Interview with STAR WARS and X-MEN writer Brian Wood

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a very accomplished member of the comic book industry. Brian Wood has worked on Conan the Barbarian, Ultimate Comics: X-Men, Lord of the Rings, and Supernatural comics to name only a few of his eclectic works. Most recently, Wood works on Star Wars and X-Men at Dark Horse and Marvel Comics respectively, bringing strong female characters and lush stories to the market. Wood was a pleasure to interview–very prompt and thorough. Consider picking up his titles, as he brings together artful storytelling with well-developed characters to create awesome new stories in both universes!

Emertainment Monthly: When you were young, how interested were you in Star Wars? Who was your favorite character and why?

Brian Wood: I was pretty interested, probably fairly typical for a kid my age. I was five when the original film came out, and I had all the toys and read all the novelizations and so on.  At some point, my active interest faded, and, while I watched and even enjoyed the prequel films, I wouldn’t have considered myself a “fan.”  Then I started writing this series, and realized a big fan lurking under the surface.  I was surprised at how much Star Wars information and trivia I had managed to retain, all those 35 years previous.

My favorite character was probably Han, originally. But I had an awful lot of action figures that were generic Rebel soldiers, either the Tantive IV guys or the Hoth soldiers.

How would you describe your writing style and how have you developed it? 

I just write what I like, and any development is pretty natural and not the result of a focused effort.  I like writing emotional stories, ones that feature flawed and sometimes hard to like characters, put them through hell, and let all those imperfections shine.  I like sad stories, tragedies, with complicated endings.  I like to feature the environments and settings as much as the characters.  In short, I am not a very commercial writer!  All this can make for tough stories to get through, but I ultimately find that rewarding.

Form where do you draw inspiration?

History, probably, if I had to just name one.  But really, I’ll take it from anyplace I can get it.

What do you think is the most exciting aspect of the Star Wars franchise?

It’s always been how the characters relate to each other, help each other, and play off each other.  My editor and I agree on this one thing:  Star Wars isn’t science fiction–it’s a drama, not far off from a soap opera in a lot of ways.  I love all the industrial design of Star Wars, I love that stuff, but that’s not what makes it essential for me.  It’s the characters.

How did you come to work on Star Wars?

It was offered to me, plain and simple.  I’d never considered writing a Star Wars book before, but this one was pretty hard to turn down.

What’s it like to write for both Dark Horse and Marvel—Star Wars and X-Men?

Not too different.  The fans are different–just as passionate, but they come at you in different ways.  But, as far as the material, they are both massive, complex universes, shared with other writers, and the creative muscles required to write something like that are the same across the board.

How did the specifics of the Star Wars comic come about—the setting, using the main characters, the story: how are these decisions made?

Well, it was pre-determined that this series would be an original trilogy book, with all those beloved characters.  That’s what was offered to me.  I pitched the actual story, where it takes place in the overall timeline.  So a little bit LucasArts/Dark Horse, and a little bit me.

What part, if any, of the Star Wars Expanded Universe has inspired you the most? How has that influenced your writing and what new elements are you going to bring to the Expanded Universe?

Well, the most direct and obvious influence has been a set of novels set in the EU called The X-Wing series.  Heavily about Wedge, snubfighter dogfights, and a decent amount of political drama.  I loved those novels, have read them a few times over the last decade or so.  And if you’ve read them, you can see just how heavily I was influenced.  As far as bringing new elements in, the big one has been amplifying Leia’s character as a fighter and a pilot and a really dominant commanding officer.  I’d argue that Leia was always these things, but it was very rarely shown to us.

To what extent have you researched the Star Wars franchise in preparation for writing this series?

I think I watched A New Hope once just before writing, and I spend a LOT of time on Wookiepedia.  Which is more than enough to get the job done, considering just how much Star Wars is rattling around in my brain already.  I’ve never taken on a writing job where I had so much prior knowledge of the material… its been a lot of fun.

How involved is George Lucas in the story and direction of this comic?

As far as I know, he’s not.  But I know he reads the comics when they come out.

What’s the most difficult aspect of writing for Star Wars?

The characters are easier than you might think, because they are so iconic it’s pretty hard to screw them up.  So I would say story.  The bar is pretty high when it comes to reader expectations.

What’s the process of having Star Wars produced? Do you write the script first, and then sit down with your editor, and then sent to the artist? How does it all work behind the scenes?

At the start of a series there’s always a lot of outlining and planning and talking with the editor.  But once the machine is running, it gets pretty simple.  I hand in the scripts and my work is done.  On other books I am often doing rewrites once the art comes in, and doing minor edits just before going to press, but each project is different and in this case that’s all handled internally.  Randy Stradley, the editor for Star Wars at Dark Horse, runs it all like a master.

So far, of what are you most proud? Would you do anything different in these past six issues looking at them now?

Not really.  I’m proud of the success of the title, of the team, and what I’m doing with Leia and seeing women readers react to it so positively.  That’s not to say I don’t see my faults – there are always faults and most writers I know are incapable of reading their own work because all we see are the mistakes we made, or think we made.  So I try to just stand by the work and feel proud of it all.

What can we expect from your Star Wars story in the future?

A pretty big point of view shift heading into the second year.  Less X-Wings and dogfights and more politics and diplomacy.

What would you like to see from Episode VII?

More women characters and a solid story.  I have no reason to think both of these won’t happen, so I’m pretty happy about it all.  Looking forward to more Star Wars movies!

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