Production notes and trivia from my experiences on comic books, fiction, and games including
Star Wars: A New DawnStar Wars: Kenobi Star Wars: Knight Errant
Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicStar Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith
Star TrekMass Effect Overdraft Iron Man & more!

Order the Star Trek Prey trilogy here!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Now available: My new Star Wars story in RISE OF THE EMPIRE!

http://bit.ly/SWRise
New Star Wars fiction alert! I've been working hard this year on my Star Trek: Prey trilogy for 2016, but I did some commuting between galaxies to provide a new short story for Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, available Oct. 6 in print and e-book release.

Rise of the Empire is a massive 700-page compendium that collects the two canon novels from 2014, my own Star Wars: A New Dawn and James Luceno's Tarkin — and fills in some blanks with short stories by Melissa Scott, Jason Fry, and myself. It's the perfect place for new readers who want to catch up on all things Imperial!

My story, "Bottleneck," is set between Tarkin and New Dawn (and it appears physically there in the book) — and it depicts a pivotal meeting between the Grand Moff and Count Vidian, the villain from New Dawn. It was great to get to return to the Vidian character — and without giving anything away, it was a lot of fun to depict another new favorite in there as well.

Some quick weekend event notes for October, which should come close to wrapping up my year:

Saturday Oct. 10, 2-4 p.m.
Star Wars Reads Day appearance
Madison Central Library
201 Mifflin, Madison, Wis.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Family Sci-Fi Day
Discovery World Milwaukee
500 N. Harbor, Milwaukee, Wis.

Saturday, Oct. 31, 1-3 p.m.
Halloween Comicfest at Powers Comics
Powers Comics
2180 S. Ridge Rd.
Green Bay, Wis.

See you there!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Homecoming

http://bit.ly/TORMarv1In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. 

The Old Republic Epic Collections are in stock again at
my shop, and you can purchase signed copies directly while supplies last.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #9
"HOMECOMING"
Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Brian Ching
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released October 20, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd. 

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

When people have asked about my favorite characters in this series to write, I have often included Lucien Draay – perhaps a puzzle to those who only knew him from his earlier appearances. Following the release of “Homecoming,” essentially a solo Lucien tale, my preference may make more sense to some. He’s a very fun guy to write.

I had wanted to do a single issue focusing on Zayne’s pursuers in which he didn’t appear, and I wanted to do it right in the first year, putting a finer point on what they were about. A couple of previous comics served as mental models for this.

My favorite Archie Goodwin Star Wars story, Marvel’s Star Wars #29 (“Dark Encounter”), was a battle between the bad guys – and its drama gripped me more than the stories where the villains only appeared as antagonists. Here, we got a little insight into what Vader was thinking. (And when I did my own first Star Wars issue, I was glad it could be a Vader solo story.)

And one of my favorite comics stories of all time, period, is Neil Gaiman’s Hob Gadling story reprinted in Sandman: A Doll’s House. It’s a single issue which revisits the same characters in one time period after another, leaping years at a stretch. It’s an interesting device, and while the structure of “Homecoming” differs in that it’s a present-day drama interlaced with flashbacks moving forward in time, I enjoyed the opportunity to do something in a related vein.

And, indeed, it was of my favorite issues to write in the series to that point. But “Homecoming” nonetheless had its twists and turns behind the scenes.

The first twist related only to my own stupidity. I lost half the script in a foul-up with a new hard drive. Due to a power failure (I believe) both the file and its back-up were corrupted, and nothing I could hit it with – and believe me, I tried everything there was – could rescue it from being a file full of “@” signs. I figured that probably wouldn’t make for a good script. (Good call!)

While the Internet is generally an endless fountain of ideas about how to restore a document, there’s a moment at which – after enough hours of attempting to virus scans, file repairs, and deleted file searches proved fruitless – you’ve spent more time on that than you would just rewriting. So I did, meaning this puppy got more drafts than anything I had done to date for this series. So if the issue shows more reflection, it came by it the hard way! (And yes, immediately afterward I began backing up everything in octuplicate. There’s even a flash drive on the cat’s collar now…)

Another twist came long after my work was done. The plan had been for Dustin Weaver to work on #7-9, which Brian Ching worked ahead on #10 – which this issue was announced as. But when the scheduling situation meant that Brian got done first, we reversed the issues – which was fine, since there was little to change to make that happen. The two issues were essentially happening simultaneously on opposite sides of the galaxy. Ironically, I finished the script for #10 before #9 anyway, so this actually is reflected in the release order. We wound up titling it "Flashpoint Interlude: Homecoming" in the monthly comic book.

The #9-10 switch was a good, low-impact solution; low enough that readers didn't always notice when we corrected the order. The first two Dark Horse reprintings put "Homecoming" after the end of "Flashpoint," restoring the intended order -- whereas Marvel put the pages in order of release when they did the Epic Collection in 2005.

TRIVIA

• This issue marks the turning of the calendar from “approximately 3964 years before the Battle of Yavin” to “approximately 3963”; the Onslaught, taking several days, actually straddles the 3963-and-a-half year mark, so the whole battle is “on the cusp.” We didn’t deal in months in the KOTOR era, which can cause a bit of confusion, since people might have read the cover note and thought a full year has passed. I’m not sure it was a problem for most, though.

