SDCC '13: STAR WARS Comics - Here and Now

Credit: DHC

Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars line is bigger and better than ever with the ongoing Star Wars and Star Wars: Legacy, the continuing Dark Times set of mini-series, The Star Wars telling George Lucas's original vision, and much more. Find out the latest from the editors and creators behind the line in this panel from Comic-Con International: San Diego 2013 as we cover it live. Be sure to refresh regularly to catch all the latest news!

On the dais for the panel, as advertised, were Jeremy Atkins, PR for Dark Horse, editor Randy Stradley (and writer on Dark Times), artist Carlos D'Anda, Doug Wheatley, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Gabe Eltaeb, Zack Giallongo, and Brian Thies.

The panelists introduced themselves after a short welcome from Atkins, and introduced the books they work on.

The ubiquitous slideshow began next. "Let's get started with what we're doing with Star Wars these days," said Stradley. "I'm going to run through everything chronologically according to the Star Wars timeline."

Dawn of the Jedi's next arc is called Force Wars, and Xesh joins the Je'dai in defense of the Tython system.There are enemies called the Flesh Raiders who kill and eat their enemies. That five-issue series starts in November. We more light sabers, flying rancors, and force powers.

Next is Dark Times, by Stradley, who says "I don't know what this is." Atkins joked "I hear the writer is a hack." A Spark Remains is the next arc, which has Vader in some hot water. "And there's mushy stuff," Stradley teased while showing a panel of a romantic scene. Wheatley, artist on the series said he loves that the protagonist gets to learn about who Darth Vader really is, what his power really is for the first time. "We've been talking about the events in this story since the start of Dark Times. And Vader gets his butt kicked! Kind of. Maybe."

Star Wars by Brian Wood, with rotating arcs from Carlos D'Anda is next. The series takes place directly after the original first film. In an upcoming issue, Luke and Wedge sneak onto a Star Destroyer. "Everything goes off without a hitch - until it comes to getting off the ship," teased Stradley. Luke and Leia will also be going back to Tattooine, where Luke has some unfinished business.

Gabe Eltaeb, the colorist on the series says it's "a dream come true, and I think that's showing from us working on the series. Star Wars has always been a part of my life, I don't remember discovering it, it's just something that was always there. That's why working on this is so excited to me. It means a lot to me to work on it. The first thing that got me interested in art was drawing space battles from these movies as a kid."

D'Anda added, "it's a task that is equal parts excitement and terror. Something I realized now that I'm older is that I didn't draw Darth Vader as a kid because he's a pain in the ass - that hasn't changed. But it's a super cool series to work on, Brian Wood is doing an amazing job with it. It's very fun knowing that when you wake up you get to draw X-Wings and Han and Chewie - can't complain!"

In another upcoming issue, Leia will pay a visit to the remains of Alderaan and "makes a terrifying discovery there."

A new series, Star Wars: Ewoks starts with a series called "Shadows of Endor." There are Ewoks from both Return of the Jedi and from the cartoon series. It takes place right when the Empire has first landed and started to build. "There's a legendary monster that has awakened due to the activities of the Empire," said the writer. They also go up against thier rivals the Dulocks. A shot of an Ewok slamming an axe into a Stormtrooper's head drew some gasps and excitement from the crowd.

Star Wars: Legacy, featuring Ania Solo, the descendant of Han and Leia, who Hardman says is "a nobody in the Star Wars Universe" when they start off. The first arc ends "with big stuff that I don't want to spoil!" The second arc will see her go out into the wider galaxy with her new compatriots, and she'll meet up with characters from the previous Legacy series. "It's set in the future, but we really want it to have that original Star Wars feel to it. The challenge is bringing that feel and sensibility even if the iconography isn't exactly the same. It's an enormous amount of fun."

Stradley teased "really a great moment" at the end of issue 5 that made him teary-eyed when he saw the finished art.

New artist Thies said his arc is "explosive, dark, going into pretty fun places to draw for me." Hardman teased him that even though he's an artist as well, he is writing impossible things for him to draw.

The Star Wars is next (click the link above for a full interview on the subject). Stradley and Dark Horse originally asked about adapting the original screenpalay ten years ago. It finally took someone asking George directly, Dark Horse making ten pages of a comic with no green light, and he loved it. "It's a Star Wars you've never seen before." The book begins in September, 2013.

After the slide-show, Stradley promised something extra. But first, Atkins asked the panel "What is it about Star Wars that remains so relevant so many years after the original trilogy?"

Stradley said, "I think when George created the first one, he paid attention to the Hero's journey, something so prevalent that it is a touchstone in every culture around the world. Because the bones of Star Wars resonate so perfectly globally, you always have instant audience acceptance."

D'Anda agreed. "It gives you faith in humanity. If you go all the way back to the Greeks and their stories, they were trying to teach people something. In Star Wars you want to be these people. Besides the entertainment aspect to them, which is awesome, there's that underlying truth of what to aspire to. It's part of humanity."

