Jeffrey Brown is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Darth Vader and Son.” Brown also won an Eisner Award for that book. Brown continued to show his love the “Star Wars” universe with another book called “Vader’s Little Princess,” which was also on the New York Times bestseller list. He will be releasing another book called “Goodnight Darth Vader” that comes out July 22nd. You can pre-order the book here and watch the trailer here.
Jeffrey is responsible for the hilarious book called “Kids are Weird.” Brown has done countless comic books and graphic novels. I am a big fan of his storytelling and his artwork. Not only does he write a great story, but his illustrations alone can tell the tale as well.
I was able to talk with Jeffrey about his new book, his love for the “Star Wars” films, and fatherhood.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your book “Goodnight Darth Vader” that comes out soon. This is your fifth “Star Wars” themed book. As a fan of the films I love your work. Besides the obvious nod to “Goodnight Moon” where did the inspiration for “Goodnight Darth Vader” come from?
Jeffrey Brown: One of the responses to my first “Star Wars” book, “Darth Vader and Son” was that parents were reading it to their kids at bedtime. It is a humor book. I would think that it would get them more worked up than calmed down. So I thought it would be nice have a nighttime “Star Wars” book.
Rather than just do a straight “Goodnight Moon” parody I wanted to do a book that gave me the chance to draw a lot of the “Star Wars” characters and scenes that I haven’t had so far. Plus it would be something that kids would enjoy at nighttime.
AE: I love in your past books “Darth Vader and Son” and “Vader’s Little Princess” you add some inside jokes in each book that fans of the film will get. Do you go back each time and watch the movies to get some ideas for each book?
JB: Yeah definitely. When I was initially coming up with ideas I would watch the films and make notes. Sometimes I would have a parenting situation that I wanted to find the right scene where I could put that parenting situation in. Other times I just wanted to draw a character or scene and try to figure out what parenting parallel I could use.
From the beginning to the end I would have the movies going on in the background to see what other detail I could put in that “Star Wars” fans would appreciate. I wanted it to be things that people who haven’t seen the films wouldn’t need to know about in order to read the books.
AE: I know that you go to comic cons and such. What is the number one question you get from fans about these books?
JB: Are you going to do another one? (Both laugh.) That is the most common. Usually it is where do the ideas come from and wondering what my relationship to “Star Wars” is. It was the first movie I saw when I was growing up. I had all the toys, trading cards, books, and even the Burger King glasses.
AE: Nice. I still have some of the Burger King glasses. How excited are you for the new “Star Wars” movies?
JB: I am looking forward to them. One of the great things about the “Star Wars” universe is that there is so much room to have different stories. You have the “Clone Wars” cartoons. You have the original trilogy and now the new films. I am always excited to see what new stories that other people are going to come up with for these characters, creatures, and planets.
AE: Well said. I couldn’t agree more. Which is your favorite film from the saga?
JB: It is “Empire Strikes Back.” I saw “Star Wars” when I was about two or three. “Empire Strikes Back” was the first movie that I remember where I was going to the theater and being very excited to see it. You have that experience. Then I grew up in Michigan where we always had a lot of snow. So the Hoth scenes always resonated so much for me. Then you have Yoda, who is just so funny in that first appearance. You have Boba Fett, who looks so cool. There is the lightsaber battle, the drama, and of course the big revelation. It is a hard one to top.
AE: Who is your favorite character from the “Star Wars” saga?
JB: It is hard to pin down. Sometimes it depends on my mood. Generally it is Yoda and R2-D2. I love Han Solo. Harrison Ford’s performance in the first film was just so funny. He is just such an entertaining character. I really like Obi-Wan. I like Boba Fett. I like IG-88.
AE: Yeah, I can tell that about you for IG-88. I see him in your books.
JB: Yeah. I am a big fan of his.
AE: Another fantastic book from you is “Kids Are Weird: And Other Observations from Parenthood.” I was dying while reading the book. My wife looks over my shoulder and starts to read and laugh as well. Isn’t great to have your kids act like little muses?
JB: Yeah. Even when I first started writing comics my art has always been inspired by observing the everyday little moments. Even the “Star Wars” books draw on my own experiences and observations. “Kids Are Weird” is a tribute to my son. It shows how smart and funny kids can be without even realizing it. I was just trying to capture that in the comics form.
AE: Have your kids said anything about your books? When they get older what do you think they will say to you when the see your collection of work that they helped inspire you to write?
JB: Because “Kids Are Weird” are all things that he had actually said I wanted to make sure it stayed true to life. We went through all the ideas before I drew them out. I double-checked with him to make sure he was okay with everything I put into the book. He calls it his happy book. (Both laugh.)
It is funny because I think it gives him a chance to see himself as a character. So sometimes he doesn’t realize that those are the things that he had said. He obviously loves the “Star Wars” books. It is probably hard for him to have that perspective now, but it will be interesting to see when they get older what they think of being part of this experience meant to them.
AE: Switching to fatherhood what are some of the main core values you look to instill in your kids as they grow up?
JB: I think the biggest thing is don’t be a jerk. (Both laugh.) Be nice to people. Do what is right. Have empathy for other people. The other big thing is to just be yourself. Follow your own interests. Don’t get caught up in what people want or what you think other people want. Most of the time what you think they want isn’t even accurate. So those are the two things, don’t be a jerk and be yourself.
AE: My daughters tell me that they love the fact that I am always joking with them and making them laugh. Judging from your books I think you do the same for your kids. Do you feel that laughter is an essential ingredient when raising kids?
JB: Yeah, definitely. You never want to take yourself too seriously. I have no problem embracing the embarrassing dad cliché. Letting my kids laugh at me and showing them that it is okay to laugh at yourself. I think that it is a much better way to go through life than taking everything seriously and getting caught up in worrying about things too much.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
JB: For me the perfect vacation is just having time to hang out and you don’t have a bunch of commitments or places to go. This year we are going to go to Maine. We have no other plans than just being in Maine. We will go to beaches or just hang out where we are staying. For me that is much more of a vacation then the ones where you are running around looking to see a bunch of things.