We got up with Brown to tackle this pressing issue – and got some exclusive preview images from the book for our trouble.
Newsarama: Jeff, give us the low-down on this book, and how it's different from Darth Vader and Son
Jeffrey Brown: The first difference is obviously that this book focuses on Leia, although Luke still shows up quite a bit. So you get the father-daughter relationship as well as a little more of the brother-sister dynamic.The biggest difference is that after starting with some jokes about Leia as a four-year-old like Luke in the Darth Vader and Son, this book follows Leia as she becomes a teenager. It was somewhat necessary, as I used up a huge amount of potential jokes for having a younger child.
Nrama: The reception to Darth Vader and Son was pretty overwhelming -- what was the most interesting response you got?
Brown: I'm still surprised at how much kids love the book, since I thought I was writing a book for adults, even if I was trying to keep it all-ages friendly. One response that really sticks out is a photo someone sent of their son who had fallen asleep reading the book and holding a toy lightsaber. There's something about feeling the love kids have for the book that's incredibly rewarding.
Nrama: What was the challenge of doing a girl’s POV vs. a boy's?
Brown: I think a lot of the jokes I'm making work for boy and girls equally well, so the challenge was really in not having the book become a collection of clichés about little girls or teenagers. Fortunately I was able to hear stories from friends with daughters, and observe some of that in person to keep things a little more real.
Nrama: Tell us a little about your process for crafting these cartoons.
Brown: The first step was coming up with all the ideas, which come from two directions - some are thinking about a parenting moment and finding the right Star Wars scene to mix it with, and some are looking at the Star Wars films and thinking about what parenting situation has a parallel. I did watch the films while taking notes - particularly paying attention to any Luke and Vader dialogue - but most of the ideas came pretty naturally.For each book I sketched out a little over one hundred ideas, after which my editors at Chronicle and Lucasfilm went through and picked out which ones they liked along with notes to make them stronger.
Once we'd all decided on which ideas would make up the book, I did full pencils, which then received another round of notes, primarily from Lucasfilm. Once the pencils were all approved, I ink and color everything, and may have a few last notes for minor changes, usually involving the text.
Nrama: How much input does your boy Oscar have?
Brown: I don't know that I'd say he has input exactly, but a decent amount of the parenting situations I've drawn Darth Vader in are ones I've been in myself, to some extent or another.Oscar has more input when we're just drawing together not on projects, when he's not afraid to direct me in drawing whatever droid, alien or spaceship before I finish drawing the previous one.
Nrama: What has Star Wars meant to you personally throughout your life?
Brown: It's been huge for me. Growing up, seeing the movies was an inspiration to my imagination in addition to the toys occupying hours and hours of playtime. An even bigger influence, though, is probably in terms of inspiring me to become an artist.
I had The Empire Strikes Back Notebook and Return of the Jedi Sketchbook when I was young, and seeing the storyboards and concept art in those books was something that played a part in my desire to make a career out of drawing.Although I turned back to comics in the end, up through high school I entertained the idea of becoming a storyboard and concept artist for film. And of course now, being able to draw these Star Wars books is a dream come true and brings things full circle.
Nrama: My favorite throwaway design in the last book was Little Lando with the mustache. Do you have a favorite Star Wars character to depict as a kid, or one you'd like to depict as a kid?
Brown: Little Greedo is fun to draw. I'd like to draw a baby Yoda story some day. He'd look similar though, still all wrinkly.
Nrama: CHALLENGE QUESTION: Defend Jar Jar. Somehow. Go.
Brown: For as much of a hard time everyone likes to give Jar Jar, people can't seem to stop talking about him. There's no such thing as bad press, so your questions are only making Jar Jar stronger.
Nrama: If y'all had to do a third one of these books, which Star Wars character would you do?
Brown: I think it'd be fun to move away from the parenting theme and write about friendship, so R2-D2 and C-3PO would maybe be great for that.
Nrama: What are some creators/comics you're currently enjoying?Brown: Chris Ware, as always, amazed me with his latest, Building Stories. I've enjoyed watching fellow Chicagoan Chris Burnham's art evolve while he's drawing Grant Morrison stories. I was happy that Fantagraphics finally re-printed some of Jack Jackson's excellent historical work, and I've been loving a lot of the work coming out from Nobrow. My favorite book recently is Geneviève Castrée's excellent book Susceptible.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Brown: So much! More Star Wars - my book for Scholastic, Jedi Academy, will come out this fall. My next graphic memoir will come out from Top Shelf just in time for San Diego Comic-Con, and the film I co-wrote, Save the Date, will be out on DVD and iTunes in April.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Brown: I'm excited for new Star Wars films. I think the Clone Wars cartoon has been a lot of fun, and I expect that the new movies will be just as good.
Meet Vader’s Little Princess on April 23 from Chronicle Books.