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!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Final Knights of the Old Republic production notes online

It took longer than usual, but I wanted to give the weekly comics buyers a chance to snag the issue before posting my thoughts on Knights of the Old Republic #50, the final issue. There's a glimpse at my storyboard for the issue — high-tech, it ain't — and heaping helping of trivia for this issue, including the partial inspiration for Zayne's name. Read the issue first, of course!

I don't have notes for Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #3 online yet, but here's something you can read right away: Star Wars: Crosscurrent author Paul Kemp and I discuss our work in this corner of the galaxy.

Remember, if you haven't downloaded the story yet, you can find the simple PDF at the official site — and you can get the Kindle download from Amazon here. You can get the Sony ereader file here — and the Barnes & Noble version here. If you enjoy it, be sure to leave your review at the download sites for others!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Knight Errant interviews online

Some of the early interviews for Star Wars: Knight Errant are starting to come online. Fairly brief at this stage, and that will be the case for a while. But you can see the first at NJOE. More to come, updates coming soon...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knights of the Old Republic finale on sale!

Fifty issues*, 1,108 pages — all comes down to today!
On sale today!

*Oh, OK. There's a #0 issue and a Handbook... but anyway. Notes coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy — and share your thoughts here!

Click to post a comment!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

KOTOR Countdown #1: The final hours!

Concluding a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50.

This is it! Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #50 goes on sale in stores in just a few hours.

Thanks to all the readers who've followed along my "KOTOR Countdown" here on the site these last few days. It's a good way to wrap things up, and get online some of the commentaries about the series that I'd been planning to do over the years, if only time had been available. It was also fun to get to flip back through some of the issues looking for answers to your questions; there were scenes I'd forgotten about, and so much great art from the team.

We were trying to do a lot of different things, and so there are several types of moments that will stay with me. Dramatically, Brian Ching's depiction of Zayne and Jarael's discussion in the rain in "Destroyer" and Dustin Weaver's presentation of Carth's speech after Serroco in "Days of Fear" are among the favorites. On the humor side, Harvey Tolibao's depiction of a Moomo Brother trying to actually think always levels me. Plus many of the Gryph moments, from Brian's "death-of-a-houseplant" sequence to Scott Hepburn's frenetic "that's-because-it's-a-WALL-Gryph!" shots. We've been gifted with great art all along; half the fun has been getting the issues to see how everyone's improved on my ideas.

I'd like to say a few words as well about colorist Michael Atiyeh and letterer Michael Heisler, as well. The Michaels have worked on almost every issue of the series, and you can tell -- there's a consistency that's there in every story. You can see the role of color in issues like #49, where we've got a space action sequence in three different ships at once; the color really contributes to the sequence. And I love that Michael Heisler was able to harvest some of the sound effects we used in earlier issues when we wanted to give a scene a familiar feel -- as well as negotiate some of our wordier passages. (Best news for M.H.: Loquacious Lord Adasca is still dead!)

And thanks again to our wonderful editors at Dark Horse over the years — Dave Marshall, Freddye Lins, Randy Stradley, and Jeremy Barlow — and, certainly, everyone at Lucasfilm for their guidance and support. As creative experiences go, this has been spectacular.

So be sure to hit the comics shop on Wednesday— and head back here to share your thoughts. My hope is that as we move toward the Star Wars: Knight Errant comics and novel, I'll get a chance to hit the blog more often than I have in recent years. (Certainly not as much as this week, but anything's an improvement!)

See you tomorrow!

View all the countdown posts!

KOTOR Countdown #2: Just-Asked-Questions, The Finale!

Nearing the end of a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50, I hit the last round of reader questions about the entire series. I appreciate all the questions everyone sent — and while I wasn't able to get to everything (including some questions that will be answered in #50), I do read everything. I do blog posts on every release, so going forward, feel free to drop in again.

Tyber asks: Is the ship from which the Taris Padawans launch into Rogue Moon's asteroid field aboard a Baronial-class yacht? Its image on the two page image and before the interior of the passenger hold resemble what is stated in the Campaign Guide (without image), so can you put these sources finally together?

