A few months ago, we ran a group piece on something I had been thinking about since Marvel started publishing Star Wars comics again—had the medium actually gotten stronger since the original Star Wars series, or would we look back on this era as being just as silly and dated as those early days of Jaxxon and Cody Sunn-Childe? What I noticed then that I hadn’t really considered before was that a good chunk of the regular staff here actually doesn’t read the comics and has little in the way of opinions on them.
Then last week, when I started thinking about what Marvel might come up with to replace the soon-to-conclude Darth Vader series, I decided to bring the question to the staff, and this time I wouldn’t accept “I don’t read comics” as an answer. It’s hard to argue that Marvel haven’t done a great job maximizing Star Wars sales among the existing comics audience, but I was especially curious what they might do to bring in all these superfans I knew who nevertheless barely touched the things. I got some interesting ideas back, to say the least—here they are.
Ben C: As Marvel takes the bold move of ending Gillen’s Darth Vader title, what’s next is a logical question, as is what they should do. The cynical response is to say Marvel will simply re-launch the book with a new creative team in a few months, pocketing the ker-ching generated by it. Here’s the non-cynical response: What if they don’t? What then? Well, over the last two years, Marvel have proved to be competent custodians of the Star Wars license. Due to some very smart creative combinations of writer and artist, with a mix of ongoing and limited series and a restrained use of events, the only question left to ask is what does Marvel have left to prove?
There is only one area where it has perhaps failed to match its predecessor Dark Horse, or perhaps simply not been interested in trying to, and that’s original character books. Marvel may well have calculated that original Star Wars characters, outside of the films, lacking brand recognition in the general public, are unlikely to succeed. Thus, they have introduced new characters of their own creation, but within the existing books, so the new are carried as it were by the movie characters. Still, two years past this cautious strategy would have been more merited than it is now. Now it could be argued Marvel have developed a sufficient reputation to take a bolder step and run out an entirely original title.
One other influence may also be at work in Marvel’s view of its Star Wars line and that is Valiant. For the last few years Valiant have gained a great deal of attention for its superhero relaunch. It has done this by not publishing too many books a month, being attentive to creative teams and being careful on events – sounds kind of familiar, no? Well, it is remarkably close to Marvel’s Star Wars strategy with one exception. Valiant have regularly ended titles when the story is deemed done and have not returned to them! Is the ending of Darth Vader an indicator of Marvel responding to Valiant? There’s no way to know for sure but Marvel do keep an eye on their competitors and respond to them.
For myself, one option that’d work is a book built around the exploits of Kes Dameron and Shara Bey. First featured in Shattered Empire, these two could give a fresh look at the Star Wars conflict in comics akin to how Battlefront: Twilight Company did for the books. At the same time their different roles, commando and A-wing pilot, allows for a variety of stories, all with the Galactic Civil War backdrop. Could it work? I’d like to think so.
David: I’d like a new team to write a new Darth Vader series, a second volume starting where Gillen and Larroca left off. I liked the approach Gillen took, with Vader’s minions being a dark reflection of the Heroes of Yavin, but there’s still a lot you can do with Vader, especially if the current series ends with him commanding Death Squadron. From the start I thought that having two books running parallel, a Rebel and an Imperial one, was a stroke of genius, and I don’t think they’ve exploited this fantastic situation as much as they could. I’m happy to see what else the twin series could give us, and getting a new team on board would probably jumpstart things. Get Jonathan Hickman back and let him give Darth Vader the Doctor Doom treatment, or let Cullen Bunn or Si Spurrier or… Seriously, so many options that I’d love to see. Schedule-wise, I’d like it if it was another maxiseries. I’m a big fan of the “season format” (that’s, treating comic series as modern television seasons instead of as never-ending soap operas).
If Darth Vader v2 was off the table, I wouldn’t be opposed to a different ongoing in the Rebellion era, and in that case I guess my favorite option would be Han Solo and Chewbacca. Luke and Leia have their home at Star Wars but I sometimes get the feeling that Han is a bit of a secondary character there, so maybe a series giving his underworld adventures some space to breathe would be a good idea: hell, just make Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks’ upcoming miniseries an ongoing. It wouldn’t be the first time Marvel has pulled something like that. I bet they would add some impressive new villains to the galactic tapestry.
