Droids Unplugged: High Tech Highlights

R2-D2! BB-8! And Darth Maul’s probe droids!? On June 28, make the jump to lightspeed alongside some of the universe’s greatest mechanized companions with STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED!

Written and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, this one-shot details three brand-new Star Wars stories—follow R2 on a crucial mission for Luke, witness BB-8 play matchmaker for a couple of Resistance soldiers, and see what Darth Maul’s probe droids did when they weren’t busy scouting for Qui-Gon Jinn!

To prepare for the book, we spoke with Eliopoulos, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and assistant editor Heather Antos about their favorite droids—and droid moments—in Star Wars history.

Marvel.com: There are so many incredibly-defined droids that act as main characters in the Star Wars universe—so, what’s your favorite droid that plays a central role in the Star Wars story? BB-8? Triple-Zero? Chopper?

Chris Eliopoulos: From the first time I saw “Star Wars” as a nine-year-old boy in the theater, I loved—loved—R2-D2. I currently have about 300 astromech droids in my studio. Really small ones to a giant R2 cooler. He’s the man—or droid. R2-D2 seemed to always know what was going on as well as being brave and snarky. It was something new for me. A machine that was cool.

Jordie Bellaire: I think my answer was always R2, he’s sassy and a bit bossy, but I think K-2SO has taken the love cake. He’s not only sassy and bossy, he’s pretty cynical—my kind of droid!

Heather Antos: Artoo, hands down, is the best Star Wars droid. Whereas all the other characters always seem to be getting into trouble…Artoo always seems to be the one to get his best pals out of trouble.

Marvel.com: Likewise, there are countless minor droids that the we might only see on the fringes of a Star Wars story. What’s your favorite background droid? Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s Gonk? IG-88? FLO the waitress?

Chris Eliopoulos: I love Treadwell, 2-1B and even the EV-9D9 droid that harmed my favorite, which is the Gonk droid. I have all these astromech droids in my office, but there is room for one Gonk droid.

A small nod has to go to RX-24 or Rex from the Star Tours ride. He was a lovable goofball.

Jordie Bellaire: I’ve always loved the design of an Imperial probe droid. Not to say I’m a baddie but you know, the baddies have some beautiful equipment to search out that rebel scum. Probably explains my K-2SO love as well!

Heather Antos: Gonk! I love Gonk so much—and I honestly can’t explain it. I think there’s an epic story with Gonk just waiting to be explored. I bet there’s so much of him that we just don’t know about yet.

Star Wars: Droids Unplugged cover by Chris Eliopoulos

Marvel.com: Time for some hard-hitters…What’s your favorite droid moment in a Star Wars comic book?

Chris Eliopoulos: I kinda have a perverse love of seeing Chewbacca ripping Triple Zero’s arm off and smacking him with it in STAR WARS #13. It follows the line that Wookiees tend to rip arms out of their sockets when they get angry line.

Jordie Bellaire: The psych out hologram of R2-D2 in PRINCESS LEIA #1!

Heather Antos: Any interaction between Triple-Zero and BT-1!

Marvel.com: And the toughest of all—what’s your favorite droid moment in a Star Wars movie?

Chris Eliopoulos: The scene in [“Empire Strikes Back”] where they are racing to get to Boba Fett to save Han and as they watch Slave-1 takes off, a blaster fight out breaks out on the platform and R2 seems to do donuts. In my young head, I thought he was being brave and blocking fire to protect his friends. A heroic moment.

Jordie Bellaire: The Ewok campfire scene, where 3PO is playing storyteller.

Heather Antos: One of Artoo’s most heroic acts by far was rolling into the arena on Geonosis to reassemble his best buddy, C-3PO. Artoo will stop at nothing to help his friends!

STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED, written and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, goes on sale on June 28!

Star Wars: A Screaming Good Time

This month, writers Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen find themselves about halfway through their second intergalactic narrative crossing over STAR WARS and DOCTOR APHRA, and fans find themselves in the midst of a dinner party gone horribly wrong with the Queen of the Screaming Citadel deprived of her main course: Luke Skywalker! Not surprisingly, we see Doctor Aphra in the middle of it all as she and Luke attempt to escape the wrath of the planet’s monarch all the while seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Jedi crystal.

