Published April 5, 2017

Doctor Aphra: Annual Checkup

Kieron Gillen prepares his portion of the next Star Wars mega event!

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In less than two weeks, Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker bring readers back up to lightspeed with issue #6 of DOCTOR APHRA on April 12, as the rogue archeologist and her father stumble upon the remains of not just a sacred Jedi site, but also the current resident—who does not seem pleased to be disturbed.

But before this story hits, we spoke with Gillen about where he’s taken the father-daughter duo so far and where they may go next! We left off with Aphra having lost her academic standing as a result of her father, and now, she looks to regain it. Why is this conventional title important to a character whose professional life is anything but traditional?

Kieron Gillen: Aphra does have a fig leaf to hide behind here—in that she sells artifacts through various official systems, and if she’s not a Doctor, she can’t access them. But that does beg a question why do that rather than one of millions of other jobs. One some level, Aphra is a creature of momentum, spending her life basically running away from a rolling rock that’s about to crush her—which she probably set in motion herself. Perhaps she just hasn’t thought about any other option. Or maybe it’s something else, considerably deeper. That sort of thing lies in the heart of the character. You’ve also set up a rather interesting pairing in this first arc: A more traditional academic father with a more swashbuckling, rule-breaking adult-child who is—more or less—working in the same field of interest. This borrows a bit from the other side of LucasFilm with Indiana Jones, no? I believe we even heard a trace of this in issue #2 with Aphra’s father referring to her as “Junior” once?

Kieron Gillen: There’s a playfulness to APHRA in terms of the references. I’ve got a one sentence description of the first year of APHRA, which I certainly do phrase in familiar terms—though not the one anyone is thinking about—but the relationship between Aphra Junior and Senior was as much trying to make its own specific thing than just a riff. The level which Aphra Senior is a spiritualist is key, for example. Jones Sr. is primarily an academic with serious interest into the spiritual side, while Aphra Sr. is primarily a spiritualist with the academic aspects secondary. And Aphra Sr.’s education is far less traditional, in terms of the monomania. Put it like this: there’s two Doctor Jones and only one Doctor Aphra. And, of course, how it all integrates into the Star Wars mythos certainly changes things up, especially the somewhat torrid background between the characters.

Some of it is a delicious parallel evolution. For DOCTOR APHRA, when planning the arc, I wanted to show how Aphra came to be, and what she was reacting against. We’d talked about her mother during DARTH VADER, but I wanted to dig into that more; which means bringing in the father. And I laugh, as I see exactly what dynamic we’re flirting with. Interestingly, it seems Aphra demonstrates more empathy in issue #3 to her fellow man than her father, who appears so caught up in his work that he fails to note the existence—and destruction—of the Death Star, and only mourns the destruction or potential loss of historical sites.

Are we seeing Aphra inch closer to the light?

Kieron Gillen: If Aphra inches closer to the light you have to presume she’s about to set off some light-activated trap.

Seriously? Yeah, you can certainly take it like that. Or you could take it as Aphra scoring points with her father for her analyzing his moral hypocrisies. Or somewhere between the two; Aphra is highly capable of being petty, but she isn’t someone who actively thinks people should die. Ideally no-one would have to die. In practice, for Aphra, it’s just not that easy.

I’ll say this: there’s so much more in here in The Screaming Citadel [crossover event]. Getting Aphra and Luke on an adventure together and letting them talk really illuminates these different priorities in a fun way. Assuming she were taking a turn for the better, how might her robotic companions respond to this behavior?

Kieron Gillen: A good question. Way back in the solo story in DARTH VADER, Triple-Zero did say “Heaven Help Us If I Get Bored.” Good he wouldn’t care about. Bored? That is the one thing the droids won’t bear. Now, we’ve spoken a bit about some external influences on this story, but I’m curious about why this particular story—the one where we meet Aphra’s father—was the one you wanted to explore for her first solo series?

Kieron Gillen: It’s a book about archeology in the Star Wars universe, but for the reader, it’s marrying the two-fisted archeology the characters are doing with the emotional unearthing of Aphra. One of my big reasons for doing the book was to delineate Aphra in a more complete fashion. This is who she is, this is why she is, and so on. Starting with family made a lot of sense. For a character who exists and behaves outside of the norm, so to speak, does she get a traditional “happy ending” with her father? Or do you expect things to go awry by the end of this arc?

Kieron Gillen: In short, Heh. In less short, Heheheheheheh.

I would say by the end of the story you know exactly who Aphra is. We are preparing to see Aphra and her father ship off to uncharted space in search of the Aspectu Ordu. Might this be a possible set up for the upcoming crossover you and Jason Aaron have planned in The Screaming Citadel?

Kieron Gillen: The Screaming Citadel grows from both our books. The big events we always want to stay self-contained so newcomers can jump on, but it’s integrated entirely into the plot of DOCTOR APHRA. For readers of DOCTOR APHRA, consider it volume two. So, there’s certainly elements of our story which flow directly into it in a natural way.

Yes, I am an oblique tease.

DOCTOR APHRA speeds ever closer to The Screaming Citadel with issue #6 by Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker, available April 12!