In a galaxy very, very close, Dark Horse will be putting out a brand new monthly Star Wars comic book beginning on January 9th, 2013. At first glance, the news that Dark Horse is putting out a new Star Wars comic might not strike you as particularly impressive. It seems like there’s a new mini-series or ongoing Expanded Universe tale popping up every week, but this one is different. Why? Not only is it simply titled Star Wars and does it feature a gorgeous cover from Alex Ross, but it’s set during the events of the original trilogy and is directly informed by the characters’ reactions to the events of A New Hope. And the icing on this intergalactically awesome cake is that it’s being written by Brian Wood, a man who is undoubtedly busier than you or I will ever be. With five (!) monthly titles on his plate, all signs would point to Wood using the Force to manage his Death Star-sized workload. I caught up with him to test his midi-chlorian levels, talk comic books, and find out whether there’s a Fett’s chance in a Sarlacc Pit of seeing a Northlanders TV show. And it looks like Christmas came early, because Santa Wood left us with a gift in the form of exclusive advance pages from Star Wars #1.
Brian Wood: Right this minute? It’s 4:15 pm, which means not much is going on, work-wise. The family’s all home and I’ll start cooking dinner soon, and once the kids are asleep, it’s back to work. I do most of my work in the morning, and then at night. I have a really densely packed work schedule, and its a struggle not just to hit the deadlines but to see my wife and kids and manage to not get sick every other week.
N: Speaking of which, between Ultimate Comics: X-Men, Mara, Star Wars, The Massive, and Conan, you’ve got a pretty full dance card. Please, for the love of God, tell us about your work habits. How do you stay on schedule? What tips do you have for those aspiring writers out there who want to get to that preposterous Wood-level output?
BW: I don’t know how I stay on schedule. Well, actually, I don’t always stay on schedule, but, for the most part, I do stay ahead of my artists, which is the next best thing. I took on a ton of work early this year, partly out of necessity and partly as a challenge to myself, to see if I could pull it off. When I was writing DMZ and Northlanders at DC Comics and usually doing one smaller project on the side, I felt busy, but I knew I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be. So now I’m doing almost twice the work, and I’ve gotten better with time management and I’ve also become a much faster writer. And, much to my satisfaction and the relief of my editors, this is the best writing I’ve ever done, despite the pressure and lack of sleep.
N: So, never sleep and take on a lot of things at once, huh?
BW: It’s not sustainable for the long term, though. As some of these project start to end, I won’t be replacing all of them with new books.
N: I saw a photograph of maps of the oceans and areas surrounding Bolivia on your Tumblr. Just how much research do you need to do for a comic like The Massive? Are you generally the kind of writer who likes to do intensive research?
BW: I do enjoy research. At times, far too much, and I can lose a lot of time and bits of sanity to it. When I started The Massive, which is something that requires a great deal of research, I made an effort to dial back the research, to be smarter and more selective about it. That said, it can take me a week to write a Massive script where other books can take 1-3 days each. I have Wikipedia open while I write, as well as Google Maps and Earth, and often a NOAA weather site. I could not write this book without being online, which isn’t always great for productivity. I have a bad habit of wandering around eBay or watching skate videos on YouTube at 2 am when I should be writing. Or sleeping.
BW: The biggest challenge is actually writing it under the shadow of reader expectation. And doing right by Randy Stradley, my editor, who has written a fair share of Star Wars himself, and that can be intimidating. When I started the job, I had this idea that Star Wars fans would be really hardcore and nitpicky and, to be frank, ready to challenge my work. Then I went to Star Wars Celebration, this convention, and I had one of the most positive experiences of my professional life. Everyone was super nice, very receptive to what I’m doing, and I felt like I belonged in a way that comic book conventions don’t. I came home from that show determined to write 10x on this title.
And I’m more of a fan of Star Wars than I was aware. Thirty-five years of exposure to it, I guess, creates an impression as well as a huge about of information stored in my brain that is only just now proving its worth.
N: Writing under the shadow of reader expectations is a similar challenge you faced with Conan. Do you find that you prefer writing a creator-owned series or diving into an already established franchise and putting your own spin on it?
BW: At the end of the day of course I’ll always prefer to write something new. That’s a given. But that’s what I’ve done almost exclusively for 14 years, so I felt like I wanted to try other things, to do the sort of work that my peers seem to have so much fun with, and exercise those muscles.
N: You’ve mentioned that your Star Wars comic “will pretend like its 1977 and no other films were ever made or books ever written.” What does this mean for the comic? How much ground will it cover? How many issues can we expect? Is this just the time period that interests you most or is it designed to help attract those who have seen the movies, but may find the expansive comicsverse a little daunting?
BW: I’ve had to clarify that statement so many times! By that quote what I meant to say is that IN THE CHARACTER’S MINDS, nothing has happened since the events of the first film. Luke and Leia don’t know they’re siblings, Vader doesn’t know Luke exists, and so on. Which is a challenge.
N: Now that you’re ten issues deep with Conan, how has the experience been so far? This is definitely a younger, more refreshing take on our favorite Barbarian. What has been the biggest challenge so far, and where can we expect the comic to go from here?
BW: I enjoy writing the book, and every month I’m pretty humbled at the positive reaction. I struggle with the writing at times… I think I’m aware of the history and the world in a way that’s very different from Star Wars, and it can weigh heavily. But I’m proud of the work, and sometimes the things that come the toughest can be the most rewarding because of it.
The younger and fresher thing is a mandate of both the source material and my editors, and its turned out to be a good fit for me. It seems like in the eyes of a lot of readers Conan isn’t Conan unless he’s grizzled and massive and completely straightforward. This younger, more multifaceted and human Conan is clearly appealing to readers who never thought they would want to read a Conan book. I’m proud to be at the helm of a series like that.
BW: AMC made a serious play for DMZ but DC Comics is not interested in seeing a DMZ TV show, it seems, as this was just one of many great opportunities they shut the door on. It makes no sense for me or my agent, or anyone else, to invest time in trying to adapt my Vertigo work. It’s just not going to be allowed. It’s tough for me to accept that, but I have, and that’s the biggest reason The Massive is not a Vertigo book. It’s a real shame, because something like that can really change a creator’s life, and that of his or her family’s.
N: What comics are you reading and enjoying right now?
BW: Truthfully, I don’t read comics except for research purposes. I read constantly, but the longer I do this sort of work, the more I value punching out at the end of the day and having some parts of my life that have nothing to do with comic books. I think its one of the secrets to my happiness, and my creative life expectancy.
BW: As if everything wasn’t enough, I would just ask people to keep their eyes peeled for something to be announced in the next month. Something big.
N: Last, but not least, the people want answers: what is in your ideal burrito?
BW: I am NOT a burrito guy. They remind me of San Francisco, where I lived for a truly depressing 18 months before scurrying back to New York. I do like a good taco, though. Charred steak or pork, greens, lime.
Nothing feels as good as looking at brand new exclusive art. It feels so good that I was planning on printing it out on glossy paper and rolling around in it on my bed like a comic book-themed Indecent Proposal, but I ran out of toner, so that dream went right into the trash compactor. Fortunately, it’s still here for your viewing pleasure, so, without further ado, please enjoy the first glimpses of Brian Wood’s Star Wars.
Pretty freakin’ sweet, huh? I, for one, will be counting down the days ’til January 2013.