Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Between 2005 – 2012 our forty-eighth guests wrote, designed and drew Fandom Comics – Keith Ryan Kappel, Ryan Brooks and Steve Criado.
Lightsabre – Guys, welcome to Lightsabre.
Keith – Thanks for having us.
Lightsabre – Star Wars has had a profound effect on all of us – it’s why we’re here talking about it, but what was it that started you off on your Star Wars journeys?
Keith – I was into Star Wars as a kid, but didn’t become a “hardcore” Star Wars fan until I was reintroduced to it my Freshman year of High School in 93-94. A couple of close buddies did a school project on the trilogy, and hooked me good. I already had a role-playing game background, and that, combined with an interest in Star Wars and the early days of AOL were what set me on the path to eventually co-founding Fandom Comics.
Ryan – My story is actually pretty similar to Keith’s. From as far back as I can remember I’ve been pretty gung-ho into Star Wars then when I was about seven or eight I started to lose interest. But when I was about twelve or thirteen I got the first role-playing game book from West End Games and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Steve – It was one of the first things I remember, going to the drive in and seeing it for the first time. I must have been around 3 or 4 but I remember it. I even remember watching the infamous Holiday Special. I would have to say it was the first introduction to heroes and villains to me.
Lightsabre – You’re involved in Star Wars fandom through your work on Fandom Comics, and Ryan and Keith before that with their play testing on the D20 core rulebook. How does it feel to have carved yourselves such a prominent niche in the Star Wars fan community?
Keith – Well, Ryan and I have been doing various Star Wars related fan projects together since about 95-96, so its been a long journey for us. I know I am just thrilled to be doing something I enjoy doing, and that people seem to enjoy reading. I feel like I have struggled for a while to really find my niche in the community, and its just the best feeling ever to have finally found it.
Steve – I didn’t realize we had done that. It feels pretty cool now that I think about it. I get a chance to play in the Star Wars universe and have people look at it.
Lightsabre – Which of the six episodes stands out as your favourites?
Keith – The Empire Strikes Back. It really is just perfect. There isn’t a single frame in that movie I would change (unlike the other five).
Ryan – Empire here too. Even as a kid that was the one that held the greatest fascination to me.
Steve – Empire is my favorite. I love the character depth in it.
Lightsabre – There have been many comics sites over the years, from Jawa Force to Tales of a Crazed Mimbanite, but Cracken’s Crew really seems to have caught hold of people’s imagination. What do you think sets it apart from other web strips?
Keith – I think there are a few things that set us apart from more of the well-known Star Wars fan comics out there. First, we take our subject matter seriously. It is not a humor book (though there is humor, as there is in anything Star Wars). But our focus is to produce a quality storyline with interesting characterization worthy of the Star Wars mantle. Second, we have a very traditional comic-book format. The majority of web-comics out there use sunday comic strip formats or use comic-book page formats but with varied page lengths. We use the same approach the comic-book industry uses. Also, our comic-page viewer on the site allows you to view two pages at once. This makes the experience of reading the comic a lot more organic, and it feels more like you are holding a comic in your hand than other sites, who only allow you to view one page at a time. Another thing to consider is that while everyone knows about Jawa Force and Bungo & Rusti, and maybe even Jaxxon’s 11, there hasn’t been a “new” Star Wars webcomic that big in a many years, so we benefit from a lack of vocal competition. I phrase that carefully because there are other great star wars fan comics out there being produced today, people just don’t know about them. Most of those other fan comics out there don’t have anyone plugging their comic all over the web every chance they get. We don’t mind pulling cheap stunts for publicity, we’re shameless like that. Lastly, credit has to be given to Steve’s artwork, which is what really sets us apart from the pack.
Steve – Well it’s written from a military experienced writer, so it holds weight as far as believable events. Both Keith and Ryan go in so much depth behind the comic. I think the comic and the site are planned and created by some very accomplished and passionate group of people. Not to discredit any other fan work but these guys here know their stuff.
Lightsabre – As fellow fans you must have many golden Star Wars memories. Tell us about some of them.
Keith – Reading the Thrawn trilogy for the first time. I got into Star Wars novels at just the right time, around 1994, when there were not that many out there. My mom had me going to the grocery store with her every week to see if a new book had come out yet or not for a couple years.
Ryan – Mine would probably be walking into the theatre and sitting on my dad’s lap watching Return of the Jedi for the first time. That was really the first Star Wars film I vividly remember seeing on the big screen as a child.
Steve – There are so many, Halloween costumes, camcorder deleted scenes with my friends, late nights West End RPG gaming, seeing them again in the theatres again. I went to Star Tours when I was a kid and that was pretty great too.
Lightsabre – Which of the Star Wars characters is the closest to you?
Keith – Well they are all dear to me in their own way, and who my current fave character is can change with my mood or the weather. Right now though I would have to say Princess Leia, and not just because of how she fills out a gold bikini. She was a leader and very motivated despite the pressure she had to be under, she was almost a zealot. She wasn’t particularly nice or worried about making friends, she was all business and had her goals for the rebellion first and foremost, and I find I can identify with that quite a bit in some ways.
