Face To Face With The Masters
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Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+
Interview with Jason Hall
Star Wars Tales Author
Comics staff member Mike Cooper
recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with one of Star Wars
Tales’ most popular contributors, acclaimed writer Jason Hall. Here’s what he
had to say.
Oh yeah – thanks to the members of TFN’s Jedi Council forums, which are henceforth referred to as the “JCs”, who put forth a few of the questions.
No-brainer #1: how'd you get started
as a writer, both on the comic book level and the Star Wars level?
I've always loved to tell stories. I used to want to make movies (and I suppose
on some level I always will), and I guess I really started writing in college
(though I had written stories since I was little), both a bit of prose
(detective stories) and scripts for the couple student films I made. I've been
reading comics since before junior high, and getting to write them always
seemed like a dream job -- but one that happened to other people... Little did
I know! About three years ago, I met Matt (Kindt; Pistolwhip co-creator)
on-line (scarily enough) through our mutual admiration of the music of Andrew
Bird's Bowl of Fire. We decided we wanted to do a comic together, and Matt had
already written the main story and drawn what became the first chapter of the
first PISTOLWHIP graphic novel. So we
decided to make that story just the first in an ongoing series of stories/books
that would all take place in the same "world". The story for MEPHISTO
AND THE EMPTY BOX was something I had in my head for a number of years, and it was a
perfect fit for the "Pistolwhip world", so I wrote that and we
released it at the same time. I actually had most of the story that I wrote for
PISTOLWHIP: THE YELLOW MENACE planned out before Matt finished the art on our
first two books – and that's why most of my contribution to the first PISTOLWHIP
GN (radio dialogue/scripts, newspaper articles, creating a couple characters
including Jack Peril) pretty much all sets up stuff for THE YELLOW MENACE.
And it was my work on those first two PISTOLWHIP books that allowed me to have
the opportunity to be asked to submit a script for STAR WARS TALES. Now, the
first script I gave them ended up being passed on because they were already
doing something similar -- which is a shame because I really think what I had
written would have been a cool story. But it was liked enough for them to want
me submit another story idea, which was "A Wookiee Scorned!" -- and
things just went from there. I love writing STAR WARS stories, readers seem to
really enjoy them (which is rewarding to hear), and Dave Land and the folks at
Dark Horse, as well as Chris Cerasi from LFL, all really like my work as well -- so it's been a perfect match.
Plus, Dave has really hooked me up with some outstanding artists on my TALES
stories so far, which I'm very grateful for. And I was even asked to write the
introduction to A LONG TIME AGO... VOLUME 2, which was neat -- I really loved a
lot of those old Marvel stories growing up. (And now I even have my own creator
thread here at TheForce.net, which is *very* cool -- and an honor.)
If you could have any job, what would it be?
Well, that's a tricky question... I'm writing comic books for a living, so
that's pretty ideal. However, it can be rather stressful and it certainly is *a
lot* of hard work -- not just doing the work, but also promoting yourself. I work a lot of hours. Ideally, though, I think I'd like to
ultimately be doing something that makes a difference in people's lives. Now,
that's not to say the stories I write don't make a difference -- I'd like to
think they do -- even if it's just to brighten someone's day (and I've received
a letter or two from readers of MEPHISTO that told me they found that story
very moving – and that's really nice to hear).
So, ideally...well...I'd like to
live on a ranch away from the city and most people -- not so far away that I
couldn't drive into the city to see a movie or something on a day trip, but the
idea being to sort of be "away from the things of man" (to quote
"Joe vs. the Volcano"). Having just enough income to pay the bills,
where I can write comics (or anything else) as a supplement, getting to pick and
choose projects one at a time -- and preferably never having to go on the
internet (or at least as little as possible). [Gasp! - MC] I'd like to
learn to build things on the land -- and learn to play the banjo (nothing
fancy, just chords -- I love the muted banjo chords in old 20's and 30's songs,
not as much as the violin, but I could never learn to play the violin). Who
knows if I'll ever have any of that -- it's probably kind of a stretch, but you
never know. Kind of crazy, eh?
JC question #1: How long have you been a Star Wars fan?
Geez, I've been a STAR WARS fan for as long as I can remember! Since I saw the
first movie. I don't remember seeing it in the theater though -- but I do
remember seeing THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (which is my personal favorite STAR
WARS film by far – Irvin Kirshner was a genius!). I had all the original toys
(I even had the Han Solo with the original smooth-hair head, before they gave
him that weird scraggly-hair head). Han Solo was my hero. I had tons of posters
and had all the Marvel comics. I used to watch all the Han and Leia scenes on
video from TESB over and over again when I was younger, I loved it so much! But
I'm definitely an "Original Trilogy" fan at heart.
