[email protected]: What We Learned from the Lucasfilm Publishing Star Wars Panel

San Diego Comic-Con may not be happening in person this year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy some fun panel conversations with the creative minds behind some of our favorite entertainment thanks to [email protected].

This afternoon’s Lucasfilm Publishing panel brought together This Week in Star Wars host Kristen Baver with Disney Lucasfilm Press Senior Editor Robert Simpson and authors/writers Justina Ireland, Alex Segura, George Mann, Timothy Zahn, Greg Pak, Alyssa Wong, Preeti Chhibber, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Tom Angleberger. Together they discussed all the big projects coming soon from the world of Star Wars books and comics.

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Preeti Chhibber discussed her upcoming picture book Star Wars: A Jedi You Will Be, wherein Yoda teaches Luke and the reader how to be a Jedi and explores what the Force means to little kids. Chhibber says she watched the Dagobah scenes from The Empire Strikes Back over and over again to understand Yoda’s cadence and thought process. She also says kids are smarter than people sometimes give them credit for and we can help them understand the Force by reinforcing their connection to the world around them, but she wanted to make sure Yoda didn’t sound too professorial in this book. Chhibber also contributed to the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Stories of Light and Dark anthology, and she really wanted to write Anakin Skywalker, as she identified with his “angsty-ness” and his “emo-ness” during the time when the prequel trilogy was coming out. She re-interpreted the hostage crisis episode where Cad Bane tries to get Ziro the Hutt out of prison, but it’s now written from Anakin’s perspective.

Gregg Pak has been writing the Star Wars: Darth Vader comic book, which is currently set after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. “It’s been tremendously exciting to dig into this time period,” he says. He liked getting Vader’s point of view of the moment where he revealed to Luke he is his father, as he says Vader is as traumatized as Luke is. He sees this as a direct parallel to the scene in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith wherein younger Anakin got rejected by Padme on Mustafar, and he wanted to explore the aftermath of that rejection. He also got to dig more into Vader’s own psyche and dig into the past, bringing back a surprising character from the prequels– Sabé the handmaiden. Pak says artist Raffaele Ienco makes these comics feel real and weathered like the Star Wars movies and does a great job to make Vader and the droids look expressive.

Pak didn’t grow up on the Star Wars prequels but he rewatched them all in recent months to prepare to write for Sabé. He says in the prequel trilogy, Vader is tempted into the Dark Side through his love for Padmé, but Padmé is not around after Empire so it made sense to bring back one of the handmaidens who survived through the Clone Wars. He also gave a shout-out to author E.K. Johnston who wrote the recent Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril novels, which gave him a lot to think about and play with. In an upcoming arc of the comic, Vader claims to have settled all of his previous business, but Emperor Palpatine knows better. Consequently, Vader suffers a punishment and undertakes a new journey. Key elements will tie into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker “in a huge way” via unexplored territory that digs deeply into the heart of Vader.

Tom Angleberger says he was sworn to secrecy about the upcoming short-story anthology collection Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – From A Certain Point of View, which has 40 authors relating events that were off-camera or unsaid during Episode V. He’s excited that the book focuses on characters that were on other planets, and the action is spread out across the galaxy. “39 great stories plus mine. Hopefully people will get a chuckle out of it,” he laughs. The book also serves as a fundraiser for the non-profit organization Firstbook. Angleberger’s story is about the Whills and he couldn’t believe he got to do it. He says he tries not to shift tone between writing for adults and for kids. Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Stories of Light and Dark retells certain moments from all seven seasons of the animates series. In Angelberger’s story, Cad Bane tries to kidnap the Emperor, but this is retold from the story from Bane’s point of view. “The toughest gunslinger in the galaxy is being played, and he doesn’t know how many people are playing him.”

