Baltimore Comic Con 2015: Interview with Mark Waid

Leia_Dodson1Given what a fan I am of Mark Waid’s Marvel work, briefly chatting with him about his work on the Princess Leia series was one of the highlights of my Baltimore Comic Con this year. I loved the heck out of those five issues and was excited to have the chance to ask him all the questions the book left me with and to talk Star Wars in general.  And hey!  It’s not every day that you get to interview someone who just won the Harvey for Best Writer the night before.

Bria: The first question we always ask everyone is how did you become a Star Wars fan?

Mark Waid: I’m old enough to say I was there on opening day. I was there… all right, I have a story. This is a horrible, horrible story that makes me look like an idiot. So… it’s not true. I was not there on opening day. My friends and I got together that weekend and there were six or seven of us and we were having the same argument that you always have when you get six or seven people together on a Saturday night in a car with no direction. They go “Okay, we need to see a movie.” Okay, well there’s a couple of movies opening up this weekend. What do we see? Everyone wanted to see this one movie and I fought really hard to see this other movie because I said, “Look, this is going to be amazing. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to change your life.” So because I fought for it, we went to see… You Light Up My Life. And I never lived it down. The next weekend, we all saw Star Wars and they were all like, “You idiot! What is wrong with you?” Then that was it. Like everyone else, I saw it a dozen times that summer and it was amazing.

Which is your favorite film?

The second one by far. It just… to manage to take all the stuff that made the first one cool and then add some gravitas was really awesome.

Favorite character? (I know that’s a hard one.)

It is a hard one! I really do think it is Leia.

Mine too! So did you pitch Marvel to do Star Wars? From what I hear, everyone and their mother were calling the editors and saying “I really want to write it!” or did they come to you?

They actually came to me and they said, “We want a Princess Leia series. Are you interested?” While I love the character, I didn’t have a story. I didn’t know where we wanted to go with it and I was on the verge of saying, “Look I appreciate this but this is not for me.” And then I started thinking about… if you let me do it the day after A New Hope ends; if you let me do it the day after and you get a chance to really delve into what it’s like for her to have lost everything? Then I’m in and they totally bought that. That’s really where it stood; the idea that in first movie, there’s no time for it to sink in for her.

Since you only had the first film to go on, how did you go about creating how she was in the comics? Because she’s very stoic.

Right, so we carry that into the miniseries. She wasn’t a terribly tender character but she had agency. She always had agency from the first time we saw her in the movie, she has agency. She does her thing. One of the push back points… I don’t want to say this in a negative way because Lucasfilm was very very good about every step of it… but at one point, the note came in early on, “Should she really be doing this or is it better if she’s on a mission for the Rebel Alliance?” and I said, “No, I don’t like that because I like the idea of her just saying that ‘I’m doing this and no one’s stopping me.’” And they were fine with that.

And that’s something that I really enjoyed about the book myself because we haven’t really seen Leia deal with the loss of Alderaan.

Exactly, yeah.

I know that some people weren’t as fond of seeing Leia go a little bit away from being as stoic as she was when we got to see a little more personality and the grief she had for Alderaan but you created Evaan as sort of a foil and an opposite to her.

Right, somebody who could genuinely show that grief. Like I said, I liked the idea that Evaan didn’t like her at first because you’re such an ice queen, you’re such an ice princess. How can you be this way?

Did you have Evaan’s story arc in mind when you first came up with her?

Yeah, yeah.

So what makes me ask… What’s the political situation for Alderaan now? We went from having—this is a super nerdy question– Are they a democracy now? Are they a monarchy with a “You’re going to be our queen!”? Do you think Leia would go back and take up being Queen again?

I don’t think she would. I think she understands that it’s like a classic hero’s journey. She gets to lead her people to a promised land but then the tragedy is that she can’t be a part of it. Her calling is bigger than that. I’m not entirely sure, honestly. I’m not entirely sure what the repercussions are of saying, “Okay, Evaan you run the place now.”

Because that threw us for a loop!

Exactly but I liked that. Because if we get the chance to do another Leia series, I would definitely want to go back and visit that and see like a year later, where are we with New Alderaan?

So do you have a pitch in mind if they let you write more Leia?

That’s all I know. They’ve asked me to do more Leia—


I don’t know if I’ll have the chance. It would be nice but I’ve got so much going on and if they like the pitch of “Okay a year later, where are we with New Alderaan?” and if I can come up with enough of a story for it, I’d love to do that, sure.

So it would focus more on Evaan than on Leia?

I’d like Leia to be focused on in it but the question would be: what is her role now with that? Especially now that she’s said, “I’m turning it over to you.” She can’t just step back.

Yeah, we see her being referred to as Princess all the way through Return of the Jedi.

Exactly. So she’s not… nobody ever made her a Queen.

So how did Leia respond to the “Uhh you left with one of our pilots. Uhm… where is she?”

I know! That’s a really good question. I didn’t think about that. You should’ve been my editor. Uhm… I don’t know.

We were wondering about that because we figure between Leia and Luke always just peacing out with his X-Wing… what did you do— what—

I know, those things cost money! You can’t—Yeah, I know.

I guess when you’re a Skywalker, you get to go AWOL whenever you want. Another question I had was that we’ve seen Nien Nunb in a lot. Did you decide to put him in or was that something that the Story Group said, “Hey well maybe you should use him…”

No, that was purely just a random decision. I like the comedy of him saying things that we don’t understand and people responding because they understand. That’s all.

I also have to mention that moment in #2 with Padmé. That was gorgeous.

That was Lucasfilm’s idea. That was their suggestion. It was a really good note. They said, “Let’s not take it over the top. Let’s not do anything that makes it problematic for continuity and other stuff.” But just that moment of vision where people think “Oh that’s what’s supposed to happen when you land here.” Nahhh no.

So do you think that at some point she’s going to find out?

I would think so, yeah.

I also wanted to note… All the diversity within the comic… like the sisters, I loved that.

Thank you. We made a strong point—I did this going in—I wanted as many roles to be filled by women in this story as possible and anytime I had a choice, I would rather it be a woman in that role. We were really happy with that.

It’s something that the readership definitely noticed and we appreciated. One last question: was there any awareness for you about the Expanded Universe that got made Legends? Was there any awareness of what had come before and different characters like… my favorite character is Winter who was Leia’s best friend growing up. Was there any thought about using them or did you mostly want to use new ones?

The mandate from Lucasfilm was: for the time being, concentrate on building a new mythology. I don’t know what the future holds for the Expanded Universe and stuff but those were the marching orders so I didn’t want to delve too deeply into that stuff in terms of research just because I was afraid of accidentally unconsciously carrying over somebody else’s ideas.

Well thank you very much and I sincerely hope we get to see you writing Star Wars again.

My pleasure and I hope so.