Easily some of the biggest comic news to come out of San Diego Comic-Con this year has to be Marvel's announcement of their new Star Wars titles at the 'Cup O' Joe' panel.
Let’s get a little backstory first. Marvel originally published Star Wars comics in the ’70s, in a run full of great nostalgic moments for any fan of the series. Eventually, the rights to Star Wars shifted and Dark Horse became the sole publisher of Star Wars comics, where they developed an incredible line of comics that took the Expanded Universe of the novels and ran with it in a big way. If you’ve read a great Star Wars comic in the last 10 years, it came from Dark Horse.
When Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney in 2012, the comic rights were not renewed with Dark Horse, giving the studio that helped make Star Wars comics the respected medium they are today a deadline to their monumental run in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Since Disney also owned Marvel Comics, the comics right reverted back to the parent company, which meant Marvel would once again be sharing the comic stories of Star Wars, though without the Expanded Universe to draw from.
The announcement of Marvel’s new slate of Star Wars titles came at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and revealed two ongoing and one limited series with some fantastic creators that managed to get us pretty hyped for the new line.
Jason Aaron and John Cassaday will be taking on the adventures of the main cast of the Rebel Alliance: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and of course, C-3PO and R2-D2. Set in the time between Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, the series will follow our heroes as they not only try to take out the Empire following the destruction of the Death Star, but also form their tight bonds with each other that are so well defined in Episode V.
Jason Aaron spoke with ComicBookResources on his love for the franchise, and creating his own little part of the Star Wars universe:
Jason Aaron: Now you know why I had to leave ”Amazing X-Men” so suddenly. [Laughs] There was a week several months back where my entire schedule that had been laid out for the year sort of blew up, but, of course saying no was never an option. As soon as Axel [Alonso, Marvel's editor-in-chief] called me up and said “Star Wars” I was in.
Like most everybody else my age, I grew up a huge Star Wars fan. I still remember seeing the original trilogy in its first go around, I still have my original Darth Vader action figure case, and I still have all my figures. It was not an opportunity that I saw coming. It was not what I envisioned doing this year, but it was certainly a very pleasant surprise.
CBR: In “Star Wars” you’re digging into the heroes of the Rebel Alliance in the aftermath of a huge victory, the destruction of the first Death Star. What do you find most interesting about Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie during this time period?
What’s great about this time period is that all the characters are kind of on the table. Of course this is still early on and these people have pretty much just met each and just come together. So they’re still finding their place within this group and sort of figuring out their relationships with each other.
Then there’s the fact that when you look at the gap between Episode IV and Episode V there’s some pretty major beats that happen off screen. So this gives up the opportunity to grab those beats and lay them down as part of the same canon as the movies.
Lucasfilm changed the nature of their tie-ins which means we’re getting to do brand new versions of those big moments like Luke Skywalker’s quest to find answers about his father and learn what it means to be a Jedi, and Darth Vader’s pursuit of whoever it was that blew up the Death Star, which leads to him hearing that name Skywalker for the first time.
There’s quite a huge gap between those two movies so I think we can do a lot of stories before we get up to date with “Empire Strikes Back.” I’m going to grab all the major beats that Lucasfilm will let us grab and explore them.
Let’s move from story and characters to the work being done by your collaborator, artist John Cassaday. What’s it like working with John on a “Star Wars” book?
First off, he’s the world’s biggest “Star Wars” fan, which I didn’t know. When we first got this job and first started talking about it we got to go out to San Francisco and have meetings with Lucasfilm. As part of that we got to go out to the Skywalker Ranch and get a tour of the archives. So we’re all walking through these shelves piled with the actual blasters, lightsabers and the real Yoda. It was pretty much everything, which was amazing.
In that group of people which includes me, Kieron, John, and several people from editorial, nobody was a bigger “Star Wars” geek than Cassaday. He seemed to recognize more of the blasters, lightsabers, and ships than anybody else. He was definitely geeking out.