As we round the bend towards the mid-point of this event, we sat down with co-writer Kieron Gillen, to discuss what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect around the next corner.

Marvel.com: When we first spoke about “The Screaming Citadel,” we discussed the similarities to other pulpy horror adventures like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Given where things left off with the second issue of the story, I’d say that comparison was a pretty good one given the scene at the breakfast table…

Kieron Gillen: Of course, the other comparison would be that Sana and Aphra clearly had some “Bad Dates.”

Marvel.com: Do you have any other similar surprises in store for readers?

Kieron Gillen: Nope. Nothing happens in the remaining three issues. I’m not sure what we were thinking. We’ve decided to move into a weirder slice of life direction, where Han and Leia sit down with 000 and BeeTee and experiment with crochet.

Marvel.com: We also discovered that Aphra intended to feed Luke to the Queen. How do you bounce back from that sort of discovery if you’re Luke?

Kieron Gillen: Luke and Aphra’s relationship certainly ricochets around across the story. You have to suspect that the latest experience does put a general downer on it. Luke has tended to idealize Aphra. It’s hard to hang onto that when someone’s tried to feed you to an alien queen.

This is all written from experience. I had a friend who tried to feed me to an alien queen. Our relationship was never the same, but we’re at least polite in public now.

Marvel.com: On the other hand, how do you suppose Aphra convinces the Queen to unlock the secrets of crystal now that she’s blown her dining room?

Kieron Gillen: With great difficulty.

That said, it’s a big house. The Queen’s probably got a lot of dining rooms. And we’ve seen in the first issue she prefers to eat while standing on a balcony. Kind of Al Fresco.

Doctor Aphra #8 cover by Marco Checchetto

Marvel.com: Of course, we also have the secondary story you’re developing in the background with Han, Leia, and Sana who are trying to catch up to Luke and Aphra. Why is it that Sana is so reluctant to fill Han in on her past with Aphra?

Kieron Gillen: Because it’s deeply embarrassing, for one. Maybe that’s the main one; Sana and Han have a complicated relationship, and letting Han know the details would make her never live it down.

Of course, Sana is the person who told Aphra where they were. If she hadn’t done that, Aphra would have never been able to convince Luke to go with her. The more that Han knows, the more likely they’ll piece it together.

Marvel.com: Once the two groups reunite, we’re going to see Sana and Aphra come back together again. While Sana seems to be finding a place for herself in the Rebellion, Aphra doesn’t appear to be slowing down any. Do we get any idea of what happens next for them as the series continues?

Kieron Gillen: Oh, it’s certainly a heart-warming moment when they meet up. Possibly literally, in terms of having a blaster bolt setting Aphra’s heart on fire.

Marvel.com: Now, let’s pretend there’s a “happy ending” for this Star Wars horror story and Luke gets to learn a little more about being a Jedi after the secrets of the crystal are unlocked. But up to this point, Aphra hasn’t tipped her hand yet. What does she get out of all of this?

Kieron Gillen: The most messed up thing in all of this is Aphra’s been relatively clean on her aims. She wants to reactivate the Rur crystal. Where she hasn’t been honest is her main motivation, which is to sell it for enormous amounts of cash.

Marvel.com: Last question: What’s the deal with the Wookie allergies on this planet?

Kieron Gillen: It’s less of an allergy, and more of an intolerance. More next issue, shall we say?

“The Screaming Citadel” winds its way into DOCTOR APHRA #7 on May 31, then on to STAR WARS #32 on June 14, and finally back to DOCTOR APHRA #8 on June 28!

Black Panther: Mastering the Past

Wakanda just can’t catch a break!

In BLACK PANTHER #15—out June 28—the African nation comes to understand that its ancient gods have left them to their own devices. While King T’Challa tries to figure out what’s going on, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Wilfredo Torres continue to throw challenges his way.

Torres took over for fellow artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse–who will return–with issue #13 and kicked off the new storyline “Avengers of the New World.” The arc dives into all kinds of beginning-of-time mythology that the artist gets to play with and develop. We talked with him about dreaming up some of these characters, putting his own spin on existing ones, and diving into the world of Wakanda.

