|STAR WARS EDITOR - JORDAN D. WHITE
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DF Interview: Jordan D. White a ‘force’ behind Marvel’s Star Wars franchise
By Byron Brewer
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …
Declining sales in the 1970s at Marvel Comics was not something regularly discussed in Bullpen Bulletins. But the venerable House of Ideas, in part because of poor distribution, was in quite the financial pickle.
But in 1977, following the release of the movie blockbuster, Marvel’s fortunes turned around with the smash success of its Star Wars film adaptation. It had begun publishing the work after much prompting from Roy Thomas.
Marvel continued to publish Star Wars comics until 1986, and the Droids and Ewoks series until 1987. The comic book license for Star Wars was later picked up by Dark Horse Comics with new comics starting in 1991.
But with the rise of Earth’s sun this morning, comic shops and other venues around America will see the debut of Marvel’s new Star Wars #1 by writer Jason Aaron and artist John Cassaday, possibly the biggest comic book relaunch in recent memory!
Dynamic Forces, for this special occasion, went behind the scenes to discuss Star Wars #1 and the franchise as a whole with a man who helped put it all together: Marvel editor Jordan D. White.
Dynamic Forces: First, Jordan, how does it feel to be in charge, so to speak, of a franchise that has to be one of the hottest relaunches in comic book history?
Jordan D. White: It’s really amazing. I had no idea I was even in the running for working on Star Wars comics—when they sat me down and let me know, it was a total secret that Marvel would be taking them over. I wasn’t even allowed to tell my fellow editors for the first few months, it was that secret. But it is an absolute honor to be working on Star Wars, it speaks to the amount of faith the company has in me to get good comics made...and that’s what it’s all about.
DF: Marvel’s SVP of Sales, David Gabriel, has confirmed that Star Wars #1 will sell a million copies. With retail orders coming out in “force,” how does this speak to the future or the property as an ongoing comic book interest?
Jordan D. White: We are overjoyed at the sales of the first issue—it’s an unheard-of number for two decades. The first time someone said we might break a million I thought they were kidding me. But it makes sense—people are more excited about Star Wars right now than they have been in a long time...a long time. Between the Force Awakens (Star Wars VII) trailer and buzz making everyone’s imaginations run wild and Rebels on TV bringing some old-school Star Wars adventure to people...it’s a great time to be a fan. What better time to go back to basics and tell some rollicking space-adventure stories about the original Star Wars crew in comics?
DF: When news came that the Star Wars franchise was returning to Marvel and you would be editor, what challenges immediately arose about the comic books for you? Aside from a prime book, how was it decided who would get a series, if they would be ongoing or minis, etc.? Can you give us a little peek into the process?
Jordan D. White: The immediate challenge that came to mind is how to tap into what everyone loves about the series while still being able to make it feel fresh and new. Our immediate thought was that, as much as it’s fun exploring the full depth and breadth of the massive Star Wars galaxy and timeline, as they did over the many years of the extended universe, we would want to start out with a back-to-basics approach. Go back to the core story of Star Wars, the original series and the adventures of Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. Regarding the era we chose, Axel Alonso has often called this moment the “sweet spot” of the Star Wars timeline—it’s Luke struggling with this new world he’s stepped into, it’s Han and Leia still in the will-they/won’t-they stage, it’s Han not frozen in carbonite... Making that the main book of our line was the clear choice from the start...and it was very soon after that we had the idea for a sister-series focusing on things from the side of Darth Vader. Vader is such a huge, powerful character, and his story is central to all six of the movies so far. With that core to our line, we decided we could, for now, have miniseries about other characters and ideas come out alongside them...and there is always room to keep expanding as we go.
DF: From my understanding, Jordan, all of Marvel’s Star Wars titles will be canonical within the Star Wars Universe. The flagship of this franchise will be by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday and take place where the original Star Wars movie (later Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) left off. What can you tell us about this important book, and about how Aaron and Cassaday became attached?
