Happy May the Fourth, everyone! In the spirit of this Star Wars-themed quasi-holiday, I wanted to share a Star Wars-themed story. A few years ago, I wrote a LEGO Star Wars book called The Official Stormtrooper Training Manual, which was published by Scholastic in 2016. I decided to write it from the POV of a stormtrooper. So the idea is that an ordinary, lunkheaded stormtrooper is narrating the book. On the section of the book which deals with the “AT-AT” vehicles, I wrote the following joke (among many others):
“The AT-AT is often the first thing sent into a combat zone. The LAST thing sent onto a combat zone is a stormtrooper named ‘Shirtless Lou,’ who has the words WE WON painted on his belly.”
And I didn’t think anything more of the joke after that. Like I said, it was just one of many jokes I jammed into a very joke-heavy book.
But then, years later, while looking through the comments section on the book’s Amazon page (why I was doing that I don’t really know, it’s not a healthy thing to do), I saw the following comment from a parent:
“The text is full of silly jokes that crack my 5 year old Star Wars superfan up. There’s a reference to ‘Shirtless Lou,’ the last stormtrooper to go into battle, that made him laugh so hard that I ordered the Batman-in-swimsuit minifigure and swapped that torso with a stormtrooper so he could have his own Shirtless Lou, and he plays with him all the time. Shirtless Lou is always doing something silly during stormtrooper training and causing Captain Phasma all kinds of headaches.”
Reading that totally made my day. I was – and still am – very happy that somebody appreciated The Official Stormtrooper Training Manual enough to write such a flattering comment about it. And now I’m just upset that I never pitched a “Shirtless Lou” spin-off book, because apparently there’s at least one kid out there who’d read that book.
But the saga of Shirtless Lou doesn’t end there.
Later on, I noticed that someone decided to give Shirtless Lou his own entry in Wookieepedia, the (crowd-sourced, fan-edited) Star Wars Wiki. Here’s the Wookieepedia description of Shirtless Lou:
“Lou, nicknamed ‘Shirtless Lou,’ was a human male stormtrooper of the Galactic Empire. He was considered to be the last thing sent into combat zones, as he had the words ‘WE WON’ painted on his belly.”
Which is…fine. I mean, Shirtless Lou’s Wookieepedia entry is totally accurate, in a way. It never mentions that The Official Stormtrooper Training Manual is a humor book, which is kind of an important detail to leave out, but whatever. Again, I’m just flattered that somebody at Wookieepedia mentioned Shirtless Lou.
I guess my point is that my little one-off joke about Shirtless Lou was apparently a good one, because people seem to have taken notice of it. And as a writer, sometimes you never know which stories (or jokes) people will respond to, and which ones they’ll ignore.
Also, if they somehow work Shirtless Lou into the Ahsoka Disney Plus series, or the fourth season of The Mandalorian, that little shirtless dude will have truly made the big time.
And aside from these three books, I’ve never written any poetry.
But here’s my question: Can I call myself a poet now?
I mean, I am (technically speaking) a published poet, in that I’ve written three published books that are either partially or wholly comprised of poetry. And in all three cases, it’s silly poetry. In two of those cases, it’s poetry for kids. But that shouldn’t rule it out as poetry, right? There are plenty of authors who write poems for children.
But if I’m ever at a cocktail party (if those make a comeback, post-pandemic), and I tell people I’m a poet and they ask where my poems have been published, I have no choice but to give a rather ridiculous answer to that question. One of my “books of poetry” is a retelling of the plot of a stop-motion Tim Burton movie, and the other two are batches of poems about the characters in the Star Wars franchise.
So…I think that calling myself a poet at this point is premature.
I will say this, though: I worked really hard on all three of those books, and I’m quite proud of them. And trying to recount the plot of The Nightmare Before Christmas in a mere 15 pages, each page consisting of 6 rhyming couplets, is quite a challenge. It’s even more of a challenge when you can’t use imperfect rhymes or near rhymes. But I think I rose to the challenge, and I think that the end result is a pretty great book.
Last month, I was interviewed by Rebecca Kaplan (no relation) for the geek culture site Comics Bookcase. During the interview, I talked about my career as a comic book writer and children’s author.
Around that same time, I was a guest on Jeramy Moore’s Storymakers podcast. This was a wide-ranging interview about my writing career.
And, just in case you missed them, here are some other press interviews with yours truly from earlier this year:
For Jurassic June (which happened in – wait for it – June), I was interviewed by Thomas Fishenden for the Jurassic Park Podcast. In this interview, I talked about the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World children’s books I’ve written. That interview was broken up into two parts. Part one is here, and part two is here.
In March, as part of WonderCon 2021, I was on a virtual panel that attempted to answer the question: “Who’s the most neurotic superhero?” The other panelists were Travis Langley, Leandra Parris, J.J. Sedelmeier, and R. Sikoryak. The panel was moderated by Danny Fingeroth.
Also in March, David P. Levin hosted a panel discussion on his Pop Goes the Culture show to discuss the Disney Plus series WandaVision. I was one of the panelists. The other panelists were Danny Fingeroth, Ray Alma, Steve Van Patten, Adam Freeman, and special guest Fred Melamed, who played Vision’s boss in WandaVision.
And last but definitely not least, in February, I was a guest on the MulDiversity podcast, where I was interviewed by Jonita Davis, Mike Majett, Quamani Greer, Avia Knighten, Aaron M. Johnson, and Keisha Malone. During the interview, we discussed my career in comics, my work as a television comedy writer, and more.