‘Star Wars’ Editor Jordan D. White
The ’10s have been a big decade for Star Wars. After being sold to Disney, George Lucas’s cinematic epic finds itself remobilized in a big way, with films spated to hit as heavy and hard as theaters can handle. But there’s another Star Wars in the works, one that takes fans home to the original trilogy, and it’s Marvel’s new line of comic books. The announcement was inevitable; Marvel Entertainment not only shares a parent company with Lucasfilm in Disney, but was the original licensee of the comics back in the ’70s.
With the news that 2015 would bring us Star Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader, and Star Wars: Princess Leia we thought we’d get the skinny on what we could expect, so we put the Jedi mind control trick to Jordan D. White for details. However, the Force is much stronger with him than us, so he resisted our best interrogations and kept the secrets safe. He did share these tidbits, though.
Man Cave Daily: So you’re now helming the Star Wars line, which unites Disney’s two biggest acquisitions in recent years. Does that change your work process at all from editing within the Marvel Universe & continuity?
JDW: Sure–we’re working very closely with the Lucasfilm Story Group, so there is a lot more running things by people. The writer and I will discuss the story we want to tell, then it needs to be presented to Lucasfilm, to see if it fits ino the grand story of Star Wars as they’re continuing it. They will let us know if it contradicts things, if it goes against their plans…or they will sometimes let us know when ideas fit well with their plans, and ways we can synch up for connectivity. It’s pretty great.
MCD: Have any ideas at the comic level worked their way upwards yet? e.g. an original character they want to use, or a biographical detail?
JDW: Not directly in that way yet, but it’s still very early yet. I know, for our Darth Vader series, Kieron is creating a bunch of new characters who I think RULE. If everyone else likes them as much as I do, it would be AWESOME for them to pop up in other media.
MCD: When Marvel obtained the license back in the ’80s they were free to explore the expanded universe. Have there been any callbacks to that continuity?
JDW: Actually–let me take that back–there IS a big thing we have not announced yet that will be revealing stuff in comics first. It’s a big part of a character’s backstory that is important to them but that has not been shown before. We’re going to have the chance to reveal it in comics first. I can’t say what or where yet…but I will eventually.
MCD: Ah, you tease.
JDW: They actually had the license in the ’70s–the first issue of Marvel’s Star Wars comic actually hit stands before the movie even opened. Like all the other Star Wars comics and novels, those tales have all been shifted to the Star Wars Legends branding. As of yet, we have not brought any of those tales into our plans. Jason has been threatening to bring in Jaxxon, but he hasn’t slipped through yet.
MCD: How much would you say this new line supplements the major characters and storylines vs. exploring the other corners of its mythology?
(In other words, how many fruit baskets will I have to send to your office to get my fix of Grand Admiral Thrawn?)
JDW: As of right now, we’re really focused on the main Star Wars mythos–our main series follows Luke and his journey, in the same way the original trilogy did. Then, over in Vader, we get to continue the story of Anakin/Vader in a way we couldn’t when the original trilogy was released, because his backstory had not been told yet.
The miniseries will give us more opportunity to go off the main track and get further into the wider galaxy…but that said, we’re kicking off with Princess Leia, who is just about as central to the series as you can get. Don’t worry–I am sure we’ll be doing a Pol Treidum miniseries eventually.
MCD: I’m seeing a lot of potential for a Figrin D’an series about life on the road (hyperspace vector?) for a hard-traveling band. You’ve already got a veteran music/comics creator in Kieron.
JDW: Star Wars: Battle of the Bands would be pretty epic. But the readers would be mad when the Ewoks win.
MCD: Always bet on the band with cannibal members.
JDW: They could turn Max Rebo into a horn of some sort.
MCD: Okay, so you’ve got Vader, Leia, and the main title with these huge name creators. Are you looking at this line as a tight, artisanal serving of choice talent? Something like “Let’s showcase Star Wars as filtered through people with a strong vision?” Or is it more a case of subduing the artistic voice a bit to deliver a tale in the tone of the Lucasfilm productions?
JDW: I think there is room for both. With Star Wars, Jason Aaron is going for the Star Wars feeling. Big, epic adventure with heart and humor. Meanwhile, I think the Vader book is going to be a little different than what you see in the typical Star Wars movie so far. It has to be.
And I think it will be unmistakably Kieron Gillen–again, not in that Vader is going to be starting a zine about his favorite emo jams, but in that these writers are really top of the line comic creators who always bring their very distinct voices to their work.
Mark Waid on Leia? Again–that’s going to be a very specific take on her. And yeah, we’re making sure it fits into that Star Wars tapestry…but it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for artistry.
