Unapologetically Strong: Mark Waid & Terry Dodson Talk ‘Star Wars: Princess Leia’ [Interview]
Earlier this year, it was announced somewhat controversially but unsurprisingly that the Star Wars comic book license would be leaving Dark Horse, its home of more than 20 years, and moving to Marvel Comics. This was not a surprise, as once Marvel corporate parent Disney bought Star Wars owner Lucasfilm, fans felt it was only a matter of time before Marvel announced that it would produce its own original Star Wars comics for the first time decades. But no one knew what exactly Marvel would actually dowith Star Wars.
Saturday at Comic-Con International, Marvel announced no fewer than three new Star Wars series to the San Diego crowd: two ongoings titled Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader, and a miniseries called Star Wars: Princess Leia.
Princess Leia is, of course, one of the most famous characters in science fiction, and very arguably the most famous female character. She’s iconic, recognizable, and quotable. Leia is a character with a lot of implied depth that the Star Wars movies didn’t fully explore, even across three films in which she appeared. Of course, hardcore Star Wars fans could tell you a lot about Leia’s numerous adventures in the Expanded Universe of novels, comics and games, but as evidenced by Marvel’s plans to start anew with its own adventures that are fully canonical with the films and new animated series, there’s something to be said for offering film fans a fresh start with this most important character.
That start is to be facilitated by some of American superhero comics’ most popular creators: writer Mark Waid and penciller Terry Dodson, who along with editor Jordan D. Whitespoke with ComicsAlliance about their auspicious new gig.
ComicsAlliance: Marvel only announced three Star Wars books, which is obviously a reduction in the amount of Star Wars comics typically published at any given time over the last two decades. Why was a Princess Leia book a priority, as opposed to, say, Han Solo? That it’s a miniseries suggests other characters may get the solo spotlight next.
Jordan D. White: Leia is a really awesome character. She’s not some damsel in distress—she’s a princess who is more than prepared to grab a blaster at a moment’s notice, take on enemy troops, and jump into sewage. Yeah—we love Han Solo, too (and I am partial to C3PO, myself)… but for my money, Leia seemed like the best character to spotlight to really show off what the Star Wars Universe has to offer. And if you’re hoping to see more characters in the spotlight after this… you might just get your wish!
CA: Was this a job you guys sought out when Star Wars returned to Marvel, or something that Jordan approached you for? In other words, what landed Mark and Terry this gig?
Mark Waid:Jordan approached me but, honestly, if I’d had my pick, this would have been the one. She’s my favorite because she’s so layered and has so much potential. What makes Han interesting is his backstory; what makes Luke interesting is his destiny. For Leia, both her past and future are fascinating.
Terry Dodson:Marvel approached me for the book but I must admit when I heard Marvel got the license I hoped to get a call someday to work on Star Wars as I am a huge Star Wars fan. And the chance to work with the original characters was too good to pass up, and it seems like less has been done with Leia, and she is such an important character to the trilogy of movies.
CA: What’s been revealed so far sounds like the book will focus a lot on Leia’s diplomatic and leadership skills and that political intrigue will play some part. Will we also get to see some action?
MW: No, I thought we’d spend 80 pages in Galactic Senate hearings. Oh, come on–Leia’s a bad-ass. Who could forget that she’s the one constantly showing the boys how to use their weapons? There’ll be plenty of rollicking action, but it all has to come from her character. She’s not rude, she’s direct. She’s not bitchy, she’s easily exasperated by nitwits. She’s not bossy, she’s–okay, well, she’s a little bossy, but she isa princess.
CA: What aspects of the character from the movies were important for you to include in the comic, and what if anything do you want to do to make your version distinct?
MW:The movie aspects that are key to me are her take-charge attitude and her justified unwillingness to be mansplained to. The key — and I think we’ve got a good handle on i t– is to make it clear those are strengths, not quirks, not traits that make her “difficult” in any way. She’s not mean, she’s not snarky, but she is authoritative — which, for her, in this story, is a challenge since you’d think having your entire planet done away with might erode any claim you have to royal fiat.
TD:Attitude and believability — I’m definitely shooting for making the character I draw feel the same as the one we know form the screen but now not limited to film/photography… meaning I want her to be Leia without tracing photos of her. I want to use of the strength of the comic medium to make the reader believe they are seeing as real a version of Leia as that in the movie.
CA: Leia is famous among cosplayers for changing outfits in nearly every new setting where she appears, often several times within each film. Terry, your work is very fashion and style-conscious. Can you talk about your approach to Leia’s character and the Star Wars universe from that angle?
TD:Yeah, there really is a treasure trove of outfits and if you include all the amazing design work that was done for the mother’s character in the prequels (that’s Amidala to you and I) it is a great tradition to follow in. I will be trying to follow what has come before and use the entire Star Wars universe and also the influences that the designers of the movies were looking at as well to fully understand what makes the costumes and characters unique to Star Wars.
CA: What’s the most fun or fascinating part about this project for you guys?
MW:Writing an unapologetically strong female lead.
JDW:Being able to explore and help shape the story between the original Star Wars films.
TD:I love the chance to play with the Star Wars universe again [Dodson worked on some of Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics in the 1990s]. Star Wars was my first universe as a child — before Marvel and DC Comics, GI Joe, Tolkien, even Disney. Star Wars was the first fantastical world that I was exposed to that I embraced and loved as a child.
CA: Leia is well-known as a strong female character who holds her own in a male-dominated universe. Will we get to see her interact with other women in the comic?
MW:Yes. But they’re not going to be doing each others’ hair or getting into pillow fights. If that’s your thing, may I introduce you to the internet?
CA: With these three Star Wars books all running in the same time period, how much will they fit together? Or is this Leia book, being a miniseries, meant to be something more self contained, perhaps with a view to book trade success?
MW:It is self-contained, but Marvel’s doing a great job of keeping all of us looped in on one another’s work, and anything I can do to help build, I’m eager to do.
JDW: Yeah, you can certainly read just this miniseries (or just Star Wars, or just Darth Vader) but they’re set in this same era on purpose. We’re kicking things off the Marvel Way—just like you can read however many of the Avengers or X-Men books you like, if you read more than one, you’ll get a broader picture and a richer story.
Star Wars: Princess Leia debuts in 2015 from Marvel Comics.