The writer of “A Tauntaun Tail,” included in IDW's Star Wars Adventures #22, on penning his first story in a galaxy far, far away.
Swatting air with an imaginary lightsaber or putting my well-worn action figures through the paces in the playground sandbox rank among my earliest Star Wars memories.
Fast forward several decades, and my playtime continues, this time as a newbie Star Wars creator. Today will see the release of IDW’s Star Wars Adventures #22, containing my original story “A Tauntaun Tail.”
To say I’m breathing heavier than Vader after a 5K would be an understatement. Yes, excitement abounds. The privilege of penning a Star Wars yarn proves to be equal parts amazing, surreal, exciting, and as intimidating as staring down a Sith. And I’ve taken some time to reflect on the journey here.
Having a Star Wars Adventure
Long before scoring the incredible opportunity to write for Star Wars Adventures, I found myself devouring issue after issue. The fast-paced action, quippy humor and vibrant color palette pulled me in like a tractor beam, and I soon realized why. Although it’s an all-ages title, its creative team skews Star Wars Adventures toward the eight- to 12-year-old set. I occupied that same demographic when I first fell for Star Wars. Star Wars Adventures knows how to tap into my wide-eyed, inner child, and elicit all those warm and fuzzy feels I felt as a young Padawan. Writing for Star Wars Adventures allows me to channel that same fan boy wonderment onto comic book pages. And I’ve never had so much fun.
An Empire state of mind
Like many die-hard fans, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back may be my favorite saga flick. When given the assignment of pitching a story set during the original trilogy, my mind quickly headed toward Empire, landing on the frosty expanse of the planet Hoth. From snow-stomping AT-ATs to a one-armed wampa, Hoth plays host to some of the movie’s most memorable moments. So I began crafting a story set amid its iconic tundra, and “A Tauntan Tail” was born.
An unlikely hero
The Star Wars canon has a rich history of unlikely heroes beating the odds and rising to the occasion, be it a Tatooine farmboy or a Jakku scavenger. With that theme in mind, I wanted to tell another kind of inspirational story, one that celebrates how we can use our unique traits in surprising ways. “A Tauntaun Tail” is the story of a tauntaun who’s shunned from her pack for having an extra-long tail. However, a young rebel soldier sees something special in the animal’s individuality, and helps the creature become an unexpected hero. One of my own real-life heroes is my son, Max. Despite being born with dwarfism, he continues standing tall, letting nothing get in his way. So when time came to name the rebel soldier character in “A Tauntaun Tail,” I thought Sgt. Maxim had an appropriate ring.
Artist extraordinare, Tony Fleecs
After the script received approval, the Star Wars Adventures editorial team at IDW paired the story with an artist. As a fan of the title, my anticipation built as I wondered which of the immensely talented stable of artists would be working on “A Tauntaun Tail.” I would soon learn that craftsman would be Tony Fleecs, whose work I absolutely love. The comic scriptwriting process finds the writer describing the action and the scene, providing the dialogue, and denoting how many panels appear on each page. It’s then up to the artist to interpret that information and create the finished product. For example, it’s easy for me to say page four has five panels of specific content. Tony, however, has the task of laying out all of the action in those five panels as he sees fit, presenting it on the page in a way that flows dynamically and helps tell the story. Amazingly, Tony seems to have the inherent ability to translate my descriptions perfectly and visually breathe life into the images I have in my head. I was blown away.
The dream-come-true playdate of writing “A Tauntaun Tail” for Star Wars Adventures was indeed mind-blowing, enlightening, and an absolute honor. Holding the tangible issue in hand will be the perfect ending to the endeavor.
Star Wars Adventures #22 is available now.
Jon Waterhouse is an award-winning journalist, radio show host, and performer whose byline has appeared in a variety of print and online publications including Esquire, BlackBook, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on MTV.com. He helms the geek travel blog NerdsOnHoliday.com.
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