Star Wars is back – at Marvel.
Sure, the headlines right now might be all about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new official title for Episode VII, but let's not forget about the printed page! This January, Marvel is launching the first of several new Star Wars comics that will feature characters from the original trilogy in untold stories transpiring inbetween those key movies. Marvel editor Jordan D. White leads an all-star roster of comics creators such Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, Mark Waid, Kieron Gillen and others in a new, more compact and cohesive continuity taking place right in the thick of Star Wars larger mythos. Thanks to the new Star Wars story group at Lucasfilm, of which White is now a part, all the tie-ins in comic book and novel form will now be 100% canon - what happens in these books counts just as much as the films.
It all begins January 14, 2015 when Star Wars #1 launches, and as the days count down we talked with White about taking on the responsibilities of piloting the Star Wars franchise into comics, from the expectations to the preperations and onto the plans and imagination of the creators he and his Marvel colleagues assembled. In our conversation, we get into the details of how Marvel’s creators responded to the news it was once again publishing Star Wars comics, as well attempting to discover some of the surprises White & Co. have in store in 2015.
Newsarama: Jordan, starting at the literal beginning – will you have the Star Wars opening scroll in the comic series in some form?
Jordan D. White: Yes, we sure will. Naturally, the comic book format is very different from a film, but everyone involved loves the Star Wars movies, so we’re doing what we can to honor the form and style of the films in our way.
Nrama: The return of Star Wars to Marvel was announced a year before the first new issue ships, and you were informed of your role as the main editor back in November 2013. You’ve edited all over the Marvel U before and are in many ways the main editor for Deadpool, but what was it like signing on for Star Wars?
White: I had no idea I was even being considered for the position before they let me know I would be taking it on. I didn’t even know it was happening—and very few people in publishing knew, which was why I had to keep it a secret even from my co-workers for a while there. But it was an incredible honor! I’ve loved Star Wars as long as I can remember. It’s hard to say which came into my life first, between Star Wars and Marvel Comics. To know that Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, publisher Dan Buckley and co. felt that I was the man to head up such a huge and important comic...it was really an honor. I am incredibly proud of the work I’ve done on Deadpool and all the other series I’ve worked on, and it really feels great to have that work acknowledged and be rewarded with such a huge opportunity. And believe me, these comics we’re cooking up are looking to knock people’s socks off!
Nrama: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe your knowledge of the Star Wars universe before becoming the comics editor versus now, one year into being editor of the books?
White: That’s a pretty complicated question because at the same time we took over the books, the status of what is knowable in the Star Wars universe underwent a change, as well. Like I said, I’ve seen the original trilogy a zillion times, I saw all the special editions and prequels in theatres as soon as they came out, and while I was not a regular reader of Star Wars novels, I would check out the comics when a series looked cool and always dug the many internet parodies and tributes. So, I would put me then at...maybe a 5-6? Since then, I’ve caught up on Clone Wars, become a regular Rebels viewer, read the first two in canon novels A New Dawn and Tarkin, listened to the entirety of the podcasts Star Wars Minute and Empire Strikes Back Minute, read years worth of Darths & Droids, and have re-listened to my old favorite, Star Wars: The Musical about a billion times. I know I am still only a Padawan, as far as expertise goes—I know there are fans who know every character on screen by name—but I would say I am getting up to being about an 8.
Nrama: What kind of preparation is there to oversee the Star Wars books versus one of Marvel’s in-house hero titles?
White: As detailed above, I’ve really re-immersed myself in Star Wars in a major way since finding out I would be taking it over. I bought a bunch of books, Blu-Rays, and scoured the net. On New Year’s Day, I watched all six Star Wars films in a row... which was a lot of fun. I am considering making it a tradition.
Nrama: You started your career at Marvel editing licensed titles with Magician: Apprentice and Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, and now you return to it with Star Wars. What’s it like for you editing licensed books that have this outside party, in this case the Lucasfilm Story Group, to go to versus the in-house characters Marvel has full control over?
White: Obviously, there are more steps involved when working on a licensed property, but working on Star Wars is also very different than working on the literary adaptations, as well. With Star Wars, I’m working with them to make all-new stories that work with the larger plans and tapestry of their saga. It’s a really rich universe with lots to explore, and one that is ever expanding. With, for example, the 8 or so Ender’s Game miniseries I edited, those were mostly adaptations of existing stories, and the ones that were not were created in direct collaboration with the series creator.
Nrama: Can you describe your interactions with Lucasfilm and the Lucasfilm Story Group for the comics?
White: I’ve met a number of the members of the story group in person when we’ve visited Lucasfilm Headquarters to discuss the series. Everyone I’ve met from the storygroup has been incredibly welcoming and excited to work with us. I first met them back in late 2013, but I don’t think they realized what a giant dork I was until I sent them a link to my Star Wars Holiday Specialukulele coveraround Christmastime. Since then, I’ve been back at Lucasfilm for various things—pitching stories with Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen, planning out our publishing plan and future projects, etc.—and each time, I’ve met with at least part of the story group. On a more day-to-day production level, I work with Jennifer Heddle, senior editor at Lucasfilm publishing, and she brings our scripts and comics to the storygroup to get notes.
