SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Star Wars" #1, which is available now.
"Star Wars" #1 is the comic book you're looking for. After months of waiting (and hype), Jason Aaron and John Cassaday's first issue of the hotly anticipated new series arrived, taking readers on a journey set squarely in canon between blockbuster films "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back."
In advance of its release, CBR News connected with Aaron to discuss continuing the epic space saga for Marvel Comics. The superstar writer readily shared his thoughts on launching a new series 30 years after the release of "Star Wars" # 107 in 1986, and the added excitement generated by the upcoming release of J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
A long time fan of George Lucas' far-reaching franchise, Aaron said that Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso only needed to say "Star Wars" and he was ready to ride shotgun with Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon. The writer also teased that while iconic heroes like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and villains like Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt will remain a primary focus of what he describes as a "team book," new characters will also be explored, with one major new player joining the series in "Star Wars"#4. Aaron also explained how "Star Wars" will tie directly into "Darth Vader," the other new ongoing Marvel "Star Wars" comic book series, written by Keiron Gillen and illustrated by Salvador Larroca.
CBR News: To set the mood, I read "Star Wars" #1 with John Williams' score playing in the background. Do you ever fire it up while you're writing the series?
Jason Aaron: [Laughs] I did. I did. When I sat down to write that first script, I wanted to do it right because you don't get to write "Star Wars" #1 every week. I cued up the John Williams when I started the script.
I understand that you were a big fan of "Star Wars" growing up.
Yeah, of course. I was the perfect age. I remember seeing the original movies in the theater, and I still have my Darth Vader action figure carrying case and all of the toys. I was a huge "Star Wars" fan growing up.
Did you read the comics and the extended universe?
I followed some of it. I read some of the Dark Horse comics over the years, but I didn't follow it religiously. I played a few of the video games, but I was not a hardcore fan of that stuff. But once I got this job, I went back and read it as a way of immersing myself in all things "Star Wars." I read some storylines that I'd read before and some that I'd never read before.
I found the first issue was paced just like one of the original movies. Is there a "Star Wars" pacing that is unlike other series that you have written?
I don't know if there is a "Star Wars" pacing, but certainly, all of us that are involved wanted this to feel like a continuation of the original film. We wanted everything to flow seamlessly in terms of how the characters looked and what they were doing. We wanted it all to feel believable and like a direct sequel that could have come out in 1978, a year after the original. But we still wanted to mix things up. We didn't want it like we were picking the bones of the original movie and saying, "Remember how awesome that old film was?" We really wanted to bring something new to the table.
We do cross the stream a little bit. We do see some references to more than just the original film. We see elements and vehicles that pop up in some of the other movies, and going forward, we'll continue to mix things up like that. We'll keep dancing between the raindrops in different ways to keep things exciting and fresh. That said, I still want this book to remind me of all of the stuff that I loved about the original movies. Going back and watching the original film again, I am struck by how much I like hanging out with those characters.
For me, the first movie really takes off when everyone is on the table together. Once you have Han and Luke teaming up to rescue Leia and she starts insulting both of them right away -- that's when I fell in love with it. I want to do more of that. We only have those original three films to watch those characters together. Their relationships change so much over the course of those movies. That's a really fertile period, just after "A New Hope," when all of these characters have just met. I wanted to see more of them on adventures together. I wanted to see more of that Han and Leia banter. I wanted to see more of the very beginnings of their budding romance. And I wanted to see more of Luke struggling to be a Jedi and even understand what that means to be a Jedi and what he's capable of doing. I wanted to see more of all that, so coming out of the gate, that's exactly what you see in "Star Wars" #1. All of those characters together on another crazy adventure.
You mentioned the banter between Han and Leia, and just last week, your editor Jordan D. White tweeted that you were "SO GOOD" at scripting those very moments. Is there a voice in the cast that comes easiest to you, or any that you are still trying to find?
Not really. Again, one of main goals is to make this a team book. I want to give everyone their own moments. In the first issue, all of the characters, including Threepio and Artoo, have their own moments in the spotlight. Going forward, I want it to always be like that. Just like the movies, a large part of the story is driven by Luke and Luke's quest. The original trilogy is very much Luke Skywalker's heroic journey. That will still be a driving point. He is, of course, in a very interesting position at this point in the timeline. He's training as a Jedi because he knows that he has this great destiny, but he has no idea how to begin the journey to get there.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader is trying to figure out who blew up the Death Star. [Laughs] I love the fact that you have this father and son chasing after each other without even realizing it. We'll have a lot of fun with it.