What's the most interesting thing about you?
Beats the heck out of me! I even asked my wife, and she was hard pressed to
come up with something (hmmm...what does *that* say?!). Hmmm...two things I can
think of that would sort of fit (I guess) would be that I have a VERY strong
sense of "justice" -- meaning that I like things to be fair, and when
things aren't fair it makes me very very angry (and pretty much drives me
nuts). Okay, I guess that's not very interesting. The other thing is that I'm
kind of a neat-freak -- and I tend to not only keep my own things very
neat/straight, but I've been known to straighten up things in other people's
houses as well, or even in a store... Well, I suppose that's just weird.
Huh...well, I like music, clothes, architecture, cars, style, books, etc. from
the 1920's and 30's -- and Philip Marlowe is my role-model. I don't know...is
any of that interesting...? Beats the heck out of me. Have the people reading
this fallen asleep yet...?
What's your favorite Star Wars Tales story so far (of the ones you've
written, that is)?
Well, that's a toughie. I don't think I could choose. I guess it's between
"A Wookiee Scorned!", "Princess Leia Diaries", and
"The Emperor's Court" -- but I'm happy with the way all my TALES
stories have turned out so far. It's hard to say if something you've done is
good or not – but readers really seem to enjoy them, so I guess that says
something (and hearing that readers are digging what you're doing is *the* best
reward to being a writer). And as I said earlier, I've been very fortunate to
have had so many excellent artists bring them to life. It's been my goal to
write a wide range of different types of stories for TALES. The upcoming story
"The Sandstorm" is nothing like, say, "The Emperor's Court"
– but then that story was nothing like "Children of the Force",
"The Princess Leia Diaries" or "A Wookiee Scorned!". I
enjoy telling an eclectic variety of STAR WARS stories, and STAR WARS TALES is
the perfect forum for that.
No-brainer #2: What advice would you give to people who want to write
I don't think I can offer any further insight besides the things you've heard a
million times. Persistence is the key! If you feel as though it's something you
should be doing, keep trying. It takes a lot of time and effort. I guess in
retrospect, I've been very fortunate in that it's all happened fairly quickly
for me -- but it wasn't handed to me on a silver platter, I really worked my
butt off for it. And, like I said, I have a hard time saying anything that I do
is "good" (I mean, I guess I think that, or else why would you bother
doing it?), but also other people need to think what you're doing is good. But
what's good and what isn't is all so subjective. The best you can do is to do
the best work you can, truly believe that it's worthwhile, be responsible and
honest, work hard, relatively fast, and on-time -- and be personable. And I'm
not saying be an butt-kisser -- I'm VERY anti-butt-kissing, but I am a
generally nice guy and don't have much of an "ego", and I think that
goes a long way in getting along with editors. Heck, it goes a long way in
getting along with people in general in life! You don't want to let people walk
all over you, but being a jerk won't get you anything.
I can tell you what we did in the beginning with the PISTOLWHIP stuff --
because that's what started it all off for me. The one thing we knew from the
get-go was that competition is fierce and we'd be lucky to even get something
looked at. We knew we needed to do something unique, something that hadn't been
done before. So we decided to create completely finished mock-ups of our first
two books, including specially chosen paper stock and full-color covers. At
first, Top Shelf had even thought they were comp books already published, not
actually a submission. And we didn't stop there; if we were going to make the
books look like a finished product, then we might as well create some promo
items to go along with it. So we thought of all the cool things we'd like as
promo items, and that's what we made: 40's tobacco trading cards, a fake
cigarette, a paper doll, postcards of "vacation spots" in the world
of our books, and even a mini-comic explaining what we wanted to do with
PISTOLWHIP. Top Shelf liked our little trinkets so much they had us make more
with their logo to promote the books. Ultimately, the books were listed as part
of TIME Magazine's best comics of 2001, as well as being named WIZARD
Magazine's best Indy comics of 2001. And that certainly doesn't hurt!
What do you do when you're not writing?
When I'm not actually writing, I'm still spending a lot of time promoting
myself and my work, trying to make contacts, coming up with new ideas, and
basically trying to drum up more work. I don't have that much free time
now-a-days -- I generally have a stack of comics waiting to be read, and that
copy of "Carter Beats the Devil" has been waiting for me to get past
the first chapter for about a year. But in the bit of free time I do have, I
like to read comics and books and watch movies -- and my wife and I spend a lot
of time at the home of the people she used to nanny for, and we play a lot of
pinnacle and The Great Dalmuti over there, plus I help the husband out with
stuff he's building in the backyard (which is generally just me fetching him
stuff he needs and making the occasional suggestion). But that's probably what
I enjoy doing the most.
