Jason Aaron on leaving the Star Wars comic and the Yoda story he wanted to write

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Aug 30, 2017

Who the hell is crazy enough to voluntarily exit off one of the most popular ongoing comics in the galaxy? Jason Aaron, apparently. The Eisner Award-winning writer behind Marvel's Star Wars, the flagship series in the publisher's library of comics based on George Lucas' space opera, is walking away from the book after issue #37, which drops at your local comics store in October.

The latest issue, #35, hits stores today and finds Han Solo back in the smuggling game. Han and Chewie have to get a very valuable piece of cargo past Imperial eyes and safely ensconced in Rebel territory: Grakkus the Hutt! No surprise, Han is not thrilled with this plan. Check out the 3-page preview below to see who orders Han to stash the hutt.

It's hard to overstate what Aaron has delivered since being tasked with the unbelievably difficult task of launching an in-continuity Star Wars comic set in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. More than two years later, the book remains one of Marvel's biggest hits. That's in large part due to the imaginative direction in which Aaron and his all-star team of artists have taken our merry band of rebels. The series gave us unforgettable moments like the Luke-Boba Fett clash in the first arc and a look at the moment when Darth Vader learned the name of the boy who blew up the Death Star. It also introduced memorable new characters like Sana, Han's not-really wife, Black Krrsantan and Aaron's personal faves, Scar Squadron.

Maybe, when you've left an indelible impact on the most pervasive mythology of our time, it's a good time to call it a day. That's how Aaron feels about it. During an exclusive interview with SYFY WIRE, the writer said he was at peace with decision to move on. And it's not like he's hurting for work. Aside from creator-owned work like Southern Bastards and The Goddamned, Aaron also still has The Mighty Thor. And he's scripting the all-important Marvel Legacy one-shot that is spearheading the reset of the Marvel Universe.

Read on as Aaron discusses his reasons for leaving now, his favorite OT character to write, what an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie should emulate and the Yoda story he wishes he had the chance to tell.

What's the feeling like now that you're approaching the end of your run on this book? You're no stranger to extended runs on high-profile comics, but Star Wars is its own separate beast.

Jason Aaron: I guess I'm feeling a little bittersweet, I guess. It's been a nice long run, a few years at this point. I initially thought I'd stick around a little bit longer. I had plans that went through issue #50 at some point, but then, scheduling changed because of the other stuff I have coming up down the road a little bit. I just needed a little more space in my schedule so …and then, seeing as how I could step aside just as the new movie [The Last Jedi] was coming out, that seemed like good timing.

Did the change in plans force you to skuttle any planned storylines that you wanted to tackle in the book?

No, not really. If anything, this last arc, each issue focuses on a different character, a couple different characters. The Han story was going to be an entire arc. I think most of those were. I just took what I had, what I initially planned and condensed it down to shorter stories. Which actually I really liked to do. I've done those with a lot of my creator-owned work I've done over the years. If anything, by limiting myself, by taking what would have been, three or four arcs and condensing them down, it made it hard to leave but made me enjoy that last storyline a lot.

You've really given voice to so many characters in the Star Wars canon. Your run has featured Threepio, R2, the new characters as well. And then obviously, Lando … and also Leia and Han have picked up different layers during your run. Is that something you especially enjoyed tackling these past few years?

Absolutely. That was kind of the goal from the get-go. Issue #1 we were trying to make this book feel like an extension of that first film. Like if you had just walked out of the theater after seeing the original movie, and someone had handed you this comic and said, 'this is the next part of that story.' Certainly those voices are a big part of that. I wanted it to feel like these were the same characters you've known. I think that's what I've always been striving for. You're limited even in that, of course, because we all know the chapter that comes after this, right? We've all seen The Empire Strikes Back so there's only so much I can do with those characters and only so many places I can take 'em because we have to leave them in that very specific point.

