We were fortunate enough to meet up with Andy Mangels. He wrote the first of the "Essential Guide" series. His Essential Guide to Characters has since become one of the most valuable reference materials to fans. He also wrote one of the best Boba Fett stoires to date, Twin Engines of Destruction. Andy was gracious enough to answer a few questions from us.
TF.N - How did your involvement in the Star Wars universe begin?
A.M. - I've been working in the comic book industry since 1985, as both a journalist and a comic writer. I had tried to get on board Marvel's Star Wars comic line, but was unable to do so. I also tried to get on with Blackthorne's Star Wars 3-D line; while I didn't get on there either, I did do some other work for Blackthorne (which remains unpublished).
I was doing some work for Topps (the Jason Goes to Hell movie adaptation) when I heard they were going to be doing Star Wars Galaxy magazine. I begged the editor to let me do something on it. He asked if I knew anything about Boba Fett. After assuring him that Fett was my favorite character and I knew everything possible about him, I was assigned an article for their first issue. When that finished article went in to Lucasfilm for approval, Lucy Autrey Wilson asked the editor to contact me. They were looking for someone who was thorough in their research to do The Essential Guide to Characters, and she had been impressed by my article. About 45 minutes after calling her, we had a book agreement, and I went on to write the Essential Guide (now in its seventh printing!).
Once I had finished with the Guide, I was cleared to begin working for other Star Wars licensees, which led to my writing text for action figure card backs for Kenner, catalogues for Don Post, cards for Topps and Metallic Impressions, certificate and advertising copy for Applause, Screamin, Hamilton Plates, Illusive Originals and others, and . . . to writing Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction for Dark Horse.
TF.N - Your 'Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction' was voted as the 'Best Individual Comic Book' in the poll of 20,000 Star Wars fans conducted by Topps. What was it about that story that made it such a fan favorite?
A.M. - I think it was a combination of things.
First, Boba Fett is such an immensely popular character. All of the Boba Fett projects have sold well, and the Fett licensed products always out sell almost every other character.
Second, the thing I hear most from fans is that I had written Boba Fett "in character." I hear lots of complaints about how other comic writers miss the mark in writing Boba Fett, making him too chatty, or "out of character." I won't comment on other writer's interpretations. I've enjoyed some other Boba Fett stories.
Third, I felt that my story was successful as four parts serialized in Star Wars Galaxy, and equally successful when combined into one issue. Finally, with all modesty, I think it was a kick-butt story. You'd beamazed at the number of fans whom I hear from about "Twin Engines." And they all want to know why I haven't written any more Star Wars comics since then!
TF.N - SWGCM #4's Comicscan column mentions that a prequel to 'Twin Engines' was written but never published. What can you tell us about it?
A.M. - It was called "Jodo Kast and Dengar: Preying For Time" There was a slight error in that article, saying that it was rejected. The story was originally commissioned by West End Games, but was not printed before their bankruptcy. It exists in prose form, and the plot was originally approved through Lucasfilm (a few very minor changes were made on their request); the editor asked for some changes in the final form, which were being worked on when West End went under.
The story is a prequel to "Twin Engines of Destruction," telling everything that happened up to the start of that comic. It would be 2-3 issues if it were done as a comic.
The story concerns a pirate attack on a New Republic ship, and Jodo Kast and Dengar taking the respective bounties to find several of the escaped pirates. Several different Star Wars locations and characters are utilized, with 4-5 “hunt” scenes, and a space battle which opens the story.
It is a very slam-bang cool story. I'd love to have it printed in prose or comic form, but Dark Horse has yet to respond to the concept.
TF.N - Do you have any other unfinished or unpublished Star Wars projects awaiting approval?
A.M. - Approval and publication are two different things. In the past, I've been in a unique position with Star Wars that many authors didn't necessarily share. Because I wrote the Essential Guide to Characters — which many authors use as their background reference — I had an easier approval process in many cases for plots. I didn't do things like have X-Wings flying underwater or having characters do things they'd never do. But just because Lucasfilm approved me to work on something does not mean that it has been or will be published.