• Brian Ching has really crafted a KOTOR-era taste for really long stretch vehicles, from extremely long airspeeders to bikes. Figure it’s the era of Lincoln Continentals and choppers…
• Did you notice they let the woman with no eyes drive? “Sorry, officer. He was in my Force Sight Blind Spot.”
• Comlinks come in all shapes and sizes, as we see in the early pages. My first thought when I saw Lucien’s comlink was the “Flicker” women's razors that have been around for years
• Krynda (rhymes with “Brenda”) ties up this series with the Tales of the Jedi era more tightly than ever before. Vodo, Exar Kun, the Miraluka, and more came from that line of comics.
• Haazen is pronounced “HAH-zen,” and someone in the design stage made the joke that his last name was “Daag.” Someone else read that, believed it for a moment, and wondered if we would get in trouble with the ice cream company. Relax – he’s not Haazen Daag, except in our imaginations!
• I decided after the release not to get into who’s sitting where in the High Council. Yes, as usual, we populated it with faces that fans may find familiar – but, as ever, with a few exceptions, if you didn’t hear the name in dialogue, I did not intend to provide the name in that issue. (I mean, we can hardly call the roll in a situation like that!
• On the other hand, we do name Master Vrook, voiced by Ed Asner in the games. I don’t mind if you hear his voice as you read his words – I certainly did!
• I was very pleased that Brian could work in the late Padawans into the “courtroom” scene, as I’d hoped. Imagine a trial where the accused has to stand there staring at the hologram of the victims!
• Several people noted the novelty of the word “revanchism,” but it was pretty familiar to me in my political science days. Related to the French word for “revenge,” it literally means a policy of trying to regain territory lost in war. It’s a shade different from another word, “irredentism,” which captures that meaning plus the idea of gaining control of areas not lost in war, but which are culturally or historically connected. (It’s based on the Italian word for “unredeemed,” referring to Italian-speaking areas in other countries.) You might say that Nazi Germany’s desire for Danzig was Revanchist, while its desire for, say, the Sudetenland, was irredentist.
• I didn’t put sound effects into the fight scene, but it plays pretty well without them. It’s always hard to tell when even a little “Biff! Pow! Oof!” is enough. I tend to be overly fond of “Gaaaah!”, as if you haven’t noticed by now.
• They always said I couldn’t see the writing on the wall. Look closely at the scene from Haazen's chamber and see if you can. No, it’s not Artoo and Threepio there in the hieroglyphics – they’re busy in Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Well of Souls… but there is some grafitti there. I didn't catch it at the time, but Brian worked in "John J. Miller" and "Jables McBeat," (which I believe was the nickname of someone working on the title), into the wall design!

Next time: A return from our detour, back to the conclusion of "Flashpoint." Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Flashpoint, Part 2

http://bit.ly/TORMarv1In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. 

The Old Republic Epic Collections are in stock again at
my shop, and you can purchase signed copies directly while supplies last.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #8
"FLASHPOINT" PART 2

Art by Dustin Weaver
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Brian Ching
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released September 20, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd. 

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

Issue #8 brought us our first heavy-duty space battles – rendered wonderfully by the detail-minded Dustin Weaver. The care such detail required – plus unrelated scheduling issues -- resulted in a slight delay to the issue's release, but the final result was worth it.

As with #3, #8 follows after a breakneck action issue – and is in some senses a chance to reset the scene and lay out what’s going on in the larger world around Zayne. In this case, we finally get our first real look at the Mandalorians and how they look at things. They’ve been the bogeymen off-camera up until #7; now, in Rohlan and Demagol, we meet two Mandalorian figures with very different outlooks on what's going on. (And their fates would be intertwined forever — but that's getting ahead of things!)

One of the things starting earlier than the Knights of the Old Republic games allowed us to do is delve more into how the Mandalorian War on the Republic actually started. There is, of course, discussion of it in the games as a blitzkrieg taking the Republic off-guard. But it left another element to be explored, which gave us a chance to elaborate further on the war’s start: the political status of Taris.

A quick look at the Star Wars galaxy map suggests why Taris would be pretty early on the Mandalorian list of places to invade – it’s out on the Outer Rim, near Mandalore itself. So what the heck is the Republic doing here? We finally find out from Captain Karath – a guy we’ll see later in the video games. It wasn’t the purest of motives that brought Taris to the Republic’s attention – and, indeed, the decision to protect it proves “a bridge too far.”

This element allowed us to make Zayne’s escape from his masters an event with galactic consequences. It also allowed us to make the Mandalorian blitzkrieg a bigger surprise than it otherwise might have been for gamers familiar with the history. Where the wars against non-Republic worlds had been going for some years, if you listen to commentators in the game, you might expect the surprise invasion for 3963 BBY, a year after the date given for the beginning of comics series. Yet we showed the Republic and Mandalorians already at odds -- and we showed Tarisians and Jedi both feeling they’re at war. And everyone is right!

How? As we’ve seen time and again in history, “war” is a bit of a relative term – and whether or not you think you’re at war often depends on where you live and what’s happening to you. The alliance with Poland caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany in early September of 1939 – but until the middle of the next year, most of the action between them and Germany came in more remote theaters, such as Africa, Norway, and on the Atlantic. After the sudden invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940, the reality of war was brought home – literally. The U.S., of course, isn’t technically at war until December 1941 – even though it’s clearly chosen sides long before that, through Lend-Lease and airmen volunteering to fly for Claire Chennault in China.

So there’s war, and then there’s war – and there’s something like that going on here. People on Taris, near the frontier where #0 established that the Republic and Mandalorians have been quibbling inconsequentially for more than a year, feel they’re at war. Regular folk on Coruscant? Not so much.

What results is a more nuanced picture for those looking to put events into a simple timeline – as with a lot of Earthly wars, there’s more than one starting date. There’s when the Mandalorians started attacking non-Republic worlds; there’s when the Republic intervened in one of those attacks; and, now, when the Mandalorians attacked the Republic in full force.

We would later call this period "The False War" when it came time to do the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide.

TRIVIA

Jarael's shockstaff from #3 makes a reappearance; eagle-eyed readers will note that she didn’t have it with her in #7. It delivers a nasty shock to flesh, and evidently has some quite visible effects on Mandalorian armor.


http://www.amazon.com/Nelsons-Navy-Ships-Organization-1793-1815/dp/1591146119/sr=8-1/qid=1158797943/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-1558302-5801554?ie=UTF8&s=books
• Saul Karath’s colossal battleship, Courageous, comes by its name through a trivial route so obscure I won’t expect anyone to figure it out. The older Karath’s video-game vessel, the Leviathan, hearkens back to the Royal Navy vessel class of the same name. According to Nelson’s Navy, four ships of the 74-gun Leviathan class were based on the design for the Courageaux, a French ship captured in 1761. The Star Wars Leviathan is NOT the same class as the Courageous, so there the resemblance ends.

• Readers with the Star Wars Galaxy Map that Dark Horse released in that era noticed that Vanquo is pretty much directly between Mandalore and Taris. We speak of it being along the Jebble-Vanquo-Tarnith line in #0; those other two places are not on the map, but we can assume they’re nearby.

• The American versions of this issue had a Science Fiction Book Club insert in the centerspread.

The Rohlan action figure, released by Entertainment Earth
• Flashpoint, with its incredibly short days and close proximity to its sun, is clearly a very new arrival in its solar system – at least from the standpoint of astrophysics. It’s in the manner of smaller bodies (including our own Moon) to eventually become tidally locked with the larger ones, such that the rotational and orbital periods synch up. Flashpoint, therefore, is either just-formed or a fresh arrival – making it an unusual and attractive object for academic study. As time goes on, its sidereal days will lengthen to approach its year in length – if its sun doesn’t engulf it first!

