A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away … STAR WARS returned to comic shops world-wide breaking records and garnering praise from fans and critics alike. Initially launched with Jason Aaron and John Cassady at the helm, the series aimed to explore the period of time falling between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” – an angle that continues to prove popular with comic readers of all ages.
Two years later, Jason Aaron will be stepping aside as long-time Star Wars collaborator Kieron Gillen (DARTH VADER, DOCTOR APHRA) ascends to the dark throne alongside current artist, Salvador Larocca. We spoke with Gillen about this change of the guard and what direction he and Larocca plan to take as the series moves forward.
Marvel.com: Kieron, how does it feel to be taking over the reins of the main STAR WARS title after Jason Aaron’s 37-issue run?
Kieron Gillen: Generally speaking, I like to think of myself as Palpatine, having successfully arranged a takeover of the once noble Republic and will now turn it to my evil ends. Jason has been reduced to living on a swamp world and speaking in unusual syntax. Gillen triumphant! Hail Gillen!
Er… it feels great. Jason’s run has been amazing, a piece of pop science fiction that speaks to the core wonder of Star Wars, and getting to follow him is an honor. It’s a book I’ve always felt close to, running its sister books in the time period with DARTH VADER and DOCTOR APHRA. That means it’s simultaneously familiar and intimidating, which is a really unusual feeling.
Marvel.com: You’ll be working with Salvdor Larocca again – a mainstay for Marvel’s STAR WARS comics line. How do you find having him as a collaborator helps you craft a story that rings true for fans of the Star Wars universe?
Kieron Gillen: First of all, Salva loves Star Wars. That’s true of a whole generation of artists, but every panel speaks to his love of the Star Wars universe, the research inherent to that and trying to ensure it feels like a lost frame from the movie. He does great likenesses of both characters and tech… but also is entirely capable of inventing his own things which feel like they must be a piece of design. Aphra’s ship, the Ark Angel, is a wonderful example of that – pure Star Wars, entirely new.
There’s also another aspect to Salva, in that he’s so fast it means that the book doesn’t need to flip between artists to maintain the schedule. That means that the book can have a consistent look and feel, which means you have a consistent Star Wars atmosphere.
Marvel.com: Unlike DARTH VADER, which gave you and Salvador the opportunity to explore the world of Star Wars from the perspective of the Sith Lord and the Empire, you will now have the opportunity to dig into the untold stories of our favorite Rebellion heroes. What aspects of these characters are you most interested in fleshing out that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Kieron Gillen: With VADER, my first task was sitting down and doing a close reading and deciding what must have happened to them between the two series. They’re the same people, but there’s a host of implied experiences between the two. Jason’s backbone has been Luke’s exploring his Jedi powers, trying to find ways to become the Jedi he knows he has to be… and I think that’s gone almost as far as we can before “Empire Strikes Back.” As such, my run on the book is less about the Jedi, and more about Luke becoming increasingly prominent in the Rebellion.
I kind of see Leia as co-lead of the book, and her own route is in there – one thing which struck me is that while this period is about Luke starting the path to a Jedi, by implication, it’s also about Leia *not* following her force sensitivity. As we see in the “The Force Awakens,” she never went that way. Why? Obviously, all this impacts Han as well – that throwaway line in the opening of “Empire Strikes Back” when Han is leading, about him being a natural leader? Well, no he isn’t that in “A New Hope.” Let’s see that stuff.
So, we’re very much about the rebellion… and the rebellion’s plan in this period.
Marvel.com: I see you’ll be taking readers to Jedha? What made this a “first stop” on your Star Tour?
Kieron Gillen: In a real way, the arc is based on slamming the cast of “A New Hope” into the War-movie aesthetic of “Rogue One.” What better way of showing that than just doing it? On a character level, there’s so much for all the cast as well. Jedha and Alderaan sit next to each other on the Death Star’s hit list, and that’s core for Leia. Luke’s search for the Force leads him to a huge hole in the planet’s mantle where one of the holiest cities in the universe was. And Luke learning about all the things which led to him taking that shot on the Death Star… all that, without thinking about what happens when you rub someone like Luke against the new-generation Partisans.
Also, it just struck me when watching “Rogue One,” I wondered: “So, what happens to Jedha now?” That I’m the writer of STAR WARS, I get to answer such questions, and lo! Nuclear Winter post-apocalyptic Star Wars is go for an arc.
Marvel.com: Are there any villains that you haven’t had a chance to work with that we can expect to see at some point in your run?
Kieron Gillen: Hmm. I dare say I’ve hit most of the big ones in the period, which clearly won’t stop me from using them again. This is the period when the Executor launches with Vader at its helm, after it all. There’s a few others I’ve got my eye on, if only for a cameo.
Really, half the thrill is always working out ways to add new, interesting villains to the canon. Clearly defined enough to get instantly, but not too broad to be without nuance. I’ve a new Imperial Commander in the Jedha arc who is a joy to write. I’m also bringing back other villains we’ve introduced elsewhere – it’s very much building on all the work we’ve done in the comics. Queen Trios, from DARTH VADER, will certainly be showing her face, and rolling her eyes disdainfully.
Marvel.com: As a final question: I noticed you mentioned you’ll be charting the rise and fall of the Rebellion in order to set us up for the events of “Empire Strikes Back.” Just how low do you plan to bring the Rebellion?
Kieron Gillen: Heroism is proved in extremis. Pretty low.
This comes from almost the flip of my reading of the gap between “A New Hope” and “Empire” for doing DARTH VADER. There I saw “A New Hope” ending with the greatest military disaster of all time and the next movie starting with Vader (one of the few survivors) in a much higher position, with the Rebellion on the run, holed up at the edge of the Galaxy.
Here… the Rebels have just defeated the Empire’s 20-year plan. It’s a huge blow against them, and people now know the Empire *can* be resisted… plus they have wasted huge amounts of resources. The Rebels will be resurgent, people will probably be joining them and they almost certainly have plans based upon their experience of the Death Star… but we know that by the start of “Empire,” the Rebels are being pursued hard. Something happened between the two, and that’s the story I’m telling. The Empire *had* Struck Back by the time “The Empire Strikes Back” started. “A New Hope” is, as the title suggests, about this New Hope. My story is about moving from one to the other, and how our heroes and the rebellion navigate them.
Suffice to say, it’s a story of heroism on the galactic scale. I can’t wait to show some of the things we have planned.