Brian Wood Talks X-Men, Star Wars, and More

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Star Wars #4 © Dark Horse Comics
Star Wars #4, Art by Alex Ross © Dark Horse Comics

Brian Wood is one of the busiest – and best – writers in the comic book business. Somehow he finds the time to write Mara (Image Comics), Star Wars, The Massive, and Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse Comics), Ultimate X-Men and the new X-Men series coming this month (Marvel Comics). I don’t know how he does it. I’m already tired just from writing this paragraph.

Brian makes it seem effortless, even going the extra mile to stay fit and healthy. Curious about how he manages it all, I caught up with him to ask him about what’s coming up for the X-Men relaunch, Star Wars, about his adventures in CrossFit, and more.

X-Men #1, Art by Olivier Copiel © Marvel Comics

GeekMom: Will it be easy for newcomers (or readers who haven’t read an X-Men title in years) to jump right into X-Men #1?

Brian Wood: I think so, yeah. That’s always the goal, and our biggest challenge as the makers of comics: to satisfy newcomers and old-timers alike. It’s tricky, but its crucial and I think we did it here. It might take a couple issues before someone new to the X-Men is fully locked in, but getting there will not be boring, I promise.

GM: How did you choose the line-up?

BW: Marvel chose it! Haha. But I concur, it’s a great lineup, all heavy hitters, fan-favorites, and marquee names. There’s dozens of female X-Men and they’re all great, but for this launch we needed the all-stars.

GM: Are you aware of any special efforts being done to publicize the all-female X-Men, given how female-driven titles typically don’t sell as well as the male titles?

BW: Yeah, we’ve gotten some inquiries and done some outreach… honestly, this sort of this is massively high profile anyway, but a few unusual-for-comics publications have expressed interest, like Bitch Magazine, for one example.

And as far as sales go, I like to think this book will be the one that blows away expectations of female-led books selling poorly. If any book will, it’s this one.

GM: Brian Michael Bendis has mentioned that you’re “very involved” in the X-Men 50th Anniversary. Is it part of the X-Men relaunch, Ultimate Comics X-Men, or something new you can give a hint about?

BW: I guess that cat is out of the bag by now, but yeah, X-Men will be one of the four titles making up the 50th Anniversary Event later this year.

GM: Is dialogue with Chewbacca and R2-D2 one of your biggest challenges in Star Wars? In issue #4, R2-D2’s panel isn’t filled with “beeps” and “boops” – was that a deliberate decision to keep the conversation flowing?

BW: Well, later we have some extended conversations with people and droids with plenty of sound effects, and yeah, it’s hard to write that in a way that makes it part of a back and forth, and without the human side of the conversation basically repeating back what the Wookiee or droid says for the benefit of the reader. But it’s a fun creative problem to solve, one I enjoy.

Star Wars #2, Art by Carlos D'Anda © Dark Horse Comics
Star Wars #2, Art by Carlos D’Anda © Dark Horse Comics

GM: Some Star Wars fans weren’t convinced that Princess Leia belongs in the cockpit of an X-Wing. Now that we’re 4 issues in, have you noticed your audience changing their tune?

BW: Maybe… or maybe I’m just hearing less of it, haha. But I hope it all sort of makes sense now, once readers see the context and what it all looks like on the page.

I also talk about this a lot – one of my favorite things to say to a skeptic is to run down the list of actions Leia does in the first film, and when you line it all up, especially including the “resisting torture” and “flying the Falcon” and “taking over her own rescue” – I can see people get it. I mean, one of the very first things we ever see her do is shoot a stormtrooper. She’s got the skills.

GM: Is A New Hope your favorite Star Wars film? 

BW: Yeah, it is. I like a lot of Empire, but mostly the Hoth scenes, which were endlessly re-creatable in the snowy Vermont winters I grew up in. But looking back, A New Hope is the right mix of nostalgia and drama and suspense for me. So I try to keep it in mind when I write this series, use that film only as a point of reference.

GM: Through your tweets it seems like you regularly exercise with CrossFit. How do you fit writing so many ongoing titles and a regular exercise program in?

BW: Well, after so many years of telling myself that it was impossible, that I was just too busy to take care of myself properly, I hit some sort of line that, once crossed, could not stand. I decided I needed to TAKE the time to exercise even if it meant wreaking havoc on deadlines for awhile. So I did that.

I’ve since found the balance, but for many weeks it was tough. I was late handing in work. But it really had to be done. My job, like so many people, is to sit in a chair for way too many hours of the day. I’m into my 40’s, and too many of my peers in similar circumstances deal with a lot of health issues. No way was I going to be one of them.

I work out 3x a week, and the intensity level of CrossFit being what it is, that is a huge amount for me. It’s great, it’s the best thing I could have done for myself.

GM: You hinted recently that your diet and exercise regimens are related to your writing. Is that where you got the inspiration for the character of Mara?

BW: Related to my career, in the ways I detailed above. That’s all I meant. I never really considered myself an athlete, even though I was quite active in a few things in my youth. But I am one now, that’s for sure.

But Mara predates all that, actually… Mara came out of some ideas of superheroes and athletes that have been gestating in my back brain for years now. Sometimes ideas just take that long to come together.

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