• The name of Rohlan (ROH-lan) is partially inspired by the similarly sounding name of another warrior, the paladin of Charlemagne. Demagol (de-muh-GOL) just sounds evil!

Ulic Qel-Droma, of course, is an important figure in the Tales of the Jedi comics.

• A couple of “we’ll-fix-it-in-the-trade” moments in one panel, though only a handful may notice the Mandalorian word “manda” where it should’ve been “mando’ade.” But my favorite typo ever may be Rohlan speaking of “border skirmishes here, police auctions there.” That’s “actions,” of course. Can you imagine a guy in a suit of armor bidding on an impounded Chevy Nova?

Next time: A sudden detour, as "Flashpoint" pauses for an unscheduled trip to Coruscant. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Flashpoint, Part 1

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon.

The Old Republic Epic Collections are in stock again at
my shop, and you can purchase signed copies directly while supplies last.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #7
"FLASHPOINT" PART 1

Art by Dustin Weaver
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Brian Ching
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released July 26, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd. 
 
As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

With "Flashpoint," the Knights of the Old Republic story advanced several weeks to follow the flight of Zayne and crew. We had established that the Republic and the Mandalorians had been bogged down in struggles over planets near Taris -- and how that exactly fits into the game-established history will finally be revealed later in this storyline -- so heading for the frontier might have seemed a logical move for a fugitive. Not so, as it turns out, since what Zayne (and, indeed, the whole Republic) thought was going on wasn't the whole picture.

Dustin Weaver, who had previously drawn KOTOR-era stories for Star Wars Tales, joined the team this issue, not as a fill-in artist but rather as the artist who would be alternating story arcs with Brian Ching, who drew the cover. There was communication between the two of them behind the scenes, just to get everything right.

This is the first issue without the Masters present -- apart from a mention of Lucien -- and it was absolutely my intention to shift gears immediately after "Commencement." The Mandalorian conflict was always sort of in the background of "Commencement" -- now, Zayne's problems on Taris sort of haunt the background here.

We got to do quite a bit with the Mandalorians of this era, of course -- how could we NOT do the giant double-page "Mandlorians Attack" spread? While it wasn't my intention to make broad statements about the Mandalorians (at least, not in this issue), we can notice a few things. We have a number of Mandalorians of different species popping up -- logical, due to the influx of new recruits following many years of battles against worlds outside the Republic.

That also poses certain issues for them, logistically. We generally expect a looser command structure with nomads -- and that is present here -- though the mixing of so many new recruits with veterans makes a certain amount of ad-hocracy desirable just to keep things functional. Note the "commander" term used with Rohlan here, relating to his role with the shock troopers. We'd probably actually figure out that he was the point man, whether we heard the name or not -- but when you're dealing with an invasion force of a certain size, there's a point at which too much operational autonomy becomes self-defeating. I recall the wonderful scene in The Longest Day with the shillelagh-wielding officer on Sword Beach, directing traffic because all the invading units are almost stumbling across each other!

And while we don't hear any phrases in #7 because none of them really say much, the intermingling of so many new troops, not all of which speak Basic, also suggests a logical role for phrases from the Mandalorian language. Apart from any cultural traditions, there could be some operational value in a variegated force having something like the "thieves' cant" from D&D -- if only to make sure that soldier from species X doesn't accidentally shoot the soldier from species Y.

I was pleased to give more time to Elbee, who I had hoped to develop further in "Commencement" (until I decided to commit more pages to the Masters' vision, which seems like the right call). It should be pretty clear from #7 what kind of a mess he actually is. The higher-order processing unit Camper grafted to his basic brain made him smarter than he was, but he's still emotionally a two-year-old -- and haunted by the vague notion that his former master did something to do him in. Of course, a two-year-old with the body of a tractor can throw a pretty big tantrum!

The "give it back when you're done" scene was my favorite to write in the issue. We see here that Jarael continues her transformation from the defensive, angry refugee we saw in #3. It's very much the case that the farther she gets from the Lower City of Taris, the more her outlook changes. (And, naturally, I had to immediately cut that happiness off. We can't have a bunch of happy characters running around!)

There are a lot of small touches you may not immediately notice. Michael Atiyeh and Dustin Weaver went back and added views of miners on the monitors in the control room. Many were covered by lettering, but it adds to the feel of the scene.

In all, this remains one of my favorite issues; it said everything you needed to know about the characters, and got the action rolling.

TRIVIA

• An unsettling bit of synchronicity: While I had actually plotted the sequence with the mining camp months before, when I got around to scripting the sequence, it was right during the Sago mining disaster. It was all I could do not to make the miners here seem more heroic.

• If "Commencement" recalled The Fugitive, "Flashpoint" suggests The Sting -- at least in its opening. Note that the scam to make the miners leave involves everyone -- Zayne, Camper, and Jarael to communicate the story of the bogus attack, and Gryph and Elbee to sell it (by starting the bonfire and battering the building, respectively). A fair day's pay for everyone...

• It is indeed Jarael's second time playing a Jedi -- in two issues, actually, and both times with Zayne's lightsaber. The kid has got to learn to stop loaning it out!

• Now it can be told: part of the inspiration for Elbee's name, beyond "loader-bulk," was that  it recalled to me the great old Herman Melville story of the recalcitrant worker, Bartleby the Scrivener. It's a very remote connection, but you might see something familiar in the character whose response to every request was "I would prefer not to..."

• The industrial mining charges look a bit like the ones Han Solo used on Endor. I guess a bomb is a bomb is a bomb!

• One of the things that impresses me most about Dustin Weaver's work is how he handles the setting and terrain. He includes little details like track-marks from the pallet-droid and the other mining vehicles. I didn't provide him with a map of the pursuit up the mountainside, but I feel like he gave me one in this issue!

• U.S. versions of this issue had a Science Fiction Book Club insert stapled in the centerspread; it's just as well the double-page spread wasn't there!

• Did you notice that, in his haste, Zayne gives the wrong command to Elbee? "Cargo: Human, to the loading ramp" might well have resulted in Elbee grabbing him, since he's the only human in immediate view. Of course, Elbee didn't carry out the instruction anyway, and even then we have to wonder whether Elbee's capable of distinguising between a human and an Arkanian (or, in fact, Camper's version of Arkanian, about which more is coming soon).

• I like the fact that General Motors decided to add a remote starter around the same time we learned that the Last Resort had one. Wonder if Camper can also turn off the car alarm from outside?

