Waid Talks Exploring the Family History of "Princess Leia"

Mark Waid thinks Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan -- the featured player in his latest project for Marvel Comics -- is a true original. And that's saying something when you consider Waid has worked on nearly every major comic book character imaginable since the late 1980s from Superman and Spider-Man to Daredevil and The Flash.

Waid loves the depth of Leia, first introduced in George Lucas' epic "Star Wars" in 1977, and feels Carrie Fisher's iconic portrayal of Darth Vader's daughter greatly enhanced what could have been a very flat character with little to offer beyond a typical female lead to wedge between Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford's Han Solo.

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Following last week's release of "Princess Leia" #1, illustrated by Terry and Rachel Dodson, Waid told CBR News that the series will feature other classic Star Wars characters -- predominantly R2-D2 -- but the narrative truly belongs to Leia and Evaan, a fellow Alderaanian. The Eisner Award winner also discussed the perception of some of the Rebellion that Leia is "an ice princess" due to her cool demeanor during the post-Death Star destruction celebration on Yavin 4, and explains why, if he got into trouble anywhere in the expanded Star Wars universe, R2-D2 is be the droid he would be looking for.

CBR News: In the first issue, some of the Rebel pilots whisper behind Leia's back and call her the 'Ice Princess.' We know from the movies that she is a passionate character. Is her behavior following the death of her parents and, frankly, most of Alderaan, an act of self-preservation, or is she really stone cold at this point?

Mark Waid: I think that's some of it, but I think a part of it, too, is that while she is clearly a very passionate woman in the movies, she is never a self-pitying woman. She never sits down and weeps over her state of affairs. When she is stressed out or feeling combative or troubled, she moves forward. This is misinterpreted, clearly, in the first issue, but that's not it at all. She chooses not to just sit down and cry about how she lost her family because she knows that won't accomplish anything.     

When "Princess Leia" was first announced, you talked about what a huge opportunity it was to be writing arguably most layered character in the Star Wars universe. Now that you've been inside her head for a few months, is she as layered as you expected?

Absolutely. That's very much what I've found. The complexity of a character like Leia, who has a mission that she's putting on herself, is immense. She's stepping up to do something that no one is asking her to do but she has that sense of responsibility that was bread into her as a kid. I think that is a very complex character.

And that mission is to seek out the displaced survivors of Alderaan, as she has no plans to sit around all day and serve as figurehead for people to worship.

That's right. We start to get into a little bit more of her family history in "Princess Leia" #2 and #3. We get a better sense of just how much her father and her mother impressed upon her the importance of Alderaanian culture. Her father certainly taught her how to fight, but more importantly, what to fight for. It's never about violence for the Alderaanians. It's a planet without weapons -- at least that was Leia's claim when the Death Star blew the Alderaan up. Spoiler alert. [Laughs] But that didn't mean that they weren't capable of self-defense.

From her mother, Leia learned how to comport herself as royalty. And I don't mean that in a negative way; I mean that she learned the importance of giving the people of Alderaan someone that they felt had their best interests at heart. Giving them a leader that they felt would defend them and fight for them and represent the best in them. It's very important for a culture like that to have a leader that they can look up to.

Did you have any difficulty finding Leia's voice, or did you just watch and re-watch Carrie Fisher's scenes in "Star Wars" and "Empire Strikes Back" until you had her down?

Leia has a very natural voice, but I certainly went back and listened to the rhythms and the cadence of the voice and the dialogue in the movies. Carrie Fisher brought so much to that role. It was not terribly deep as a role, and if it had been played by just another pretty-face, Hollywood starlet-to-be, we might not have been talking about her to this day. But there is an intensity that Carrie Fisher brings to even the most commonplace line readings that I picked up on and I hope that I can convey in the book.

Does Leia remind you of any superheroes or characters that you have written in the past?

