"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." are words indelibly etched into the annals of popular culture, recalling at once a twinge of nostalgia at the childhood thrill of a dark movie theater and buttery popcorn, a golden-era of plucky, rebellious film-making and a gateway drug into the world of science fiction. In January 2013, writer Brian Wood ("The Massive," "Northlanders") steps into that long ago, far away galaxy to pen Dark Horse Comics' new on-going series, "Star Wars." Comic Book Resources spoke with Wood about the upcoming book, and the thrill and challenges of stepping into the "Star Wars" universe.
The series, featuring interior art by Carlos d'Anda and covers by Alex Ross, takes place during the three-year span between the classic films "Star Wars: A New Hope" and "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back." Wood writes the classic characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and the gang, attempting to channel a little bit of that late 1970s charm and naÃ¯vete.
A life-long fan of George Lucas' "Star Wars" saga, Wood was flattered at the invitation from both Lucasfilm and Dark Horse to pen the series. "It was impossible to say no," Wood said. "If I ever had a desire to write any 'Star Wars,' it doesn't get any better than a gig like this -- classic characters, freedom to pick the story I want to tell, a new series, a new number one and the prestige of having the thing be called, simply, 'Star Wars.' Add the positive experience I'm having at Dark Horse on 'Conan the Barbarian' and 'The Massive' and it's a no-brainer."
Wood is a member of the first generation of "Star Wars" fans who saw the original trilogy, without Lucas' later revisions, on the big screen. "Like most children of the '70s and '80s I experienced a whole lot of 'Star Wars' first hand," Wood said. "I saw the first film in theaters when I was five, although I'm not sure how that happened since my mother was typically a lot more on the ball than to take me to a movie like that at such a tender age. I'm sure 90% of it went over my head, but it hooked me anyway. The Hoth scenes in 'Empire' cemented it."
The story in Wood's series picks up in the aftermath of "A New Hope." The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, crippling the war machine that is the Empire, and is now trying to recover from its own losses and formulate the next phase. In many ways the key players are all suffering.
"Luke is hurting from the death of his family and Ben, Leia is in mourning for her family and her entire planet, while trying to shoulder the burden of managing the Rebellion alongside Mon Mothma," Wood explained. "Han is still kind of a jerk. Luke only has the barest sense of what the Force is, and will attempt to learn what he can on his own."
Wood is quick to point out that despite taking such heavy losses, the leaders of the Alliance are right back to work and there is no time to slow down. "Leia is not going to be sitting around in a gown attending a lot of meetings -- she has her blaster and an X-wing and is out there with Luke and Wedge working on building the Alliance back up after losing so much. I really wanted to put Leia into the mix, holding her own in battle.
"And then there's Vader," he added, "who is taken to task by the Emperor for not stopping that one X-wing that took out the Death Star."
Writing between "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back" presents its own brand of challenges. Wood, in a sense, has to ignore years of "Star Wars" mythology and story revelations. In a sense, he has to go back in time.
"My plan is to pretend that nothing else exists other than 'A New Hope,'" said Wood. "At least in the minds of the characters. The fact the reader knows so much, especially things the characters don't just yet -- such as Luke and Leia being related, Vader as their father, et cetera -- makes for some fun writing. I love 'Empire,' and maybe in the future I'll catch up to that film story-wise, but for right now I'm enjoying this beautiful moment in time, starting literally days after the Battle of Yavin when everything is set up and the future is wide open.
"I have to remember who the characters are at this point in time," he continued. "To not write the Luke and the Han that I know, but write who they were in 1977. To stay in character. That's harder than you might think since so much of who they are as characters developed in those later films."
Alex Ross provides cover artwork, and the interior pages of Wood's "Star Wars" are visually brought to life by Carlos d'Anda, best known for his recent work on "Batman: Arkham City" and as a guest artist on Geoff Johns' "Justice League" #8. Wood is thrilled to have d'Anda on board the project. "I love Carlos' work. I know his art and have admired it for ages," Wood said. "He's often shown up on my list when an editor asks me who I'd like to work with on a given project. His pages for 'Star Wars' are a cool mix -- a blend of the '70s era style that is such a part of early 'Star Wars,' and the attention to detail and the way he draws tech. It shouldn't work but it does. And Alex's covers are amazing."
Along with the core cast of characters, Wood's broadening the scope of the "Star Wars" mythos by spotlighting some of the peripheral players, as well as creating at least one original character. "There's one villain that's coming in -- you'll see him in the first issue," Wood said. "He's an Imperial Officer, and is new, but that should be the exception, not the rule. I want to use what already exists.
"One of my favorite ships in all of Star Wars is the Hound's Tooth," Wood said. "In addition to everyone else, I gotta find a way to give Bossk some of the limelight."
Brian Wood's "Star Wars" debuts from Dark Horse Comics in January 2013.