Marvel.com: How was it coming up with the designs for the Simbi, Anansi and Teku-Masa? Did you look to ancient images for inspiration in developing them?

Wilfredo Torres: I tried to look at species native to Africa but ultimately I tried to not go too far down the rabbit hole and instead went with more of a traditional comics, movie monster feel.

Marvel.com: Wakanda has such a unique feel and history to it. How has it been getting familiar with that world?

Wilfredo Torres: It’s a fantastic setting with all the elements you could ask for; a beautiful natural environment, a technological marvel married to tradition. It’s really a wonderful backdrop for any storyteller.

Black Panther #15 preview inks by Wilfredo Torres and Terry Pallot
Black Panther #15 preview inks by Wilfredo Torres and Terry Pallot
Black Panther #15 preview inks by Wilfredo Torres and Terry Pallot

Black Panther #15 preview inks by Wilfredo Torres and Terry Pallot
Black Panther #15 preview pencils by Wilfredo Torres
Black Panther character sketches by Wilfredo Torres

Black Panther character sketches by Wilfredo Torres

Marvel.com: Black Panther himself has such a sleek, seemingly simple design. Is it difficult putting your own spin on that costume?

Wilfredo Torres: It’s deceptively simple really but Brian Stelfreeze had such a great approach to it so I just tried to follow in that same direction.

Marvel.com: How do you feel your collaborative relationship with Ta-Nehisi has evolved since you started working together?

Wilfredo Torres: Ta-Nehisi’s scripts play out like massive cinematic scenes and they also have these wonderful personal moments which I love working on. It’s been great to collaborate with him on this as well as [colorist] Laura Martin and the entire team.

BLACK PANTHER #15 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Wilfredo Torres arrives on June 28.

Elektra: House Money

Unlike most visitors to Las Vegas, Elektra will be getting gone when the getting is good.

Before the lethal lady grabs the next flight out of the glittering glitzy desert, however, we cajoled ELEKTRA writer Matt Owens to talk about how her time on the Strip changed her and what he learned about Ms. Natchios over the course of this series.

Marvel.com: Obviously, when you start the pitch for a character you have a distinct idea of him or her. However, over time, often, that perspective may evolve and change. In writing ELEKTRA, how did the titular character evolve for you? Where did she start and where did she end up in terms of how you thought of her?

Matt Owens: I learned an important lesson as I watched Elektra do the same throughout this story. I think Elektra is very similar at the beginning and the end of this story. The lesson learned is that that is ok. We are who we are. Failures, faults, fears. Elektra was running from a lot but ultimately she was running from herself. At the end of this series, she is not running anymore.

Marvel.com: Continuing that thread of how Elektra changed within the book, how do you see her trip to Sin City as having made her over? What ramifications can you imagine these changes having down the road?

Matt Owens: I think the biggest ramifications are going to be for those who have screwed her over most recently. After her most recent run-in with Daredevil, she tried to escape all the pain and bull. Now she realizes that there is nowhere she can go where someone will not be messing with her. So it’s going to give her a great drive heading back to New York. She has certain people in her [crosshairs] and she is a newly motivated Elektra.

Marvel.com: One aspect that you really dug into in the book is how Elektra’s past echoes into her future. Now this can be said for all of us, but why is it especially true for her? Do you view those echoes as helping her or imprisoning her in her current life?

Matt Owens: They do both.

One of the themes of this book is how your past informs your future. Are either of those two things escapable? Are they intricately intertwined? We see how Elektra deals with failing to save people. It’s a hang-up of hers from her early days of trying to be a hero. And it has a big impact on her in the present day story.

Similarly, her future seems to be rooted in her past as well. Both in the place and people it will involve. It’s inescapable. Which can be a frustrating realization to come.

Marvel.com: Artistically, how did your collaboration with Juan Cabal progress? How did you two aid/push each other creatively?

Matt Owens: Working with Juan was one of the most fun parts of this book. I make a lot of references to things in my scripts. It’s how I think and talk. Juan and I very quickly learned that we love the same sorts of things.

