Looking to get something special on Star Wars Day? Maybe a gift for a Star Wars friend or family member? Then, I highly recommend you turn your attention to the Star Wars Fanzine: The Fans Awaken. Featuring artwork from over 50 contributors, this zine will be 6×9, perfect bound, and in full color. It’s the perfect gift to give to yourself or to a Star Wars fan in your life. What makes this zine even cooler? The fact that proceeds go to Force For Change, continuing the Star Wars tradition of making a difference.
To give you an idea of how the Star Wars Fanzine came about, TWG interviewed Barbara Perez Marquez, Bri McNamara, and Noella Whitney–members of the Jedi Council overseeing the project.
Star Wars fanzines have been around ever since the first film came out in 1977. How did the idea of creating this particular fanzine come about? Why did you choose a zine format to showcase art and ideas, and what do you hope it communicates to the Star Wars fan community?
Barbara Perez Marquez: The moment we left the theater from watching The Force Awakens, we were already talking about how cool a fanzine would be. I think that hearing us talk about it, immediately after watching, showed how much power this new film had. From there, the next step was saying, “Let’s make it happen!” We didn’t want to wait for someone else to do it, plus there were already a ton of other artists that were itching to express their own feelings for the new movie too. From the start, we wanted to do just that, let the fanzine serve as an outlet for the fandom. Whether new or old, all we had to do was plug into this new surge of energy within Star Wars.
Then we thought, what else does Star Wars do? We found a couple good charity campaigns, out of which we chose Force for Change. Star Wars giveth and the fandom giveth back. What better way than give back towards goodness? Star Wars was giving us, the fans, that same type of goodness in our creative lives. With a fanzine format, we could let contributors explore their own creativity. We had our general theme, but everyone got their own space to create whatever the theme meant for them. That melting pot nature of zines also resonates really well with the mix of things that make up the very Star Wars universe.
This connectivity and relation throughout different platforms (and ages!) is one of the powers of Star Wars that I like the most. Inspiring action is hard, so we should always strive to find those sparks that make us all better.
The Star Wars Fanzine primarily includes works of art from a variety of artists and features some of our favorite characters from the galaxy far, far away. What did you choose to focus on in your contribution and why?
Bri McNamara: When Barbara and I started talking about this zine, we really liked the idea that something in particular influenced each person’s love of Star Wars. It might have been a line, a character, or a moment. For me, I wanted to focus on a vivid memory from my childhood. I watched the original movies alone in my parents’ basement, the cold and darkness reminding me of space, or the inner sanctums of the Death Star. So I made a small comic about that younger version of myself, watching the movies and acting out different scenes.
Noella Whitney: A lot of my work over the past couple years has been motivated by trying to love myself and what my ideal self is, so I began to include strong, beefy women in almost everything I made. When I found out Captain Phasma was going to be played by a woman, I was ecstatic, and even more so when she was going to be played by Gwendoline Christie, who I admire on so many levels. Naturally, I had to make my piece of her! We need more cool role models like Phasma for girls that say it’s okay to be muscular and strong and kick-butt, that you’re never less of a girl for not being small or weak as others expect you to. I know that if I had seen this type of character taken seriously when I was younger, I would be a different person today.
A total of 50 artists contributed illustrations and comics, each with their own style and approach. What were some of the challenges and rewards that came with creating and curating a zine?
Barbara: Most rewarding was seeing everyone interpret the theme their own way. No one submission is the same, even if they feature similar characters, not to mention the immense interest we’ve had in the fanzine itself. We tapped into a fountain of creative power and we hope it continues to grow. We want everyone to find ways to continue creating and input their own little bit into building Star Wars!
One of the challenges was perhaps how daunting it CAN be to take on an ever expanding franchise. Star Wars has a LOT to say and so do the fans. We are still far, far away from covering all that should be done when it comes to Star Wars fanzines. This is just one of many steps that have already happened, are currently happening along with us, and will continue to happen in the future.
Pre-orders are currently available until May 20, and while some of the cost will be used to print and ship the fanzines, the rest of the proceeds will go to Force For Change. All of you are doing this because you want to express your love for Star Wars. How does it feel knowing that in the process you’re also helping an initiative dedicated to bettering the lives of children around the world?