So it’s clear that he’s a huge “Star Wars” fan. He’s been incredibly excited about this from the get-go. He’s very into it and has a lot of ideas of his own on how this should be and what we should do. I’ve seen the pages and the cover he’s turned in and you can see that passion in them. His work looks amazing.
Star Wars: Darth Vader
Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca will be examining the Imperial side of the same time period by following Darth Vader as he leads the Empire following the destruction of its greatest weapon. This title should be an interesting look at Vader’s defeat and attempt to retain control of the Empire as the Rebel Alliance presses their advantage.
Kieron Gillen sat down with CBR to discuss the title, the Dark Side, and his take on Darth Vader:
Kieron Gillen: … It’s unlike anything I’ve done before and it’s such an enormous thing for Marvel and Lucasfilm. Also, part of it was I thought I could really kill on that book. Putting aside Darth Vader being one of the greatest villains of all time, the Star Wars mythos, and the very interesting time period when the story is set I’ve wanted to write a villain book forever. I’ve thrown the idea around a few times and if anyone has read my stories they know I tend to spend a lot of time with my villains.
So all of those things came together and it was like, “Yes! This is great! I get to do the story of Darth Vader from the end of the first “Star Wars” film to the start of ” The Empire Strikes Back!” It’s a big story too. It’s not just that I want to write Darth Vader. It’s that I get to write this story of Darth Vader and it’s all in canon. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, this is what happened.
CBR: Let’s talk a little bit about your sense of the title character. “Star Wars: Darth Vader” begins after the end of the “A New Hope” film and the destruction of the first Death Star. What do you find most interesting about Darth Vader during this time period?
So when me, Jason [Aaron, writer of Marvel's "Star Wars" series], and Jordan [D. White, the editor] were going over the period one of the most amazing things was all the stuff that happens between the movies. There’s just so much meat on the bone. We never know when Darth learns that Luke Skywalker is Luke Skywalker. Anyone who has seen the three prequels know there’s a tremendous amount of emotional weight on that scene. We also never really see Luke learn to be a Jedi. That journey is sort of passed over.
Those are some of the real obvious ones, but there’s quite a lot more in there. And for me specifically, the problem with a villain story is you need an actual story to make it compelling because Darth going around and just being a victorious force of evil is pretty tedious. You need an antagonist; ideally antagonists. You need a problem for him to overcome. You essentially need a narrative arc.
So at the end of the first “Star Wars” film he’s the sole survivor of the greatest military disaster of all time. And more importantly he let the Rebels escape with the plans! He chose to let them escape with the plans. There are lots of people to blame for the Death Star. It’s not like it’s just Darth’s fault, but he certainly foots some of the blame.
Then the next time we see him in “Empire” he’s more powerful than ever. He treats people in “Empire” with more contempt than he treats them in “A New Hope.” So something happens between those two films. There is the question of what the destruction of the Death Star actually created. So this story is basically the fall and rise of Darth Vader and all the things that happen along the way. That’s why it interests me.
When I talk about this I tend to use the film “The Godfather” as a reference in terms of how it worked and that it featured a villain protagonist who we’re still interested in. The second reference I use is “House of Cards.” This is a man who is an incredibly powerful member of an organization and he feels he is being slighted. This is him choosing and being forced to do things he maybe wouldn’t have done originally and to rebuild and change his power situation.
So basically Darth starts our story in relatively low standings and he’s troubled by some lingering questions from our inciting incident like who was that guy who blew up the Death Star? Why the hell did Obi Wan come back? That’s kind of where I see him at the start, and despite the fact that we know the ending in some ways, we know Darth is around in “Empire,” this is still compelling. It’s the same reason why anyone would be interested in the prequels; that question of how did they get from A to B?
The story feels classical and almost operatic. Darth is an operatic character. He’s got a level of grandeur to him and that’s something you don’t want to lose. That’s how I see Darth Vader.
Let’s move from characters and story to the artists providing the interior and cover art for “Star Wars: Darth Vader,” Salvador Larroca and Adi Granov. What do you feel they bring to the book as artists?
