Soldier for The Empire: Peeking Inside “The Imperial Handbook” with Dan Wallace

If you ask me, Dan Wallace is living the dream! As the author of such geek-tastic tomes like The Jedi Path and The Iron Man Manual,” he has gotten to play with some of the most iconic characters in pop culture.

Now, after giving readers a look at what it’s like to become a Jedi Knight (or follow the path to the Dark Side in Book of Sith) he delves into the life of an Imperial recruit in “Star Wars: Imperial Handbook.”

Corresponding via e-mail, Wallace and I discussed what it’s like working in the Star Wars Universe; how Stormtroopers really aren’t clones; and who would win in a face-off between Darth Vader and Iron Man:

Geek To Me: Let’s get some of the basic fanboy stuff out of the way, shall we? How long have you been a Star Wars fan?

NewessentialguidetodroidsDan Wallace: Since forever! I had the toys, memorized lines, the whole deal. I’ve soaked in Star Wars pretty much my whole life, so to have a chance to contribute a tiny piece to it in my own way is just the best.

Geek To Me: Of all the characters in the saga, which one really resonated with you the most?

Dan Wallace: Personality-wise, I’m most like C-3PO. Not particularly heroic, obsessed with minutiae and procedure. But from a favorite character standpoint I’ve always liked Lando Calrissian. He’s like Han Solo but with a lot more suaveness and gambling skills. Lando is 20% James Bond.

Read more after the jump!

Geek To Me: I’ve got The Jedi Path and have been eyeing Book of the Sith, which makes me wonder where you and the creative team get the ideas for all the cool gadgets and artifacts that each book comes with?

ImperialProduct_open vaultDan Wallace: That’s a collaborative effort between myself and the design team at becker&mayer. A lot of the decisions on how many removable items we can have, and what type of material they’ll be made out of, comes down to cost and availability.

We generally come up with a long list of the types of things we’d love to include, and then the list gets whittled down based on what’s feasible. I remember for Book of Sith I thought it would be cool if there was a little sealed vial of some strange liquid that would be a Sith potion or something, but it was pointed out to me that they wouldn’t be able to ship strange liquids internationally.

Geek To Me: Okay, so now you’re laying out what it’s like to join the Imperial Army/Navy. How much research went into that?

500px-ImpsourcebookDan Wallace: A lot! I went back through a lot of older material including the great Imperial Sourcebook published by West End Games a long time ago. But mostly I kept the focus on the films, so that people didn’t feel like they were being dropped into an unfamiliar universe.

If you’re doing a book about the Empire you definitely want to include AT-AT walkers, Star Destroyers, snow troopers, TIE fighters, the Death Star, and all of that.

Geek To Me: Was it a case of organizing all the information that was already out there, or were there some things that you had to create for the purpose of setting the records straight, so to speak?

Dan Wallace: There’s always an aspect of filling in the blanks when it comes to a book like this, which is part of the fun. Remember, it’s an in-universe book written by people who live and breathe this stuff, so there wouldn’t be any blank areas or blind spots from their perspective. It should all sound as if it’s as realistic as our own world.

Geek To Me: Were there any moments in creating the narrative where you had a “aha” moment? Where you had a realization about something in Star Wars that you hadn’t considered before?

We FightDan Wallace: Probably the most fun part of the Imperial Handbook was the realization that the Imperial Navy section would be written by a navy guy, the Imperial Army would be written by an army guy, and the Stormtrooper Corps section would be written by a stormtrooper. Even though they’re all on the same team, there are some deep rivalries between the branches of service, just as there are in our world, and the revelation that I could play that up made the sections have more flavor and even a hint of an unreliable narrator element.

Geek To Me: Allow me to thank you for setting the record straight about stormtroopers in the post-Clone Wars era NOT being clones. But as you researched the book, was that always the case?

Aquatic Stormtrooper
Aquatic Stormtrooper

Dan Wallace: Yep, always the case directly from Lucasfilm. I received some interesting behind-the-scenes information about how the Empire had transitioned away from clones and into recruits.

Geek To Me: What’s it like getting to work with all these mythic characters and stories? And more importantly, HOW DO I BECOME YOU?

Dan Wallace: If you want to become me, develop a nervous habit of twiddling with pens and an addiction to Diet Coke. But it’s definitely a highlight to be working with mythic characters, from Batman to Luke Skywalker to Spider-Man.

Geek To Me: Okay, you’ve written about the Sith and Iron Man, so I’ll pose this hypothetical to you: Darth Vader versus Iron Man, who wins?

“I find your lack of breathing sounds…disturbing.”

Dan Wallace: Iron Man has better armor, without a doubt. Vader’s armor is basically a barely mobile iron lung. But Vader has the Force. And on that basis I don’t think Tony stands much of a chance, repulsor beams or no.

Geek To Me: Finally, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?

Ultimate_Star_WarsDan Wallace: Two Star Wars books are coming up soon: Ultimate Star Wars from DK in April and Star Wars Rebels: Sabine-My Rebel Sketchbook from Studio Fun in February, which features the great artwork of Annie Stoll.

And before the end of 2015 are two books I’m really excited about: The Art of Rocksteady Studio’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City & Arkham Knight from Abrams, and Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History from Insight Editions.



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