No, the Baronial-class yacht is Lucien's vehicle from the last page of #21. We see the four other seats inside. The shuttle in #3 is clearly a larger vehicle, and I don't know that we ever determined what it was.

The Revanchist asks: If Revan didn't know anything about the Padawan Massacre, why would he tell Lucien: "You see that I was right now, don't you? The truth is written in blood!"

Wrong blood. Remember Revan and Lucien's last conversation on Taris was about the Mandalorians, and Revan trying to convince Lucien that the Mandalorians were the true threat in the galaxy. Lucien rejected his arguments — and the Mandalorians invaded in force. That's the truth written in blood.

Lucien's "not sure which truth you mean" indicated he still didn't think the Mandalorians were anything but a sideshow to the real Sith threat hiding out there somewhere, possibly Zayne — a view he espoused to the Council immediately afterward. Lucien and Revan represent two competing camps, both trying to drag the Council in different directions; that's what "Homecoming" largely depicts.

Anonymous asks: Q'anilia and Lucien seemed to be very close to each other. Were they in a relationship?

We showed a relationship, and we hear Haazen laughing about it in #32. Now, it's not a particularly healthy relationship, but it is a relationship.

DangerousDraays asks: Does the balding, dark-skinned human male appearing with the other Covenant Jedi in the epilogue story pages of "Vindication" belong to a certain long-lived lineage from Tatooine who also lost family in the Sith War?

Not that I know of. Brian populated that scene.

Daniel asks: Are you planning any ways to tie Knight Errant in with Knights of the Old Republic? Might we see a descendent of Zayne or Jarael? A charismatic Snivvian with the surname Hierogryph?

Tying disparate parts of the continuity together isn't what the series is all about — and it's impossibly remote from KOTOR, anyway. You are closer in time to Alexander the Great than anyone in Knight Errant is to anyone in KOTOR!

Conrad asks: Were there any events that made you go "What was I thinking?" after the fact?

Well, I've said before I wish I'd left the name on Malak's immigration records a mystery — it was probably enough that we understood that he felt no connection to the identity he was given (and thus more apt to select a new name for himself). I only ever intended for the tongue-twister to be out there briefly before we revealed it wasn't his real name — but those few months before #31 were enough for it to wind up in a couple of reference works. A couple of years now after we've established his name was only ever Alek, the surname is still online as the main one at a few sites; hopefully they'll all be properly revised. Hard to unring a bell with the Internet around!

Inquisitor Jerec asks: Do you have a favorite secondary character that came from the games?

I enjoyed writing Carth a lot — his scenes with Zayne had a really nice big-brother/kid-brother dynamic that we felt Zayne really needed at that point in the story. They certainly get along better than he does with your character from the game, light- or dark-side; Carth's been dealt a number of tough breaks by then.

Sithspawn asks: What was Revan doing during the entire KotOR comics series? 

We know he parted with Squint to investigate the Mandalorian full-scale war preparations he'd had a vision about on Onderon and Dxun — and obviously, he spent a lot of time on Cathar at the dig. There logically would have been time involved in organizing and running the movement, but that leaves a lot of 3963 for other activities.

Christopher Krycho asks: Are you planning to discuss what, exactly, the mysteries that Rohlan was digging for are?

Rohlan already told us in #8. He doesn't understand why the Mandalorians took on the Republic, why they did it in an underhanded way, and why the entire face of the movement has changed under the current Mandalore. They're big questions, easily the quest of a lifetime.

Nayayen asks: What is the type of ship that Alek escapes from Flashpoint on?

Some original creation of Dustin Weaver's. It does not appear to be in the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, so I don't think it was ever named.

Karl asks: If "Vector" hadn't accelerated events toward "Vindication," how long would it have taken to get to the climax of the fugitive arc? 

It wouldn't have been much different — there are post-Vindy capers that could have happened earlier, slightly modified, but I still wouldn't have wanted to tear much into Jarael's origin with Zayne's quest still going.

