Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our fifty-first guest has had many occupations. Waiter, stockboy, pizza deliverer, comic-book store manager, games journalist, ESL teacher, indie record label drone, Ebay posting monkey, former editor of the Star Wars Insider, mailroom dynamo, barista, videostore clerk, and roadie for El Vez: The Mexican Elvis – Frank Parisi.
Lightsabre – Frank, welcome to Lightsabre.
FP – Thanks. As a fan of the site it’s a pleasure to be here. I love the videos by the way—keep ’em coming!
FP – It pretty much kicks ass.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. Where did you begin in publishing and what led you to editing the Insider?
FP – I began as an editor for GamePro magazine, where I reviewed an obscene amount of horrible videogames. The publisher, IDG Entertainment, acquired the license to publish Insider and brought Brett Rector on board as EIC. Brett’s a trip—a very cool and very hilarious guy whose finger has always been planted very firmly on the Star Wars pulse — and we were always geeking out over Star Wars and discussing the magazine. We still do. So when he left to start working on videogames for LucasArts, our creative director, Francis Mao, brought me on as editor and really guided me in the beginning. He still does — he’s a great teacher.
Lightsabre – What is it like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
FP – It’s pretty surreal. I’m continually blown away by the talent and dedication of our contributors (both writers and artists) whose passion for, and knowledge of, Star Wars is staggering. These guys and gals can approach this vast myth from every conceivable angle and as a writer it’s inspiring to see this level of insight and the unique ways of looking at, and interpreting, the elements and themes the films present. Best of all, my nieces think I’m cool.
Lightsabre – From the earliest days of the first Star Wars fan letter, through the legendary Bantha Tracks, the Lucasfilm Magazine and for the last decade and a half the Insider, Star Wars fans have come to experience the best coverage from their official magazine. What new innovations are you planning for your tenure as editor?
FP – I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and to that end we’re not making any major overhauls to the magazine’s format or content as it’s been doing a great job. However, we have introduced some new features and will continue to introduce more.
The very first thing I wanted to do was as the editor was feature smaller oddball type articles designed to examine and address the impact of Star Wars on culture as a whole, and to do so we changed Skywalking from a straight news section to a full front end of the magazine where we can have random stories which don’t fit within our departments, nor warrant multi-page feature treatment, but nevertheless speak to all types of Star Wars fans. Some of the Q and A’s and Certain Points of View in particular are my favorite parts of the revamped section—it is fascinating and fun to get all sorts of different perspectives on goofy Star Wars questions and experience just how wide-reaching the impact of the series is. I also like these modular, quick, and entertaining reads in this revamped section too, as our departments and features tend to be rather dense. And we’re extrapolating the modular approach for inclusion in larger articles and incorporating more sidebars and subsections into our features.
We’re also experimenting with in-universe pieces such as issue 87’s Order 66 article, Heritage of the Sith feature in issue 88, and Underworld in issue 89. So far the feedback to these stories has been very positive.
We’re committed to having much more original art both inside the magazine and adorning the covers. We just got Timothy Bradstreet to depict a beloved character, who suits his gritty style, for issue 89’s cover. As a fan, this is very exciting. Between his cover and issue 88’s four Sith Lords covers we’re just scratching the surface—expect to see some wicked visuals inside and outside our pages, some from names you know and some from names you will get to know. Also expect some very interesting exclusive fiction in the future.
Oh, and we have a new kids section called Padawan Corner which has these cool arts and crafts tutorials for kids. That section, including the name, was Bonnie Burton’s [of StarWars.com] idea and not only has she been wrangling super-talented artists for the department, but has also been coming up with some wild projects for readers to tackle.
We’d also like to do more themed issues like we did with our recent Sith Lords issue. It makes each magazine a mini-book in a way. It’s a challenge for myself and the designers to cull edit and visuals together around a theme, but it’s also a lot of fun. Hopefully it is for the readers as well. We’re laying the groundwork for another themed issue in the near future. People will dig it.
Star Wars is a niche, but I believe that within that niche you can truly have something for everybody. To that end we are working towards broadening the scope of the magazine both in what we cover and the way we cover it. It’s difficult though, because there are only so many pages to work with. Our goal, and we’re still getting there, is to be able to say “No matter who you are, if you’re a Star Wars fan, there’s something for you.” I know people who read every book and comic and immerse themselves in the Expanded Universe, and I want something in every issue for them. I know fans who refuse to have anything to do with anything that isn’t the original versions of the original trilogy, and I want them to have reasons to read Insider, too. There are fans who love the kitschy pop-cultural aspects of Star Wars, or behind the scenes articles, or stories of interesting fans, or underground art that incorporates imagery from Star Wars, and so I want material which appeals to all of them as well.
There’s so much more we’d like to do, but I’ll not go on record with anything else right now except to say that we thrive on evolving and adapting and Insider will too, especially in light of the new television and games projects in the works.
Lightsabre – As editor you are in daily contact with Lucasfilm. How exciting is this, being in a working relationship with the real home of Star Wars?