MCD: What an excellent place to ask my next question: You recently clarified on Twitter that editing comics is not quite how everyone pictures it, and compared & contrasted it with the role of a TV showrunner. What would you say is the impression people have of your duties that prompted that?
JDW: Sometimes it’s an impression, sometimes it’s a lack of one. Most people really don’t know what a comic editor is and what they do. But there are some people who seem to think a comic editor’s job is to check for typos and punctuation errors.
I compared a comic book editor more to a TV or film producer than just a copy editor. Sure–we are the first reader of the scripts, and we DO do our best to make sure the copy editing is all correct…but there is so much more to it. We work with the artists on every level of the book, making sure their contributions are working with the others’ in making the story as good as it can be. So, we check the art against the scripts, give notes on colors to help clarify mood, tone, and storytelling…
Not to mention that we usually have a say in choosing the people to do each of those jobs, which is a HUGE part of making a comic. The alchemy of the various creators gelling together is one of the most important parts of comics making…maybe THE most important part.
And yeah–at Marvel, as opposed to on a creator-owned book, the editor ends up being the “showrunner” in many ways, in that they are shepherding the series. I don’t mean that to take away from the writer at all–they are the ones writing the actual story. But the editor is Executive Producing it at every step.
MCD: Given that you’re working so closely with Lucasfilm Story Group, have you had to pick the larger vision over your own gut feelings to deliver the product audiences expect?
JDW: Not in a huge way. I said I have to run things by their story group and that they get the final call…but that itself is not THAT different from the way Marvel works. The basic difference is that Marvel Editorial and the writers we bring to our retreats ARE the Marvel version of the story group. Then, that group has basically entrusted me with guiding (say) Deadpool in his comic to go along with the larger story being told in Marvel Comics. With Star Wars, I just have to check in a little more.
MCD: You’re a lifelong SW fan, as are most of us. I imagine getting this assignment was like entering comics again for the first time. Did you get a special thrill to find out you’d have a hand in these massively popular characters? Or was it something you’re used to having worked on so many different Marvel titles?
JDW: It was absolutely a thrill. I found out that I was going to be editing these books last November. I was actually told the day before leaving for a Disney World vacation…and it was a VERY exciting thing. I went on Star Tours like a zillion times that trip.
Since then, I dove back into Star Wars fandom to reaquaint myself with it. Of course, I was a big fan as a kid–I saw Jedi in the theatres as a little one, and I had VHSes of the movies that I watched SO many times.
I started listening to the EXCELLENT podcast, The Star Wars Minute. Its so fun and funny. They broke the original Star Wars up into minute long chunks, and each episode, they watch one and then talk for about 20 minutes about it. They’ve gone through A New Hope and Empire now, so it’s a pretty awesome refresher.
I also read the hilarious webcomic Darths & Droids which reimagines the entire saga, from Episode 1 on, as a roleplaying campaign where the players are wreaking havoc on the GM’s plans. Pretty freaking great. Plus, I picked up the Blu-Rays of Clone Wars and the full saga. I actually watched all six movies in a row on New Years Day this year. SO much fun.
MCD: So the fans can rest easy knowing you’ve done your research.
JDW: Hell yes. And enjoyably so.
MCD: Okay, give me Vegas odds on a Star Wars / Guardians of the Galaxy crossover based on Patton Oswalt’s Parks & Rec filibuster.
JDW: On a pure fan level, I would love that. But here’s the thing…time travel or dimension hopping doesn’t really feel very Star Wars. Star Trek, sure–they do that all the time…I don’t know. I am sure a crossover will happen someday, but…if you’re betting anytime soon, I’d say they’re long odds.
MCD: I think we can do it if we bounce it off the notion that Jaxxon and [the character making a cameo in The Guardians of the Galaxy stinger] come from the same planet. All they’d have to do is acknowledge it’s one galaxy over.
JDW: But it’s also a long time ago.
MCD: Fair point. I see why you were chosen to be Marvel’s Star Wars editor.
JDW: Also, my hand was chopped off and replaced with a robot hand.
MCD: Does that make your tenure the RotJ of Star Wars comics? This is the third installment, after all.
JDW: Return of the Jordan, naturally.
MCD: Now that’s a prequel we’d watch. Thanks, Jordan. May the Force be with you in this project.
Brendan McGinley is editor round these parts when not writing comics or Cracked columns. You can say a neighborly hello to him on Twitter @BrendanMcGinley. You’d probably enjoy his supervillain comic Heist, if you’re a fan of tarnished souls and brutal retribution.
The closest Brendan ever came to using the Force was when he achieved 120 mph using nothing more than his mind and gravity in Secret Agent Training Phase 2: Skydiving!