No, actually, there's not. And that's what makes her so interesting to me as a writer. There is nothing that I can really pull from in terms of other characters that I have dealt with in the past. There is no similarity that I can find or that I can see, and that's great. It's forcing me to think about her in new ways.

With her leaving Luke and Han behind as she heads off on her mission, will we see Leia interact predominantly with new characters versus the classic characters from the trilogy? Though I guess she does have Artoo, right?

Yes. It's pretty much Leia, Evaan and Artoo. She will cross paths with the others again before the series is over, but when I got into it, I really liked the idea of making the cast a very female-centric cast. It really wasn't done with that agenda to begin with, but once I started developing the cast and putting the story together, I realized that I was dealing with a mostly female cast and I decided to keep that momentum going forward, because it's something that we don't get to see very often. 

When developing Evann, as a character, what did you need her to possess in terms of attributes so she be would worthy of flying shotgun with Leia on her mission?

Evaan needed to be able to straddle that fine line between wanting to honor her people and her heritage by honoring Leia's role in office, honoring her crown, and at the same time, you needed someone who, at any given time, wanted to kill Princess Leia. Just punch her right in the face. [Laughs] That's a hard character to find. It's easy to find someone who is obsequious, and it's easy to find somebody who would be angry at her, but I think what makes Evaan interesting as a character is her almost inhuman ability to juggle both of those emotions at the same time.

This is very much her story, too. It's a story about how you reconcile what you believe the leaders and the kings and queens above you to be versus what they really are. It's a bit of illusion versus reality, if you will.

Will we learn more about Evaan's past?

A little bit. There's not a whole lot of flashbacks or exposition in that sense. A lot of her backstory comes out through her character and action. But know this: she's turned out to be a terrific character.

How do you script a droid like Artoo, that really doesn't have any dialogue?

To me, Artoo has just as much personality as the other characters -- he just doesn't say as much. He strikes me as the meat cleaver that cuts through all of the other crap. [Laughs] In any given situation, I feel like no matter where you are in the universe, and no matter what's happening to you, the smart thing to do, whenever you are in a quandary, is watch whatever direction Artoo goes and follow him.

That's a life lesson for everyone. [Laughs]

I think so.   

You've also hinted that Leia would have an archenemy in this series. Assuming we haven't met her or him yet, when will we get the chance?

We'll see hints of that archenemy in "Princess Leia" #2, but #3 and #4 is when the menace really starts to come to the fore.

Since this is a female-centric book, should we assume the archenemy is female as well?

I don't want to say that right now, because it's a bit of a spoiler. [Laughs]

This is solicited as five-part miniseries. Would you consider writing more of Leia if the sales and success warrant more issues?

We haven't talked about it, but I certainly wouldn't be against returning to this universe and these characters. We'll have to see how it goes.

Does "Princess Leia" tie into "Star Wars" and "Darth Vader"?

It's a little bit more of a stand-alone story because it takes place earlier in the continuity than the other books do. But it's certainly all in the same continuity and in the same universe so if we can find a way to make it work with some closure at the end, I'm all for it.   

You teamed with Terry and Rachel Dodson on "Princess Leia." Their work is obviously beautiful, but beyond that, what do they bring to a project like this?

They are terrific. Not only are the action sequences spectacular, but the characters truly act, which is really important in a story that is a little more dialogue driven than some stories and is very much character driven. The faces, the expressions, the body language of the characters really come across, and it really sells the story.  I love working with them.

Finally, what is your personal history with Star Wars? Are you a fan of the franchise?

Oh, yeah -- I was 15 when it came out, so I was able to see the original run in theaters. Like everyone else of my age and generation, I fell in love with it instantly, and I've been a fan ever since. I didn't delve a lot into the extended universe beyond the films and the cartoons, but I do love these characters and it's an honor to be playing in this sandbox.

"Princess Leia" #1 by Mark Waid and featuring art by Terry and Rachel Dodson is available now. Issue #2 arrives March 18.

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