Next time: We continue the second story arc, "Flashpoint," with our first look at Demagol. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 6

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon.

The Old Republic Epic Collections are in stock again at
my shop, and you can purchase signed copies directly while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #6
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 6

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released June 28, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd. 

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

This issue wrapped up the "Commencement" storyling -- and I remember wondering at the time how many people recognized that the chapters following the Padawan Massacre (as Wookieepedia had started calling it) mirror the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, as popularized in psychology:

• In #2, Zayne’s conversations with Gryph are full of denial over what has happened to him.

• In #3, Zayne reacts with anger – he’s pretty much a jerk to the whole world this issue.

• #4 is about bargaining – his own, with Vandar.

• #5 takes Zayne into depression, where he’s rapt with hopelessness.

• And finally, beginning with the last page of #5 and leading into #6, Zayne finally arrives at acceptance. A horrible thing has happened to his life, and there’s no way back to what existed before. But he’s in a different place psychologically now, and while his choice of how to cope may not necessarily be the wisest one, it is a step in a new direction.

There aren’t subchapter titles in the series, but if there were, you might not do better than the five stages (plus “Death” or "Loss" for #1).

The door closed here on the possibility that Zayne committed the murders himself – a scenario that was only really raised in #4, when Zayne was at his lowest point. I always intended to hold that out there earlier as one of the possibilities, but it really only fit with the conversation with Vandar. I’m not sure Zayne was actually miserable enough yet in the earlier issues to take such a thing seriously.

Importantly, we finally got into the room at the time of the crime. Initially, I had considered only dealing with this in dialogue – but there’s plenty of exposition already (and we already needed Valius Ying’s comic relief to help us go along). Instead, I had realized that, by this point, readers really deserved to see what happened and how it happened, just as much as Zayne did.

It also allowed me to explore this wonderful irony – that Zayne’s incompetence had doubly saved his life. It’s not just that if he hadn’t been late chasing Gryph, he would have been present for the murders; it’s that the topic of his incompetence caused the Masters to act moments sooner than they intended to.

A lot of attention went into finding the exact tone for scenes – not simply in what happens, but with regard to individual words. Q’Anilia’s reference to Zayne as “boy” introduced a sharpness to her that we haven’t seen – but which is appropriate for what she’s involved in and what she’s just been through. Lucien’s calm and serious tone throughout, rather, is right in line with what we’ve always known about him – up until when he gets his big surprise from above.

More attention still was paid to crafting Zayne’s final speech, which introduces a third cinematic vibe to the series. From the beginning, we’re thinking this is Star Wars Meets The Fugitive. Then, once we realize what the Masters suspect Zayne of, we begin to think of Minority Report. And now, with Zayne’s warning, there’s a little echo of the pivotal speech from Ransom, first given by Glenn Ford and later by Mel Gibson. (“You’ll never see one dollar of this money, because no ransom will ever be paid for my son … Instead, I’m offering this money as a reward on your head. Dead or alive, it doesn't matter.”)

It’s a new tone from Zayne, and I fully expected it to prompt a lot of discussion on what it meant. Righteous indignation? Bluff? A tilt toward the Dark Side? Was there a vision, or wasn’t there? Those fan discussions did take place — and they would continue until I provided the answer three years later in "Vindication."

All told, this issue was a most satisfying way to conclude what remains one of my favorite arcs. Thanks again to Jeremy, Dave, Brian, Michael, Michael, Travel, Travis, Randy and everyone else who helped make it happen!

TRIVIA

• The opening page flashes past a number of important settings, though we didn't elaborate on them at the time. We didn’t even want to put locator captions on them (though the top panel is clearly Dantooine).

• In the Mandalorian panel on page one, we get our first look at Rohlan Dyre — and in the panel beneath, that's Haazen, sitting in the Draay compound on Coruscant. We'd meet them both over the next few issues.

• Got to love the fish-bowl guy at the far left of the opening spread!

• There are two scenes from this issue that were visually echoed in several later sequences in the series: the perp walk at the beginning, and Jarael's crash landing.

• Keep a count on the number of lightsabers in the stands throughout the present-day scene and the flashback. It’s always correct – kudos to Brian Ching for his attention to detail!

• Eagle-eyed readers may spot that Shel Jelavan is wearing the same clothes she had on three days ago in #1, when she learned of her brother’s death. There are some minor coloring differences, but it’s the same outfit. Distraught, she has been…

Lucien’s look on panel two of page four is one of my favorite shots of him. I remember thinking we'd cast Rutger Hauer in the movie…

Poor Valius Ying. He became the answer to a trivia question: He’s the first character to die “on-screen” in the KOTOR comics series – and that includes the Padawans, if you think about it. I don't count the Rakghouls in #3; they're a pretty resilient bunch...

• For Valius’ design, I suggested to Travel Foreman and Brian Ching that we come up with an alien Tony Soprano – a gangleader who’s somewhat full of himself and only later realizes he’s in over his head.

• Jedi Masters apparently actually do wear their lightsabers during the knighting of Padawans in some ceremonies, which fits very nicely with the events of this issue.

Shad Jelavan’s last name, previously established in the Taris Holofeed in #0, was misspelled in the comic book. It was corrected for the trade.

My schematics for the Jedi Tower (such as they are)
• At right you can get a look at some of the schematics I sent Brian Ching in the very beginning for the Jedi Tower – because everything, from the death scene in #1 to the escape scene in #2 to the second escape scene in #6, had to be situated with the action in mind. Once again, it’s a great thing that he’s the artist, and not me!

The rest of the Padawans talk, finally – and I’m glad I got to name them in the Holofeed, because it really didn’t work to slow down and identify them here.

• It’s not explicitly said, but Oojoh, the kid with the snaky hair is clearly the Padawan of Feln, the guy with the snaky dreadlocks. Easier to remember, that way…

Exar Kun gave us another solid connection to the Tales of the Jedi comic books. The series was be working backwards, as well as forwards.

• I wonder how many people noticed that we planted the red spacesuit in the hold of the Last Resort in #4. Gryph buried under suits seemed like a throwaway gag then – but instead, established that they happened to have the exact suit necessary. Zayne refers to it in #5, even.

• I was a big fan of using the sound effect DDDDOOOOMMMM!!!! in the right places. That’s a holdover from seeing letterer John Workman use it in the Thor days.

• In the original version of the panel where Lucien begins to look up toward the skylight, we had Jarael plummeting downward on her suit-thrusters, just out of Lucien’s view. We decided it was better to preserve the mechanics of what was actually happening until after the masters got their big surprise – and adjusted the scene to just show glints of light from the skylight above.