Elektra #5 cover by Elizabeth Torque

I would make a reference to the One Piece manga and he would visually know what I was getting at. I would make a Final Fantasy reference and he would come back with something even bigger and better than I imagined. You can definitely see the visual influences on our version of Murder World. It ends up being our sort of homage to Gold Saucer. It evolved over the course of the run as we got to know each other better.

We made each other laugh a lot and challenged each other and I think the book turned out great because of that.

Marvel.com: Making Arcade the central villain of the story certainly pitted Elektra against a nontraditional opponent. Looking back over the arc, what do you think that helped you reveal about your protagonist as a character? Similarly, what did putting Arcade against someone he doesn’t generally cross swords with help you to explore or highlight about him?

Matt Owens: Going to Vegas was a selfish act on Elektra’s part. Finally fed up with everything she has had to deal with in her life/lives, she chose to flee. But a hero does not get to give up his/her duty so easily. It was a difficult lesson to learn, but that was [what] Arcade forced her to see. That she is innately good. She will help people. She’s had failures in the past, but that does not make her any less of a hero. On the physical side, it also solidified why Elektra is one of the deadliest members of the Marvel Universe. She got to show off a lot of skills in this story. It was fun having her in an unfamiliar environment and seeing how she would get herself out of certain situations.

Now for Arcade, going up against Elektra was the ultimate instance of flying too close to the sun. He had a lot to prove with this new Murder World. He was still dangerous, he was still entertaining, and he can still kill the best. He’s desperate to try and reclaim his perceived seat at the high table of super villains. But as he explains to Elektra, even these current machinations are at the behest of someone else. He thought he could taste former glory, but it eluded him once again.

Marvel.com: Looking specifically at issue #5, why is it a must-have for any fans of Elektra the character or your ELEKTRA series?

Matt Owens: I think it helps solidify, for the universe and for Elektra herself, her importance and ties to New York. Specifically to characters like Daredevil and Wilson Fisk. The impetus for her flight to Vegas was an attempt to get away from things in her past. Matt, New York, heroism. Only to realize at the end that no matter what she does, she is inexplicably tied to those people [and] that place. It is her destiny. Whether she likes it or not.

That’s a hard realization to come to. Elektra has been a tool used by so many people for a long time. Oftentimes feeling like her choices are not her own. This battle with Arcade and the implications behind it have proven that to be true to an extent. And that is not going to sit well with Elektra. Now she can return to her rightful corner of the universe and face the very things she was trying to push away head on.

Go all in on ELEKTRA #5 by Matt Owens and Juan Cabal, available June 28!

Schooling Spider-Man: Crisis on Campus

Celebrate the Wall Crawler’s return to the big screen in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” by heading back to school with these adventures available on Marvel Unlimited!

Trouble rumbled through the pages of 1969’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #68 by Stan Lee and John Romita. The issue kicked off with Kingpin learning of an ancient clay tablet on display at Empire State University that he wanted, even if it meant throwing down with Spider-Man once again. Meanwhile, Spidey swung around after his battle with Mysterio, grumbling about not snapping any pictures of the fight. He got home only to find that his roommate, Harry Osborn, had locked the window!

The next day Peter Parker went to school on the E.S.U. campus and met Robbie Robertson’s son Randy. Moments after, a fellow student named Josh asked the young scholar about his thoughts on an on-campus issue; apparently the powers that be at the school intended to close down the exhibition hall and turn the building into rooms for visiting alumni. Josh represented a group that wanted the administration to turn that space into low-rent housing for students with financial difficulties.

Things looked up for our hero after he ran into Gwen Stacy and had a nice visit with Aunt May, but we readers learned that the latter had received some bad news from the doctor that she didn’t relay to her nephew. Back on campus the next morning, a protest had begun in an effort to convince the school to turn the hall into cost effective student housing. Josh wanted to take the building by force if necessary which did not sit well with Mr. Parker who pushed away from the group and went inside the hall to look at the tablet.

With enough of a crowd listening to him, Josh called for everyone to rush the hall. Kingpin saw this on TV and realized it would be the perfect distraction to steal the artifact. For his part, Peter also took advantage by snapping pictures of the demonstration. At dark, the villainous crime lord and his crew showed up and used an explosion to draw focus away from them as they ran into the not-so-secure location. Inside, Wilson Fisk actually came face to face with Peter Parker for a moment. As the Kingpin of Crime made his way to his goal, our hero ducked into a corner and changed into the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #68

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #68

What is Marvel Unlimited?