FP – It’s great on so many levels. Lucas Licensing has entrusted us with a huge responsibility and has been amazingly supportive of our ideas from the get-go. Going to the Letterman Center to meet with the folks over at licensing and StarWars.com is always a complete geek-fest and always reinvigorates my excitement for the gig. They’re an interesting bunch because each one has his or her area of expertise and their own ideas about what they’d like to see in the magazine, and are always eager to give valuable input. And this helps us to broaden our scope and cater to all types of Star Wars fans. They are also as professional as they are enthusiastic and demand a high level of editorial and visual quality, and although it can be demanding delivering this to them, it really has made us much stronger editors and designers than we were six months ago. I can only imagine where we’ll be six months from now.
Lightsabre – The official magazines have always had charismatic editors, from Maureen Garrett on Bantha Tracks to Dan Madsen at The Insider. What flavour do you hope to bring to the magazine as Star Wars enters the television and multimedia era?
FP – Like any myth, Star Wars is a living tapestry that all types of talented and creative people can contribute to, and do, and I find that the creative energy I’m attracted to the most comes from the fans.
This encompasses everything from underground art and graffiti to fan films (parodies, mostly, not a fan of the more dramatic stuff), sculpture (have you seen Nathan Cabrera’s life-sized Tusken Raider? It’s wild!), essays, fan and collector sites. In my opinion this massive pool of raw talent contributes just as much as licensed creators and their work is a testament to the enormous impact the films have had on our culture and their ability to encourage us to imagine. That’s not even mentioning the massive community of fans who make the effort to connect with one another. I think it’s great that Star Wars offers so much more than just passive entertainment if you so choose.
That said, the flavor we are trying to bring to Insider is a celebratory one that captures the energy of this massive creative output and community. At the same time, we also like to adopt a slightly irreverent tone towards Star Wars because when all is said and done, Star Wars is fun and goofy and great and intense, and that’s why it rules. We should be having fun with, and at times make fun of, Star Wars. Basically, we at Insider are a bunch of dorky Star Wars fans and are using the medium to speak with other fans in our own quirky ways.
FP – Anakin, by far. I get attached to people. I’ve made reckless decisions for what I thought were good reasons. There were times when I didn’t react in the most positive ways when frustrated or when I felt I deserved something that I perhaps didn’t. But somehow I’ve managed to learn from these things, grow, move on, and wind up on my two feet. So yeah, I can see a lot of myself in that character. Man, that’s kind of scary now that I think about it.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your other interests outside of Star Wars?
FP – For the past few years I’ve been studying martial arts—now I focus mainly on boxing because I love the upper body movement—the slipping, the bobbing, and the weaving. I love seeing movies and live bands—mostly metal and indy rock—and in that respect I’m very fortunate to live in San Francisco where there are tons of great bands playing always and small independent theaters showing killer stuff. I love to travel and have been to Japan twice and India within the last couple of years.
Lightsabre – Tell us a tale about the time you worked for El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. That must have been a trip?
FP – It literally was a trip as we toured Europe for two months—Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain. Altogether there were about twelve of us and we lived in this huge bright blue tour bus driven by an ex-lounge singer named Tony. He loved to sing gospel songs and had a mustache the same color as his flesh. My friend and I worked as roadies, sold merchandise, and handled lighting and stage effects. We were also part of the act and I basically wore a black jumpsuit and black wrestling mask, stumbled around and got beat up every night.
After a show in Berlin, a fan asked what I did in the band and when I told him I was the black Mexican wrestler he started pointing at me yelling “The gimp! You’re the gimp!!”
It makes sense if you’ve seen Pulp Fiction.
FP – Man, I’m probably the last person that can answer that! If you had told me eight months ago that I’d be the editor of Insider I’d have checked your apartment for discarded crack pipes.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site. Any comments?
FP – Well as I said before, I love the videos. I’m also impressed by the breadth of your interviewees and the types of questions you ask. Keep up the great work!
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. El Vez, a very short Stormtrooper and legendary video store clerk Quentin Tarantino are cast adrift on a rubber dingy far out at sea. Suddenly a leak springs and water begins to fill the boat. Who is to blame, and who manages to save the hapless trio?
FP – The leak is caused by the stormtrooper who, at Tarantino’s prodding and because he has a Napoleon complex, takes potshots at El Vez’s shoes, trying to make him dance. Being a stormtrooper, and thus not the sharpest tool in the shed, be blasts a hole in the dingy, consigning the three of them to a watery doom. Gamera, the atomic turtle, notices the mishap during a routine fly-by and rescues the group, dropping them off at the Bikini Atoll before zooming away to Indian leg-wrestle a giant cosmic squid. Quentin Tarantino takes all the credit for the rescue, the stormtrooper goes on to become a famous midget porn star, El Vez develops a penchant for shooting TV sets. Gamera O.D.’s on hallucinogenic cosmic squid ink, mistakes skyscrapers for giant female turtles…and does very bad things…
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 27th August 2006.