They’re both amazing, but one of the secrets about comic art is that artists do their best work when they are passionately engaged with a project; if they really care, and the formative experiences of many of the members of this generation of comic book creators revolve around “Star Wars.” When we met with Lucasfilm, Axel [Alonso, Marvel Comics' editor-in-chief] talked about the length of the queues when his dad took him to see “Star Wars.” And “Empire” was the first film I ever saw at the cinema.
We’re kind of dealing with a founding myth here and when you’re seeing Salva and Adi’s art you can see the love there. You can see them thinking, “Wow! This is a chance to do this and really go for it!” That’s one of the things that elevates the book, not that it needs much elevation. It’s one of those things that I think people can really tell. Adi’s Darth cover is one of the best pieces he’s ever done as far as I’m concerned, and I’m a person who loves Adi.
In terms of more general stylistic things they both have that larger cinematic feel as in they’re both entirely capable of giving something that feels like “Star Wars,” and as I said earlier that’s kind of the point of the thing. We want this to be as Star Wars-ian as we can possibly make it with everything that made us love Star Wars in it, and at the same time, giving entirely new things and playing with the concepts in interesting and novel ways. That’s the high concept.
Star Wars: Princess Leia
Mark Waid and Terry Dodson will be bringing us a 5-issue mini series focusing on Princess Leia Organa, also set after the Battle of Yavin. The series will follow Leia as she deals with the reality of her home planet of Alderaan’s destruction, and even pits her against a new arch-nemesis for this solo mission.
Mark Waid discussed Star Wars: Princess Leia with CBR, and his excitement on working with the character:
Mark Waid: This is a fantastic opportunity. I love getting the chance to work on iconic pop-culture characters, and this is the jackpot.
CBR: More specifically, how interesting of a lead protagonist is Princess Leia to you? Obviously, she’s one of the most iconic female characters in genre history — and there’s ultimately only so much screen time for her in the first three movies (and in a lot of it she’s captured or otherwise rendered inactive). How much potential did you see in telling her further stories?
Infinite. She’s the one I feel most kinship with and the one who, to me, seems most layered and most rich with potential. Of the Episode IV characters, who’s lost more than she has?
Speaking of that loss, when reading the description this story, it hit on something that’s kind of a gaping hole in the original movies: Leia dealing with her whole planet being destroyed. Was that something you gravitated towards immediately?
Pretty quickly, yes. I always come to characters the same way: by asking myself what they want, what they’ve lost, what drives them to achieve. With Leia, there was just no screen time in Episode IV to deal with the emotions she must feel after having lost her entire world. This story begins only a short time after the end of the ceremony at the end of Episode IV as her adrenaline subsides and she’s forced to ask herself, “What next?”
But, presumably the series won’t be just her dealing with the loss of Alderaan. What can you say about the mission she’s on in this miniseries?
All I can tell you without giving too much away is that she has to choose between being the Princess of nothing or being the caretaker and leader of her entire planet’s heritage and its survivors. You can probably guess which path she chooses, but it’s not an easy one — she has no resources now, no wealth, no political power, nothing.
Terry Dodson is illustrating this book. What has you excited about collaborating with him on this? In what ways do you see his talents as well-suited for the story — and the Star Wars world?
Terry and I have worked a time or two in the past on smaller one-shot projects, but I’ve been waiting for a long time to line up something with him that’s more substantive. Not only can he draw insane action sequences, but his characters are so human that there’s no range of emotions, no tones, that this story can’t strike.
You can read more of each interview at the links provided for more on the stories coming from this new era of Star Wars comic books. We couldn’t be more excited to see what direction these fantastic creators take some of our favorite iconic characters.
What do you think of the new Marvel Star Wars lineup? Are you excited to see the new titles or still upset Dark Horse is out of the SW game? Sound off in the comments below or on the Geek Facebook page and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram to experience SDCC 2014 along with the rest of our San Diego Comic-Con coverage.