Ryan – Well, I need a shave like Chewbacca. Hah, yeah I guess Chewie when I think about it. I don’t have any problem taking the captain’s chair, but most of the time I take on the role of the co-pilot. I’m the guy who gets things done. Keith, Steve or our newest member TJ come to me and say “I need this” and I just go do it. Especially with Keith, he and I are pretty in sync after all these years. He came to me and said, “I want to do a web comic” and I had been wanting to do one for years but never got around to it, but we sat down and came up with what I think is a pretty good medium. Keith tells me, “I want an eye-catching website for our web comic”, so I sat down and made our site. I like to think of myself as the go-to guy for our crew. If somebody needs something done without needing to tell them how to do it, they come to me.
Steve – Han Solo, I tried to be him so much when I was young. He taught me a lot of things from relationships to his lop sided smile which I still use…from time to time.
Lightsabre – What would you change about Star Wars if you could go back in time and make alterations?
Keith – Oh man…there is a long list here, but if I had to boil it down to one thing for each trilogy, I would put more heart into the prequel trilogy, and a few more of the deleted scenes in the classic trilogy. The classic trilogy really is classic, there isn’t much need to mess with it except for having Han shoot first again.
Ryan – Ugh, I’m not even going to get into that one. As much as I love to rant, that’d be an entire interview in itself. Suffice to say I’d change a lot, especially with the prequels. But the Special Edition Trilogy is a real peeve with me too. *Holds up his “Han Shot First” T-shirt*.
Steve – For the new ones I would have just made Jar Jar something else and gave him a better voice. Sped up the pace of the first one. Clones would have been more like Empire with the acting, and not so much CG. Revenge was pretty good except Padme dying from a broken heart crap.
Lightsabre – You’ve had many prior job before coming to Fandom Comics. Keith served in Virgina at both Naval Space Command and the USS Theodore Roosevelt, CVN 71, Ryan is an amateur photographer, graphic artist, a web designer and avid gamer as well as practitioner of several styles of Martial Arts and Steve has done programme covers for the NFL, Ohio State University and the Army and Air Force exchange services. What is it that engrosses you so deeply in your work on Fandom Comics?
Keith – I feel like I have a pretty unique skill-set/credentials within the Star Wars community in that I had some intense, first-hand knowledge of how a military force functions, as well as freedom fighter/terrorist groups, which could easily describe the rebellion and imperial forces. So I really feel like I get to draw on all my past experiences when I write for Fandom, be it RPG material, a short story or a comic script. I have always been a fan of stories, regardless of the media. I’m a big movie fan, I read a lot, etc. Being able to tell my own stories is just very exhilarating and fulfilling.
Ryan – I just get bored if I don’t have a project, heh. Seriously though I think it’s about the challenge. It was something I hadn’t done before. Most of the crazy things Keith convinces me to do start with him saying, “I’ve got a challenge for ya…”
Steve – I like to look at it as learning “hands-on” about how to create a comic. I was big into comics when I was younger and always wanted to do one. I have already learned a ton about drawing, line work, coloring, etc. The new stuff coming up is going to really fun.
Lightsabre – Where do you think Lucas will take us next on our trip through the Star Wars galaxy?
Keith –Well obviously the two big things coming down the pipe are the TV show and cartoon, and while I can’t even begin to hazard a guess as to what they will focus on, I just hope they continue to capture that spirit of Star Wars, and that they don’t muck up existing continuity too bad (yeah, I’m one of those people).
Ryan – I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that the TV series is about Mon Mothma and company and the formation of the Rebel Alliance. As cool as I think that would be, I’m not holding my breath.
Steve – I heard about TV so that could be good or bad. I loved the Clone Wars cartoon. I heard about some 3D release which I would like to see.
Lightsabre – What do you foresee for yourselves in the future?
Keith –Well I think and hope the Fandom Comics site will continue to grow, and become known as a mecca of sorts for quality Star Wars fan comics. We are definitely going to be adding more titles beyond Cracken’s Crew. We have at least three more titles in various stages of production right now. I can easily see some of our artists eventually making the transition to professional comics.
Steve – I am shooting for getting published work and freelance work for a comic company.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
Keith – Yeah, nice to see the small article on Bob Vitas for his unofficial encyclopedia.
Steve – Promote us and keep reading.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guests on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Your comic star General Cracken, the Setnin sector’s slimy General Soli and Return of the Jedi’s General Madine are standing in a General Motors dealership, somewhere in the general region of Coruscant. There is one X-Wing left on the shop floor, and all three generals want it – which one flies away with the ship?
Keith – Well, I think Madine would just take the X-wing by force, and Soli would probably make friends with Madine so he could steal it later. General Airen Cracken, on the other hand, would walk away, because he would already have intelligence on a seller of an entire squadron of X-wings. So Madine gets the X-wing, but Cracken gets the admiration of the Naval Procurement branch.
Steve – Cracken is more of a GM guy. Soli would like imports and Madine is dead I think.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 16th July 2006.