• The booster jets on the red suit weren’t additions, but rather part of the same model that the Padawans had for their landing on the Rogue Moon. They’re not much help on a planet like Taris, except to put out some nice smoke and get you one good jump to the roof…

Brian’s picture of Jarael on the bottom of page 17 is one of my favorite drawings of her in the series.

• It was important to me to have Elbee standing behind Zayne, looking at Lucien, at the very end. Elbee didn’t get much to do in this issue, but that would change later on.

• This issue would later be reprinted as part of the Entertainment Earth exclusive Comic Pack action figure set with both Rohlan and Jarael in it; good thing Rohlan appears in one panel this issue. If you find a copy of the comic book with no cover price, that's what you're looking at.


Next time: We begin the second story arc, "Flashpoint." Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Red alert! STAR TREK: PREY trilogy due out from JJM in fall 2016!

Hailing frequencies open! I've been hard at work in the secret lab -- and now, I'm pleased to share what was just announced at Shore Leave convention in Maryland: I'm writing a trilogy for Pocket Books for 2016: STAR TREK: PREY, a star-spanning Next Generation epic of the Federation and the Klingon Empire!

The three books are tentatively slated to ship in consecutive months starting in October 2016. More details, including the individual titles, to come in the months to follow. But I can say now that the Prey story has all that I love about Trek in it, and that I'm thrilled to have it on the slate at the close of Trek's 50th anniversary year and next to the start of The Next Generation's 30th anniversary year!

In the meantime, you can check out my current Trek novel, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown, now available. Engage!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 5

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #5
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 5

Art by Travel Foreman
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released May 31, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

This issue has always looked different from the rest of "Commencement," and for good reason -- as it featured the work of fill-in artist Travel Foreman, helping us to keep the series on schedule.

The scheduling problem that cropped up was my doing, essentially – in that I came up with the suggestion to do the promotional comic Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion #0 after we were already midstream into the production of the monthly series. Brian Ching very quickly shifted gears from the middle of “Commencement” to work on “Crossroads,” but the time involved necessitated bringing a guest artist in for #5.

Fill-in art is a fact of life in comics, going back to the beginning. As of the release of this issue, I hadn’t yet done a six-issue stretch with an artist that didn’t need at least a fill-in inker (as in the case of Jorge Lucas in Iron Man #76) to help out for one reason or another. Travel stepped in and made the save – and in the end, the issue came out right on time.

The vision sequence is the heart of the issue, of course, and would be referred to several times over the course of the "fugitive" arc of the series. Following my suggestion, Travel headed into a serious Steve Ditko direction with it. (The spiral staircase looks like something out of an old Doctor Strange story!) It’s quite different from the usual sort of vision or dream sequence – in part, because what we’re seeing is a vision experienced in gestalt, by more than one mind at once. Note especially the white-on-black imagery from the Force-sighted Q’Anilia, concluding with the color from the “Red Menace.”

I toyed with depicting exactly what Elbee would see – and what Gryph referred to seeing in the hologram: namely, the Masters running around swinging at the air, responding to what they were seeing in their vision. But we had already done a POV trick going from the hologram to the flashback – and I figured going in one more level would give readers a chance to see something of what the Masters were concerned about.

Seeing the final scene of this issue in print reminded me of a comics scene I hadn’t looked a quarter of a century. Way back in X-Men #114, Storm accuses Cyclops of not having really loved Jean Grey because of his inability to mourn for her; she turns her back on him and walks away, leaving him speechless. The dialogue and contexts here are completely different – and of course, this scene ends differently – but I have to say I learned a lot about comics drama from reading Chris Claremont, so if there’s a little subconscious inspiration there, so be it. I’m pleased to have that nod to him in my work.

TRIVIA

• There’s no one on board the Taris police carrierwhen it’s shot down; as the lieutenant says, it’s in hover mode, waiting for them. (As Zayne says, “I didn’t kill anyone before, and I’m not going to now.”) I figured with the gravities involved, it was probably unneccessary for the ship to make landfall on the Rogue Moon.

• That’s a magnetic suction tube – as seen in Episodes IV and VI -- that the Last Resort uses to grab the Elbee parts from the surface – and to quickly re-embark Zayne and Jarael. I figured if there was ever any piece of equipment a junk-hauler would have, it’s that!

• Camper doesn’t do much mad-mumbling, as I call it, this issue – he’s pretty focused on the task at hand. For him, that is!

• Raana Tey has to have an extra-large helmet for those horns of hers, doesn’t she?

• Camper’s explanation of Elbee’s mental functioning suggests his original programmers knew a little bit of Asimov’s Laws of robotics. Are the laws in the same order in the Star Wars universe? Inquiring droids would like to know...

• People had been waiting to see a little trademark Snivvian moodiness from Gryph; this was their chance.

• While this issue went on sale in the United States in June, it was actually considered a May-shipping issue. Memorial Day shifted new comic-book day one day later in the States in 2006.

Next week:
We're on to the story behind the final chapter of "Commencement." Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

August signings in Virginia, Maryland, and Wisconsin

A quick update to note that I have some appearances in store in the month of August:

• First, I'll be doing my first Virginia signing on August 4 at 7:30 at the Rocky Run Middle School, 4400 Stringfellow Rd., Chantilly, Va., on behalf of the Fairfax County library system. Preregistration for the event is currently closed as we've maxed out the occupancy; I mention the location because it is a new, larger venue than the one we started with.

• Next, I'll be attending Shore Leave in Hunt Valley, Md., August 7-9,  where I am slated to do a number of signings and panels. I'll post my schedule online when I have it.

Update: And now I have it!

FRIDAY
10 p.m. to Midnight -- Meet The Pros (Hunt Valley Ballroom)

SATURDAY
11 a.m. Writing Tips (Derby Room)
1 p.m. Star Wars and Star Trek (Salon A)
2 p.m. Star Trek Fiction (Chase Room)

SUNDAY
10 a.m. Canon or Not (Salon B)
11 a.m. Writing in a Shared Universe (Hunt Room): This is the seminar I did at Star Wars Celebration ion Anaheim. Here's your chance to see it if you missed it!
12 noon: Comic Books (Salon B)

• Finally, on August 22 I'll be in Bayfield, Wisconsin appearing at the library's Comic/Sci-Fi con. My first time to the shores of Lake Superior and I believe it is the first event of its kind up there, so I am definitely looking forward to the chance to see everyone.