Bri: It’s immensely satisfying knowing that our work is contributing to helping others. As an artist, I hope that my work touches people on a small level, but knowing that we are working to help better lives–wow, that just makes me smile thinking about it.
Barbara: Force for Change is making a difference in a galaxy not so far away at all and that’s awesome! It’s a way to give back in a generational scale similar to what Star Wars has done for its fans. We are sharing creativity, exploring a universe we all enjoy, and simultaneously making a difference. That’s what I’d call a force to be reckoned with!
Noella: Star Wars has always been about helping people and doing what’s right. That’s the message we have to continue!
Since it’s Star Wars Day and it’s a time to celebrate all things related to our favorite galaxy, how were you introduced to Star Wars? Why do you think Star Wars means so much to so many people?
Bri: I’m not entirely sure at what moment I was introduced to Star Wars, it might have been someone mentioning the movies or some piece of merchandise that caught my fancy. All I know is that I was a 6 year old suddenly consumed by the series. I sat down and watched all 3 movies in a single weekend. I had coloring books and toys. I made lightsabers out of anything I could find. For me, it was the grandeur of the locations, the hero’s journey that we see with Luke being swept from his small-town home, and the powerful and witty dialogue of Leia. I think the series as a whole appeals to so many people because it showcases the grey area of good and evil. Even with the Light and Dark sides, nothing is perfectly simple. It shows that you can be a hero in your own story, even if you think you’re too small or insignificant. It shows girls and women that they can be powerful, fun, loving, and all around badasses–taken seriously and with respect.
Barbara: I know at some point in my childhood, I saw the podracer scene on TV. I remember it was our social duty to go see the new Star Wars movie (Episode III, I was in high school). Two very seemingly unrelated parts of my life, but Star Wars has always been there, as it has for many of us. However, The Force Awakens was my real plunge into the series and it created a retrograde effect. If I’d studied math as closely as I’ve studied Star Wars in this short amount of time, I might have gone into engineering! Which then makes me a great example of how much Star Wars means, how powerful this universe is and all it allows us to reach.
Noella: My dad, ever the sci-fi fan, had the trilogy on VHS and I know I watched it when I was very young because the only parts I remembered clearly for years were the Empire’s AT-ATs when they were invading the rebel base on Hoth (I thought they were so cool), and of course, the famous “I am your father” scene between Darth Vader and Luke. The universe Star Wars inhabits is so expansive and people love getting lost in all the little details, but when you bring it back in, the characters it presents are so strong and the conflicts they have are ones that many people can relate to. Someone taking a piece of your life away that you can’t replace, absent parents, death in the family, fear of connecting with and loving others, realizing you made the wrong choice after a long time; these are all very real things that happen to others and to see things you’ve been through up on the screen, presented as a giant space adventure, can be a punch to the gut in the best way.
Many artists on social media feel inspired and have expressed interest in contributing to the fanzine. Do you foresee “sequels” to the Star Wars Fanzine: The Fans Awaken? If someone is interested in making their own zine, what sort of tips and advice do you have for them?
Barbara: We’ve been so honored to hear from so many artists that want to jump on board! It’s a shame we couldn’t say yes to everyone, but there are many more opportunities out there that I hope they benefit from, Star Wars related or not. We’ve been diligent to keep everyone’s contact info on record for future themes. My personal calendar is a little full for the rest of the year, but there’s still a lot more to explore. We had a brief Twitter exchange where someone suggested a zine honoring all the female characters in Star Wars. That would be awesome! I personally haven’t ruled out coming back to Star Wars themes in the future, so I’m sure we’ll all cross paths in the cantina again some time.
It’s a great time to create zines these days. If you are into organizing them: Look around, reach out to those who’ve done them, get some pals, and start creating! It’s that simple, it doesn’t have to be fancy at the beginning, but I assure you it’s an experience like no other. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the rest of the Jedi Council; they’ve helped me learn what I didn’t know yet. If you are more into participating in them: Follow people and engage in social media outlets. Chances are if someone participated in a zine, they will post other opportunities or point you in the right direction.
Pre-order the Star Wars Fanzine: The Fans Awaken today! Also, make sure to follow Barbara, Bri, and Noella on Twitter for the latest #SWarsFanzine updates. While you’re at it, head on over to the Star Wars Fanzine Tumblr blog to find a list of the artists participating in the project.