In the chamber holding the artifact, Spider-Man and Kingpin finally battled, with the well-dressed crime boss reminding the hero that his white jacket hid muscles galore. During the fray, Randy ran in and got smashed into a wall by the villain. Spidey grabbed him and escaped as part of the hall came crashing down and Fisk made off with the tablet. In the next issue, the police questioned Randy and Josh, assuming they had helped Kingpin with his plot. Meanwhile, out in the world, the villain allowed Spider-Man to find them, but the Wall-Crawler didn’t fall for the trap. The pair battled fiercely until Fisk’s cane gun backfired on him.

When the cops showed up, Kingpin lied and said that he and Spider-Man were actually allies. So, when the police saw Spidey him later, they opened fire. Peter wound up with the tablet in his possession until AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #71 when he gave it to Captain Stacy right after proving the kids didn’t have anything to do with Kingpin’s crime.

A Tangled Web

Thanks to Peter’s pictures of Kingpin’s attack, Randy Robertson avoided an unjust prison stay. Afterwards the two became friends, but Randy eventually met a woman named Mandy and the two got married. After they split up, the younger Robertson returned to New York City and started rooming with Parker. Years later, Dan Slott brought him back in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He started a relationship with Front Line reporter Norah Winters which didn’t sit well with Phil Urich, who doubled as The Hobgoblin. The two broke up after the events of Spider-Island when Norah made more of an effort to cover the story than to save Randy’s life!

Next time, tragedy strikes Peter Parker once again when Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy have a date with destiny in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121!

Watch the Latest ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Trailer

Peter Parker still has a thing or two to learn about being your Friendly Neighborhood Wallcrawler in the latest trailer for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” in theaters July 7!

Even with Tony Stark–a.k.a. Iron Man–around to show him the ropes, Spider-Man has his work cut out for him as he faces off against the Vulture, high school, and more in the trailer directly above.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more on “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as we websling towards July 7!

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur: Universal Tour

That’s one small step for Lunella Lafayette, one giant water-rippling leap for Devil Dinosaur. Get ready for the 10-second countdown as the dynamic duo from writer Brandon Montclare and artist Natacha Bustos blasts off into space.

“Lunella gets into the MoonMobile thinking she knows where she’s going—but will be in for a few detours when ‘Girl-Moon’ starts in [MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #19 on May 24],” says Montclare.

With no shortage of cosmic locales within the Marvel Universe, we asked Brandon to list a few he’d like to visit with these two characters. Take it away, sir!

“While she ping-pongs around the farther reaches of the Marvel Universe, here are some cool places I wish I could have visited with them.”

EGO THE LIVING PLANET: “Lunella and Devil Dinosaur only get to within 238,900 miles of Ego. That seems like a lot, but in planetary terms it’s just a near miss.”


ZENN-LA
: “I think the pair would love the high-tech home of Silver Surfer. Lunella is a city girl, and has never been more than a few miles from her apartment in NYC’s Lower East Side. The science-society of Zenn-La would both make Lunella feel at home, but also be wondrous enough to teach her a bunch of new things.”


THE BLUE AREA OF THE MOON:
” Moon Girl retains complicated feelings towards the Inhumans, and hitting the former location of Attilan would be no pleasure and all business. Lunella has more experience with Kree technology than any other Earthling, and the leftover rubble of the transported Inhuman capital city would be a goldmine.”


PLANET HULK
: “Because Devil Dinosaur needs to have some fun too! He’d love to go a few rounds with the galactic gladiators in the arena.”


ASGARD:
“I want Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur to go there mostly because it means I get to see Natacha Bustos draw the Rainbow Bridge and the Norse/[Jack] Kirby/[Walt] Simonson-influenced lords and ladies. For a compelling story point: Lunella is now The Smartest There Is—that’s becoming well known all over our home planet, but it’s time she starts becoming the brainy ambassador to all our cosmic neighbors.”

Pick up the next installment of MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR tomorrow, May 24, from Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos—and be on the lookout for issue #20, coming June 28!