Wheatley was next. "Doing Star Wars for so long, I've thought a lot about this. There are two major parts of Star Wars: the light and the dark. For me, it taps into that inner struggle in us all, the light side and dark side. There are days where nothing is going right, and days when there is pure bliss. When you hear Yoda's first teaching on Dagobah to the furthering of that in books and comics. The story of Star Wars resonates that struggle in us all." He told a story of his young son telling him he wanted a jet, and Wheatley telling him he'd never be able to buy him one. His son burst into tears, and Wheatley said to him, "don't go to the dark side!"

Bechko loves that "there's always a strong female - a female who actually does stuff!" in the stories. It's also the "loyalty to your friends, doing the best of yourself and for others."

Hardman agrees the loyalty aspect is wonderful. "I don't think I actually like real people that much, but it's a resonant thing in this!" He also mentioned the "tragedy" and "redemptive" turns in the stories. "It's a basic dramatic structure that really resonates."

Eltaeb loves the idea of "big versus small, the powerful versus the disenfranchised," saying that "everyone has those times when you're alone and sad and feel like you can't do it. You have these huge obstacles in life." He said that the tiny little army of Rebels overcoming the Empire was inspiring to him and helped him believe in himself.

Giallongo echoed the panelists, and said that what Eltaeb just said is what attracted him to Ewoks as a kid, making him even more excited to write this. "As exciting as lightsabers and space battles were, I could go out in the forest and pick up a stick, it was even more real!"

Thies also echoed, while also noting that it's the ultimate pop culture reference. He noted that the "fun" and "emotional core" is something the franchise retains that others forget to include.

Stradley is going to show something he's concerned that his VP of Marketing will be angry about. He has two versions of a trailer for The Star Wars and showed them off. The trailer introduced the new (old) versions of the characters and showed off some art from the series. Annikin Starkiller and Darth Vader are individual characters - familiar names and unfamiliar faces are the hallmark of the tale.

Fan Q&A, as usual, closed out the panel. The first fan asked if there were any changes due to the sale to Disney. Stradley said "So far we haven't experienced any changes. We are on pins and needles to hear what the future holds for the license. We will find out sometime this year. In the meantime we are going full speed ahead, and we have new projects lined up." Atkins added, "We can tell you that we'll be publishing at least through the end of 2014."

More Invasion? Stradley said, "No plans for more Invasion at this time, but maybe if we keep the license. Tom Taylor is working on a new Star Wars project for us but we can't announce it just yet." Atkins added, "But it's really awesome."

A fan who liked the direct crossover with Dawn of the Jedi comics and novels, and asked if there might be something similar with the Legacy stories. Stradley said "there's a wait-and-see with what happens with Episode VII before anyone moves too much more into the future of Star Wars," gaining a "yes" from the Lucasfilm representative on the side.

Stradley loves that Leia is flying an X-Wing in the new Star Wars. He says her brilliance and tactical knowledge lend to her ability to jump in and fly herself.

Any new Clone Wars era books, or stories centered on Clone Troopers or Stormtroopers? Stradley says a new Darth Vader series coming includes a Clone trooper as a main POV character.

More Mandalorians? And how do you feel about LucasArts being shut down and 1313 getting cancelled? "It's too bad that division got shut down," said Stradley, but he's glad there are more Star Wars games coming from EA. As far as the Mandalorians? "My feeling was always that Boba Fett, one Mandalorian, is really cool, but a million makes him less cool - I've never been a big fan, but that's just me."

Wheatley, talking about the challenges of working in this universe, said he is constantly double-checking everything, even whether or not a specific alien race ever leaves their planet, before adding them into a background scene, because "one of you guys will call me on it!"

Hardman said it can be "paralyzing" when you "fall down a Wookieepedia hole."

Giallongo said that "ultimately you have to write for yourself. The minute you start writing for other people, it shows. If you love and are excited about it, other people will read and notice." Thies said "it's the same thing with drawing it. As an artist you want to push and do things even better than what has come before."

Eltaeb says that when fans complain about something, it's because they are emotionally invested, and have some ownership in the property. "You should write for yourself, but you have to respect what came before."

Hardman said "we're fans making this though! We're in the same boat, I don't want to see something that isn't true to the feel of that world."

The last question asked if they can take themselves out of the history of Star Wars, if it started as a comic book, what would they change? Wheatley said, "Doing what you want can be a good thing, but can also be a very bad thing. When Randy first came and asked me to do Dark Times, I said 'I get to draw Darth Vader hunting and killing Jedi? YES!' and he said 'no. That's not how we're doing it.' And if I did what I wanted, we wouldn't have the passionate story of family and a Jedi trying to find his way in a world without them for the most part anymore."

Hardman deadpanned, "I would've made Vader shorter."

That concluded the Star Wars panel.

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