There are other options that I wouldn’t mind seeing. Another series in the same time period as Poe Dameron would be neat, so they could also intermingle and have their own events. If they were also set before The Force Awakens, a Rey series probably wouldn’t be very interesting and a Finn series doesn’t have many places to go (although I’d certainly welcome miniseries starring them), so I’d probably adapt the same structure they are using with Star Wars and Darth Vader and add a First Order comic. How does Phasma sound? She was underutilized in TFA, no doubt, but her chrome armor is everywhere, from toys to towels. Not only it would diversify the current Star Wars line, but having heron a cover would probably sell some comics. Let’s see her point of view.
And of course, I’d also love a series exploring new characters, but I don’t expect Marvel to do it any time soon other than perhaps the random miniseries here and there (an Aphra miniseries by Kelly Sue DeConnick would be so impressive… I know, I know, just let me dream). They’ve been given one of the most attractive time periods of Star Wars, the time between Hope and Empire, and an almost completely blank continuity to play with. It’s understandable that they are focusing on the big boys and girls for now. I can be patient.
Rocky: Okay, this might be the response of someone who doesn’t read a lot of comics. But I’d love another Tag and Bink story! That anthology was one of my favorite comics ever- funny, easy to follow, and not necessarily something that you needed to be a comics person to understand. There are plenty of serious stories within the GFFA, and being that there is plenty of war and chaos in the timeline, sometimes it benefits from occasionally being broken up by something more fun. I’m just imagining the front cover of the original Tag and Bink anthology, and imagining BB-8 and Kylo Ren and Phasma and Rey and everyone else joining in the chase. Wouldn’t that be perfect?
Ben W: I’m not a huge comic reader either, but I do enjoy me a good “day in the life” story. Gotham Central comes immediately to mind, seeing what it’s like to be a cop in a city where Batman, the Joker, Two-Face, et al are running around and messing up all of the police procedures. We’ve already had a great story in that style in pure prose form, Battlefront: Twilight Company, but it would be great to get something like that in comic form as well. To this point, all of Marvel’s Star Wars books have been centered around movie characters, from the Big Three to Poe Dameron and Lando, but nothing has really come from the sort of street level that the aforementioned Gotham Central did.
A book from the perspective of a stormtrooper would be terrific, to form a counterpart to Twilight Company. I could also go for a book about Coruscant street cops in the prequel era, to get the perspective of people who live on the same planet as the Jedi Temple, but who rarely interact with them. There’s a whole universe of possibilities, that’s the beauty of this sort of story. Do it as a serialized story, do it as an anthology, do it in whatever era you like, or all of them. And heck, they already have Greg Rucka writing stories for Before the Awakening and other books, why not get him to write something similar to his work on Gotham Central?
Star Wars is a cinema-driven franchise, and there’s a whole genre of film that they haven’t, and likely won’t, touch: film noir. Darkness and grit isn’t something that fits well with the way the franchise has been portrayed on-screen, where things can get dark, but are mostly meant to flow more like an adventure story. Comics aren’t so limited, and as Marvel gets more and more comfortable with playing in the Lucas sandbox, they have to stretch their creative muscles a bit. We’ve already had a villain-led book, let’s keep going, take more chances.
Mike: Why simply fill the gap left by Darth Vader when the Kanan ongoing ended this year as well? I’ve got a premise that’s the best of both worlds—Dooku. We’ve spoken once or twice in the past about the erstwhile Count being one of the prequel era’s bigger fumbles; the premise of Qui-Gon’s master falling to the dark side, embracing his biological heritage, and becoming a “political revolutionary” is totally fantastic, but for all his prominence in the Expanded Universe and The Clone Wars, the character’s execution rarely rose above stock villain mustache-twirling.
Because we have seen so much of him during the Clone Wars, I’d like to see something that starts out shortly before his fall, a period of his life we’d only gotten glimpses of even before the reboot. Imagine a series that covered his beginnings as a Jedi Master with legitimate grievances against the Jedi, through the loss of his former student to a Sith Lord, and ultimately to his own seduction by the Sith. That’s a huge, fascinating character arc, and it’s barely been touched. It’s not too late for the young(er) Dooku to benefit from some extra shading, and to top it all off they’d get to revisit a lot of the prequels’ stronger material and most significant events through his involvement (not for nothing, but they could even borrow a little from the EU and bring in Darth Plagueis circa The Phantom Menace, which if he was still a Muun would be a huge stone in the pond of Snoke theorists).
And if this isn’t enough of a draw on its own, they could take further inspiration from Kanan and set the “present day” of the comic during the Clone Wars; that would allow them to use all that cool wartime iconography and still cherry-pick the best material from Dooku’s life to flash back to. Considering Greg Weisman got twelve issues out of one mission to Kaller, a Dooku series with that same structure could last pretty much as long as they wanted it to.