Overall, it will continue to be a team story. The dialogue really isn't that much work because those characters are all so greatly defined. Everyone that is a fan of the "Star Wars" universe knows those characters' voices. I have the most fun putting them in the same room together and watching them play off each other.
We do know these classic characters so well, so will you be bringing any major new players into the universe?
Again, we'll dance between the raindrops and bring characters together in different pairings that maybe we've never seen before. And we won't just be beholden to characters from the original film or "The Empire Strikes Back." We'll mix things in different ways, and yes, there will be new characters added to the mix. I think the first major, new character in this title shows up in "Star Wars"#4.
Darth Vader makes his debut in the closing pages of the first issue. How closely will your series be tied with Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca's Vader title?
It will change. Certainly, here at the beginning, there are a lot of obvious connections between the two. Once you read "Darth Vader" #1, you will see a lot of connections to "Star Wars" #1, and we will continue to go back and forth a little bit. Then the books will branch away for a little bit and go their own routes for a while before they eventually come back together. We very much want it to feel like you are reading books that are all set in the same universe and the same time, but getting two different sides of the story. Vader will still be showing up in my book as the main bad guy -- the face of the Empire. And then you can go over to Kieron's book to get all of these other stories happening in the Empire that are the other side of the coin from what the Rebels are up to.
You've enjoyed great success with creator-owned titles like "Scalped" and now "Southern Bastards." Based on the past 10 minutes, I think I know your answer, but was there any hesitation in writing "Star Wars," which features characters so well known to legions and legions of fans?
No, there was no hesitation. I got the call one day from Axel [Alonso] and he said, "Star Wars," and I said, "Yes." I didn't know anything beyond that in terms of what the book would be or what we would be doing -- all it took was "Star Wars," and I was on board. Obviously, this is a good time to be involved in "Star Wars." Even when we started talking about this, which was probably about a year ago, we already had glimmers of what was to come in terms of the new films. And now, as we've come closer, and we're into 2015, the excitement is building and building and building and will continue to build over the course of the year. It's great to be the first, big, new "Star Wars" story of 2015. Not to mention, Marvel's first "Star Wars" comics in a lot of years, and the first big "Star Wars" comic book story that is part of the brand new canon. All of that mixed together made it a job that you just couldn't say no to.
Did you anticipate this level of excitement about "Star Wars?" Because there are lots of other comic book featuring characters from lots of other movies and TV shows.
I knew there would be a lot of excitement, again, based on the timing of the new movie coming out this year, but no, I wasn't expecting one million copies sold or the highest selling comic book in 20 years. I don't think anybody quite expected that. Again, I think that speaks to how high that level of excitement is, how excited retailers are, how confident that they are that this is a book that they can sell. Not just this week, but for a long time to come. It speaks to the work that [Senior Vice President Print, Sales & Marketing] David Gabriel and Marvel did, finding avenues to build this book. You won't just see loads of comics in comic book stores -- you're going to see them in a lot of different places, including a lot of places that you're not expecting to see them.
I've only read the first issue, but John Cassaday is killing it, right?
I think Cassaday was the only guy that was ever discussed for this. A big part of that is that he is such a huge "Star Wars" fan. When we first started planning this, we all flew out to San Francisco for meetings with Lucasfilm -- a bunch of people from Marvel editorial and Cassaday and Keiron and I -- and John was definitely the biggest, most knowledgeable "Star Wars" fan out of all of us. He already had a lot of ideas about how he wanted different characters to look, how he wanted the book to feel and everything. You can tell from the get-go that he is super-passionate about this job. It shows in his art. It's some of the best looking stuff that he has done since "Astonishing X-Men."
It's a beautiful book, and there were so many awesome moments in this first issue, but I have to mention two in particular. I love when Luke tried a Jedi mind trick on the prison guard: "These aren't the slaves that you're looking for." And Han's plan to hotwire an Imperial Walker. Amazing.
Thank you. And wait until you see him driving it around next issue. [Laughs]
"Star Wars" #1, by Jason Aaron and featuring art by John Cassaday, is available now.