Jason Aaron is again putting his Darth Vader carrying case packed full of vintage Star Wars action figures to good use, probably for the first time since he was a kid.
The writer and artist John Cassaday kick off Marvel Comics’ new line of comic books based on the sci-fi franchise in January with Star Wars, the first of three titles launching in 2015.
Marvel, which takes over the Star Wars license for comics from Dark Horse Comics, is releasing a pair of tie-in books to expand the universe: the ongoing Star Wars: Darth Vader by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca in February, and the five-issue miniseries Star Wars: Princess Leia by writer Mark Waid and artist Terry Dodson in March.
Heading up Marvel’s first Star Wars comic in years and the first as part of the new canon led by the Lucasfilm Story Group — which is also overseeing the Star Wars Rebels cartoon and J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII next year, among other projects — is a pretty big deal for Aaron, he says. But that’s the kind of stuff that excites him as a creator.
“My desk will be a clutter of Star Wars toys but it’s all work related.”
The trio of new comics take place just after the Battle of Yavin at the end of the original 1977 Star Wars movie, and Aaron’s comic catches up with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and droids C-3PO and R2-D2 a couple weeks after the destruction of the Empire’s all-powerful Death Star.
The characters are still new for one another and figuring out their roles, and Aaron is treating it like Lucasfilm hired the creative team to do a sequel — though with the foresight of knowing where stories will go in the movies The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, too.
After handing the Empire a massive defeat, the ragtag Rebel Alliance is looking to press their advantage, so they plan a sneak attack in order to not let the moment slip away, according to Aaron.
The first issue opens with the heroes staging a daring raid on an Imperial locale “that of course goes exactly as planned as their plans always do,” Aaron quips.
He considers Star Wars a team book of sorts but initially Luke is the engine that powers the narrative.
He’s riding a high after being the one in the X-Wing Fighter who took down the Death Star. Still, he’s a young guy who’s fresh off the Tatooine farm and been thrust in the midst of this a cosmic war. Luke is seeking more info about his father Anakin, but doesn’t know yet that he’s really the baddest guy around.
“He’s got a lot of questions but he can’t look at the way things are and know that at some point it’s going to come down to him having to face Darth Vader,” Aaron explains. “He looks at that and says, ‘That’s the man who killed my father. He killed Obi-Wan. I’ve got to be able to stop him,’ but he knows he’s not ready for that.
“Yeah, he blew up the Death Star but if he doesn’t figure something out, he’s going to get himself and all his friends killed.
There’s also the irony, Aaron adds, that Luke’s in hot pursuit to learn more about his father while also running from Darth Vader, who’s trying to figure who this kid is that took down their mighty space station. “You’ve got them chasing after each other without realizing they’re chasing each other.”
By the time The Empire Strikes Back begins, the bad guys are back in full force so Aaron wants to build toward that and how power shifts back and forth. Plus, he figures he’ll play with the timeline and mix up the toys when it comes to various characters, alien races and vehicles. (He also promises a Marvel-worthy “Oh crap!” moment in his first arc.)
When Marvel went out to California and had a first round of meetings with Lucasfilm, Aaron and others had a tour of the archives at Skywalker Ranch, an inspiring place with shelves of starships, blasters and Han Solo frozen in carbonite. “Within all that stuff,” the writer says, “John was quite clearly the biggest Star Wars nerd out of all of us. This is a real passion project for him. It looks and feels like Star Wars.”
Aaron figures next year will be great to be writing a Star Wars comic as the Episode VII hype machine powers up. In the meantime, he doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.
“Sometimes part of my job is just sitting at my desk staring into space, so I do have toys I play with,” Aaron says. “When it would look like I’m just sitting there goofing off, I actually am working.
“Whatever kind of childhood magic is left in those things, I want to recapture some of those same feelings that I had when I first saw these same characters on the big screen.”