Matt asks: Would you ever consider posting a few script pages from KotoR on your site?
Sorry, but I don't release script pages. I do occasionally talk about the tools of writing here on the site.

Andrew asks: What species are the Crucible guards on Osadia and Volgax?

Brian depicted a lot of members of the Dashade species. There's no significance to how many there are, other than they might have done the best at battling their way to the top.

Chani asks: There is a lot of speculation about whether Zayne and Jarael are in love or not (obviously as yet undeclared). Are they or aren't they?

You'll have to ask them!

Trudy asks: If you had to room with one of the characters from Knights, who would it be, and why?

Well, it wouldn't be with the Moomo Brothers, I can tell you that!

That's it. Thanks for writing, folks. The stories are obviously the important thing, but delving into the details is all part of the fun of comics.

Don't forget to check in on our auction of a complete set of Knights of the Old Republic plus a copy of the out-of-print Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide for the role-playing game, partial proceeds going to The Hero Initiative.

Monday, February 15, 2010

KOTOR Countdown #3: Just-Asked Questions, Part Four

Continuing a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50, I continue to answer reader questions about the entire series. Getting close to the end now...

Beccatoria asks: What was Camper's business with the Crucible? I presume he was just doing some run for Adascorp who needed slaves for something or other and he saw the chance to bolt, but I could be wrong; was there every intended to be more to it?

Beccatoria is a poster on who this past weekend has posted issue-by-issue thoughts from her read-through of the entire KOTOR series, interspersed with readings of my own production notes pages. I rarely read reviews when comics come out, but the post has been interesting reading (and it's jogged my own memory about a few things).

Camper fled Adascorp before Jarael was born, so his encounter with the Crucible would have come later, when he was a free-lance fix-it man and inventor-for-hire. We can see how the inventor of the Camper Special might come in handy to a group that likewise wants to remain out of sight. Chantique tells us in #46 that Jarael stowed away with Camper on what was presumably his last encounter with the Crucible; on this one score, we can take her at her word.

As untold stories go, this moment would have been fun to depict, but there really wasn't a place for it.

Jediphile asks: You initially had the Jedi Order outlaw all of Revan's followers, which I felt was very consistent with the original game's plot. But as late as #42, the Council is supporting Revan's crusade. You explained the reasons for why you did this on Dark Horse's Star Wars boards, but seeing as how the series ends eight issues later without touching much on this, doesn't that leave the era with a plot hole?

The answer is in #49, and Captain Telettoh's speech, which puts everything in a different light. Approaching the era, there were a number of matters that needed to be reconciled, based on not just what we saw in the games, but what was in the New Essential Chronology, which said that "after the Cathar incident, the Jedi joined with the Republic fleet in head-to-head confrontations against Mandalore's armies, but the ineffectual Jedi Council called for caution, hobbling the war effort."

The first issue, when Cathar happened, was dealt with in #42 — since Juhani's age made it impossible for the Cathar massacre to have happened in the "present," we came up with a way for it to have happened in the past and been a motivating factor for the Jedi.

The second matter was more nuanced. After what happened with Exar Kun and Ulic Qel-Droma, it was difficult to see the Republic agreeing to allow any Jedi unauthorized access to its military might without the approval of the Council, no matter how bad things had gotten with the Mandalorians. They wouldn't know good Jedi from potentially bad. But just as clearly, the crusaders weren't getting to these battles in a Volkswagen bus, trailing behind the Navy. Something must have happened to change the landscape — and that something is described in Telettoh's speech, which is a more realistic description of events after Cathar than Malak and Ferroh gave.

So all accounts work, and the Republic Navy no longer needs to worry about giving the keys to a bad guy. (Er... until they do!)

Jinger asks: In the video game, Juhani says that Jedi rarely tread on Taris. Was the Jedi Tower constructed after she left Taris?