The Great what?
"The Great Dalmuti" is a card game that was put out by Wizards of the
Coast a number of years ago. It's a pretty simple game, fast moving, and
somewhat addictive. And it's out of print. Everyone we play the game with is
dying to get their own deck -- and the only way is to buy one off of eBay for
an outrageous 30-50 bucks or more. The deck I've got, which we use all the time,
is quickly wearing down -- so one day I'm sure someone is going to have to bite
the bullet and shell out the dough for a new deck. But it's a lot of fun -- and
how many games have optional rules that require people to wear silly hats and
gives certain players permission to order the other players around (like to
order them to get you a drink or make you a sandwich)! I won't bore you with
the rules (heck, I wouldn't have bored you with any of this, but Mike asked, so
blame him!). If you want to know more, just type in "The Great
Dalmuti" into Google.
Your “Emperor's Court” story seems to show some anti-Special Edition
sentiments. Are you at all resentful of everything George Lucas has been up to
these last few years, or is it all in good fun?
Like I mentioned above, I'm definitely an OT fan at heart – and that's
pre-Special Edition OT. That's not to say I didn't enjoy seeing some of the
revamped special effects in the Special Editions (and the battle on Hoth looked
fantastic with not being able to see through the mattes anymore) -- but, like
most people, there were things in the Special Editions that I didn't like,
including Greedo firing first on Han Solo. But who actually did like that? :^)
Seriously though, I look at the Special Editions as different entities than the
original versions -- to me, the original three movies sort of exist on their
own, separate from the SE's and the Prequels – and it's the original versions
that are my favorites. Different people have different opinions -- and there's
certainly plenty to choose from.
And what of the prequels? You a Jar Jar fan? :)
I think my original answer says it all -- I'm an OT fan through and through.
The SE's and the Prequels are something new -- a separate entity (to me
anyways). There are some cool parts in them, but it is the Original Trilogy
that really means something to me. Maybe that makes me too nostalgic or
something -- I don't know...
And I'm not a Jar Jar fan... :^)
JC question #2: Are you single? (Don't look at me, not my question)
Nope -- I'm married! (Which I'm sure is such a disappointment to all those
Twi'lek slave girl dancers out there, right? Um...hello?)
What would you say is the biggest difference between writing comics and
normal prose writing?
The neat thing about writing comics is that you get to see your story come to
life on the page (or be butchered, I suppose) by an artist. It's really a
collaboration. And so far, I've been very fortunate enough to have had all my
stories (and not just SW stuff, but *all* my work) be drawn by some very
talented artists. It's always exciting (and a bit nerve-racking) to see how
your story has been interpreted by an artist once it's been all drawn up. It's
Will my mother ever give back the $30 she owes me? Sorry, that's an Eight Ball
Response hazy... try again.
Fair enough. If you could do any Star Wars story, any format, any length,
what would it be?
I'd like to do a big multi-part comic book story using the OT characters --
maybe something that took place over a number of years, skipping back and forth
and around in the timeline with various flashbacks/flashforwards/etc --
something that played with the storytelling a bit and that would have a real
"hidden epic" quality to it -- if that makes any sense...
JC question #3: What's your opinion of the Infinities label?
Is it at all a bummer that none of your Tales work will be in the official
Canon is what you make of it. The
Infinities label is good in the sense that people can do a Star Wars story and
not have to worry in the least bit about continuity. However, some of those
stories end up not being very good -- but others can end up being really cool,
especially when there's a unique spin on things. The Infinities label works
well for my story "The Emperor's Court". However, for all my other
stories I actually spend a lot of effort on making sure they do fit into
continuity, even though they're still technically "Infinities". Any
story can count in the "canon" if you want it to. I think it's all up
to the individual person. In my mind, I count my stories as being part of the
"canon", while at the same time I don't count Greedo firing first as
part of it. Do the Marvel comics count or not? Well, to me, the ones I like
count and the ones I don't like don't count. It's really that simple. Just make
up your own personal "canon" in your head. It'll save a lot of time
wasted on message board arguments! :^)
But then what would us JC people do with our lives?
