Star Wars Super Graphic book explains a galaxy far, far away with Force-filled infographics

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Sep 29, 2017

With a growing number of films, books, and more expanding the world of Star Wars, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with what’s happening in the franchise, even for the most diehard fans. Who can keep track of all the connections between films or the details about Jedi lightsabers we’ve seen in the series? Well, a new book wants to help you remember these facts and interesting bits of trivia in a fun, colorful way. Star Wars Super Graphic was released this summer and uses charts, graphs, and other infographics to make understanding what’s happening in the Star Wars galaxy easier than a Jedi performing a mind trick!

Star Wars Super Graphic was written by Tim Leong, creative director for Entertainment Weekly, and features various infographics in its 176 pages, which highlight all different kinds of information about the science fiction series.

“The galaxy in Star Wars is big. There’s a lot of different stories. I wanted to make the galaxy smaller for people. I wanted to help make the stories clearer and the connections more obvious, and help people have a greater understanding and appreciation for the Star Wars galaxy,” Leong recently told SYFY WIRE.

With so much information out there, Leong understood how seeing even just a list of Star Wars books could be overwhelming for some. He wanted to open it up for more casual fans, make it all seem less intimidating, and do it in a fun way that helps them have a greater appreciation for the material.

“I don’t want it to be a textbook. This shouldn’t be work. I wanted people to learn things while still having fun, and that was the trick. As I went through all the research, I basically tried to pull things out that would help people understand that world better,” he said. “I think it’s helpful that I come from a magazine background. That helped me figure out what you need to know, bringing a slightly more editorial element and background to it, and explain things instead of just ‘here’s a cool fact.’ To give that fact, but then also present some context that gives you that sense of the bigger story.”

Research for the book wasn’t too difficult, since he’s been a fan of Star Wars for a long time. He sat down and just started brainstorming, coming up with about 50 different ideas off the top of his head. He tried to think of areas that needed to be explained a little more, and if there were visual ways to explain them. He revisited the movies, TV shows, and books, and went through them all while taking notes.

“Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to work in a chart, and sometimes it’s just a bit of data, and sometimes you write more and it’s like, oh, there’s actually a trend here that you might not notice if you watched only one episode, but once you watch the entire series, it’s like, oh, this is a recurring thing that happens. We can map this across the story, if not the entire series,” he said.

For example, have you ever wondered who spoke the most during the entire film series? Or which ships are really the fastest? There are charts for those here. There are also charts that examine things specific to characters, such as “The Odyssey of R2-D2,” and “Vision Quest,” which looks at all the references in Rey’s vision from The Force Awakens

In order to be included in the book, though, Leong said it had to meet two standards.

“One, it has to be interesting data. If it’s just like, oh, this is really cool, here’s this great piece of data, but it’s not actually interesting, it has to be interesting data that helps tell a bigger story,” Leong explained. “Two, it has to be visually interesting when we do the chart. It’s not a textbook or little trivia book. It’s the marriage of story and visuals. When you put those two things together, it kind of makes something special, and have it be something that is greater than if you were just to see the text data part of it.”

According to Leong, sometimes that meant having great information, but then when you make a chart for it, it won’t look interesting. Or having a great idea for a chart, but then when you add in data, it doesn’t work. There had to be both things there working together for it to make it in Super Graphic.

Certain charts presented a challenge. Leong said one of the most laborious charts he made was one called “Dismembers Only,” which featured everyone who had arms or hands cut off in the films. The style of illustration was more detailed than others, which was tough, especially since it was one of the first ones he created. At that time, he was still deciding on the style for the book.

On the other hand, his favorite chart is “The Lightsaber List.”

“It’s just a breakdown of every known Jedi’s lightsaber color. I feel like when I was a kid, who’s got what color lightsaber and mapping all that stuff was super interesting to me, just knowing who has what,” Leong said. “This was a piece of data that when I had the idea for it I thought this must already be in 10 different forms all over the Internet, but I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of who has what color lightsaber. So I was like, oh, this seems like something that obviously needs to be made. So I was pretty happy about that.”

Before creating this book, in 2013, Leong also wrote Super Graphic, which focused on infographics about comic books. What makes infographics a fun and informative way to look at pop culture? To Leong, a visual can sometimes make all the difference in helping you understand and remember something better.

“Like in this lightsaber one, Coleman Kcaj had a green lightsaber. If you just read that, I don’t think you’d remember it, but if you see the page, I think that visual of the color burns it into your brain a little bit better. Sometimes a visual, if we’re doing our job right, the visual adds to it. It shouldn’t just be a pretty garnish on top of a piece of data. It should really be that marriage between the two that makes something new, and it’s fun,” he said. “I’ve definitely had teachers who have contacted me say that they use the book in their classes to help teach infographics and visuals, and help introduce kids to charts, and that’s awesome. That certainly wasn’t my intent, but that’s amazing. I love that. The idea is to make it fun. It shouldn’t feel like work. It should be a delight every time they pick up the book and turn to a page, like, oh this is cool. That’s the goal. That’s the hope.”