Ah, Juhani again. Vector suggests that the Covenant Jedi's small presence on Taris goes back at least for the duration of Xamar's search for the Muur Talisman. But the Holofeed in #0 also suggests that Jedi participation in policing is really only ramping up in 3964 — perhaps as the seers kick their students out of the Tower on assignments to get rid of them. This is seen as a rare and pleasing thing by the locals: Sowrs tells us that "if the number of Knights on Taris were to double overnight, it wouldn't trouble me in the least." Having Jedi around was surely one more reason they were excited about joining the Republic.

So regardless of when Juhani was there, the comics tell us it wasn't a Jedi large presence, but a growing one, which the locals were beginning to depend on. Just not all locals — it's hard to see how five Padawans were going to get to all parts of the planet. Taris is a huge place, saturated with corruption — if you're living on the other side of the planet from Highport, the Jedi are not going to be a part of everyone's lives yet.

Andrew asks: What information did Eejee Vamm get that prompted his murder?

Not giving away the name of the individuals in question, the blood sample Suprin was analyzing partially matched what Adascorp had in their own secret records for a certain historical figure. Vamm didn't know what it meant, but he knew it meant something — and would be of interest to his master. Eejee's fate was only way to keep that incredible secret a secret.

Nayayen asks: Is Swiftsure's different look in "Turnabout" simply Alan's different style or is it actually different from the others? 

It's a little of both. The Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide says that Swiftsure was the proof-of-concept model on which the other ships were based — but then it was refitted (including with the full new Vanjervalis package). And, presumably, it had to be refitted again after #32.

Taral-DLOS asks:  Between the issues, the Handbook, and the Campaign Guide, five of the six Inexpugnable-class tactical command ships have been named: Swiftsure, Courageous, Indefatigable, Reliance, and Tremendous. What is the sixth?

If it isn't named in the comics or reference work, it doesn't have a name yet.

Anonymous asks: Where does the name Demagol come from? Is it derived from the word "demagogue?"

That's a similar-sounding word, but I think I chose Demagol because it just sounded evil — as a contraction of "demon" and the real-life star system Algol, which always had a creepy sound to me.

But what really creeped me out is that I later learned that the star Algol is sometimes known as the "demon star!" I'd love to look clever and pretend that I knew that in advance, but maybe it's spookier to imagine the muses were whispering devilish things that day!

Last question round tomorrow. Not long now!

KOTOR Countdown #4: The Lady Vanishes -- or, The Mystery of Aurora

Continuing a sequence of reminiscences about the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50...

When I opened the virtual floor for questions, there was one question I knew I'd get — and we got it. In Daze of Hate, Lord Adasca mentions that Lucien had spirited away his niece, Aurora, into the Jedi Order. And then we never hear about Aurora again. "Just curious if that would've ever been important," one questioner asks, "given how important Arkanians turned out to be in this series."

I'm not sure why I hear this question so often — maybe it's because we've had relatively few non sequiturs. What's on the page in #19 is reasonably simple: Adasca's old friend Lucien brought a child of wealth into the Order — something similar to what Haazen accused his father of, we later see — and Adasca hasn't seen her since. The only later mention is in the text page of #22, where the only remaining Adasca heir is described as missing in action after Serroco. And that's that.

So what's Aurora's story? Did she exist to show how Lucien was willing to use his Jedi position to work with the business world, and to show how Adasca was interested in getting rid of potential successor? Or was she planted as a plot thread we intended to follow later?

The answer is both, in a way — although the answer is more complicated than that.

When Vector was first taking shape, a number of things were in the story from near the beginning. The Rakghoul plague, originating from Taris; Karness Muur and his artifact; and the idea of a young female Jedi who would venture into future times. John Ostrander, writer of Star Wars: Legacy, first created the broad outline that described that Jedi — she who would eventually become Celeste Morne. Her name, in those early days: Aurora.

