My Comic Life Column 012: Lessons from Star Wars
Welcome back for round 12 of this little corner of comicdom! First, I’m going to apologize because last time I promised to start a series on penciling this round. However, as I write these columns a few weeks in advance, to keep content on track, I kind of forgot the timing.
I had my heart set on doing my first look at a popular franchise with the premiere of Star Wars: Rogue One, and then doing something a little different for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. So, penciling will debut the first week in January, for now, let’s take a little side trip on a few other topics, I think you won’t be too disappointed.
The Magic of Star Wars
Like this week’s My Comic Life strip says, I’ve always been more a Star Trek fan, literally consuming everything to do with that franchise, from watching every episode of every series and every movie multiple times, to reading every comic ever published, and slowly working my way through every novel ever done. I’ve even watched most of the fan-films out there. That series speaks to me on many levels that I’ll dig into elsewhere. But, Star Wars has always held a special kind of magic all its own in my life.
The original Star Wars, now known better by its subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope, premiered in 1977 when I was ten years old. I distinctly remember going to see it at the Ranch Drive-In Theater (yes, they really had those) on opening night with my parents and my grandmother. I remember being very excited because it was my first big sci-fi film on screen with entire new worlds to discover. For ten year old me, it hit all the right marks – great heroes and heroines, awesome villains, and a scale so much larger than life it seemed truly fit for the stars. I was hooked.
Now, the really cool thing is our family farm was a couple fields and a thin band of trees away from the Ranch Drive-In, so after seeing it that first night, I got to open my window every night when I went to bed and listen to it for it’s entire run. I would be ready for bed in time, open the window, lie in bed and listen to that story over and over again, until I could quote most of it.
Of course, when Episodes V and VI came out, those were must sees as well, and I loved the original trilogy with a passion.
After that, to be honest, the series lost interest to me. I, fortunately, missed the infamous Christmas special until I finally tracked it down a few years ago – yeah, lucky me. I did try to watch the Ewok movies that came out in the mid-80’s but I was on the cusp of graduating high school by then, and they were clearly aimed at younger children, so felt disappointing. I read the Marvel Comics when they came out, and stuck with it a while, but those also seemed to get silly and off the grid in terms of the feel of the original movies. As a result, I pulled away and didn’t follow most of the content that came out in comics, books and elsewhere over the intervening years.
When the prequel trilogy premiered, I checked them out in theaters and personally enjoyed them overall, but they still felt off when compared to the originals. More campy, more flashy, most of the typical complaints you read online. However, they renewed my interest in the franchise enough I did some investigating into what all else was out there and found a whole extended universe and timeline that, to be honest, put me off immediately because it seemed too complex to wade into.
Now, when the news hit about Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I decided to re-try the franchise, and this time make an effort to explore more of it. So, first I re-watched the films, prequels first, then the originals. Being a completist I then watched the Ewok movies, and even tracked down that aforementioned Christmas Special (yes, I am OCD thank you very much). I then, for the first time ever, watched every episode of the animated Clone Wars (thank you Netflix) which re-kindled some of that magic. Then of course, I absolutely loved Episode VII. Later today, I’m going to be checking out Rogue One and find myself pretty excited for it.
I’ve also decided I’m going to start digging into the books and comics next year and explore this broader universe I missed out on for all these years.
The Lessons to Learn?
As this column is geared toward aspiring creators I would recommend you do a bit of research and read the history of the franchise itself; it’s a rather storied saga of ups and downs, triumphs and travails all centered around the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas. Just starting with the Wikipedia article on it should hook you pretty quickly.
Lucas’ story is the consummate story of a creator’s journey. From his first getting noticed for his film THX 1138, two movie deal that spun out of that, his initial space-fantasy plans to do a Flash Gordon film, hitting walls there so deciding to do his own thing, struggling to give shape to that thing, only to create something few people initially believed in, only to then launch a cultural phenomenon that would change the landscape of science-fiction forever.
Lucas has met with a lot of unfair treatment over the years and often not given enough credit for the things he’s accomplished. He’s a creator who clearly struggles with his work. The vast and numerous changes made to Star Wars before it finally hit the screens, the ongoing changes in the story as the sequels rolled out, the additional changes made in updated releases, the additional changes introduced into the backstory with the prequels etc. show a man who spent a good portion of his life trying to figure out this story he created that sparked a cultural revolution (or perhaps rebellion).
Judging from his own statements, and the reaction of the fans, sometimes he nailed it, sometimes he fell short. The increasing antagonism between many of the fans and Lucas was a large part of why the prequels took so many years, and why Lucas eventually stepped back and sold his franchise to Disney.
I can think of few other franchises and creators whose story is so powerful in and of itself, showing the full range of the challenges, pitfalls, and peaks of being a creator – and even more – a successful creator (which isn’t always a bed of roses).
When I first saw Star Wars as a kid I loved it, and the magic was completely in the epic story of good vs. evil, heroes, heroines, and villains. It was in huge Death Stars and exploding planets, in cool droids and faraway worlds. I’d like to think as that magic has been rekindled in me, that this time it’s still all of that, but mixed with a healthy appreciation for the saga behind the saga, the work of a creator in bringing a dream to life, sometimes succeeding beyond everyone’s wildest expectation, sometimes falling flat on his face but persevering and ultimately creating something that will touch generations.
Isn’t that pretty much the dream of every creator out there?
The next couple columns will be holiday focused and start setting the stage for 2017 on multiple fronts. Hope you’ll join me!
About C. Edward Sellner
A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!