If you’re a Star Wars fan attending San Diego Comic Con and you didn’t catch a panel titled “The Writers’ Studio: Behind the Scenes with Star Wars Authors, then I’ve got some bad news for you: You missed out, big time. Fortunately, I’ve got you covered.
The panel featured Star Wars authors Troy Denning, John Jackson Miller, Jeffrey Brown and J.W. Rinzler, along with Del Rey editor Frank Parisi and LucasBooks editor Jennifer Heddle. The discussion was moderated by LucasFilm Keeper of the Holocron Frank Chee. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, it gets better. Or worse, depending on if you missed it.
They showed exclusive and never before seen footage from all three of the original films.
The first bit show was rough footage and animatics from Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Depicting the Battle of Hoth, it was a mix of black and white film and amazing hand-drawn animation that in my opinion could have made an awesome film all by itself. I’d love to see the entire film this way. The Rebel soldiers running across the snowy battlefield looked like vintage footage from World War I. Very striking.
After that, we were shown behind the scenes footage from Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It was both hilarious and tense, with a visibly irritated Richard Marquand attempting to orchestrate the film’s final battle and fighting his own personal battle not to lose his cool with the movie extras. George Lucas was there to add his own two cents in, and between all of these things you got a sense of how chaotic filming the Battle of Yavin must have been.
Finally, we were treated to the Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope gag reel, which had not been seen in 35 years. You think the on Stormtrooper who bops his head on the door frame in the opening scenes of Episode IV was funny? You should have seen this film: Stormtroopers tumbling and falling over in the aftermath of a far-too-strong explosive effect, C3PO rolling down a sand dune, Harrison Ford flubbing his lines and actually shoving his headset into his mouth. It was hilarious.
The footage is part of a collection of video and audio archives unearthed by J.W. Rinzler, author of The Making of Return of the Jedi, among other books. If you’re upset that you didn’t get to see them today at SDCC, then you’ll be pleased to know that some of this material will make it into new enhanced e-book editions of his “Making of…” books. Apparently, there are tons and tons of material just like this, and he’s working on uncovering as much of it as possible.
Rinzler wasn’t the only panelist to shed new light at the saga’s past. Troy Denning spoke about his days working for West End Games’ Star Wars roleplaying line. He revealed that at the time he and his coworkers only had a bootleg VHS copy of A New Hope to go by, and very little other research material. One of his responsibilities was to flesh out the background of the aliens in the film’s cantina scene. Years later, Expanded Universe authors based their own depictions of aliens on Denning’s work, which thus became canon.
It was fun taking a look at the past, but the future of the series was a big topic of conversation for the panel members and audience. Chee stated that with three new movies in the saga and several spin-off films (including a new animated series!), he and the other LucasFilm managers were very busy. Continuity is as important as ever, and all of them are working to ensure that any new books will be consistent with Star Wars games, comics, films and other works. Several audience members asked about Clone Wars, specifically whether unresolved plot threads from the series would be addressed. Others wondered if the new films would take into account the characters of the expanded universe books. Chee said that it was all on the table but wasn’t able to expand on any of these points, except to say that it was “definitely a possibility” that Darth Maul could still be alive.
All of the authors had new books out, and attendees got the scoop on what each was about and when it would be released.
Star Wars: Crucible by Troy Denning (July 9, 2013) was described by its author as a “passing of the torch” story in which the main characters of the saga are moving into their thirties and taking leadership roles, and younger characters are adventuring in their stead.
John Jackson Miller said that Star Wars: Kenobi (August 27, 2013) initially began as a comic book project exploring what happened when Kenobi had to move to Tattooine to protect the new hope: How it would be to stop being a mover and shaker in the universe and just live in obscurity on a backwoods planet where he couldn’t even use his lightsaber. He ended up having to scrap it only to see it come back to life as a novel. He described it as “Star Wars as a Western”, with Kenobi’s tale being told through the eyes of the planet’s residents, including the Tusken Raiders! Miller said that he “developed a pathology for the Tuskens because they’re not very nice people” and that this would be the first time in Saga history that any part of a story would be seen through their eyes.
Editor Heddle spoke about Martha Wells’ Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge (September 24, 2013), a new book featuring Leia Organa as the main character. During a mission with Han Solo, Organa recognizes a hostile pirate ship as being Alderaanian in origin. It is revealed that the crew blames the rebellion for the loss of Alderaan, and that they’ve taken up pirating in the aftermath. Leia feels a responsibility to try to bring them back to the light side and ends up on an adventure that takes her and Solo deep into pirate territory.
Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (January 21, 2014) was described by editor Parisi as “Star Wars meets Oz meets Scarface meets Gladiator”. Maul is sent by Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious to infiltrate a maximum security prison where the inmates are made to fight in gladiator matches for the amusement of crime lords. When Maul gets there, he learns that he may have only been given part of the story.
Heddle described James S.A. Corey’s Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Honor Among Thieves (March 4, 2014) as “Classic Han Solo”. Han is the point of view character, but Leia, Luke, Chewie and others are involved as well. Heddle was enthusiastic, telling the audience “When [she] first read it [she] felt like [she] was reading the heir to Brian Daley’s Han novels. It’s that good, in my opinion.” Attendees also got a first look at the book’s cover!
Jeffrey Brown said Star Wars: Jedi Academy (August 27, 2013, not related to the novel series) would be the story of one character attending middle school told through journal entries, letters, report cards and other pieces of correspondence.
Finally, the last new book to be discussed was The Death Star Haynes Owner’s Technical Manual (November 5, 2013), a follow-up to the Millennium Falcon book from the same line.
The panel ended shortly thereafter, but there’s going to be much more Star Wars news to discuss here at Suvudu.com. Keep reading!