Finally, note that for the next couple of weeks, Overdraft: The Orion Offensive is just $1.99 on Kindle. Click the link to get it!

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 4

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #4
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 4

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released April 26, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

The fourth issue took Zayne and company to the Rogue Moon, and I was very pleased with how this issue turned out, to say the least. Brian Ching and Michael Atiyeh really captured what I had imagined for this entire sequence. The only real surprise for me this issue was the book club insert, which appeared in domestic copies -- but then, I had that happen before in Iron Man #77, which is another of my favorite issues, so it's generally a good sign.

The heart of this issue -- and as some might view it, the whole story arc -- is Zayne's conversation with Master Vandar, a character he feels should be on his side. I loved using this opportunity to smack Zayne with yet another possibility -- that he had committed the crime without knowing it -- and to suggest to the character that, whatever the truth, this wasn't going to be solved quite so simply after all.

I also very much enjoyed introducing the Rogue Moon, a truly spectacular setting in a milieu known for spectacular settings. As with a couple of other complicated settings, I provided Brian my own visual reference, pieced together rough of what the place should look like, built from fragments of an image of a planetary surface. Fortunately, Brian's version looks a lot better than my guide:


That's real "behind the scenes" stuff, folks. This is how the sausage is made...

Beyond those two major elements, I felt it was important to take a few pages and establish the "working relationship" within the crew of the Last Resort. Much like in Episodes IV and V, this group of passengers is more or less stuck with each other -- and I really wanted to take the time to show them bouncing off the walls, as it were. The "shoving you out of the airlock" scene, with Jarael growling, Gryph preening, and Zayne wishing it would all go away, is one of my favorites.

TRIVIA

The appearance of Taris from orbit incited some comment from one reader, who didn't feel it looked like the video game version. I think, rather than industrial lava flows like we see on Coruscant, we're looking at city-canyon lights (or perhaps the flames from the riots).

• I was actually expecting to hear about the debris field we clearly invented for the Taris system. I had an explanation all ready to go about how one wouldn't expect to see an debris field closer to a sun, like this one, from Taris -- look how big Venus looks from Earth, and then think about how often you see Mercury! But it never came up.

 • In general, asteroid fields in Star Wars tend to be improbably dense with debris, at least compared with our Solar System's model. Between the gravitational influences of Rogue Moon, Taris, and other bodies in the system, rocks ought to be cleared out of the ring pretty quickly. One might speculate this debris system is fairly recent, as astronomical time is concerned.

• Note that Zayne's lightsaber turns itself off on page 3 as soon as he releases it. I actually had thought to have it bonking around dangerously as they stumbled around -- but it turns out that, even in this era, lightsabers had kill switches.

• The comm system panel from page 6 is duplicated on page 7. Jarael should've known better than to leave Zayne alone with it!

• The notion of leaving the asteroid field to make a clear transmission hearkens back to Episode V, obviously. I'm not entirely clear on why that should matter to a subspace communication, but we followed that lead. I loved the "interference lines" Brian and Michael built into the hologram.

• I don't know how often it rains on Dantooine, but that really captured the mood. There are enough gardens about, you'd assume it happens sometimes.

• The Zhar who informs Vandar is, of course, Zhar Lestin from the video games. I kept getting their names mixed up in the very beginning working on the series; something about the sounds of Zhar and Vandar Tokare, I guess. Zhar would appear in the final issue of the War miniseries, years later.

• Obviously, the dream sequence in #3 fits in with the Padawans' release onto the Rogue Moon. This is literally like jumping out of a starship without a parachute, since the Moon's relatively weak gravity and lack of atmosphere make such a freefall survivable using simply booster rockets. The landing of the Lunar Module on the moon was somewhat the same; you just need the retro rockets to cut the acceleration enough as you're descending.

• Among the visual suggestions I sent Brian Ching for the Rogue Moon was a look at recent imagery from the Saturn system, courtesy of the Cassini space probe, particularly rocky moons like Hyperion. Our tax dollars at work for better comic books...

• Some have noticed the lack of fire and brimstone associated with the rocks plunging down onto the Rogue Moon. That's the lack of atmosphere at work. There are certainly concussions with explosive force, and they do generate heat and dust -- they just don't look like Earthly meteor strikes, with flaming contrails.

T1-LB's name is in part, a nod to the T3 series, as much differently seen in the first video game. We have actually seen T1-LB units before, in #2, on the cargo deck in the Jedi Tower. I discuss the other half of the inspiration in a later post..

• The fifth-class droid classification is from one of the sourcebooks. It makes sense that there would be a hierarchy for droids with various capabilities, and there was.

Next week:
Read the story behind the art change in the fifth chapter. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 3

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #3
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 3

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released March 29, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

Back from the detour into "Crossroads," the third issue of this storyline found us moving from Zayne's flight for survival to his fight for answers -- and brought in two new characters in the form of Jarael and Camper.

I think many comics creators find that third issues of six present some unique storytelling challenges. They are often spent in transit, getting all the pieces in place for the revelations to come in the second half -- and given their position in the events of the story, they aren't as amenable to true cliffhangers. (Having seen a lot of "false cliffhangers" in third issues, I try to either end on something real or on a joke -- here, we did both.)

In collected format, the role of third chapters changes completely, fitting in much more organically. That poses, in fact, a temptation comics creators actively have to resist -- it'd be easy to tell a 132-page story and just chop it up into comics-sized chunks without mind to where things are breaking in the serial. As a comics guy, I do work to make the story play "both ways" -- Episode V was a completed thought despite leaving almost every big issue "To Be Continued" -- but it's not always desireable to give every chapter exactly equal amounts of action, revelations, etc.

Here, chapter three very much is about getting the pieces in place for the revelations to come -- although we made sure to pause along the way for some comedy and action. Brian's Jarael is a pretty fearsome opponent!

Jarael, again, had been designed earlier by Brian Ching, and I had noted at the time that she had looked  different from other Arkanians; she had pupils, for example, as well as five fingers and elfin ears — and she also had tattoos which I had no explanation for. Further, the initial color key gave her alabaster skin, different from other Arkanians. Rather than ask for changes, I decided to figure out ways to make those differences part of the story. In fact, part of three different storylines would explain Jarael's different appearance. It's just like they say about bakers -- when making cookies, you can eat your mistakes.

Some readers noted Zayne's mood shift this issue -- from his earlier denial and despair to anger and resentment. That seemed perfectly natural to me -- especially when you've gone through what he has in the last day or so! Others immediately began talking of a Zayne/Jarael romance here -- although at this stage, the characters seemed unwilling to breathe the same air!