Jordan D. White: Yes—having retired their expanded universe to the “Star Wars Legends” imprint, all stories going forward across the board are meant to be official Star Wars canon. As such, we’ve been working closely with the Lucasfilm story group to make sure everything fits together into the big tapestry of A Long Time Ago. With the only official canon being the films and recent TV shows, again...it made the most sense to us to go back to the beginning. Start fresh right where Marvel started back in 1977 with the very first non-film expansions to the universe—comic books filling that gap between episodes 4 and 5. As for Jason and John...in our very first meeting with Lucasfilm, we told them that these two were our top choices to write and draw the book. Jason is an amazing writer, and his work is so diverse, we knew he could nail it. And John’s art speaks for itself—he’s done some of the most gorgeous books the Marvel Universe has ever seen. They were our dream team...and when the book hits the stands, you will all see that dreams come true.
DF: As you said earlier, in February an ongoing Darth Vader series by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca will hit comic shops. What can you tell us about this book, the talent attached, and how it jibes with the main SW series, if it does? What thought went into a villain-centric book about possibly the most famous of Star Wars characters?
Jordan D. White: This is definitely a companion book to the main series—they take place at the same time and will share a world the same way that, say, all the X-Men books do. Kieron likes to say that Darth Vader is the hardest working man in the Empire—yeah, he is hunting down the Rebels...but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s got a lot of irons in a lot of plasma streams. On top of that...if you watch episodes IV and V, things seem...different for Vader between those films. Something about his place in the Empire seems to have shifted. Kieron caught on to that immediately, and a terrific story grew in that fertile ground. And Salva Larroca is such an amazing artist, and one who LOVES Star Wars. The art he is turning in for this book captures the world SO well. I think people will be very surprised by this book—it’s really crazy and dark. I love it.
DF: Mark Waid and Terry Dodson will be doing a five-issue miniseries about Princess Leia in March. She has most recently been portrayed in the comics as a rather feisty, independent warrior woman born, something really not in keeping with her initial appearances in the films, IMHO. What can you tell us of Marvel’s Princess Leia, as well as how the book was conceived, talent selected, etc.?
Jordan D. White: Leia is a great character—a princess who gets rescued from her cell and immediately grabs up a blaster to enter the fight. Heck—a Princess who is actually an active political leader in a rebellion! That being said, in the original film, Leia’s planet is destroyed, and while she might not have had time for her sorrows just then, we have time to explore the fallout a bit more in these comics. What does it mean for Leia that her home is gone? Is she really a princess anymore? And what responsibility does she bear to her people? These are all questions Mark Waid immediately started asking when I talked to him about the project...and I’m glad he did, because now we get to make him answer them all in the comics! And Terry Dodson seems like a no-brainer on a Leia book, right? His art is so gorgeous...have you seen the opening pages, literally picking up in the last moments of A New Hope?
DF: In an unspoilery manner, can you tell us if any new SW series or minis are already in the planning stages? There have also been mentions of OGNs?
Jordan D. White: There are DEFINITELY more planned. A few simmering in the pot...and they are ones I think people will be very excited about when we announce them...
DF: Marvel announced that comic book stores will have the option to throw official launch parties with exclusive items to celebrate the release of the all-new Star Wars #1. The launch parties will take place at participating local comic shops when the debut issue arrives on January 14th. Can you tell us anything about these local opportunities and how they have been received by the shops at large?
Jordan D. White: Our sales and marketing team really wanted to make sure that retailer had everything they needed to make the launch as big as possible. They sent out a bunch of cool promotional materials and items you can only get at comic shops on launch day. Keep an eye out for some cool Star Wars pins and exclusive variant covers.
DF: Jordan, can you tell us anything about what might be planned for the comics when Star Wars Episode VII hits movie screens soon?
Jordan D. White: Oh man. I can...I mean, I am physically able...but I would be in so much trouble if I did. Suffice to say, we have plans for a few different things that would fall right around that time.
Oh, plus, the movie comes out on December 18th, which is my 36th birthday. I told them that was really too much, but they insisted!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank STAR WARS editor Jordan D. White for taking time out of his busy schedule and joining us on the momentous occasion of the relaunching today of Star Wars #1! We would also like to thank Marvel’s PR maven Chris D’Lando who helped make this interview a reality.
You can get your copy of the Star Wars #1 DF Exclusive cover AND MORE! right here.
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