “Beat his ass, Chewbacca.” And being able to make a moment with, hell, Obi-Wan and Anakin, and having, a deep, heartfelt conversation work, and also having an opportunity to make “Beat his ass, Chewbacca,” work -- that's a career I can be proud of in Star Wars.
StarWars.com: I got to read Star Wars #25, your 100th issue. I really enjoyed the format of it and that you got to revisit some of the characters and series from your past. What was that experience like for you?
Charles Soule: I had the idea, which this is often the case with these things. Like, “That's going to be so cool.” And then, you know, at some point down the road, I'm like, “Oh man, now I actually have to do it.” And the thing that I have to do has to live up to being as cool as the version that I saw in my head when I had the idea and pitched it in the first place. Star Wars 25 is a perfect, perfect example of that, because my pitch was, “Hey, this is my 100th script. I should do something really cool.” And the coolest thing I could think of would be to revisit some of the notable series that I did and some of the notable characters that I've worked on with those creative teams. Let's get the band back together and do all these things.After some approvals and some [conversation around], “Wow, can we really juggle all the balls that need to be juggled here to make this work,” it looked like it would. And so then it's like, “Okay, I'm going to write a new Darth Vader story with Giuseppe Camuncoli as a little extra.” If you're going to talk about like, the jewels in my Star Wars crown, that Darth Vader series is one of them, I think, for sure. And the idea that I'm going to add a little bit to it and maybe ruin it, you know, who knows? Those thoughts were definitely going through my mind when I was working on all of these things, but it's just like anything else. You sit down with the notebook and you start thinking, “Okay, what are the moments I want to see?” Like, what are the things that the fans are going to want to see? What are the beats that would be interesting?
And then you start thinking, what would be the stories that would use the skill sets of the artists the best? What would be the neatest juxtaposition, when now you have a story with four stories within it, and that should have some sort of a narrative too, right? Because the issue begins with the Obi-Wan and Anakin story. Then you get the Vader story, then you get the Kylo Ren story, and then you get the Poe story. And there's a reason those go in that order, which I think, hopefully, will be apparent when you read it.
I wouldn't have wanted to tell this story with one artist drawing all of it. And I think it's very meaningful to me that as many people came back as they did, whether it was Will Sliney drawing the Kylo story or Steve McNiven doing that incredible cover that he did. When the people that you worked with who are incredibly successful, incredibly busy, are willing to adjust their schedule to come back and work with you again, to tell a story together again, to celebrate the work you did before, it feels good beyond just the creative element. It feels like you did a good job, not just with the stories before, but with the relationship you made with those artists and those teams. This is a very feel-good project for me. No doubt about it.
StarWars.com: I don't want to spoil anything from it, but I would say that my favorite story was “The Lesson,” which is really kind of divided into two parts. It follows two sparring matches, one between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and one between Palpatine and Vader. It felt really timely and emotional considering what we saw in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. Could you talk about coming up with the framework for those stories, and then what you felt watching Obi-Wan Kenobi, knowing that this issue was coming out?
Charles Soule: “The Lesson” is the title for both of the first two stories in the volume. This is a little spoilery, but they're both built around the idea of a lightsaber lesson, and the first one is Obi-Wan and Anakin, which is set between Episode I and II. So you have Anakin having a sparring lesson with Obi-Wan, which is kind of like what we saw at the beginning of episode three of the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. Obviously, Anakin's much younger here, but it's there. And then in the Vader story, which is also titled “The Lesson,” you have a lesson between Palpatine and Vader, and also built around the idea of lightsaber sparring and the way that you fight.
For me, being able to juxtapose Anakin and Vader so directly, and also Obi-Wan and Palpatine as, really, Vader slash Anakin's two masters -- the primary teachers who taught him to be who he was -- that seemed like an opportunity that was too good to pass up, creatively. And then seeing how the Obi-Wan Kenobi show -- like, when I first saw that scene at the start of episode three, I was like, “Oh man, did my story get blown outta the water by what was done here?” But it isn’t. All of these stories complement each other in a really good way, I think. And I think that when readers see the way “The Lesson” parts one and two, basically, plays out, I think it's just going to feel very much like, resonant, I think, would be the word I would say. I think people will like, it. It feels like the kind of stuff I would dig if I hadn't written it. I just can't wait for it to come out and have people tell me what they think, as they will.
StarWars.com: I really enjoyed it. Just one last question. Are you ready for another 100 issues?
Charles Soule: [Laughs.] You know, I'm coming up on 125 already. There's a lot of Star Wars storytelling to come from me, for better or for worse. Obviously, I love telling stories for Star Wars in the comic space. It's what's given me all the opportunities that I've had so far. It's enabled me to connect with so many fans. It's built my career into what it is, really, my work in Star Wars comics. So I am absolutely ready to get there.
I already know what some of those stories are going to be. Like, there's some stuff that hasn't been announced yet that you guys will be hearing about that will get me closer to that milestone too. I'm thinking about it and it just makes me excited, because comics is such a vibrant space in Star Wars storytelling. There's so much going on. You get to tell so many cool stories that couldn't be told other ways. I love it. I would be thrilled if I had the opportunity to go to 200. At this point, I'm more worried about the one that's due next week, though.