Jeffrey Brown Talks About Return of the Padawan, Goodnight Darth Vader, and His Star Wars Future

Earlier this year, I had the chance to interview Jeffrey Brown about his two Darth Vader parenting books, Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess. He won an Eisner award (the comics equivalent of the Oscars) for Darth Vader and Son in the Best Humor Publication category. He is nominated this year for both Vader’s Little Princess (again Best Humor) and for Star Wars: Jedi Academy for Best Publication for Young Adults.  This month, he is releasing two NEW books, one from each series.  Goodnight Darth Vader comes out on July 22 and Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan on July 29th.  Next week, I will review both of those books in depth (and believe me BOTH are worth picking up)!

Jeffrey's Star Wars Insider cover featured this month(issue #151)
Jeffrey’s Star Wars Insider cover featured this month(issue #151)

Jeffrey was kind enough to let me interview him again.  He’s about to head to the San Diego Comic Con (#SDCC) for his 11th time.  While there he will be signing autographs on Preview Night (Wed) at the Chronicle Books booth for Goodnight Darth Vader from 6:30-8:30pm, on Friday at the Star Wars Insider area at 3pm for the special cover he did for their most recent issue (#151), also on Friday in the autograph area from 11am to noon and again Saturday from 2:30-3:30, and finally at Gentle Giant on Saturday at 11:30am.

Even with his busy schedule he was gracious and kind enough to let me interview him about his upcoming books.

Hi, again Jeffrey! Thanks for taking the time to share with me.  On your books, I noticed on your covers, you not only do the artwork, but also the lettering and I assume the coloring as well? And in the Goodnight Darth Vader book, you even write the Library of Congress information. What made you decide to do that?

Ever since I started doing comics, one of the things I’ve always been interested in is that this is the work of the human hand. This is the work that someone cares about. There’s something about the typeset text that doesn’t feel the same as when you can see someone’s handwriting. The voice shows through even in something like the Library of Congress information. It reflects the creator’s personality and it fits in with the whole book differently. I do the coloring done by hand with these artist’s markers and trying to use the computer as little as possible.

Wookies sleeping in the trees of Kashyyyk
Wookies sleeping in the trees of Kashyyyk

Was there any character you wanted to include in Goodnight Darth Vader but couldn’t? If so, what was it and why?

No, nothing really that didn’t make it in. The book came together pretty simply. I kinda of wanted to put Watto in there partly because I hadn’t drawn him yet. There’s an AT-AT joke (a sketch of which is included in the Star Wars Insider magazine featuring Jeffrey this month) that didn’t make it into the final book. But as far as the Vader books, this was the easiest to write. Everything seemed to click. From the moment I knew I wanted to do this, I already had ideas in my head.

The cover art for Return of the Padawan, the second book in the Jedi Academy series
The cover art for Return of the Padawan, the second book in the Jedi Academy series

Shifting gears to Jedi Academy, how did you come up with Roan’s name, Novachez?

The name Roan comes up a few times in the Star Wars books and my editor’s at Scholastic recommended it. As for Novachez, I wanted it to be like “Skywalker” where it references space. Also maybe not so straight-forward American? I don’t know where it came from exactly but spinning things around in my head “nova” was one of the words in my list. Mixing space words with suffixes, it just seemed right.

I love how in Return of the Padawan, you include a very diverse cast of characters – everything from gender to race to even species. Was that intentional and if so, for what purpose?

Yeah, I mean I definitely wanted to have a mix and the purpose is just to be a little more aware that so much of media in America is just “Caucasian male” based or oriented. In comics especially, it’s been a boys club in who’s making comics. That’s starting to change, but there aren’t a lot of role models in the characters you are seeing. No matter who you are you can relate to these (in Return of the Padawan).

Star Wars is often seen as a “male” interest, but I love that your books are so easily accessible to all kids. My daughter loves them and I love that she doesn’t feel they are “boys” books!

That’s changed (over time) so that science fiction isn’t just for men anymore or any one particular genre is for this gender. There’s nothing wrong with being a girl and liking Star Wars!

Interior art from Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan
Interior art from Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan

What message do you hope kids are getting from the Jedi Academy books?

I think the first message is a lot of it’s about what I struggled with in school. Having confidence and finding your place in the world. Encouraging kids to not worry so much. Everyone is in the same boat and if you’re true to yourself it will come together. I also like the idea of encouraging kids to create themselves. One of the reasons we did it this way (as a journal that Roan puts together using different media) is to show kids they can do this themselves. I hope kids are encouraged to express themselves creatively.

What inspired you to use all of these various formats within the Jedi Academy books?

There are other books that have kind of done that. Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes to mind. But when we first started talking about the project the Griffin and Sabine trilogy came to mind where it tells the story through these letters and correspondence. Creating a narrative through a variety of forums where you are piecing the story together. That was really appealing to me.

I love that you integrate Roan’s family into his life. So many books about kids often relegate the parents and family as side notes, but it’s obvious in the Jedi Academy books that Roan’s family is important to him. Is that influenced by your own ideas about family?

Yeah, I mean I think also it was wanting to show that you don’t have to go through life alone. You can rely on not just friends but family. I wanted to kind of show Roan and his brother and how normally in kids books especially the older sibling is kind of bullying the younger sibling. And that’s true. I have two older brothers. But there also times my brothers protected me and gave me advice and cared about me.

So what’s next? Will there be adventures for Roan after the third book?

I think I’m taking a break from Jedi Academy. After the third book, Roan’s life goes off in a different direction and it would change the entire tenor of the series. I might in time go back and do another class at Jedi Academy, but right now I’m working on another project about Lucy and Andy Neanderthal. It’s about this Neanderthal brother and sister growing up together. And I’m working on one more Darth Vader book right now. Beyond that there are some things that might happen, but the two Star Wars books are going to keep me busy and they’ll come out next year before the movie (Episode VII).

Thanks so much again for taking time to talk with me, Jeffrey! I really appreciate it and all the best at Comic Con!

  • To read more of my interview with Jeffrey about the Goodnight Darth Vader book, be sure to read the article on the Disney Dads section on Babble.com!
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