If we’ve learned one thing from Outkast it’s that ice cold is in fact cooler than bein’ cool. But what’s cooler than ice cold? According to Charles Soule, it’s Lando Calrissian.
And who can argue? Ever since Lando first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back” — bursting down the runaway on Cloud City to meet his old buddy Han Solo — he’s been one of the most popular characters in the entire Star Wars universe.
Immortalized on screen by the incomparable Billy Dee Williams, the one-time owner of the Millennium Falcon is the latest original trilogy character to get his own solo series from Marvel Comics, following “Darth Vader” and “Princess Leia,” which places him in pretty good company.
Soule, already writing the upcoming “Uncanny Inhumans” and “Civil War” for Marvel, starts his (Kessel) run on the five-issue miniseries — titled simply “Lando” — in July with interior art provided by superstar artist Alex Maleev.
CBR News connected with Soule to discuss “Lando” and the fan-favorite writer teased that the miniseries features an “Ocean’s Eleven”-style heist that requires the services of a tech-savvy hacker named Lobot, yet another character made famous in George Lucas’ blockbuster sequel to “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
Both characters are introduced into Marvel’s in-canon exploration of the Star Wars Universe in “Lando” at a time between “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back,” but even though readers are meeting the space pirates for the very first time (in continuity), Lando and Lobot already have a long history of capers when the story opens.
CBR News: In the announcement for “Lando,” you declared that Lando Calrissian is the coolest character in all of Star Wars. What makes him so cool?
Charles Soule: Lando has that innate confidence that makes him a very, very smooth character. He’s a guy that knows what he wants and enjoys life in a really big way. Things go wrong for him, but when you compare him with a lot of other characters in Star Wars, he’s not really caught up — at least when we first see him — in the Galactic Rebellion. He’s not a bounty hunter. He’s not a Jedi. He’s not a rebel soldier. He’s not any of those things. He’s a guy that is living his life and trying to have a happy, good life and do as much as he can to put Lando ahead. He stuck out the very first time I saw him in “Empire Strikes Back” when I was a kid and that’s the kind of character that we see in the “Lando” series. He hasn’t become a soldier in the Rebellion yet. He’s a guy who is very much scrapping and trying to get ahead — just doing what he can to put himself in a good position.
In the series, it’s been teased that Lando is embarking on his greatest caper ever. I guess this series is set before he blew up the Death Star at the Battle of Endor with Nein Nunb but still, that’s saying something.
Yes, you threaded the needle nicely there because obviously, some of the stuff that we see him doing in “Empire” and “Return of the Jedi” is huge but to date — when we see him, which is set between episodes IV and V, so it’s before Bespin and before “Empire Strikes Back,” as far as I know, at least of the ones that I’ve written — this is his biggest adventure up to that point. It’s a heck of a story. It’s really fun.
And in this ‘greatest caper,’ Lando is looking to steal one of the galaxy ‘s most valuable ships. Any hints?
Not yet. [Laughs] The reveal of what that ship is a big part of the first couple of issues and I really want to leave it for that but it’s a cool ride, for sure. And Lando gets in over his head quickly, which is also pretty characteristic of the way we’ve seen the character before. He is very confident. He thinks he can handle any situation that comes his way and then the situation starts to handle him a little bit over time.
But as we see in the first issue, he puts together a crew of mostly new characters — there is one familiar face, which is Lobot. He is a very cool character to write. When we see him in “Empire Strikes Back,” he was always one of those weird side characters. The action figure always tended to be left on the shelf at Toys “R” Us or wherever so I figured it was time to give Lobot his moment in the spotlight.
When we meet up with Lobot, does he already have a relationship with Lando or is this caper their first encounter?
The way that I am writing their relationship in the story is that they have already been buddies for a long time. They’ve been through a lot of adventures and a lot of crazy things and this is just the latest adventure that they are trying to survive.
You mentioned there were new characters in the crew. Can you share any details about who or what we might expect?
A little bit. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much just yet because we are a little ways out but the basic idea is that Lando is putting together a crew that will help him successfully execute this heist. You think of a movie like “Ocean’s Eleven” or any movie where they are assembling a crew like “Reservoir Dogs” or you name [it] and that’s the tone. You’ve got some muscle. You’ve got some brains. You’ve got some charm. And that’s usually the charismatic leader and that’s Lando. And Lobot is the hacker/tech guy archetype. That’s the team. They’re not all human at all. There are some cool aliens on the team. There are some neat bad guys that will be cool and people that we haven’t met before. There are some familiar faces and some unfamiliar. I feel like it’s a really good mix.
Are we going to see Nein Nunb? I always figured that he and Lando must have had a history if he is riding shotgun in the Millennium Falcon during the Battle of Endor.
