“When she talks, I hear the revolution…”
-Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl”
When Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, and Lucasfilm three years later, one of big changes that occurred as a result was Disney’s decision to move the Star Wars comic book license back to Marvel. Dark Horse Comics had been publishing Star Wars comics since 1991 and because of that, Marvel had to staff up if it was going to return to that galaxy far, far away. They did, and on January 14, 2015 Marvel Star Wars #1 hit the market and things have been bananas ever since with six ongoing series and a ton of limited series and one-shots in the bank.
One of those hires that Marvel Editor Jordan White pulled the trigger on was a young aspiring creator name Heather Antos. And if you were an avid reader of Marvel Star Wars comics from 2015 to 2018, then you most certainly read something that Heather helped craft, having been an assistant editor, editor, or writer for all of them. In fact, she worked on so many Star Wars titles; I don’t even know if I can name them all.
But, let’s give it a shot anyways.
For starters she worked on Star Wars #4 - #48, including the incredible “Mutiny on Mon Cala” arc. She also worked on 28 issues of Charles Soule’s amazing Poe Dameron series, falling three issue’s short of the complete run. A highlight, Heather worked on issues #3 - #25 of Kieron Gillen’s “Darth Vader” series, helping introduce Chelli Lona Aphra to the world, who would of course go on to have her own popular series, another one Heather worked on.
Aside from those titles, she also worked on Marvel Star Wars runs for Princess Leia (her first), Kanan, Lando, Darth Maul, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan and Anakin, C-3PO (the amazing Phantom Limb), Han Solo, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Mace Windu, Captain Phasma, Thrawn, and so on. Starting to get the idea?
But then, in the early part of 2018, she left. Where did she go and what is she doing now? When most people leave their jobs it doesn’t make headlines, but when Heather left Marvel that spring, it did. And even though her decision was met with some confusion, some applauding, and some rejoicing, Heather paid it no attention and moved on.
And just in case you were wondering, she’s fine, just fine. In fact, she seems better than ever? Confident, happy, inspired, fulfilled, stressed, anxious, and exhausted, all the emotions someone should be experiencing who is very comfortable in her own skin and coming into their own.
Having read most of and been a fan of her work, it dawned on me that I had never met or spoken to her before, so when I found out she was in Toronto for FAN EXPO Canada, I jumped at the opportunity. What’s interesting about her first trip to Toronto is that she grew up not too far away, having been raised in Michigan going to school just outside of Detroit.
In fact, when we met up, she was wearing a flannel shirt (Muskoka Dinner Jacket) and we both agreed she was an honorary Canadian. For the record, she’s a fan of Toronto and conventions in general…
“It’s my first time in Toronto for FAN EXPO, it’s massive! I do a lot of conventions each year; I was just in Boston last weekend and I have 4 or 5 more for this year. I love doing them, getting out there and meeting the fans, this show is really nice but it’s really big.”
When I initially reached out to her, she responded immediately (rare these days) and was agreeable from the start. In fact, I think she used me more than I used her, as an excuse to get away from her booth and stretch her legs a bit. We sometimes forget that the artists attending these events are away from their families and put in very long hours, it can be exhausting. And keep in mind, I’m projecting this onto her, she didn’t complain once the entire time we spoke. But commenting on the amount of shows she does each year, we acknowledged it can be a tiring, but sometimes necessary part of the job…
“For writers and artists—artists especially—attending conventions can be a way to supplement income. As a writer, you can write 12 books a month if you want to, but artists are only capable of doing one—maybe 2—at a time. And that’s a big maybe. But for me, conventions are all about connecting with fans and talent in person, people that I usually only communicate with online.”
In person, Heather is laid back, charming, confident, and oozes that sort of comfortability with yourself you only get when you’ve either been in the business a while, or been though some adversity and lived to tell. For her, it skews towards the latter, having had to wield a keen sense of self-assurance and tap into her inner strength, two things she’s adept at.
Hers was a less traditional path, as success came quickly, getting a job at Marvel at a fairly young age and being tasked with editing some of their top books, such as Star Wars. Rising quickly in the ranks and hitting her goals years earlier than what was originally planned, she was faced with perhaps a new dilemma, peaking too early?
She was well aware that she was getting opportunities early in her career that some people, who are much further along, don’t get.
