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Thursday, August 13, 2015

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

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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.
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