That said, if you look at the narrative distance between those two movies, there's still a lot to explore. We've always kind of grabbed for the biggest beats we could get kind of from the beginning. Putting Luke and Darth Vader in that first issue was a big part of that. It kind of fueled their chase over the next 30+ issues. Putting Luke face-to-face – well not actually, since Luke couldn't see at the time – with Boba Fett, bringing in characters like Jabba the Hutt and Lando, who we're not used to seeing at this point in the story…

Hey, congrats on rebuilding Boba Fett's rep.

(laughs) Thanks.

You bring up a good point, though. And I'm not here to rag on the SW prequels, but prequels have an impossible task. You know where the story ends, so you have to fill in these points in-between. How tough was the process, especially since you had to go over everything with the Lucasfilm Story Group? Were there stories you pitched that they shot down?

Oh sure, there were loads of ideas we pitched that we couldn't do.

C'mon, give us one!

(laughs) Well, there's not really one that jumps to mind right away. If anything, I was surprised at the stuff I did get to do. I was always thinking, 'aim high.' That's my job. It's their job to tell me, 'no, well you can't do this because of this this and this.' I always came in kind of shooting for the moon. I was always happy with the stuff we were able to get to do. It took me awhile to figure out how to put … Yoda in there. I kinda knew right away I wanted to get him in there. I'll tell you what I did pitch.

I had multiple ideas for how to work Yoda in there. One of them I wanted to do at one point was … and we were limited in terms of that Yoda couldn't leave Dagobah and nobody could really go see him. I wanted to do a story where a group of Stormtroopers crash-land on Dagobah and it basically turns into Predator with Yoda as the Predator, stalking all these Stormtroopers in this swampy wasteland. So we didn't get to do that, but it turned into, a little bit at least, and wound up influencing 'Vader Down,' the first crossover that Kieron and I did. The idea of Vader being alone on this planet full of Rebels, and of course him eventually taking them all out. I eventually found a way to do a Yoda story that was a flashback story that still has connections to Luke's story in the present day. We even worked in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

When did you come across the idea of having Ben Kenobi's journal as a storytelling device? It's a great idea for stories like "Yoda's Secret War" so you can bring in these other characters who didn't engage with main group at this point in the Star Wars timeline.

The idea of the Obi-Wan stories was right there from the beginning. When I first pitched Marvel on what I wanted to do, I mentioned those. Just as doing those in between major arcs., to give whoever was drawing the books a break, and to let us work with artists who could only do an issue or two. And I really liked the idea of exploring old Ben Kenobi. That image of the grizzled old gunslinger who can't take out his guns, who's stuck on this backwards desert planet, I thought there was a lot of fun to be had there. I enjoyed doing all those. The first couple in particular, I was very proud of.

A Ben Kenobi movie set on Tatooine where he is that reclusive gunslinger is a movie that needs to get made.

Absolutely. To me, there's a little bit of Unforgiven in space there, right?

Great comparison.

And I'm a sucker for action movies that star old guys. Going back to the 1970s when they did that a lot. Now, Liam Neeson has kind of sparked a revival that you don't have to be a young guy to be an action hero. I love that.

It sounds like you have an Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series waiting to happen, when you find a few minutes of free time.

Well, who knows if this is the end of me on Star Wars? I'd love to be able to come back down the road and do a story here, a story there, about some character or another. I think you'll see that at some point.

Is there a particular story arc or two that you're especially proud of? You mentioned "Vader Down" earlier. To me, that is a quintessential Vader story because it reinforced the badass nature of the character. Do you feel the same way?

Certainly Kieron and I went into that story knowing we wanted Vader to cut loose. I think that's one of the reasons why people responded to the ending of Rogue One so much. They were hungry for that. They wanted to see what he could do. "Vader Down" was us trying to come up with as many mad ideas as we could to see Vader kick ass. I don't know if I can pick just one story; Out of everything I'm really happy with that first arc with [artist] John Cassaday. He and I were both really concerned about and determined to make it really feel and look right, like the movie. I was happy with how we did that and also making it seem unpredictable and fun. Han Solo driving an AT-AT, bringing in Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and of course introducing a brand new character that claims to be Han's wife. That was all big and fun. And the next arc, getting to work with Stuart Immonen was a huge thrill. He's one of my favorite artists.

