Who knows what lurks in the creepiest corners of the Star Wars universe? We’ll find out this Halloween season.
At today’s Star Wars publishing panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Lucasfilm announced Star Wars: Tales from Vader’s Castle, a five-issue comic book miniseries coming from IDW Publishing, with new issues released every Wednesday throughout October. Written by Cavan Scott and illustrated by Derek Charm, the series will feature fan-favorite characters spanning the Star Wars saga, including Star Wars Rebels‘ Hera, Kanan, and Chopper; Obi-Wan Kenobi and Count Dooku; Han Solo and Chewbacca; and, amazingly, even Ewoks. Eisner Award-winning artist Francesco Francavilla is providing atmospheric variant covers for each installment, and an all-star lineup of creators (Kelley Jones, Chris Fenoglio, Corin Howell, Robert Hack, and Charles Paul Wilson III) will bring their distinct styles to additional terrifying tales each week. It looks like scary fun for all ages, and the perfect way to add the power of the Force to Halloween. StarWars.com has a first look at the series’ covers, and caught up with Scott and Charm to discuss Tales from Vader’s Castle and making Star Wars spooky.
StarWars.com: I love the idea of this series and leaning into the spooky side of Star Wars, especially in a way that’s fun for younger readers. What can you tell us about Tales from Vader’s Castle and telling these types of Star Wars stories?
Cavan Scott: Micheal Siglain first mentioned the concept to me at San Diego Comic-Con last year, when we were promoting the imminent launch of Star Wars Adventures. We share a love of classic horror films, from Universal Monsters to Hammer Horror films. I jumped at the chance to write it. An anthology of all-age horror-inspired tales in the Star Wars stories? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance, especially with Vader’s castle as the central location.
The series is a series of spooky stories within a story. A rebel ship crash lands on Mustafar not far from Vader’s fortress. As the crew survives monsters, stormtroopers, and worse, they tell each other stories to help raise their spirits. At least, that’s the general idea, although some of the rebels are of a more nervous disposition than the others.
The team is led by Commander Lina Graf, who fans of the Adventures of Wild Space series of junior novels will recognize. Now a full member of the Rebel Alliance, Lina has to try and get her people off the nightmarish planet, before the horror stories they’ve been sharing become frighteningly real.
Derek Charm: I always loved these spookier kinds of stories as a kid, so I was definitely excited to be a part of this. Even more so when I found out we’d be using largely new characters. I love being able to design new Star Wars characters, and this team Cavan came up with are such a distinct group. I feel a little bad that we throw them right into the worst place in the galaxy.
StarWars.com: The series stars a great character lineup representing various eras of the saga. Did you find that such a diverse range allowed for diverse stories, even within the framework of the overall series?
Cavan Scott: Absolutely. Growing up in the UK, I was introduced to portmanteau horror films at an early age — far too early, probably! These were films that contained three or sometimes four horror shorts, usually tied together by a central storyteller. One of my favorite’s was Amicus’s Dr Terror’s House of Horrors in which a group of travelers find themselves on a train with a spooky gentleman played by Grand Moff Tarkin himself, Peter Cushing. The individual stories ranged in tone from comedy to chills. We wanted this miniseries to have a similar feel.
StarWars.com: Christopher Lee obviously has a big legacy in horror. You couldn’t not do this series without including Count Dooku, right?
Cavan Scott: That was our starting point actually, riffing on Sir Christopher’s status as a horror icon. The man played two terrifying Counts… Was there a way to bring them together? Michael and I became increasingly excited about the idea of having a Dooku vampire story, and the rest of the stories followed from there. If we had a vampire story, we needed to have a possession story, and a witch story, and a monster story, too.
StarWars.com: Cavan, how has it been striking the balance between writing stories appropriately scary not just for an all-ages audience, but for stories that also must feel appropriately Star Wars?
Cavan Scott: Part of the fun of this project has been working out how to tell these types of stories within a Star Wars framework, and I have to acknowledge the role that Michael Siglain and the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Matt Martin have played in making sure that if we’re going to have a monster or a creepy location it still feels suitably Star Warsy.
As for writing for all-ages, the key is not to go too far. Young readers like spooky stuff. You only have to look at Ghoosebumps or the books of Roald Dahl for that. But you can’t scare them out of their wits. I actually think the Star Wars settings and characters help with this. They’re a comfort. Yes, scary things are afoot, but Obi-Wan, Hera, and Chewie are there. Everything’s going to be alright…isn’t it?
StarWars.com: How has the tone of these stories impacted your art and visual storytelling, Derek?
Derek Charm: One of the things that excited me the most about this project was the opportunity to do something a bit different with the art. Cavan and I have done a bunch of all-ages Star Wars stories together, but this was an opportunity to get a little darker. I’m using a really limited color palette on this book, which is basically these very subdued, creepy blues and yellows until our crew crashes on Mustafar, then it’s these super harsh reds, greens, and black. Scary things start happening to these guys right away and they don’t let up, and I wanted that tension to be felt in the art.
StarWars.com: This is coming out right in the middle of Halloween season, which is perfect. I’ve always felt that Halloween and Star Wars go well together, but it’s something that’s been historically underserved.
Cavan Scott: Halloween in the UK was very different than here in the US when I was growing up. It wasn’t as big a festival in Britain, although it has rapidly grown in popularity over the last few years. There certainly wasn’t the same emphasis on dressing up and trick or treating. But it was a season for spooky castles and monsters of all shapes and sizes, and Star Wars definitely has lots of those. And the great things about Star Wars is that hope is at its center, which is a wonderful message on the scariest night of the year. No matter how many things go bump in the night, no matter how scary the dark side seems, light will always win.
Derek Charm: I think Star Wars is unique in that it exists within many genres at the same time. It’s awesome to be able to lean into the tone of a particular story, especially something as heightened as a Halloween horror story. It’s cool to see that you really don’t have to change anything about the universe to get these kind of stories, you just lean into the spookier stuff and it’s all there.
StarWars.com: I’ve always felt that stories like these have a far greater impact than we might think — just in terms of becoming something you revisit every year around Halloween and pass on to friends and family over the years. What are your hopes for Tales from Vader’s Castle?
Cavan Scott: I definitely would like to think that Tales from Vader’s Castle becomes a Halloween tradition for Star Wars-loving families. I hope these stories will be revisited year on year, read around a crackling fire or by flashlight under the bed covers. And who knows, there may be more spooky Star Wars stories to come…
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.