Currently, my Star Wars writing career seems to be at a standstill. I'm not working on any Phantom Menace material, and the "classic" material seems out of my reach for the time being. Topps is the only company that occasionally calls me for Star Wars work these days. Although I get along with the Dark Horse editors, nothing I've ever discussed or proposed seems to get past the discussion/proposal stage.
I had one story called "Biggs Darklighter: Blaze of Glory." It was originally discussed with Dark Horse and Topps as a follow-up after the first Shadows arc in Star Wars Galaxy Magazine. The concept was approved by Lucasfilm, but was never developed afterwards. The story would have been the early Biggs Darklighter story, from his leaving Tatooine for the Academy, to the mutiny aboard the Rand Ecliptic and his joining the Rebellion, to his good-byes to Luke, to his heroic sacrifice at the Death Star. Although I think it might be too long for a one-shot, it would make a good mini-series.
I also had a story called "Boba Fett and X-Wing: The Manadalorian Candidate." It was a cross-over story which I originally discussed with Dark Horse and (some with ) Mike Stackpole (early in the X-Wing run), which would have involved an unwitting counter-agent in the New Republic, and a shaky and volatile alliance between Boba Fett and Rogue Squadron as they attempted to ferret out the real goals of the agent. . . and the person(s) who sent them. That also never went anywhere.
I was also in continuing discussion with Bob Cooper (when he was lead Star Wars editor) to develop a series of one-shots specials, similar to "Twin Engines," which would detail solo adventures for Dengar, Bossk, 4-Lom and Zuckuss, and IG-88. . . and to do more Boba Fett stories. He was leaning toward utilizing them as features in a Star Wars anthology that was being discussed. However, upon his departure from the company, I wasn't able to raise any interest in my stories. It now appears that Dark Horse may be doing something similar with another writer or writers.
Having worked as long - and as deeply - as I did with Star Wars lore, I have lots of story ideas, but there doesn't appear to be much interest in my work at Dark Horse. As I said, it does not appear to be any kind of personal issue with the editor, and I don't have any problems currently with Lucasfilm. It's strange.
TF.N - Your 'Essential Guide to Characters' continues to be a best seller, and was likely the most ambitious project of its kind. What was that experience like?
A.M. - Exhausting. The amount of research needed for the book was staggering. I was not allowed to make anything up, as they've done in some of the more technical Essential Guides which followed mine. I had to have every single fact referenced and footnoted! There was also a lot of material that was coming in from the publishers as I was writing. I'd get done with a character and a new book manuscript would come in with new information! We eventually had to put a cut-off on the material, basically about the time of the Han Solo trilogy by Roger Macbride Allen.
I did have a great time on the project though. Interestingly enough, the new editor at Del Rey that I had on the project after it was already underway turned out to be Steve Saffel, an editor I had worked with at Marvel Comics! I have had discussions with Lucasfilm and Del Rey about updating the book, but they don't want to update it yet.
I think the fans pick up on the fact that I pay attention to all of the other Star Wars stories when writing my projects. There are lots of little references to other Star Wars projects in "Twin Engines," from West End Games to the Marvel Comics to Kevin Anderson's books to the anthology collections. I don't just write my stories in a vacuum; I pay attention to everything else in the Star Wars galaxy.
I have five tall bookshelves full of reference material about Star Wars; basically everything that has ever been published. What's the point of writing a Star Wars story and not making use of the rich characters and situations that have gone before?
TF.N - You are very inclusive when it comes to Star Wars canon. What are your thoughts on canon and continuity as we head into the prequels?
A.M. - Obviously, canon is going to change as new revelations are given, which is one reason, I think, that we are not updating the Essential Guide to Characters yet. There are already a number of things established in the fiction canon that will be changed by Phantom Menace and the other two prequels.
