by Janne Helander

The following interview was conducted via e-mail July 19–August 5, 2000. A somewhat edited version of this text was published in STAR WARS No. 5 * 2000.

JH: Rich. The first time I came across your name was when I visited "The Exhaustive Guide to STAR WARS Comics", your now defunct website which was just as comprehensive as the name implied! Obviously, you started out as an avid reader and collector of STAR WARS comics, and now you've written one yourself, "Lady Luck", which we are publishing in this very issue. Could you tell me a bit about how you first got started as a writer and what led you to this point in your career, doing official STAR WARS work?

RH: Sure! It all started, you see, when my parents were murdered, and I wanted revenge so I put on a bat costume and started stalking the night, fighting crime, and … er, wait, wrong story. Actually what happened was that I had an incredible amount of luck and some very generous friends. About four years ago or so, I was writing articles for some local New York newspapers. At the time, West End Games [WEG] was publishing the STAR WARS ADVENTURE JOURNAL, a licensed series of digests that ran gaming materials, short stories, etc. I became friends with one of the more prolific authors in that series, Charlene Newcomb, who graciously invited me to co-write a story with her. The result was "Crimson Bounty", which appeared in Volume 11. Having made my first sell in STAR WARS thanks to Char, I set out to do more. I wrote some articles for CINEFANTASTIQUE and a few of the WIZARD specials, and that got me the experience I needed to begin writing for Topps' STAR WARS GALAXY COLLECTOR. My first article for that magazine turned into an ongoing column on STAR WARS comics thanks to the gracious help of both Steve Sansweet of Lucasfilm and ESSENTIAL GUIDE author Dan Wallace, who brought me to Topps' attention. While doing the Topps column, I got to know the Dark Horse staff pretty well, especially then-editor Peet Janes and public relations person Shawna Ervin-Gore, both of whom were great to work with. I also got to know Darko Macan, the excellent writer of X-WING ROGUE SQUADRON – THE PHANTOM AFFAIR. He asked me to do some proofreading and fact-checking on VADER'S QUEST [see STAR WARS Nos. 34 * 2000], and I then blackmailed … er, convinced him to co-write a comic tale with me. The result was "Lady Luck". Since then, I've begun writing comics for Realm Press' BATTLESTAR GALACTICA line, I've done a good deal of work for both STAR WARS INSIDER and STAR TREK COMMUNICATOR, Richand I've written a sequel to "Lady Luck" for Wizards of the Coast's STAR WARS GAMER magazine.

JH: So Rich, is that you in VADER'S QUEST, harassing poor Luke in the hangar on Yavin?

RH: Yep, that's me. Handsome fellow, aren't I?

JH: Let's talk about "Lady Luck". After blackmailing Darko to co-write it with you, did you send a proposal to Dark Horse saying "hey, we've got this Lando story we'd like to tell", or was that a suggestion made by Dark Horse?

RH: Darko was open to working together and said that if we did, he would be most comfortable scripting with me plotting. Basically, that means that I would do a breakdown of plot-points for the whole story, and he'd add the dialogue, after which we'd both fine-tune the end result. That was fine with me, so I sent him three ideas for stories. The Lando one most interested him (and me, as it happens), so he mentioned it to Peet, who was also interested. Peet then asked for a detailed outline, and I went overboard and wrote twelve pages, single space. Peet approved the story and asked for a less detailed version to send to Lucasfilm, so I condensed it down to one page. Darko then wrote the script based on the 12-pager, tweaking here and there as he went – and all of his tweaks were spot-on. The end result was very close to the original plan, but with Darko's expert voice added in.

JH: So, disregarding your worship of Luke, is Lando a favorite character of yours?

RH: Pretty much, yeah. I always find the grey characters fascinating, and he was the most grey character in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Good guys and bad guys are solid archetypes, of course, but the guys you can't quite nail with an easy description are so much more fun to dissect. I loved Billy Dee Williams' performance, and I got a real kick out of his interactions with Leia and Chewie in particular. One reason I find Lando interesting is simply that he's the one the least has been written about. He was entirely absent from the newspaper strips due to when they were set; the novels have mostly focused on Luke, Han, and Leia; and the comics have done surprisingly little with him over the years, other than DARK EMPIRE [see STAR WARS Nos. 4/5/6 * 1996 and 1/2/3 * 1997] and Drebblea few stories in the Marvel line. I was pretty psyched that Darko and I would be among the few to delve into his character.

JH: Readers of Marvel's old STAR WARS comics will probably recognize Lando's old adversary Drebble [see STJÄRNORNAS KRIG No. 2 * 1985 and MÅNADENS ÄVENTYR Nos. 5 * 1986 and 9 * 1987]. Could you tell me a bit about what inspired you to do this specific story?

RH: Drebble's return was quite a coup, and to be honest, I was surprised not to see him nixed from our story – surprised, but elated. I even got to give him a first name, one that fits his immense bulk. For your non-English-speaking readers, "Barpotomous" is a take-off on the word "hippopotamus". Darko had said to me, "A big man deserves a big name". As for what inspired me, well … basically, I'm a big fan of the old Lando and DrebbleMarvel tales and the L.A. Times strips, and in anything I've written for STAR WARS, I've tried to throw in references to both series. Since this was a Lando story, since it was set before THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and since the movies are delving into the prequel era, the timing was ideal to do a prequel to the Marvel series, revealing why Drebble was so mad at Lando in later years. For the same reason, I couldn't resist including his ship from the Marvel series, the Cobra. As the story unfolded, I also saw a chance to explain why Lando would later have a ship called the Lady Luck – that was the name, you see, that Tim Zahn gave to Lando's ship in his novels [see STAR WARS Nos. 3/4/5 * 1998 and 1/2/3 * 1999].

JH: So, Ymile, or "Lady Luck", was your creation, but Baron Raynor was an existing character, wasn't he?

RH: Ymile is named after my daughter Emily, so in a sense, she's my creation, yes. Heh heh… Baron Raynor was an existing character in that his name was a throw-away name in the WEG module CRISIS ON CLOUD CITY. I decided to give him a first name, Tallot, but Dan Wallace beat me to it in his ESSENTIAL CHRONOLOGY, naming him Dominic.

JH: I really love the characterization of Lando in this story, and I think Chris Brunner's artwork has a lot to do with it. How closely did you get to collaborate with him? For instance, did you supply him with the Marvel comics as reference?

RH: Thank you for the compliment, Janne, though of course credit also goes to my co-writer, Darko, who was wonderful to work with. I never spoke with Chris, though – I merely sent Peet Janes art references from the Marvel series and described what the character was like, and that info was passed on to Chris. ZlatoHe did a phenomenal job de-aging Drebble, didn't he?

JH: Unfortunately, we're beginning to run short of space now, Rich. I have one last request for you, though. Next time you write a STAR WARS comic, I'd like you to consider "The Unstoppable Toydarian – The Story of Zlato and How He Ended Up in Lando's Cape". What do you think? Perhaps I could blackmail you into co-writing it with me?

RH: I think it'd be a perfect wrap-up to the Lando trilogy! If you'll excuse me, I must go propose that story to Dark Horse! In fact, let's give Zlato an entire six-issue miniseries … "DARK ZLATO"!

Text and illustrations for STAR WARS™ are © Lucasfilm Ltd. Swedish translations are © Egmont Serieförlaget.