Nrama: Even without the “Expanded Universe” in the Star Wars continuity, there are a lot of characters living in the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. I assume all the major characters will appear as promised in the covers, but could we see some minor characters pop up as well? Are there any ones you can tell us about?
White: Sure, there will. I don’t want to say too much, but when the solicits for Darth Vader #1 hit, you’ll see a handful of characters you might not have expected to see in the opening scene of the Dark Lord’s book.
Nrama: Will you and the writers of the Star Wars comics be introducing any new characters in the mythos here? And if so, how big will they big for your stories – how much latitude do you have?
White: We’re definitely going to creating new characters! Both Jason and Kieron have pitched new characters that are super awesome. I think there are more new characters being created in Darth Vader, in that we need to create more people for Darth to be interacting with/fighting with than just the stars of Jason’s series. So far, we’ve had lots of latitude in that department—they love when we add to the world just as much as we love adding to it.
Nrama: Is the planning of these comics a one-way street, or are there things being developed in the upcoming movies or other media that is filtering back into comics?
White: It’s absolutely a give and take. We pitched the concepts for the ongoing Star Wars and Darth Vader sister series with accompanying miniseries to them, but with the Kanan series, going into the backstory of Rebels character Kanan Jarrus, that was an idea they suggested to us. Again—that’s one of the great things about the collaboration with the story group. They know about all of the Star Wars stories being told, so they can let us know about opportunities to tie-in with other media, places we can reveal things for the first time...we’re going to be doing a mixture of projects—those tying in with other Lucasfilm pieces, and also those focusing on the inter-movie continuity we’re establishing with the main series.
Nrama: Seeing Star Wars at Marvel is a big deal, but even more so because Marvel did it before in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During that time there was some memorable characters created such as Jaxxon, Baron Orman Tagge, Lumiya and the ever-present Hoojibs. Any chance we could see a glance of them, even if just in a bustling bar scene?
White: There...is always a chance. A chance you might catch a glimpse of one. But don’t hold your breath for them to show up as story elements. That said, I’ve seen the work our trades department is doing in putting together the big ol’ Omnibus of those classic issues. I’m hoping I can pick up a copy and check out that version of things.
Nrama: Star Warsis an interconnected universe, but will these solo series be pretty much stand-alone between each other – or could you see them cross at some point?
White: The idea is definitely that the miniseries are in the same world and continuity as the main series. Like I said, we very deliberately set Star Wars, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia in the same time period. In much the same way that all the various Avengers books will reflect a shared continuity while still being able to be read on their own, we want to create a little “core” of Marvel Star Wars comics that you can read any one of, but will add up to more if you read the group.
Nrama: And would this include Star Wars: Kanan as well, perhaps sharing the comics page with Star Wars main heroes?
White: It would be a little harder to make a direct link from Kanan to the ongoings, considering the amount of time between when they take place. That said, the entirety of Star Wars is interconnected, so...the things we see in the past in Kanan could lay groundwork for things happening in the later-set series.
Nrama: Speaking of Star Wars: Kanan, that came as a bit of surprise – but fan response was immense. Can you talk about working in the new additions to Star Wars continuity such as Rebels and Kanan into the comics Marvel is doing?
White: Rebels premiered very shortly before we announced Kanan, and everyone was so excited by how terrific it was. I’ve been loving the series so far. The opening movie was terrific—a great introduction to the characters. Then they wholly won me over by having my favorite character, C-3PO, appear in the first regular episode. Him and R2 are so awesome...even if he does occasionally mess things up for the good guys. Anyway, everyone was so taken with Rebels that we realized we could easily make Kanan an ongoing—there’s a lot of story to tell there. If you’ve read A New Dawn, you know that Kanan was not always as he appears in the show. Working on Kanan so far has been great—we’ve gotten a lot of terrific feedback from the Executive Producers of the show so we can be sure everything we do fits right into their plans for the character going forward.
Nrama: You’ve said elsewhere that Jason Aaron and John Cassaday were your Star Wars team from the get-go, but what was the response and the calls from creators like looking to get in on the Star Wars line? How would you compare it to being editor of the X-Men book and being approached for work? And generalizing, how would you say the Marvel creators, as a whole, are interested in doing Star Wars comics?
White: The response has been huge! Yeah—we had already cast Jason and John on the main series before we even announced that we would be doing the comics...but believe you me, tons of Marvel creators love Star Wars and want a crack at these books. Myself, Axel Alonso, C.B. Cebulski, we’ve all gotten tons of emails from people inquiring about the books. The difference from just editing Deadpool or working on the X-books is that, with those, most of the calls you get are from people looking for work in general—new people, or people between projects, or people coming to the end of a project. With the Star Wars announcement, we got letters from people already happily working for us, too, who want to jump into that galaxy far away!