He's also just about the perfect artist for a Star Wars book.

Oh, absolutely. He drew the hell out of Nar Shaddaa. About the most fun I've had though, was "The Last Flight of the Harbinger" storyline. Let's have the rebels steal a Star Destroyer. We also brought in this new group of Stormtroopers, kind of an elite squad of Stormtroopers. I don't know, I might pick that one just because of how much fun I had writing those characters.

Stormtrooper fans should love your run, too, because you gave them personality, and a purpose. Like in "Yoda's Secret War," where the Stormtroopers go against Vader's wishes to get rid of Threepio. That moment offers as much character development as we've seen from a Stormtrooper in the comics. It must be gratifying for you not just as a creator, but as a Star Wars fan, to have made changes and introduced new characters that stuck.

I didn't introduce a plethora of new characters because, again, I wanted this to feel like, it was … it was a big deal for people who had only enjoyed the movies. Even if you had never read comic books, I wanted this to feel like you needed to read it. So we wanted to deal with the biggest characters possible. That said, yeah, we wanted to introduce new ones. With Scar Squadron, the new stormtroopers, I wanted to show the dudes under the helmet, right? I kind of got into that through the back door. We introduced the Gamesmaster in the second arc, who's training Luke in the arena. Eventually we find out that guy's an undercover imperial agent. All of that was building for me, to where we would see a Stormtrooper holding a lightsaber. Again, that's one of those things I didn't know I would get away with. Thankfully, I did. We kind of knew a little about this guy before he ever put a Stormtrooper helmet on. I wanted to know the flip side of the coin. I wanted to know why would you fight for the Empire? They can't all be people who were pressed into service. They can't all have the wool pulled over their eyes, you know? Why would you look at the rebels and see them as enemies who needed to be taken down? I wanted to see somebody who had a completely different perspective, someone who grew up in a place where the Empire came in and made life better, and he would give his life for them. He sees the rebels as representing chaos and terrorism, and so he's bound and determined to take them down.

Also, part of it was about setting up a new enemy for our heroes that we could do whatever with. We're not bound by any of the films. I just liked that idea of stormtroopers being part of a G.I. Joe squad. You've got the big guy, the cyborg, the communications guy, the psycho guy…

Who was your favorite character to write during your time on the book?

Probably C-3PO. As much as I love Han, Luke and Leia and Vader, Threepio was the most fun. A couple of times, we set it up for Threepio to maybe save the day. The first arc, our heroes need the Falcon. It's being attacked by these scavengers. Han is yellowing at Threepio, 'get rid them!' Threepio comes out trying to hold a blaster. This is it, this when Threepio is finally going to step up and do something. And of course, he doesn't. He drops the blaster and shoots himself and gives up. (laughs)

Can you give us a quick tease on what we can expect in your last issues on Star Wars, as you leave Kieron Gillen in the impossible spot of having to follow you?

Well ... I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to spoil it …

What is Marvel going to do, fire you off the book?

(laughs) Good point. The latest issue is about Han and Chewbacca and its always fun having them together on an adventure. They've got Grakkus the Hutt, the muscular hutt we introduced in the second story arc. I always wanted a Hutt who wasn't just bloated and fat, but looked like a guy who could kick your butt if he got his hands on you, and that's Grakkus. After that, it's the issue where R2 kicks butt, and then the final issue focuses on Scar Squadron.

If you never write a Star Wars comic again, and I know there are lots of people who don't want that to be the case, are you content with where this run resides in the Jason Aaron career checklist?

Yeah, I think I walk away happy and proud with everything I was able to do. You want to walk away at the right time. You don't want to walk away when you've completely run out of stories. That means you should've left a little earlier. I feel like I'm leaving at a good time. There are a couple more stories I could still do if I was going to be on the book for another year, but that just means I've got a good reason to come back and do something else down the road.