It's no easy task filling in the blanks of one of pop culture's most beloved film franchises, but writer Brian Wood is up to the challenge. Wood's "Star Wars" series for Dark Horse Comics tells the story of the time period between "A New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back," adding a new layer of depth to familiar characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Wedge Antilles and Darth Vader. As if that wasn't enough, Wood has also introduced original characters unique to the comic.
In October, "Star Wars" #10 hits the halfway point for Wood's saga?, and CBR News spoke with the writer about his work on the "Star Wars" universe, including establishing a unique-but-familiar take on some of science fiction's most popular characters, how the expanded universe novels impacted his handling of Wedge Antilles, introducing new and original characters and more.
CBR News: Brian, your "Star Wars" series has continued to do an excellent job of going into unexplored territory for some of fiction's most beloved characters. As the series progresses, how difficult has it been to balance taking the characters in a new direction while keeping them on track with where they end up at the beginning of "Empire Strikes Back?"
Brian Wood: Not that bad, really. I just keep in mind where the characters are and who they are at the start of Empire, and just try not to rush it. I'm signed on for 20 issues of this series, and who knows how many more there will be and who'll be writing them. So I'm not working toward Hoth as a goal, I'm not looking to completely fill the story space between the two films. I'm just living in the now, and feel like I have plenty of room to explore while still staying in the general zone of that first film.
The series has also seeded some excellent teases for "Star Wars" fans in setting up both "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi." In "Star Wars" #8 during Luke and Wedge's jailbreak, is that Nien Nunb readers see escaping from the Star Destroyer or some other Sullustan?
[Laughs] Yeah, we also dropped in Ackbar a few issues ago. Honestly, thank the artist(s) for that stuff -- it doesn't always occur to be to write in subtle teasers. Or, I should say, I'm writing in the details I think are cool, and the artists are doing the same. I had a bit of fun putting a mouse droid into one recent scene.
That said, how important is it to introduce these secondary characters organically into your series so that they fit into the original trilogy's continuity?
I don't know how important it is in terms of being necessary or not -- they certainly add to the story, but I never wanted this series to be one of those where all we do is connect the dots -- a story about continuity, in other words. I'll always try and write something that feels original and is pretty standalone.
Wedge Antilles is a character who received a lot of recognition in the expanded universe novels -- specifically in the "Rogue Squadron" series -- but never got much on-screen love in the original trilogy. With all of his development outside of the films, did you find it more or less challenging to fill in his blanks between "A New Hope" and "Empire?"
Neither, really. Wedge was someone I knew I wanted to include from the start -- I'm a big fan of those X-Wing novels and he's so pivotal in them, that to me he's every bit as vital to "Star Wars" as Luke or Leia. They are all part of the same group, in my mind, which speaks not only to the talent of the writers of those EU novels, but to the power of the Expanded Universe itself, to "matter" just as much as the movies do. And using him here gives me a chance to write Wedge before he became the leader he is in those novels, the more junior pilot who survived Yavin and now goes on to build up his stature and form Rogue.
One of the most touching scenes so far in the comic is Princess Leia's return to Aldreaan to pay her respects to her home planet, which eventually brings up a larger mystery of the Audacity, a venator-class starship. How many survivors of Alderaan are there running around the universe?
Who knows -- hundreds of thousands, potentially, scattered all over the galaxy. It always bothered me in the films that an entire planet dies and beyond a few minutes of screen time, no one seems to care. Leia would certainly care, and of course the site of the genocide would matter to the survivors. The floating debris serves as a sort of monument, a burial ground, a place to pay respects. Seemed very logical to me, and its one of the additions I'm most proud of in this series. In a similar way, the scene where Luke returns to Tatooine to bury the remains of his family.
Although Leia was never portrayed as the stereotypical damsel in distress in the comics, your "Star Wars" series has given the character a new depth that meshes very well with what readers have already seen. What kind of story potential do you see in Leia being off on her own, apart from the Rebel Alliance, Luke, Han and Wedge?
She's probably the most capable person in that entire Original Trilogy, certainly apart from Vader. I always loved that scene when Luke opens her cell door, and she is so blasé, like she's just chilling out and could leave anytime she wants to. That's a scene I always think about when I think about Leia.
You recently introduced Perla into the series as an ally of Han Solo and Chewbacca. With a whole universe to play with, do you feel as though you have to be judicious about introducing new elements into "Star Wars?" What significance will Perla play in Chewbacca and Han Solo's arc?
I think I should be judicious, but at the same time there's such a dearth of female characters. I felt that Perla was a good addition, and gives Han someone to play off of in that storyline, and Bircher was obviously necessary. The X-Wing pilots are a shame because there just wasn't physical space to do what I probably could have with them, but as you'll see in #12, they matter in the end. Prithi is another new character I felt served a good purpose, if only to try and steer Luke away from crushing on his sister!
On the subject of new characters that don't appear in the original trilogy, do you have a through-arc for them? Characters like Dash Rendar in "Shadows of the Empire" unfortunately died at the end of his story to maintain continuity. Do you feel any pressure to take these new pieces off the table before "Empire" begins?
I personally don't, and even if I did I don't think killing them is the way to go. With the Stealth Squadron pilots, for example, they now exist as rebels and could be some of the pilots we saw on Hoth. Or they can show up in other comics or novels (in fact, I think they will show up in a future prose novel!). There's no reason in my mind to kill them just for the sake of clearing the table. Without giving anything away, one of my new characters does basically exit the playing field but its sort of necessary and ultimately a positive and productive move.
What can you tease about upcoming developments in "Star Wars" as 2013 wraps up?
So I wrote this two-parter for issues #11-12 that will be the crown jewel of my 20-issue run, a fairly nasty crime/revenge story about Vader called "Five Days Of The Sith" where he cleans house and gets everyone back (and then some) following events of that first year. It's told through the eyes of a young ensign who is assigned as Vader's aide as he brutalizes his way across the galaxy. I got to invent a new class of Special Forces Stormtrooper as well. It's one of those stories that made me grin while I wrote it, and I love it to pieces.
So I hope everyone reads it -- a welcome detour into darkness after so much X-Wing dogfights and heroic characters.
"Star Wars" #10 is on sale October 9. Dark Horse will also release a $1 edition of "Star Wars" #1 October 2.