Beginning with the first film in 1977, the Star Wars series has grown into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, spawning six more feature films, several television specials and series, and full lines of novels, video games and, of course, comics.
Dark Horse Comics has been publishing Star Wars comic books and graphic novels since 1991, helping to flesh out and expand George Lucas' vision of the heroic Jedi and their struggle against the dark Sith. Dark Horse Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley has been senior editor of the Star Wars line since 2002, overseeing over two dozen series and graphic novels, encompassing a wide variety of storylines and characters, ensuring not only the quality of the stories but their proper place in the Star Wars continuity.
On February 10, the Star Wars series will return to theaters with the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3-D, the first in a planned annual release of each film in 3-D.
Diamond spoke with Randy Stradley about Dark Horse Comics' plans for their Star Wars line and the qualities that have made the series so enduring.
What are Dark Horse's plans to tie into the Star Wars rereleases? Since it’s going to be a long-term thing (six movies over six years), are there long-range plans as well?
I would describe our plans as modest. See, as each of the prequel films came out, we were tailoring some of our other series to tie into or reflect the events in the films. So we've already done quite a bit of tie-in material. What we’re doing is making sure that the "old" stories are either still available, or repackaged for new readers who are coming into the franchise because of the rerelease of the films.
There is one new project on which we're working that has links both to The Phantom Menace and the TV show The Clone Wars. Darth Maul is being "resurrected" in the animated show, and we're working on a new digest story to spin off from that event. It will be out fall of this year. Kids who didn't get enough of Maul in the movie will get their chance for more.
What can fans look forward to this year, in terms of Star Wars series?
There's quite a lot, actually! In no particular order:
• The eleventh, and concluding volume of Star Wars: Legacy tells the story of the climactic battle between Darth Krayt and Cade Skywalker. Set 140 years after the events in Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, the galaxy has come under the control of a new breed of Sith—and a new Empire.
• In our Omnibus program, we have four entries:
-Volume 5 of A Long time Ago (978-1-59582-801-9) wraps up our collection of the stories originally published by Marvel Comics between 1977 and 1985. These stories are from a "wilder" age of the Star Wars mythos—before anyone knew the franchise would become so big, and before continuity was taken as seriously by fans as it is today.
-Also from this era, and aimed at a younger audience is Droids and Ewoks, collecting the stories Marvel published based on the animated TV shows from the mid-1980s.
-The Other Sons of Tatooine (978-1-59582-866-8) has its roots in the Original Trilogy, but it tells all new stories of three characters Luke Skywalker encountered on his homeworld: the smuggler BoShek, who appears in the famous Cantina scene; Luke's friend Biggs Darklighter, who died heroically during the attack on the Death Star; and the only-mentioned-in-the-movie "Tank," whose life takes an opposite course to Luke's when he joins the Empire.
-Finally, The Clone Wars: The Republic Goes to War is the first of three Omnibus volumes to focus on the events of the Clone Wars from a slightly different perspective than the TV show.
• Jedi: The Dark Side (978-1-59582-840-8) is a story about Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and the Padawan he was training prior to Obi-Wan Kenobi. What begins as a murder mystery with political overtones turns into a full-scale revolution—and a dramatic turn of events that puts Qui-Gon onto the path that will lead to the events in Episode One: The Phantom Menace.
• Now the game The Old Republic has been released, we're hoping more fans than ever will discover the graphic novels (written by the authors of the game). Volume 3 of The Old Republic (978-1-59307-867-6) will ship in April.
• And there are big releases planned for the end of the year, as well—the long-awaited third volume of Crimson Empire, another volume of both Dark Times and Invasion, and a new series focusing on the Imperial side of things, Agent of the Empire.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but it's a big list!
How involved with the storylines is Lucasfilm? How much do you have to coordinate with them when planning a new series?
It's an easy collaboration. We run everything by them, and they, in addition to looking out for the health of the franchise overall, make sure that we're not running roughshod over continuity that, say, Random House is busy establishing, and keep us apprised of the billion and three details you need to know in order to navigate the Star Wars galaxy. We've worked together long enough now (twenty years!) that all parties have a pretty good idea of what will work and what may require fine tuning.
Dark Horse has had success with the Star Wars Adventures and the Clone Wars series for younger readers. Will there be more of those series in the future?
The Clone Wars digests (sort of minigraphic novels) will certainly continue. Just as older readers prefer whichever set of films to which they were first exposed, the kids have wholeheartedly embraced The Clone Wars. I mentioned that we're planning a volume about Darth Maul, but there's also one in March called The Enemy Within (978-1-59582-845-3) that's all about the clone troopers—no Jedi, no Force powers, just the grunts on the ground.
But beyond the sales of the books, what is really gratifying is hearing from so many parents that after trying everything they could think of to entice their kids to read, the kids willingly (heck, they beg to) read The Clone Wars. So that bodes well for the future.
What do you think it is about Star Wars that has made it such an enduring phenomenon?
There are lots and lots of reasons different people gravitate to Star Wars. I believe few of them ever consider the two most important reasons because they can't see the forest for the trees—or the galaxy for the stars. But here's why I think Star Wars—in all its various permutations—still holds attraction after all these years:
1. Its sheer size. I mean, there's an entire galaxy and twenty-five thousand years' worth of stories to be told. How could you ever get bored? Every new character you meet, every new world you go to, every new era you visit refreshes the franchise. If George Lucas had done nothing but create lightsabers and Jedi and a bunch of spaceships, we still would have marveled back in 1977. But he gave us an entire galaxy. Granted, much of it was blank canvas. But allowing others to fill in pieces of that huge painting over the past thirty-five years was another part of his genius.
2. At its best, despite the spaceships and galactic battles, despite the lightsabers and the magic of the Force, Star Wars is about human emotion—our desires, our pain, our joy—writ large . . . blown up to a Shakespearean scale. You can't go wrong with a basis like that.
You've been senior editor of Dark Horse’s Star Wars line since 2002, and have worked on Star Wars books since 1984. What is it about Star Wars that has held your interest for so long?
I think it's because I figured out the answers I gave to the questions above. When I took over Star Wars comics line ten years ago, I was a little worried that we might be running out of ideas for the franchise. Instead, I wake up every morning with a new idea, or a new area to research. Like I said, it's a big, big galaxy.
If you had to choose a side, would you be Jedi or Sith, and why?
A Jedi. The good guys always win in the end, you know (despite what some of my own stories might suggest!). Only instead of a bathrobe, I'd like to wear one of those killer black uniforms like Luke wore in Return of the Jedi. Just sayin'.