Hey, I'm not going to tell people how to live their lives. I know people get a
lot of enjoyment out of message boards and perusing the internet, but, like I
said, for me personally, I long for the day I hardly need to be on the computer
at all. Besides tending to take up a great deal of one's time, the computer
monitor gives me bad headaches and makes me feel pretty dizzy and ill after
prolonged use/exposure. Of course, with the way the world is, if I did reach a
day where I didn't need to be on the computer, it would probably mean I was
Your signature work would probably be the Pistolwhip series of books, which
most of us Star Wars people probably aren't familiar with. Why don't you tell
us a little about it; see if you can pique our interest?
Well, I wrote MEPHISTO AND THE EMPTY BOX, which was optioned for feature film.
It's a moody and enigmatic tale of one man's obsession with lost love and
newfound magic. On the night of their wedding, John and Carolyn Flynn attend
the performance of a stage magician called Mephisto. But what dark and sinister
secrets does Mephisto's devilish magic box hold for the newlyweds that will
forever change their lives? Well...you gotta read the comic to find out. And,
heck, it's only 3.95, so what do you have to lose! It's an inexpensive
introduction to the world of PISTOLWHIP.
I've also written PISTOLWHIP: THE YELLOW MENACE, which is hitting stores on
January 22nd. It's a 144 page epic and I think (for what it's worth) it's the
best thing I've written to date. I'm really proud of it. There's really a lot
going on in it – both narratively and emotionally -- and I hope you folks will
check it out. The story is about Jack Peril, who is the beloved hero of radio,
comics, and the silver-screen, but is his existence merely fictional? What does
a series of grisly murders and a new lecture series condemning the
pulse-pounding parables of said Mr. Peril have to do with it all? And just who
is The Yellow Menace? Pick up the book and find out!
Both Matt (PISTOLWHIP co-creator) and I love to tell stories that are
appreciated more the second and third time through. The PISTOLWHIP stories are
self- contained, but if readers pay attention, they'll see subtle background
elements that seem to be shared in some or all of the stories. I even keep a
very specific and detailed running timeline of what goes on in the books, just
so I have the self-satisfaction that it all "works out"
continuity-wise. I just love that stuff, but only if it doesn't get in the way
of telling a good story -- it needs to compliment it. (And I think this element
of the books may appeal to many readers here.) Comics are getting more and more
expensive and it's all too often that you hand over your hard earned money for
something that's good for a five minute read and then you never look at it
again. It's the goal of the PISTOLWHIP books to give readers their money's
You can find out more about PISTOLWHIP COMICS at: www.pistolwhipcomics.com
...and you can also find samples and reviews for the above two books, as well
as links to articles, reviews, interviews, samples, and various information for
all my other comic writing work, on my website at: jasonhall22.home.mindspring.com/
And finally, why are we here?
Well, that's certainly the question...isn't it? Maybe if I ever make it out on
that ranch, I'll be able to find the answer...
And I just want to thank everyone that has posted kind words
of support and enjoyment for my TALES stories here on TheForce.net and the Jedi
Council Forums -- it's much appreciated! I hope you all will enjoy the STAR
WARS stories I've got coming up just as much!
And thank you from TFN, Jason!
Co-created the PISTOLWHIP series of books with Matt Kindt, having written the
newest graphic novel PISTOLWHIP: THE YELLOW MENACE (*in stores January 22nd!*),
as well as having written MEPHISTO AND THE EMPTY BOX (*optioned for feature
film*) and also doing additional writing in the original PISTOLWHIP graphic
novel (which the story was written and drawn by Matt). All the PISTOLWHIP books
are from Top Shelf Productions.
STAR WARS TALES #14 - "The Emperor's Court" (Writer)
Dark Horse Comics
DARK HORSE MAVERICK: HAPPY ENDINGS
"Pistolwhip Presents: January" (Writer)
STAR WARS TALES #13 - "Children of the Force" (Writer)
Dark Horse Comics
BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #51 - "Early Thaw" (Writer)
STAR WARS TALES #11 - "The Princess Leia Diaries" (Writer)
STAR WARS TALES #10 - "A Wookiee Scorned!" (Writer)
BEWARE THE CREEPER (Writer)
5 issue mini-series, DC/Vertigo, Release Date: April 2003
STAR WARS TALES #15 - "The Sandstorm" (Writer)
Dark Horse, Release Date: March 2003
JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES (Writer)
DC Comics, Release Date: TBD 2003
STAR WARS TALES #16 - "The Other" (Writer)
Dark Horse, Release Date: June 2003
Rocket Comics - Dark Horse Comics, Release Date: Sept. 2003
Plus more STAR WARS TALES stories in the works!