Rebecca Roanhorse also wrote for the Clone Wars anthology by contributing a Darth Maul chapter. She spent all this time with the rebels (in Star Wars: Resistance Reborn) and wanted to spend some time on the Dark Side. She picked the two episodes where Maul comes back onto the scene after his brother Savage Oppress discovers him with a mechanical body, and he only remembers Obi-Wan Kenobi. She wanted to explore what it meant to be obsessed with revenge that deeply. “I would write him again… hint hint.” She says the response to Resistance Reborn has been really positive. People liked finding out what happened between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Alex Segura wrote Star Wars: Poe Dameron – Free Fall, and was excited to write for Poe in his youth and fill in some of the gaps of what we know and don’t know about the character. Babu Frik and Zorii Bliss will factor in to the story. It’s a heist novel and a crime novel and a mystery novel which teases the journey of these characters going forward from this point.

Alyssa Wong came from the world of novels and video games, and is now writing the Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comic book series. She is really excited because he loves characters who are selfish and messy, and Aphra is the epitome of that. It’s a very pure motivation. She’s causing chaos in a lot of people’s lives but she’s very true to who she is. Aphra has the potential to surprise you with moments of both vulnerability and betrayal. She loves that Aphra tries to crush her own moral compass but it occasionally wins her over. She was intimidated by taking over this book because she really admired the previous writers.

In the current arc of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Chelli Aphra is alone and off on a new adventure because she cut ties with people she loves. Wong wants the story to be accessible to people who have never read the title before and exciting for those who are already fans. Aphra is now building from the ground up, so hopefully she’s a lot more accessible– people don’t have to read previous 40 issues to know what’s going on. The story concerns a hunt for the Rings of Vaale with Aphra’s new team, a combination of mercenaries and academics. Future arcs will deal with more spooky/weird/horror elements and Wong hints at H.R. Geiger influences in the art.

Legendary Star Wars author Timothy Zahn is writing for Grand Admiral Thrawn again, and he says he doesn’t have to remember how the character functions or how he thinks. He’s got his mental patterns and tactical ideas established in his mind, so it’s just about putting him in new situations and figuring out how he would solve them. In the upcoming new trilogy he is building up the Chiss Ascendency and Chiss culture from the ground up. The focus will be on Thrawn and bringing a whole bunch of new characters in, plus the emergence of a threat against the Ascendancy. Our heroes must figure out where these attacks are coming from and how to deal with them.

George Mann wrote Star Wars: Myths and Fables and next week’s follow-up Star Wars: Dark Legends. A new in-world version of Myths and Fables will be sold exclusively in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney Parks with six brand-new stories in it from the planets of Batuu, Endor, Dathomir, and Mon Cala, among others. Dark Legends is inspired by classic ghost stories and darker tales, plus leftover stories that wouldn’t fit into Myths and Fables. They’re scary but suitable for children. There’s a story about the Grand Inquisitor set after the Clone Wars at an orphanage, where Force-sensitive children are disappearing and one brave girl stays awake to see what’s happening. Another story is set on Exegol and explores Palpatine’s “sick quest for immortality.” None of the characters get what they expect by the end of each tale.

For Star Wars: The High Republic – A Test of Courage (part of Lucasfilm’s upcoming multi-platform publishing initiative) Justina Ireland teased something called the Starros connection. Sana Starros’ great-great-great (many times great) ancestor Avon Starros is a 12-year-old girl sent to the edge of the galaxy by her mother, a Republic senator. Avon experiments with mysteries surrounding the galaxy and the Force while on a ship going on a diplomatic mission to the Starlight Beacon. Terrible things happen to disrupt everyone’s day, but she has a droid named J-6 who falls prey to Avon’s experimental and inquisitive nature, and there’s something going on with her speech patterns. Ireland says it’s been a lot of fun to play in this new time period with these characters. More reveals about The High Republic are coming throughout the summer.

Robert Simpson mentioned fun books in other projects such as the main Star Wars comic title by Charles Soule, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters by Ethan Sacks, and the relaunch of Star Wars Adventures by IDW, which includes “stories from a lot of different time periods from a lot of new creators.” Star Wars: The Lightsaber Collection from Insight Editions is intended to be a companion piece to that publisher’s Harry Potter wands book.

The panel concluded with two announcements: the Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle one-shot from IDW coming just in time for Halloween and the new coffee-table book Star Wars: The Art of Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe.

The panelists also hinted at more Star Wars publishing news to come, so continue to check back here at LaughingPlace.com for further updates.