It was during production of this issue that we paused to do the Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion Special, lengthening the production time, somewhat. But it still came out right on schedule, thanks to everyone involved!

I did a release-day signing of this issue at Comics and Collectibles in Memphis. It was my first shop signing associated with the series.

TRIVIA

• I was informed later that bacta, to which Gryph refers in this chapter, may not have existed in this time period -- at least under that name. Clearly, neither Gryph nor I read the book where that was established. There are a number of remedies (no pun intended) for that, including assuming that it was the coincidental name of something Mama Hierogryph used to make. Or maybe be got it from "Bacta: The Future." (Sorry, pun intended that time...)

Brian's Jarael design was so cool I worked the differences into the story
• The Rakghouls of the Undercity come directly from the first video game, of course. They would later become central to the events of "Vector," two years later.

Arkanians were one of the first ones added to the milieu by Dark Horse years earlier. The species name wasn't mentioned in this issue, but it was actually revealed back in Dark Horse's initial slide-show about the series. As a result, some readers at the time did ask about the fact that Jarael has pupils,which previously depicted Arkanians didn't.

As noted above, I came up with different explanations within the story later on -- but personally, I never tended to take the no-pupil thing quite literally whenever I saw it, but rather as an artifact of an art style that was used whenever an artist wanted to convey that a character was mysterious or powerful. I never quite fully accepted that Storm, Starfire, or Dark Phoenix literally had no pupils, just that it was a cool effect! Walt Kelly once called it the "blunked-out eye look." (Coincidentally, I dug up a 1979 cartoon for my column in 2006's Comics Buyer's Guide #1616 -- where someone did a send-up crossing over no-iris Little Orphan Annie with no-iris Phoenix. "Flamin' Annie," they called her...)

• With the mentions of Feln and Xamar, our five Masters finally had their names. I spaced them out so as not to hit everyone with a dozen names in the first issue. Feln's name was exactly two letters off from the first initials of my sister's four kids; Xamar just sounded cool.

Lhosan Industries is the company represented by the alien, Jervo, seen in #1. He would turn up later on in the second year of the series.

• Sharp readers may have noticed that Zovius Mendu was mentioned in the text page of #0!

• There's no way that the stars above Taris would be visible in the scene on the final page -- the planet's dayside is too bright -- but as most movie producers have found, it just looks odd without them!

Next week:
We head for the Rogue Moon. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Crossroads

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion #0
"CROSSROADS"

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Brian Ching
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released March 1, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

Issue #0 of Knights of the Old Republic came out after #2, but in my own mind — and in all the reprints — it is the first chapter of the Zayne Carrick story.

As I got further into the first Knights of the Old Republic storyline and began to firm up more of my later plans for the series, I realized I had material for a prologue story to help new fans get their bearings in this timeframe. Focusing as it does on Zayne’s personal situation, the first issue touches on such things as the Mandalorian Wars only tangentially and the previous Sith War not at all. Even presented out of order, a prologue, I figured, could fill in a few blanks without interrupting the forward motion of Zayne’s story for flashbacks.

In 2005 I had suggested to Dark Horse the possibility of doing such a prologue as some kind of promotional comic book. My initial thought had been the Free Comic Book Day issue for 2006, but with the day coming so far into the year — the first week of May — Editor Jeremy Barlow rightly suggested doing a 25-cent special much earlier. While it wouldn’t be a preview for Knights of the Old Republic, the other half could preview Rebellion, another upcoming title — and the KOTOR side would be a welcome addition for fans excited by the just-launched series.

The first pencilled page from Brian Ching.
So we set to work, pausing between regular issues to get the special written and drawn. It was very much worth it, I think – thematically and visually, it is of a piece with the rest of the series. Dark Horse would later do #0 issues for Legacy and for Knight Errant.

It was actually a little later in the process that I suggested the addition of a Taris Holofeed, borrowing an idea and format from Star Wars Insider magazine. Having written a lot of news copy in my day, it was an easy style to get into – and I very much appreciated the chance to get in some more subtext and jokes. (“…and Zayne Carrick, a human.” That’s so sad!)

I remember being startled at how every name mentioned in the Holofeed had Wookieepedia pages created for them within a week. That really brought home to me that everything mentioned anywhere in the comics was going to be important to someone. It also motivated me to avoid using Tuckerisms as much as possible later in my work: every one-off namedrop was going to be indexed again and again!

The news feed was not reprinted in any of the Dark Horse editions, but it was reprinted in the first Marvel rerelease in 2015.

It may seem ironic that this short story and its news page provided more hooks for the continuity fans than did the first two issues that had already appeared, combined. Again, that was completely intentional on my part: I had said before that readers did not have to have played the video games or read the previous comics in this era to enjoy the series. This special provided those who have with a few more referents — even if there are still secrets I had yet to reveal to completely put everything in context.

TRIVIA

• The actual title of this issue, from the indicia, is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion #0.


The cover of this issue – the KOTOR side of it, anyway – is a recolored version of the sample image Brian Ching created for the 2005 Dark Horse presentation at Comic-Con International: San Diego. The colors are a little brighter in this print version. It would later become the cover for the first Marvel Legends Epic Collection in 2015.

• The “Cap’n Karath” mentioned is, right away, a reference that will be familiar to players of the first video game. We would see a lot of Saul Karath in the series that followed.

• The time signature – if that is what it is – on the Taris Holofeed stirred some discussion, but I can’t take credit for it so it’s not a discussion I can contribute much to. It should be fairly evident that any dating system that counts downward would be exclusively for the benefit of helping people in later years organize the past. I don’t think Alexander the Great was walking around wondering why the years kept counting down. (Or maybe he was, which is why he was in such a rush to conquer the world…)

• Dark Horse kindly provided a thousand copies of this issue for a 2006 convention which, thorugh some miscommunication, only wound up using a fraction of that number; over the next seven or eight years, I used the remainder whenever I needed a freebie comic for a kid at a signing. It took that long to go through them all!

• Yes, Marn Hierogryph is the Baron Hieromarn of the fleek eel story – obviously. Who else would want hard currency delivered to a hotel night desk clerk?

Next week:
We go back to "Commencement" for Part Three. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 2

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #2
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 2

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released February 22, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

The second issue of a series always tends to be easier for me to write than the first issue. The scene has been set, the characters have been introduced – now the action can begin. At the time, however, I don’t think I had done a second issue with quite so much action right out of the gate. The first 16 pages of this issue are all essentially part of the same sequence, starting in the Jedi Tower and winding up in that grungy alleyway.

