Friday, April 12, 2013

No Stereotypical Princess Role for Leia in New Star Wars Comic Series

Dark Horse Comics added a new series to its lineup of Star Wars comics in January that focuses on the adventures taking place in the franchise timeline between the original 1977 movie and its sequel the Empire Strikes Back. Simply titled STAR WARS this comic is in a world void of the annoying droid army characters and Jar Jar Binks of the prequel movies and the Yuuzhan Vong intergalactic invasion context and Solo/Skywalker children focus I never have really cared for that many of the novels and comics of the post Return of the Jedi stories have journeyed down.  This new comic storyline is the space opera fantasy that replicates the feel of the brand I grew up with as a kid where my friends and I pretended the elementary school jungle gym was the Millenium  Falcon during recess, brought tin Star Wars lunchboxes to school, and recreated the Death Star scenes with Kenner action figures in the back yard after school.  While there is a more contemporary modern day feel to this new comic book in the artwork and scripting it also has an incredible old school vibe to the characters and situations illustrated within it.

I just picked up issue #4 this week at my neighborhood comic shop  and have to admit that picking up these books has quickly become a regular indulgence for me spiriting me away from some of the stresses of life for a few minutes each month to a place that may be a long time ago in a galaxy far far away but yet is very familiar. I don't normally purchase and read any serial comic on a monthly basis, but I've come to look forward to the arrival each month of a new Star Wars story to read.  I also really appreciate the fact that these stories are written with mature enough content that they are interesting to this 40 year old geek daddy but don't have any content that I'd be worried about my kids seeing if they flip open the comic.

Brian Wood, the author and creative director for the series, portrays Luke Skywalker as a 19 year old who has a lot of potential due to his inherited abilities to use the "Force" but still is immature, a little reckless, thinks of himself as a hotshot pilot, and can be a little hot headed.  Han Solo is a rogue smuggler who shoots first and asks questions later that is sticking along with the rebellion as long as it suits his best interests.  Than we have Princess Leia.  This comic has made me take a double take on my impression of the character.  Like many guys my age I've associated the character with the Jabba slave girl outfit seeing her as a princess needing to be saved from the Death Star, Cloud City, or that slimy gangster leader on Tatooine. In this comic series, Princess Leia isn't participating in diplomatic missions or administrative duties for the Rebel Alliance rather she is a combat pilot for an X-Wing squadron on an important and dangerous mission. I found myself wondering why the change from princess in need of rescue to someone taking the fight to the Empire while reading these first few issues of the new Star Wars comic.

So I went right to the source and chatted with Brian Wood about the new comic.  I have to say that I was really impressed by his answers and it made me take a look back at my past conceptions of the Princess Leia and reconsider my impression of the character.

I asked Brian what his emphasis was or idea behind having Leia being such a "warrior" figure in his new Star Wars comic series?  He answered:  "Isn't she one in the films? One of the first things we see her do is smoke a storm trooper." Brian continued, "she resists torture, takes over her own rescue, shoots troopers, helps fly the Falcon, and that's just the first film!"  

He is so right! Unfortunately, I guess maybe the gender stereotypes I grew up with clouded that impression somewhat.  After Brian Woods made that comment to me though and I thought about it a light bulb went off in my head and I agreed that his approach to the character really was right on.  As a dad who wants his daughter not to be hindered by stereotypes so that she can accomplish any personal or career goal she sets I was embarrassed by my attitude towards Princess Leia.  Thank you Brian for the refreshing approach you've taken in developing this character in this comic and not letting stereotypes influence your story telling. 

On another topic. A big annoyance I've had with George Lucas beyond the whole Jar Jar Binks fiasco was the whole controversy with the "who shot first" cantina scene between Han Solo and Greedo in the original movie.  In the theater release Han Solo shoots first, than in the DVD versions it is changed to first they shoot at the same time to finally Greedo shoots first.  In STAR WARS #3, Han Solo shoots an Imperial spy in the back. I asked Brian if that was his input into the "who shot first" controversy regarding the film.  Brian response was that he wasn't consciously answering that question but rather "just wanted to show that Han  is smart and savvy and can smell a rat." He than added "I'm fine with people seeing a subtext though". I think its fair to say that Brian Woods probably agrees with a lot of Star Wars fans like myself that Han Solo shot first!

Brian also mentioned that he is under contract for 20 issues of this new Star Wars series so looks like we have awhile to sit back and enjoy a fun ride.   If you haven't checked out out the new Star Wars series you can buy it at your local comic retailer or online at for $2.99 per issue.  Oh yeah and one more plus for these comics, the cover art is great and all drawn by the talented artist Alex Ross who is a legend in the industry!

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