Charles Soule is an American comic book writer/musician/attorney. He is best known for writing She-Hulk, Death of Wolverine, and various Star Wars titles for Marvel. Ryan Browne is a 40,000 pound endangered silver-back gorilla. Their new collaboaration Curse Words launched in January at Image Comics.
Tim: Issue one uses a montage to get to know Wizord. It's the most effective use of a montage I've seen used in a comic. How did that idea come up and how closely did you work together to make it work?
Charles: Montages are very effective ways to reduce page count. Our initial version of issue one of Curse Words was, I think, 48 pages long. It was incredibly long. We were like "It's going to be the best number one issue of all time. Then we started to realize what it would cost to produce and draw the art. We needed to cut this down. That's really all it was. So a montage is just about making sure we can get through a lot of important material in a relatively small number of pages. That particular montage went through several iterations of scripting it. Ryan drew it. He knew what we were trying to get. I remember we had a lot of conversations about it. Then when I had the images on the screen, it was about what do I put on top of it to really convey what's going on. The text boxes were one of the last things we did on that issue.
Ryan: Yeah. That montage was one of the more organic parts of issue one. Originally, it was just kind of a list of ideas. We see Wizord at the United Nations. We see Wizord saving a child. Etcetera. I kind of figured out how to put it in an order and balance it out. I added some of my own details and then it went back to Charles. He wrote all the narration. Originally, I just drew all the scenes. And Charles knew he wanted to do the Twitter chat over the top of it, but he didn't know what it was gonna be. We wrote that to kinda fit the space afterwards. The #teammargaret jokes are some of people's favorites. It worked out well.
Tim: What difficulties present themselves doing a montage in sequential art?
Ryan: All the difficulties. It's very, very hard. Especially doing it as a two-page spread. Two-page spreads are hard in general, in terms of figuring out how to organize information. But, with doing a montage, it takes a lot of invention. When I'm drawing a scene, usually in the first panel of the scene, I have to really think a lot about what would be in that environment to make it believable. When you do a montage, there's one panel that he's in a nightclub seeing a band. I have to do a lot of thinking to set up the scene in every single panel, instead of setting up the scene for three or four pages.
Tim: Is it difficult to not resort to a two-page spread on a more regular basis?
Ryan: Well, we're doing a lot of them. Every issue has a two-page spread that has the Curse Words title in it as the title card. Issue three has six-pages worth, so it has three spreads in it. Issue four has I think two spreads in it. Issue two has three spreads in it. They happen a lot. Those are always Charles' idea. He kinda sets up how he wants to do that. But, yeah. They're harder to draw because the paper is larger. It's harder to see the whole thing all together, so you have to do a lot of stepping back from the paper in order to see how it works and how it reads. The consideration of the two-page spread is you always have to figure out the way for someone to read across the scene onto the next page without reading straight down. Design-wise, they're not my favorite thing to do. But I think they are to give emphasis to certain scenes. Especially the two-page spreads that we do in issue two and issue three are really intense moments. I think Charles is really good at figuring out when we should play that spread card, as it were, to really put an emphasis on that scene.
Charles: Play that spread card!
Tim: Charles, you're not typically known as a comedy writer. Since you're both writers, how closely do you two work together on scripting.
Charles: I write the scripts. I write full scripts. Let's be very clear about that. Ryan has no input whatsoever. He does what he's told and that's how I like it.
Ryan: (Laughs.) We've done a lot of spit-balling with the original idea and figuring out the world. Charles has conversations with me where he tells me what is going to happen in the next issue. Sometimes, I give some input. Sometimes, I don't really need to. Then, he delivers the full script. It's usually pretty perfect, but I do add panels from time to time, just for story beats that I think are important or if we need to spend longer on part of the action. When I give it back to him, he does really intense script revisions based on the lettering pass. The letters come back and he makes alters the lettering to the revisions or additions I've made to make it all work together. I would say we're co-creators, but he's definitely the writer.
Charles: I like this interviewing process. I just drop a gag and then you talk for five minutes.
Ryan: There you go.
Tim: The koala thing is very tongue-in-cheek. Originally, Margaret is a rat, but changes to a koala because humans love them. Why choose a koala and not a sloth or other cute, but unobtainable, animal?
Charles: Well, sloths don't have a ton of utility. When I was figuring out what she was gonna be, I wanted a character that could be anthropomorphic in a way, that would be useful to action sequences. By action sequences, I mean something as minor as having a cup of coffee. So a koala seemed obvious. You get a lot with a koala. People have this sense of them as cute, adorable creatures. Even though, as Ryan and I have discovered, doing YouTube research, they're not cute, adorable creatures. They scream in a horrible way.
Ryan: Oh, that screaming video.
Charles: Their hands are misshapen and strange because they have two thumbs. Well, I guess a lot of creatures have two thumbs. They have four thumbs. But, even though that's how they are in real life, this is a book this is an amazing fantasy world where koalas can be as adorable as you want. So Margaret is one of the central characters of the story. There's a lot going on with her. If you look at the way her relationship develops with Wizord, clearly they've known each other for a very long time. She can speak like a human being. As we've seen the development of the world bit by bit, by which I mean the H O L E, which is the sort of magical place Wizord comes from, there are other talking animal-hybrid creatures there. Which, partly happened because that's all Ryan likes to draw, so it felt unfair not to give him some. But, Margaret is unique in some way. She doesn't seem like all of the other animal-people, I guess. I look forward to showing you guys what her deal is down the road.
Tim: Do you know why koalas are called koala bears when koalas are marsupials?
Charles: I don't know.
Ryan: They're also called drop bears. Because they drop on people?
Charles: I think it's because whoever saw them for the first time was like, "That's a weird, little bear." (Laughs.) That was a great answer.
Tim: What does a koala's diet consist of?
Ryan: There's a eucalyptus gag in issue three.
Charles: Keep an eye out for the eucalyptus gag.