One of my decisions in the beginning, to avoid using an omniscient narrator except for announcements as to location and time, becomes more noticeable in an issue like this, where there are several action scenes without an opportunity for dialogue. In the old days, it would have been a simple matter to throw in a thought balloon from Zayne explaining exactly what he’s doing at any moment; today, things need to be a lot more self-evident. (I wrote more about the disappearance of the thought balloon and of many narrator captions in my column in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1596.) That said, I think Brian Ching really carried off what was a pretty complicated action scene very well!

Brian Ching's pencils of the page 2 scene.
Brian’s depictions in fact really helped sell a lot of my favorite scenes. We really do get a better sense of Gryph’s priorities and assumptions about himself. And, wow, isn’t he Mr. Empathy when Zayne’s friends appear on the news?

I would begin using an omniscient narrator for setting descriptions after "Vindication," to underscore the galactic travelogue aspect of that phase of Zayne's career.

TRIVIA

• The inside cover of the issue accidentally referred to Brian Ching as the cover artist instead of Travis Charest. Incidentally, this would be the correct line-up for the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic/Rebellion Special, which shipped a week later.

• This issue gives a prominent on-camera role to Master Vandar Tokare, a character from the first video game. Despite his Yoda-like looks, his manner of speech differs, just as it is depicted in the game. Vandar would appear several more times in the years to come.

The lecturer is talking to his students about “air traffic control” on Taris, which must be a serious problem with all these flying vessels in the “streets.” Thus the irony of Zayne crashing through, out of control…

• The dialogue balloons in the “garbage can” scene are actually reversed with regard to where Zayne’s and Gryph’s knuckles are. It takes an eagle-eyed reader to notice how hairy a guy’s fingers are!

A Kedorzhan, from Incognito
• The Kedorzhans make their first appearance anywhere in this story. I would return to the species later in my 2013 short story for Star Wars Insider, "Incognito" — a tie-in with the Star Wars: Kenobi novel. It involved Obi-Wan encountering the Kedorzhan senator in the aftermath of Episode III.

• A Bith, as Gryph mistakenly refers to the Sith, is of course a member of that race that also includes the Cantina Scene’s band from Star Wars: Episode IV.

Next week:
We actually go back in time, to #0, which was published after #2. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement, Part 1

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the July 1 rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon. You can also purchase signed copies directly from my shop while supplies last.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #1
"COMMENCEMENT" PART 1

Art by Brian Ching
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Travis Charest
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released January 25, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

Long before I came into the picture, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic began as a video game series – and before that, a sub-genre of Star Wars comics from Dark Horse under the Tales of the Jedi label. My involvement began in early 2005, when editor Randy Stradley and I began discussing some of the features we liked seeing in Star Wars comics: camaraderie, humanity (even among aliens), and drama, among other things. That conversation led to my putting together some thoughts for a series to be launched during Dark Horse’s 20th anniversary in 2006 – and, indeed, KOTOR became the first big event of that anniversary celebration.

As my plans for the series grew in detail, I changed little from my initial pitch for Randy and my eventual editors, Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall (except for a bit about Gryph, below). After approval, I turned in the first script and Brian Ching, who had recently drawn Star Wars: Obsession, went to work.

Brian and colorist Michael Atiyeh developed detailed visuals for the series characters – including a lot of important characters that we see in the first issue but that don’t have speaking parts there. By Comic-Con International: San Diego in August 2005, when Dark Horse announced the series, much of the first issue was done – and I had already scripted well beyond that.

The lead time allowed me to concentrate much more on story flow and pacing than I’ve had the opportunity to do in the past. For the most part, Knights of the Old Republic is told as economically as I can manage, with very little “flab” – most every detail included either means something or is deliberately in there because it doesn’t. I was also able to work out much broader plans for how this series fits into the overarching continuity, which readers will be able to better see as we go forward.

After what felt like a long wait, the first issue released exactly on schedule: Jan. 25, 2006, 363 days after Randy and I had that initial conversation. Amazingly, we managed to keep the particulars of this issue’s surprise ending secret almost up until the release. Initial sales were brisk with wonderful reactions from fans to the mysteries the issue posed.

In 2007, the issue was reprinted in Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 1 from Dark Horse; in 2013, it became part of the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Omnibus. The cover from this issue would become the cover for both of those. On July 1, 2015, Zayne Carrick made his first appearance at Marvel as the publisher released the issue as part of its Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1.


TRIVIA
• In my first draft, Gryph was a member of the Ortolan species, the same as blue-elephant Max Rebo from Return of the Jedi. Clever crooks are supposed to be fairly rare for that race, giving Gryph an opportunity to play against type.

But Brian Ching quickly realized it would be hard for Gryph to convey the many expressions my story required without a visible mouth, so I went back to the casting room. I’d always liked the Snaggletooth action figure from the first movie, so it took me less than an hour to suggest that Gryph be a Snivvian. It turned out to be great move for all involved, and a good example of how collaboration in comics works.


• Attentive readers may have noticed that the Jedi Tower, as it appears later in the story, appears in the very first panel. Detail-oriented, that Brian...
The very first Gryph drawing, by Brian Ching. Not an Ortolan!
• If you read closely, you can see how out of step the honest citizens of Taris are. The businessman refers to the Highport area remaining safe, when in fact we’ve just seen what Gryph is doing there!

• Reading between the lines, we also see how Gryph never misses an opportunity. The same warehouse full of busted ale drums and broken droids he tries to sell later as intact droids with drums of machine lubricant…

I considered the double-page scene that preceded it — the one with the Padawans' deaths — so hot for the fan press that I deleted Brian’s preliminary drawing from my hard drive, in case I accidentally e-mailed that image by mistake!

• We worked hard to get Zayne’s and Lucien’s expressions just right for the final page. I think Brian managed to hit just the right notes – because there are several there.

• I managed to get the start date of the Mandalorian Wars wrong by a year, a consequence of my misreading something in one of the game files. We wound up working that into the story, and it became the "False War" period when we described it in the 2008 Campaign Guide.

• There is no scene in the comic book like what we see on the cover of this issue, but it was drawn a good bit before the rest of the comic book was. It was a fine piece of artwork, in any event — and it makes Zayne seem a lot more competent than he actually was!

Next week: Read about issue #2's opening action scene—and my choice to avoid omniscient narrators. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.
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