Darth Vader meets teenage match in 'Little Princess'

05:00 AM, Apr 22, 2013

Darth Vader is a devoted dad to Luke and Leia in "Vader's Little Princess," Jeffrey Brown's follow-up to "Darth Vader and Son." Lucasfilm/Chronicle Books/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

Don’t worry, dads. Even Darth Vader has trouble controlling a teenage girl.

Author Jeffrey Brown first imagined the devoted Sith-lord dad and his little boy Luke through heartwarming and humorous illustrations in the all-ages Star Wars book Darth Vader and Son, and he’s following it up with Vader raising Princess Leia from being a bun-haired youngster to her rebellious teenage years — dating Han Solo, not taking messages from the Emperor, etc. — in Vader’s Little Princess (Chronicle Books, $14.95), out Tuesday.

Leia didn’t get any screen time in the first book, but when it took off among Star Wars fans, it made sense to put her in a sequel.

I wrote it for people like myself who grew up with Star Wars and now we’re parents, so it’s been a nice surprise just how much kids really have latched onto the books,” says Brown, the father of two boys, one 6 and the other born just five weeks ago.

While he doesn’t have any himself, he has friends who have daughters — including his Lucasfilm editor, J.W. Rinzler — and he focused on fitting parenting situations in with scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy.

For example, Vader tells Leia she can’t go out wearing her slave bikini from Return of the Jedi in one sequence, and in another, Brown borrows a Vader line from the same film to use when Leia refuses to clean up the dishes.

Brown’s seen the Star Wars movies more than any others in his life, and while he did rewatch them again before starting Little Princess, much of it came naturally for the lifelong fan.

I knew I wanted to have a scene with the trash compactor (from the original Star Wars) — how would I view that as a parenting situation? So of course it’s Luke getting dirty playing in the trash, or in the new book it’s Leia asking Vader why he’s not recycling,” Brown says.

He also added in a lot of his fandom by including everything from Admiral Ackbar, the Bith cantina band Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes and the assassin robot IG-88 — “The bounty hunters are always a lot of fun to do” — to an AT-AT and a Tauntaun as supporting cast.

I was always a big fan of all the scenes on Hoth, so drawing those was a highlight,” Brown says. “Being able to fit in all these other characters and not just have Darth Vader and Luke and Leia is a big part of what makes it so fun for me as an artist.”

Brown didn’t have to actively try getting his oldest son into Star Wars — from when he was a baby, he was exposed through people getting him presents such as Chewbacca onesies and just seeing Star Wars books and memorabilia around Brown’s apartment.

His boy initially was introduced to Star Wars LEGOs and toys, and then watched the first two films — including Empire Strikes Back when he turned 6.

The author says his son wasn’t as shocked by the famous “I am your father” moment as he expected. “Even though that’s such a huge reveal, it’s also something that everyone knows in the back of their mind that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. It’s not until they see the movie where they really understand what that means.”

Brown feels the Star Wars franchise was more special in a way for his generation than his kids’ because it wasn’t as ubiquitous in pop culture in the late 1970s and early ’80s as it is now.

However, he says, “if you look at what Star Wars has done with the Expanded Universe in terms of the novels and comics, expanding this universe with other stories and not with the same characters, I’m sure that’s something I would have eaten up.

You almost can’t compare the experience,” he adds. “I don’t think one’s necessarily better than the other. There may be a little more of a purity to the ideas behind the first trilogy if you take that and separate it out, but I love watching The Clone Wars and I don’t think that diminishes how much I love Empire Strikes Back.”

Having his son watch the 1977 Star Wars first, though, was a no brainer: “Even if you think Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films, the first is where it all starts and what it’s all built on.”

Brown’s found the Star Wars faithful to be very open and friendly toward women, especially little girls whose interest is sparked by the world and its characters. Leia and The Clone Wars’ Ahsoka Tano are favorites among the smaller female crowd, and R2-D2, who’s not really either sex, is one that appeals to both boys and girls.

My experience with the more science-fiction or fantasy side of pop culture is it’s a community that’s very welcoming to girls,” he says. “Comic books have been dominated by a patriarchal control over the years with superhero comics, but even that’s changed a lot over the last two years.

Even if you go back all the way to Princess Leia’s bun haircut from the original Star Wars, it seems like something the female audience has always identified with in a weird way.”

In addition to the autobiographical graphic novel A Matter of Life coming out form Top Shelf this summer, Brown’s going back to George Lucas’ galaxy for Jedi Academy, a faux journal of a student in a middle school set in the Star wars Universe arriving in September from Scholastic.

Brown also had to think forward with Vader’s Little Princess, and it touched him in a different way than with Darth Vader and Son when he had to imagine his own kids reaching their teenage years and what that’ll be like.

It’s not always just writing about experiences I’m having as a parent but experiences I’m anticipating I’ll have at some point,” Brown says.

There’s a scene with Vader looking at a picture of Leia when she’s a little girl, and then he looks up at a video monitor and she’s in a battle with Stormtroopers running around all tough. And he just sighs. That’s where the emotion comes in for me.”