The writer speaks with StarWars.com about his new anthology of scary Star Wars stories.
For writer Cavan Scott, there’s no mystery as to why Halloween and Star Wars go so well together.
“Ask anyone who has gone trick or treating as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker!” he tells StarWars.com. “Star Wars has been scary from the start. I mean, there’s a werewolf in the cantina. And that’s before you get to wampas, witches, and brain worms!”
He would know. Scott has turned spine-tingling Star Wars stories into an annual Halloween tradition, writing several all-ages comic book anthologies over the last few years. And he has returned from the depths (of his busy schedule) for a new creepy collection.
Star Wars: Tales from the Death Star, available now, features several short scary tales, all set in the Empire’s technological terror. There are monsters, ghosts, and more fun frights — but all with a Star Wars twist, and perfect for younglings and Jedi Masters alike. To mark the giant-size comic’s release today, Scott spoke with StarWars.com about why he chose the Death Star for this year’s setting, the surprising inspirations for “The Creature from the Trash Compactor,” and a new ghost he’s very excited about introducing to the saga. “Horror just works in a galaxy far, far away,” he adds. “Maybe because it’s a universe built on hope, the two going hand in most-likely-dismembered hand.”
StarWars.com: You've taken readers to Vader's castle and the rancor pit for Halloweens past. Your latest is called Tales from the Death Star. How did you decide upon this creepy setting?
Cavan Scott: I mean, is anywhere scarier than the Death Star? For this collection, I was keen to do something different. In past anthologies, the individual stories haven’t had much to do with the location, other than maybe a few stories set in Vader’s castle. For this, I wanted to tell only stories that related to the Death Star…or rather, Death Stars! The battle station became the most important character.
StarWars.com: This collection is a new series of short stories. They're really fun, because each puts a Star Wars spin on a horror trope. Was that the goal from the outset?
Cavan Scott: Absolutely. The original idea for the Halloween specials came from a lunch with [Lucasfilm Publishing creative director] Mike Siglain way back in, I think it was 2017? We talked about the links between the horror films we loved and Star Wars, the biggest being the two grandmasters of Hammer Horror, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. We started riffing on creepy Star Wars stories we could create for their galaxy far, far away characters. Grand Moff Tarkin as Baron Frankenstein? Yes, please. Count Dooku as Dracula? I mean, it wrote itself. And the Halloween anthologies were born.
StarWars.com: The tales are all connected through a creepy framing story, with a mysterious figure "advising" a young boy on Kef Bir. What can you tell us about the inspiration for this, and the hooded storyteller?
Cavan Scott: One of the things I was most excited about the Death Star was that it allowed us to start telling stories set in the sequel trilogy, which the previous framing stories had never allowed. The original Tales from Vader’s Castle was going to be set around the time of The Force Awakens, but then was shifted back to around Rogue One. That meant that the Poe story we’d been planning became a Han story instead, and the sequel era was a no-go. The same went with Rancor’s Pit, but here we see the Death Star in its final resting place as seen in Rise of Skywalker — and a character introduced in that film as well — all beautifully realized by artist Soo Lee!
StarWars.com: "The Creature from the Trash Compactor" is the monster story of the bunch, which, spoiler, is about the dianoga. That's a benefit of setting your stories in the Death Star — you have instant access to an iconic Star Wars creature.
Cavan Scott: Yup. And it proves why the Death Star is instantly scary too. It comes with its own monsters!
StarWars.com: Without spoiling it, I felt that this was something of a tribute to Alien. Would you say that's true?
Cavan Scott: Oh, absolutely. And countless Doctor Who stories as well, when the TARDIS team are trapped on a space station swarming with terrors. Artist Vincenzo Riccardi does such a good job on all those claustrophobic corridors. I’d previously worked with Vincenzo on a British Dracula, comic so I knew his unique style would be just right for our creature feature.
StarWars.com: With "We Shall Double Our Efforts," you put a really fun twist on the Empire's push to finish the second Death Star — which is that they used zombies! It really walks the line between horror and comedy. Was that easy to pull off, or more of a challenge?
Cavan Scott: It was fun, that’s what it was! We often talk about these anthologies being a tribute to Hammer horror, but they’re actually nearer the output of Amicus, Hammer’s main rival that put out portmanteau features in the 1970s. Each had a framing story containing a number of shorts told by the framing story’s characters, films like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The House that Dripped Blood, and my personal favorites: Vault of Evil and the wonderful From Beyond the Grave. All of them included a more comedic story and I wanted to continue that tradition here, while of course keeping things a little bit scary! I think [artist] Juan Samu, returning from his story in Tales from the Rancor Pit, got the balance just right!
StarWars.com: "Wild Squadron" is the ghost story, focusing on a fighter unit that has possibly returned from beyond the grave. How did you come up with that concept?
Cavan Scott: So for this one, I have to tip my hat to my pal (and fellow High Republic scribe) George Mann. “Wild Squadron” started life as a tale for our Life Day Treasury book. Ghost stories are a staple of Christmas in the UK, and so we were keen to bring a spectral midwinter chill to our holiday collection. However, Lucasfilm opted for another of our ghostly ideas, “The Spirit of Life Day.” “Wild Squadron” just wouldn’t go away, though, so I asked George if I could write it for Tales From the Death Star. Luckily, he said yes, or I would have haunted him for all eternity.
It also meant I could add another Ewok to my catalogue. In the past we’ve had an Ewok Wicker Man, I’ve sent Wicket hunting demons in the snow, and even teamed up the murder bears with a certain green-furred smuggler. Now we get an Ewok ghost! And a terrifying one thanks to artist Fico Ossio, who I’ve been working with on Hawkman and Hawkwoman for DC. Although the true horror for Fico was how many different kinds of ships I made him draw for this story! TIE fighters. X-wings. Jedi Vectors. And that’s just for starters. Fico, I’m so, so sorry.
StarWars.com: "The Haunting of Grand Moff Tarkin" flips the script on Tarkin. And obviously with Peter Cushing's legacy in the Hammer horror films, it just feels right seeing him in a scary story. Was that on your mind?
Cavan Scott: Always. Writing Tarkin is forever a joy and it was fantastic to be given a chance to build on his family, while also delving deeper into the man’s fears. Because even Governor Tarkin is scared of something, right?
And the real joy here is working with Ingo Römling, who I met at German Star Wars convention, Noris Force Con 6. I was tabling next to Ingo and fell in love with his art. I texted Mike Siglain and said we had to get Ingo in for the Tarkin story, as I knew he’d nail the likenesses while also adding the creepy sheen a haunted Death Star needs. He replied immediately with “Yes, please,” and proceeded to tell me how much he adored Ingo’s art. So I leant over, pitched the story to Ingo and “The Haunting of Grand Moff Tarkin” is the result.
StarWars.com: Finally, any ideas for next Halloween?
Cavan Scott: I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you…or at least throw you into the Dark Lands. I’m not sure which fate would be worse.