In the Essential Guide, I did my best to make everything work in continuity, including the Marvel comics and the kids books. Some stuff just didn't seem to work, so we left it out. Now Dark Horse seems to be verging on rewriting previously established continuity with things like Vader's Quest and the new Boba Fett series, so who knows where continuity will go in the future. I essentially look at canon as follows: whatever George Lucas says goes. Secondly, whatever Lucasfilm approves goes. But remember that I'm looking at this as a contributor to the canon and continuity, not as a casual reader! But as a contributor, a sense of history is always important to me.
TF.N - What direction would you like to see the Star Wars expanded universe take between now and Episode 2?
A.M. - That's a tough one. Now that George Lucas has said that he won't do the final film trilogy, I think the future of beloved Star Wars characters is going to be opened up in fiction. I don't want to see jumps way into the future where everyone is still alive and prospering; that seems unrealistic. However, I think in terms of lead characters, we need to see more movement towards their future. "Supporting characters" like Boba Fett can have lots of adventures in the past or worked into continuity, but how many adventures can Luke Skywalker realistically have in a year?
However, I think we're going to see a lot less historical revelations - like Ann Crispin's Han Solo trilogy, or anything about Boba Fett or Jabba the Hutt's past - until the prequel film trilogy is finished.
TF.N - Any chance they'll put Twin Engines of Destruction back into print?
A.M. - I don't know. I hope so. It sold spectacularly well, and it's been long sold-out. They haven't collected it into a trade paperback or anything. I think it would make good financial sense to put it out, especially since there are a lot of newer fans who may not have read it.
TF.N - So what's coming up in your future? Any possibility of writing for Star Wars?
A.M. - My second book, "Beyond Mulder and Scully: The Mysterious Characters of The X-Files," came out last year from Citadel Press. It's an encyclopedic look at the X-Files characters and actors.
I'm just finishing up my third book. It will be out from Renaissance Books early next year. It's called "From Scream to Dawson's Creek: The Worlds of Kevin WIlliamson." It's about the career of Holywood's hottest screenwriter.
I'm also involved in that other major "Star" franchise. Last year I co-wrote (with Michael Martin) a bunch of the Star Trek comics for Marvel (Deep Space Nine and others). We're currently the lead writers on Atlas Editions' Star Trek Universe large-format card program, although we're not credited. We're hoping to get to write some of the new Trek books for Wildstorm, but it seems a distant possibility.
There's a possibility I may be doing some TV scripting work with a genre series, but until it happens I don't want to say anything. And every week,I write a TV/movie news column called "Andy Mangels' Hollywood Heroes" for Mania magazine. You can read it at http://www.Mania.com/Mania.
As to future Star Wars work, I would love to. As I said, at this time, things seem to be in limbo at Dark Horse, and I don't know why. With so many freelancers wanting to work on Star Wars however, perhaps it will be just a short time before I'm back on board. I have lots of stories to tell, and I think the fans would love to read them.
Andy also had these interesting revelations for us:
A.M. - I have a tattoo of Boba Fett's red-skull shoulder symbol on my left shoulder, exactly where it is on Fett's armor. It's all in red ink, taken directly off the life-size Boba Fett statue in my living room (the Don Post one). It's always fun when someone recognizes it.
Also, I was the model for Gallandro in the Star Wars Galaxy card set, and the Bounty Hunters poster by Jason Palmer that ran in Star Wars Galaxy magazine. I'm known for my big moustache, and my "Old West"-style look, so since Gallandro has a big moustache and that look, I posed for the images.
TF.N - Thanks for the interview, Andy!
A.M. - Thank you. Up here in Portland, Oregon (where I live) I was just profiledin the state newspaper, and I'm doing a TV talk show in a few weeks. But I enjoy talking like this directly with other Star Wars fans! May the Force Be With You all!