Visiting the ‘Star Wars' universe

Friday December 3, 2010

BENNINGTON -- There is something about Star Wars. Love it or hate it, you know it. If you are old enough, you remember when it hit the big screen in the late 1970s and, all of a sudden, science fiction became main stream.

Tom Veitch, local author and one-time Star Wars graphic novel writer, remembers his first encounter with the story. "It was 1977," he said. "I went to the movie, like everybody else. Everybody saw that movie."

That story and many others will likely be on the schedule Tuesday, Dec. 14, as Veitch hosts an evening discussion introducing the definitive 352-page hardcover collection of "Star Wars: Dark Empire," a series of three graphic novels he helped create in the 1990s. The book is published by Dark Horse Comics. The event will take place at the Old Bennington Books, a new bookstore which he and his wife, Martha, own and manage.

Veitch wrote the "Dark Empire" series of graphic novels -- he calls them "comics" -- for Lucasfilm and Marvel Comics (now Dark Horse Comics), in collaboration with Scottish artist Cam Kennedy.

"I met (Kennedy) at a friend's house, a comic artist here in Vermont, Cam was visiting the U.S., searching for a writer," Veitch said. "We are both Scottish."

Their first project together was a Marvel series, " ‘The Light and Darkness War," which was about what happens to soldiers after they die, about fighting an eternal war that's going on," he said.

"We got this idea: Why don't we send these to George Lucas, see if he wants us to do something with Star Wars," Veitch said. So he sent a letter -- "addressed to George Lucas" -- and we got a call from his secretary, telling us to send the comics and George would like to look at them. A week later we got a call."

The two then took the idea to Marvel. The first two of the graphic novels were originally issued as serialized comics.

While there are certainly longer stories about working with George Lucas and the Star Wars group, Veitch's short story is that "George wanted a list of ideas, he would look at them and tell you what you could do."

Veitch said he and Kennedy approached Lucas at a time when interest in the first trilogy of movies was "fading" and the second trilogy of films was still in the planning stages. The series went on to become the most successful Star Wars comics to be produced, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in dozens of languages, Veitch said.

Veitch said he also later "invented" another series of Star Wars comics, "Tales of the Jedi" which have also "gone on to become mainstays of the expanded Star Wars universe."

While he has wore many different hats in the world of writing and publishing over the years, his latest project is the book store.

Veitch and his wife opened Old Bennington Books a couple months ago after spending a year turning a residential building into a bookstore. They also run an on-line book selling business, which was called Lightgate Books at one time but is now named Old Bennington Books.

In addition to the "Dark Empire" graphic novel collection, also on display at the planned discussion will be sketches and artwork by Kennedy and the original painting by Dave Dorman for one of the issues of the series.

While people will have to show up to his discussion to get all his secrets of creating for Star Wars storylines, one thing he will not reveal is the answer to the most common question he is asked: "Where do you get your ideas?"

When asked, Veitch simply smiles and says: "It's a deep dark secret."

As deep and dark as the Dark Empire he helped create and fill with adventure, apparently.

Tom Veitch will introduce the collected "Star Wars: Dark Empire" and sign books, for sale that night, at Old Bennington Books, 138 Union St., from 7 to 8 p.m. Original, first edition copies, of the comics will also be available for sale and signing. The talk is free, but seating is limited and persons interested are asked to call and reserve a seat, or stop by the store and sign up. The bookstore's phone number is 802-442-1515.


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