Kieron Gillen knew that he wanted a Han Solo analog to play opposite his titular character, but what he landed on was someone who may turn out to be more like Harrison Ford’s other iconic role of Indiana Jones.
Following the debut of Doctor Aphra in his and artist Salvador Larocca‘s “Darth Vader” #3, Gillen offers CBR News valuable insight into the secret origin of the latest addition to the Star Wars Universe. A self-proclaimed rogue archaeologist (not nearly as infamous as Boba Fett), Aphra is the foremost raider of lost weapons in the galaxy. Now, Vader has recruited Aphra to acquire and re-program a personal army of battle droids.
Gillen also discussed Vader’s first two droid recruits: Triple Zero and BT-1, the newly created “vaguely murderous robots” that are dark mirrors of legendary George Lucas creations C-3PO and R2-D2. Triple Zero is a protocol droid that properly suits an Evil Spock goatee, while BT-1 is as much Dalek as diagnostic repair unit.
CBR News: The identity of the woman on the cover for “Darth Vader” #3 has been a big mystery since it debuted. It turns out her name is Doctor Aphra, and the immediate response appears to be resoundingly positive. What’s the character’s secret origin?
Kieron Gillen: Our aim with the “Star Wars” books, certainly for Jason [Aaron] and me, was to make them feel like “Star Wars.” These are not adaptations. It’s “Star Wars.” We really lean into it. In Jason’s case, that’s high adventure. It’s the interactions between the characters. He knows how “Star Wars” feels.
I’m doing a Vader book. [Laughs] How do you do a “Star Wars” book about Darth Vader that feels like “Star Wars?” If you did just a straight Imperial book, it would be set in the Star Wars universe but it wouldn’t feel like “Star Wars.” “Star Wars” is obviously an incredible series. It’s epic in scale. But there has to be humor. There has to be capital ‘R’ romance. It’s a romantic space opera. As such, I have to work at creating similar effects of “Star Wars” into “Darth Vader’ without undermining Darth Vader as a character. That’s a really tricky balancing act.
When I was actually sitting down to create Aphra, she was one of my solutions.
We see “Star Wars” like the original movie, the first three, primarily from the point of view of the Rebels. At the same time, we know Vader’s history. Again, you want a character that is funny and charming and interesting but you don’t wan to undermine Vader. When Aphra speaks with Vader, she sounds a bit too familiar, but she’s actually nervous. And she says that.
In the next issue, there is a scene that underlines what is going on between them, and it’s pretty dark. Despite all of the glibness on the surface, she’s a pretty dark character. She goes around reactivating weapons of mass destruction [Laughs] apparently for shits and giggles. That said, if Vader is clearly in a bad mood, she’s walking on eggshells because he could just kill her any time she wants. There is a tension there — that’s what I’m trying to get at. I am very happy that the feedback, so far, has been very positive. It’s nice because anytime that you add a new character to the “Star Wars” universe, you’re very aware of what you are doing. Writing existing characters is easy. But trying to figure out a character that you think might be interesting, that’s difficult.
Is she connected at all to a classic character from the Star Wars Universe?
It’s a question of balance. This is one of the things that we spoke about during the initial meetings at Lucasfilm. Everyone wants to use all of the toys, and the “Star Wars” universe is very big. We are very much encouraged to make up new stuff otherwise everyone wants to work with the Jabba the Hutts of the world.
Aphra has a background, and she has a background that is tied to various bits and pieces. I mention in the book that BT and Triple Zero come from the same research project. That’s probably relevant. I would never do anything as crass as making Aphra and Han Solo former lovers. [Laughs] That would feel completely and utterly false. But she’s probably heard of Jabba the Hutt. Or other characters might be aware of her. That’s more likely. She’s moderately infamous, clearly, but she’s not Boba Fett in terms of reputation.
I was expecting Han Solo, but Aphra has an Indiana Jones vibe.
Exactly. I originally got the idea for the character during the initial meetings with Lucasfilm. I was walking around the Lucas headquarters and looking at all of the artifacts and just thinking about where I was, quite seriously. I passed some Indiana Jones stuff and I thought, “Well, that’s interesting.” I was already thinking about dark mirrors. Obviously, Triple Zero and BT are dark, very warped mirrors to C-3PO and R2-D2, but I needed someone to vaguely work as Han Solo. Vader is pretty much Luke. He’s the core character. I need someone to basically fit the Han Solo role, but someone who supports in a different way because, of course, Vader is very different to Luke. And I got into the Lucasfilm internal and thought, if you ethically invert Indiana Jones, that would be interesting. I already knew that I was interested in artifacts and him digging up older power sources. And here, you have a similar attitude to Indiana Jones — fails quite a lot, always plays the high risks, has a charming attitude but you have a completely different motivation. He wants to keep things safe. She wants to cause trouble. I thought that might be an interesting foil — that’s where she came from.