He does not appear in this story. But, again, I like that guy too. He’s a very interesting guy. But if I was going to pull up an old buddy of Lando in this situation, I wanted to do it with Lobot. For whatever reason, Lobot is the guy that resonated with me the way that Nein Nunb resonated with you. Who knows if it will happen in future stories but in this one, Lobot’s the guy.
Again, Star Wars is a huge galaxy and it’s fun to use familiar characters but it’s also a great opportunity to bring in some new ones. I hope they stick and people like them as much as I do.
Alex Maleev is obviously huge in that. He’s drawing the series and doing a fantastic job. His designs for the new characters are all spectacular.
I was going to ask you about Alex next. No doubt, Marvel and Disney have a built-in fanbase when launching all of these Star Wars titles. But man, comic book readers would be lining up for these titles too based on the talent. You and Alex on “Lando”; Jason Aaron and John Cassaday on “Star Wars”; Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca on “Darth Vader”; Mark Waid and the Dodsons on “Leia.” Greg Rucka on “Shattered Empire”; Greg Weisman on “Kanan”… come on.
Alex actually doesn’t live too far from me. He lives in Brooklyn as I do so we get to hang out a little bit as part of putting this project together, which, for me, was a huge deal. I’ve been following his work forever. I loved all of the stuff that he did with [Brian Michael] Bendis. But that’s been my experience working in comics all the way through, working with guys like Steve McNiven or Tony Daniel or any of these other amazing artists that I’ve been so lucky to work with. It’s been spectacular. I shouldn’t have mentioned any names because I am going to be leaving a whole lot names out. [Ryan] Stegman, too. They’re all fantastic.
But Alex is great at drawing action and people in a way that I would say is really gritty. It’s very lived-in, which is fantastic for storytelling. And if you look at the hallmarks of the original trilogy, it was meant to be a lived-in world. The ships were banged up. They were a little dirty sometimes. The gear looked oily. It looked like it had been used and been maintained. It wasn’t just a perfect, sterile universe. And so, who better than Alex Maleev to draw something like that, particularly because the story is not taking place at the highest levels of Star Wars society. It’s a little more of an underworld story. I think that he is a fantastic pick and he’s a great guy too, which is nice. [Laughs]
You’ve said that this series takes place before “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Where does it fit in terms of continuity with the other Marvel comic book titles like “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader?”
I would say that it is certainly not contradicting any of those things. But it is not directly tying into those stories. The idea is that this story is off on its own. We may see some of the faces that have been seen in some of those stories but it’s designed to be its own thing. You don’t have to have read those to pick this up at all. Your experience may be enhanced if you do but if you have seen the movies, you’ll be fine. It’s very much a part of the larger Star Wars story, particularly in terms of how Lando is and Lobot is. It all fits in really well but it’s also its own thing.
Is it a miniseries or an ongoing?
It’s a mini. But if the appetite for “Lando” is unbelievably huge, which I expect it to be, than we’ll see what happens but at this point, we’re planning a five-issue series.
Did you catch Lando on “Star Wars Rebels?”
Yes and I thought it was great. And I thought it was fantastic that Billy Dee Williams came back to voice the role. It’s not impossible but having him do it really added a lot to it. I had already been working on “Lando” for a while when it came out but I was happy to see that portrayal was perfectly in line with what I’m doing and the more Lando the better.
One of things that I thought was great was when “Lando” was announced, my Twitter feed and my Facebook page erupted. People were very excited to see that Lando was being focused on in this way. There was a range of people that just love the character to people that were excited that Star Wars was a diverse universe showing all kinds of different characters as leads. And like you said, there hasn’t been a bad issue in the Star Wars lineup yet, so people are excited to see more and more. I can’t wait. I wish this issue were out tomorrow because I can’t wait to see what people think.
Finally, you mentioned the coolness factor skyrocketed when it was actually Billy Dee Williams voicing Lando on “Star Wars Rebels.” Did you go back and watch the original trilogy to help you find Lando’s voice?
Absolutely. That was the first thing I did was sit down and re-watch all three movies. And I realize that he’s not in “A New Hope” but who needs an excuse to watch “A New Hope?” The other thing too is that I feel that the way they are handling the Star Wars universe and continuity these days is great. I am enjoying reading all of the comics. And watching “Rebels” and going back to “Clone Wars.” There is a lot of really good stuff happening in the Star Wars universe. And I am sure we all saw the “Force Awakens” trailer that was released over the weekend. Suffice it to say, the Star Wars universe is in very good hands these days.
“Lando” #1 by Charles Soule & Alex Maleev debuts this July from Marvel Comics.