Barlow and Stradley on the Future of Star Wars Comic Books

Thu, March 22nd, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Chris Ullrich, Contributing Writer

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"Star Wars: Knights of the Old Rpublic" #16

Since the '70s, comic book adaptations of the "Star Wars" films, characters and stories have been a mainstay of the "Star Wars" universe. In the beginning, the task of bringing "Star Wars" to the pages of comic books was in the hands of Marvel Comics. However, in the late '80s, the universe became the domain of Dark Horse Comics and specifically Star Wars group editors Jeremy Barlow and Randy Stradley. Under their stewardship, "Star Wars" comic books have gone in new and exciting directions and promise to continue to thrill fans into the future. Recently, CBR News caught up with Barlow and Stradley to discuss the present and future of "Star Wars" comic books.

Given Lucasfilm's notoriously strong opinions about the way in which its franchise is depicted, the two editors and Dark Horse maintain a close association with Lucasfilm and its team. "Lucasfilm is intimately involved in every stage of production," Barlow told CBR News. "Plots, scripts, covers, interior art, lettering -- everything is run through the approvals system before moving on to the next stage. But the relationship with Lucasfilm is strong and they trust our judgment and know that we have the franchise's best interest at heart, so things run smoothly."

Even though the relationship is a smooth one and the editors get relatively free-reign with what they want do, is there anything they ever wanted to do in the pages of "Star Wars" comics that they weren't able to? "The 'Star Wars' films provide such a great blueprint for the kind of universe that's available that if you hold to that, you almost can't go wrong. There's room in 'Star Wars' for everything from political intrigue to high comedy. Anybody who feels constrained by working in this universe just hasn't opened their eyes to the possibilities," Stradley told CBR News.

"Star Wars: Rebellion" #6, pages 8 and 9
Barlow echoed his co-editor's praise for Lucasfilm and their relationship with Dark Horse. "There are always stories that get away for one reason or another, but on the whole Lucasfilm gives us a wide berth and we have a good grasp on what they and the 'Star Wars' fans want and need, so we're able to hit what we aim for."

However, there was one story Barlow and Stradley really wanted to tell, but weren't able to for one major reason. "There is one story we concocted that was so amazing and epic in scope it would've been the definitive last word on the expanded universe as it exists and would've spun everything in an entirely new direction," said Barlow.  "There literally would've been no way anyone could've topped it.  Ultimately it all came down to a story title - we couldn't come up with one worthy enough, so we let the whole thing go. Okay, I'm just kidding," said Barlow.

Even though "Star Wars" comic books have been around for over twenty years and have accumulated a great deal of often conflicting storylines, the editors don't see a reason to change anything about the "Star Wars" universe. "When I was assigned to the line along with Randy, the personal mission statement was simple: focus more on character than plot, and to bring the books back in line with the movies - to restore that missing sense of romantic adventure and camaraderie," said Barlow.

"Star Wars: Rebellion" #6, pages 10 and 11
"It's not the universe that needs to be changed, it's the approach of those who are working in it that needs changing - or at least more consideration," agreed Stradley.

Although both men are now in charge of the "Star Wars" universe, at least in comic book form, neither of them started out their careers working in comic books or even thinking about working in them. "Though I'd always been a comics fan, making it a career wasn't really a life plan.  Working in publishing of some sort was a post-graduate goal, but not much thought was given to what that actually meant until a few weeks before graduation," said Barlow. Stradley's path to the Star Wars comic book universe was equally as round-about. "I had always been interested in writing and storytelling, and my frustration with the expense and logistics of getting things on film is probably what pushed me toward what I'm doing now," he said.

With the vision and dedication these men have to making the Star Wars comics better and better, fans can look forward to greater character development, more exciting storylines and perhaps even a few surprises. "We'll continue to push into previously uncharted territory with our Dark Times and Legacy series, and in our other books some old favorite characters will be back in unexpected ways," said Barlow.

"Star Wars: Republic" #6, page 12
With all the positive momentum and success of the Star Wars comic book lines, what do Barlow and Stradley hope for the future of Star Wars comic books and for Dark Horse? "The only mark I'm interested in leaving in the Star Wars expanded universe is a run of fun, well-produced stories that do the franchise justice," said Stradley.

Barlow was equally as enthusiastic about the future of Star Wars comic books: "I want us to focus on telling great stories, and not on patching holes in existing continuity, or indulging someone's love for a particular character or concept. I want us to produce good comics -- not just good Star Wars comics. The two are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive."

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