NYCC 2014: STAR WARS Story Group Members on 'New Dawn' of Storytelling

Star Wars: Tarkin
Credit: Lucasfilm

The “New Dawn of Star Wars Publishing” panel Saturday afternoon at New York Comic Con was to a full room with fans eager to get any sort of new information of what's in store for the world of Star Wars literature. The panel began as moderator Erich Schoeneweiss, Senior Production Editor of Del Rey introduced the panelists which included Marvel Edtior in charge of Star Wars Jordan White, writer John Jackson Miller, Editor at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, Senoir Editor at Lucasfilm Jennifer Heddle, and voice of Hera from Star Wars Rebels, Vanessa Marshall. Shoenenweiss began with Miller, asking about the set up and background of A New Dawn, in stores now. "The Empire is rising and consolodating its power," Miller said. "They're beginning to opress the people in ways that are starting to hurt."

Star Wars: A New Dawn cover
Star Wars: A New Dawn cover
Credit: Random House

Jumping right into other projects, the audience was shown the cover to Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno, releasing on November 4, 2014. Shapiro said that Tarkin was the one of the most interesting characters in the movie that didn't really have an origin. "He can control Vader essentially without using the Force." One of the fun tidbits is that you find out Palpatine's first name in this novel.

Next up was Star Wars: Heir to The Jedi by Kevin Hearne. Heddle said that Hearne is best known for the "Iron Druid" series, which is written in a casual first-person style. "We were having a little trouble with how to approach this, but eventually just said to write the way he does." This is the first first-person Luke Skywalker book as well. "So you get a chance to really get inside his head and what his responsiblities are to the Force," Heddle continued.

Then, coming Spring 2015: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp. "You know, the Emperor and Vader have this team relationship in the movie, but we never explored that," Shapiro stated. "What would they be like if they were really out there with nothing but the Force to survive?" White joked that it's "Spring Break Vader and Palpatine."

After that, coming Summer 2015: Dark Disciple, a novel starring Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos by Christie Golden. Heddle mentioned that It was made from an unproduced script from the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. "Sparks fly between Ventress and Vos."

Star Wars: Kanan #1 cover by Mark Brooks
Star Wars: Kanan #1 cover by Mark Brooks
Credit: Marvel Entertainment

White talked about the SDCC announcement concerning the Star Wars comics licence and how it was going back to Marvel again. "Now we are revealing another title: a Kanan series about how he survived Order 66." That will be starting in April and it will be an ongoing series. Heddle: "How is somebody who was sheltered in the Jedi Temple supposed to survive?" It will be written by Greg Weisman (creator of Disney's "Gargoyles" and executive producer of Star Wars Rebels season 1), drawn by Pepe Larraz (The Mighty Thor, Wolverine and the X-Men) with covers by Mark Brooks. Miller commented that it connects "Rebels" and "Clone Wars". "Kanan is sort of the flip side of Obi-Wan Kenobi."

It was finally time for some Q and A. First fan commented about "Rebels" and New Dawn is a new way of storytelling and if they could talk about the way the projects came about.

"It would be really great if we can have a prequel novel and if it was a collaboration from the beginning," Heddle answered. Miller followed with how he had inside information of what they have planned. "I know how these characters are going to be, but what do they think about each other at that time [in New Dawn]? I got notes from Weisman and Simon Kinberg."

"It's the first time we can do this all together. It's all woven," Shapiro commented, speaking of the new Star Wars Story Group. "It's all something we can do simoutanously. I don't think we will need the word 'retcon' again."

Heddle then chimed in. "But at the same time, every story we make can stand by itself. It's just the fact that you can feel it's part of the same universe."

"You don't have to read the books," Shapiro said. "You can, but you don't have to, to get a feel of this whole world."

"We're all sort of learning this together," Marshall said. "Even us in the trenches, don't know all the details."

Star Wars: Tarkin
Star Wars: Tarkin
Credit: Lucasfilm

Question to Marshall: how have Kanan and Hera evolved? "Well I think Hera trusts him more, now. She's very observant and letting people show who they are. You see the trials that Kanan went through. It gives you a better idea of why I chose him for this mission."

Another question for Marshall about if there was there anything in A New Dawn that helped direct her performance. "It was devasting to see how the Empire was just destroying people. So I remember the recording session after I read the novel and I felt a deep understanding for Kanan and his losses. It's so well-written, my heart went out to these characters. It's riveting."

"What I wanted to show was the suffering from everybody," Miller added in. "I'm getting to write about the total tyrannical state and how the Imperial Navy is changing. The Republic was screwed over in many ways."

Q: Speaking of the Empire, it's clear in many of these books that the Empire will play a big role. What can we expect from the Empire in the future?

White responded. "Since we have a Star Wars and a Vader [comic] book, you get to see it from both sides. That was super fun. We all know where it's going, but neat to see the Empire at its prime."

"It's a challenge for the writers to tell a really engageable story, but at the same time giving Vader long soloiquies," Heddle added.

"I was told a little Vader goes a long way," Miller joked.

"The Empire is solid in place, but now we're really get to explore the Empire as a character," Shapiro said. White asked about a first person Vader and joked about talking about breathing.

A fan talked about the possibility of a remake or a reimagining of the expanded universe. "We have no specific plans in place to continue things," Shapiro said. "All this new stuff is coming out, and who knows what the future holds."

Heddle added. "I'm not saying anything, but you probably will see some characters pop up eventually."

Q: Your intial slate is very Jedi-focused, but any chance of non-Jedi stories?

"Possibility for anything," Heddle.

Q: A lot of characters seem to be male and can we expect some books to be female-focused later?

"Oh absolutely", Shapiro said. "In the future, definitely."

Q: Is there a plan to get back to the previous universe before the reboot?

"Thats a tricky question for me to answer, but I hope so," replied Heddle. The fan then responded he hoped so, too since he felt things were just made for kids now which garnered a round of groans.

"I can't tell you there's not plans to do that, but the series isn't just for kids," Shapiro stated. "Star Wars is for everyone."

Heddle then added information about that there has never been a directive from Disney to tone anything down or make it younger. "They support it, unequivocally."

Shapiro ended the panel with that she hopes fans stick with us for this adventure. "It really is a ‘new dawn.'"

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