“I know I had a weird trajectory, at 24 deciding to get into comics, and then less than a year later I was launching Star Wars and working on Deadpool. I understand that doesn’t typically happen for people. Like most creators do, but because of that quick ascension I have this severe imposter syndrome. I didn’t feel as though I did the 10 years it typically takes to get to that level.”
She may not have played the typical long game that often is a prerequisite for attaining the position of assistant editor/editor for a company such as Marvel, but in many ways, as far as Star Wars is concerned, she’s been prepping her entire life. Parts of Luke’s “hero’s journey” paralleling her own, small town to big city adventure, Heather has been a lifelong Star Wars fan having watched the original trilogy with her dad, never looking back.
One thing that Heather chooses not to do is put a label on or attach a title to what she does for a living; she refuses to be boxed in like that. But whatever you choose to call her, if it means getting to work on some of the titles mentioned above, with some of the greatest talent going, then it’s a favorable moniker in my book.
Even if you take away everything else, her contribution in helping Doctor Aphra achieve the levels of success few characters hit alone, is a career in of itself. So, despite all the success, it was a bit of a head-scratcher when it was announced Heather was leaving Marvel, moving onto other things. I mean, who leaves Marvel when you’re on a role like that? Working on Star Wars, your dream job? The truth is, it’s complicated and not for any one single reason.
“It was more so the fact that it was a corporate machine. I’m someone who likes to experiment, and play, and try new things but at the end of the day when your part of a corporation like the Disney machine, the content doesn’t matter if it’s not hitting the numbers, just like with any business. So, the result is a little bit of creative stifling that comes with the pressure, and that environment didn’t suit me personally at the time, with what I wanted to do with my career.”
But…what about Star Wars!!??
“I love those characters very dearly, Doctor Aphra was one of my babies. I love those characters; I grew up with those characters, and it was sad and hard to walk away from that specifically. But, I’m still friends with the Lucasfilm story group, I’m still friends with Elizabeth Schaefer and Tom Hoeler at Del Rey, I still write essays, I still read all the books. I’m still very much involved in that world and those doors aren’t closed.”
It remains to be seen what that means exactly as she hasn’t dipped her toes back in Star Wars waters since, but Lucasfilm likes known commodities and that bodes well for her, and us.
Listening to Heather, and some of her philosophical reasons for moving on, you can’t help but feel she’s got a little of the Rebel Alliance in her. But, is she a rebel per se?
“I’ve never really thought about it, being anti-corporate or a rebel. At the end of day I just want to work in an environment where I can do the most good and put my creative skills to good use, have a positive influence.”
So, in that vein, it was announced in January of this year, after a short stint somewhere else, that Heather was taking her skillset to Valiant Entertainment.
“The fun thing about Valiant is that they’ve only been around for 30 years. There’s so much left to explore and develop in that universe, and because they are a smaller independent publisher they don’t have to answer to the same kinds of mainstream needs that Marvel and DC do.”
And it seems for the time being, Valiant is providing the type of freedom she’s been looking for since leaving Marvel, and Star Wars, behind…
“I’m so happy. I get to play at Valiant and all the things I wanted to do at Marvel but didn’t get to, I’m doing now at Valiant. I still get to work with Image Comics, create and work on my own stuff, I’m working on some video games, and my hands are in a lot of pots. I’m really very happy.”
For outsiders, it seems that parting ways with Marvel, the premiere comic book publishing company and the primary source of Star Wars comic books, is about as crazy as it gets. But, the longer you speak with Heather, the more things become clear. It was by no means an easy decision, in fact, it was a highly emotional and courageous one to be sure, leaving behind friends and properties that are so near and dear to her heart.
And she values her time there above all else, recognizing that the opportunity was a once in a lifetime chance to be around some to the best and brightest the business has to offer.
“It was terrifying leaving Marvel when I did. Even in the months afterwards I had these moments of, “oh my god, is this the right thing? “, “did I make the right decision?” But without question, working at Marvel, for as long as I did, was kind of like taking a master’s class in comics and I learned so much, and I’m very, very grateful for that.”
That’s good to hear and hopefully one day, she gets that opportunity to be a part of Star Wars once again.
So, like I said, Heather has moved on, and so should the rest of us.
If you want to hear more of Heather’s story, listen to this week’s episode of “Everything is Canon” where she and I discuss all this and a whole lot more. It’s a great and honest conversation about the path she’s taken and I believe she has a lot to pass on to other young creators out there.
*Profile art by Michael Walsh.
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