The first half of the issue is very much her introduction, and it’s basically homage. It’s basically me doing the opening to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Well, not basically. It matches the opening to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” beat for beat. [Laughs]
I love Triple Zero and BT-1. Full disclaimer, I also love Threepio and Artoo, but Threepio and Artoo as merciless monsters? You had me at “Hello.”
They’re a lot of fun. Triple Zero is Threepio with a bubbling nastiness. Again, we wanted to make sure that there is the correct amount of “Star Wars” comedy. But it’s a pretty dark comedy. Triple Zero is played pretty jokingly in this issue, but there is and will be definitely moments when he is very scary. Some of his desires of what droids are like or droids should be doing are genuinely, quite disturbing. And I think that’s pretty new for “Star Wars.” Actually, I shouldn’t say that’s “pretty new,” because I haven’t read everything in the Extended Universe, but he has some pretty unusual and creepy ideas. [Laughs]
When can we expect the inevitable BT/Triple Zero-R2-D2/Threepio, worlds-colliding confrontation?
Right now, we’re building up the supporting cast on Vader’s side and the antagonists’ side. And obviously, we have the Imperial antagonists — and they’re on the same side, but not really on the same side — and the Rebels. Jason and I want to build really interesting supporting casts. We’re going to see characters that we introduce in his book, and characters that he introduces in mine. So yes, in answer to your question, it would be fun to see those characters rub up against each other. [Laughs] I already have various scenes I would love them to do in my head. Even thinking about it makes me giggle.
Just do a droids-only one-shot.
Yes. I’ve always loved droids. I’ve written a lot of robots over the years, and there is a theme of robots in “Darth Vader” and all things mechanical. You will see this more fully by the time we get to the end of “Darth Vader” #6. You’re going to say, “Kieron definitely has a theme here.” Everyone knows who Vader is. He’s more machine than man. The question is, “How much of Anakin is left?” It’s one of the things that is inside him in a very literal way. For him to surround himself with robots speaks back to that, and it also speaks back to what actually happened to him. These are the themes that I want to hit with the guy. Next issue, and the issue after that, we really bring this theme to the forefront.
Based on Aphra’s skillset, does she have a good understanding of what Vader is going through?
I think so, but I don’t think Vader would ever really let Aphra in. Vader very much limits the info that he gives Aphra. Pretty much the first thing he says to her next issue is, “Don’t ask questions.” [Laughs] And of course, we explore why Aphra is so into Vader anyway. What’s her reasoning? And it’s simple — it’s Darth Vader. It’s the coolest job she’s ever had.
I imagine this is kind of a scary gig, but how do you say “no” to Darth Vader when he comes a calling?
Exactly. It’s an enormous opportunity knocking, especially if you are someone who walks in that kind of world.
With Disney already announcing release dates for five new Star Wars movies for the next five years, is it your hope that we might see Aphra, Triple Zero and/or BT in a film before 2019? Or maybe you already know something?
I don’t try and think about that. Part of me thinks that would be really cool, but it’s so beyond my control. All I want to do is put interesting toys into the toy box. I think Aphra is unlike anybody that is currently around, so let’s try her out. I think that goes for anyone working within an established canon. You want to leave it in a slightly better place than you found it — not just parasitize. [Laughs]
I was joking that it would be cool to have a toy of a character, and you know, doing Triple Zero would be very easy. [Laughs] I’ll just get some black paint and it’s sorted.
Finally, I’m pretty sure that you will concur that Salvador is killing on this book.
Oh, yeah — especially with Jordie [Bellaire] on colors. It’s a strong and fierce team. I don’t think this book would be working in any way without Salva. He makes it feel like “Star Wars.” We want to show people new things that they haven’t seen before, and there are some pretty wild things coming. How he’s doing Aphra’s movements makes her feel very real. It’s how she moves and her panic and her excitement and her trepidation. It’s a very mixed bag of feelings and emotions and I think her introduction worked really, really well.
And while Salva showing the new characters is great, his take on the classic characters is also really cool. And when he merges the two, it’s really, really interesting.
“Darth Vader” #3, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, is available now.
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