Marvel's 'Star Wars' Comic Book Creators Talk About Their New Series
Jason Aaron, Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen and more discuss their work on 2015's "Star Wars," "Darth Vader" and "Princess Leia."
As announced Saturday, Marvel Entertainment will visit a galaxy far, far Away in early 2015, with three new comic book series launching and solo series for both Darth Vader and Princess Leia joining a core title called, simply, Star Wars.
Created by some of Marvel's most popular creators — Star Wars comes from Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, while Star Wars: Darth Vader is the work of Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, and Star Wars: Princess Leia is from Mark Waid and Terry Dodson — all three series take place between the original 1977 movie and 1980's follow-up, The Empire Strikes Back.
The main title begins "just a matter of weeks after the destruction of the Death Star," Aaron told The Hollywood Reporter. "We see the Rebels trying to press their advantage, trying to build off their big win and really kick the Empire while their down. The first issue opens with our main cast of characters staging a daring raid on an Imperial Weapons Factory. As you might imagine, things don't quite go exactly as planned."
For Waid's Princess Leia, the aftermath of the Death Star battle gives the heroine "time to reflect on all she's lost," the writer explained. "Rather than choose to remain the princess of nothing, she resolves to find a way to preserve the memory and culture of her race, and that's our story." (Waid said that his aim with the series was to demonstrate that Carrie Fisher's character is "easily the most layered, most complex and multifaceted character in the entire Star Wars mythos.") That same destruction of the Death Star has an entirely different impact on Darth Vader, turning him into what Gillen described as "the sole survivor of the greatest military disaster of all time" inside the Galactic Empire.
"I see my run continuing to the start of Empire," he explained. "It bridges the gap, and explores all the real emotional meat in there. To state the obvious, we never see Darth realize that X-wing pilot who was strong in the force is actually his son. That's a huge thing. That Darth actually starts Empire seemingly in a stronger position in the Empire than in [the first movie] is also telling."
Although the series will interrelate to some degree, each of the three titles will have a different tone and ambition. "If you read all the books, you'll be able to see how they interact, where they cross paths and whatnot. But at the same time, I think you could read any one of them by itself and get a complete story," Aaron said. Cassaday likens the core title to the original movie: "I'm not looking at this as an addition to the core stories of Star Wars and Empire, rather my approach is that this is gospel — as if this was an 'in between' movie," he said. "We're connecting the dots that are the first two films. This is going to be canon, and we're giving a lot of respect to that."
For Gillen, the Darth Vader series will broaden people's idea of who the Sith Lord is. "Vader's obviously the primary antagonist over in Jason and John's [series]," he explained. "For them, Vader is this indomitable, inescapable force of nature. A one-man version of the superposse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In my book? That's what he does on Tuesdays."
The writer, who's following up his critically acclaimed Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine (the latter of which is still running, published by Image Comics) with this series, said that he's taking outside influences from some surprising sources: The Godfather and House of Cards. "The latter is especially useful," Gillen said. "There we have a powerful member of an organization suffer a sleight, and turn to tactics that he may have previously avoided to achieve his aims, even against the organization he is abstractly serving. The conflict between trying to achieve his own goals and trying to achieve the goals of his official missions is right at the heart of the book — as well as his efforts to make his own secret power structure inside it and outside it," he said of the title. "The rebels are far from Darth Vader's only problems."
Aaron said that one of the joys of writing the new series was that "I could take everything back to the original films." He went on, "writing this, it really feels like my Star Wars, you know. Like the Star Wars I grew up with. The Star Wars that made me a fan when I was a kid. I love the fact that coming into this series, all you really need to have seen is Star Wars: A New Hope. That's it. If you've seen that one movie, you can jump right into this series and be good to go."
His artist agrees. "The span between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was especially important for my imagination. So much of what I've done in my career and work can be traced back to this time. The fact that Empire ended with a cliff-hanger blew my mind! I had to wait three years to know what happened to Han Solo, and when you're a little kid, that is an eternity," Cassaday said, adding that the core Star Wars series features Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, a group he described as "the crew you wanna see."
"When I agreed to do the book, that was a key concern," he said.
Everyone working on the three series is a longtime fan of the franchise. Gillen described the original trilogy as one of his "ur-text[s] to my experience of fantastical fiction — and fiction generally," while Dodson, artist on the Princess Leia series admitted that his first Kenner toy was "embarrassingly C-3P0 as that was the only one left [in the store, but] I made up with it with my next two buys of Chewbacca and Stormtrooper!" Cassady puts his connection with the series more bluntly: "Star Wars is in my DNA," he said.
Waid, however, has the best story about his early fandom of the series. "When it first came out, I was in high school," he explained. "It was Saturday night, and as was the ritual, my friends and I were trying to decide what movie to go see. They'd all pretty much made up their minds before they'd even come to pick me up, but I was dead set against their poor choice and argued long and hard and convincingly, with full and utter conviction, that they were crazy, that I knew what really looked awesome and what we should really see that night. Through sheer tenacity and force of will, I won them over. And that is how I, self-appointed King of the Geeks, led my people to a Saturday night showing of You Light Up My Life while the rest of the world saw Star Wars. I have not been forgiven since."
Marvel's new Star Wars line launches in January 2015 with Star Wars, followed in February by Star Wars: Darth Vader and the five-issue Star Wars: Princess Leia, which debuts in March. All three titles will be available via comic book stores and digitally.