Her species, in John's earliest concept, was Arkanian — and in this, I saw a chance to tie her into the storyline we had going on already. I wanted to foreshadow a little bit of what would be going on in Vector in Knights of the Old Republic, and if Aurora was Arkanian, we had a ready-made place to plug her into the storyline we already had going. Thus it was that, in my early drafts, Aurora became the Jedi that Lucien spirited away into the Jedi order — and now she was either one of his former Padawans-turned-knight or a Covenant member. I felt certain enough about the character's eventual appearance in Vector that I went ahead and inserted the line about her in #19.

That was premature — because stories have a way of evolving. Since the whole point of Vector was introducing new readers to the Star Wars comics titles, it became clear that the less baggage our characters brought into it, the better. Each of my successive drafts shed characters from the KOTOR section, until we were down to our two main existing protagonists (Zayne and Gryph) and Lucien. Since their drama would be the centerpiece of 2008, there wasn't much reason to put anyone else on the stage. We also wanted to tell a story that was forward-looking, focusing squarely on the main conflicts in our series — and that wouldn't have been possible with our new character tied to our storylines just completed. Our newcomer didn't need a family grudge to create conflict with Zayne; she'd already have that, being caught between Lucien and doing the right thing.

So our Vector protagonist became fully human, and with no ties to the past beyond her having been part of Lucien's organization. Unfortunately, by this point I had already dropped the Aurora name into #19 — meaning the Vector protagonist would have to be someone else. So I suggested we use another similarly astronomical name: Celeste, along with John's original last name for her. All agreed — and Aurora was history. A character, certainly — but completely unrelated to Celeste.

I'm glad we made the change, for all the reasons stated above; Celeste was motivated enough as it was, and as I continued working with the Shadows, I realized they became more interesting the less we knew about where they came from. What hit the page was for the best, by far.

In the meantime, there was Aurora to attend to — and that's where the article in The Admiral's List in #22 came in. The initial scene in #19 suggested that the Order was large enough that people can disappear into it without seeing their loved ones — or unloved ones —which jibes with what we later know about the Shadows. And Adasca seemed indifferent to Aurora's fate, which suggests he didn't care much about her whereabouts — he may even have encouraged her going off with Lucien, to get a potential successor out of the way. And, as of #22's note, she is.

Some have asked if Aurora could be the The Exile. No — as the Defense Ministry Brief in #24 tells us, there were other Jedi there both officially and unofficially, including one who did report back, and another who potentially went to Taris. We'd been careful to have Carth speak of multiple Jedi snooping around — and later several ships escaping — to make sure there were rides for everyone. But we never learned of any ride off-world for Aurora — and there was absolutely nothing in the Exile's known story that would connect her to a wealthy Arkanian family. (Not to mention, all the characters in the game had pupils and human hands!)

So what happened to her? The note about the "only heir" still being lost after Serroco, right at the time Lucien's Draay Trust makes its bid to control Adascorp, suggests a fun little possibility. If Aurora was a Covenant adherent who did survive Serroco, it's not hard to imagine Lucien taking that opportunity to make her a full-fledged presumed-dead Shadow — conveniently getting a potential rival for control of Adascorp out of the way. Perhaps she's even on Lucien's world that we see later. All just speculation, of course — but fun!

Dead or Shadow, Aurora, we hardly knew you...

View all the countdown posts! 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

KOTOR Countdown #5: Just-Asked Questions, Part Three

Before I launch into the next batch of questions, I'd like to direct interested readers to what's close to a last-chance opportunity: In honor of the series ending, the Intrepid Meredith is auctioning the last spare complete set of Knights of the Old Republic we have — issues #0-49 plus #50 when it comes out this week, plus the Knights of the Old Republic Handbook #1 — plus a copy of the out-of-print Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide for the role-playing game.

That's one copy of everything I've done in the KOTOR milieu, all in one lot. All are signed by me, with a portion of proceeds going to The Hero Initiative, a fund that provides a safety net for former comic creators in need of emergency medical aid and financial support for the essentials of life. (Formerly known as ACTOR.)

We haven't done much in the way of online sales in recent years — our full sets are pretty much gone, as a number of individual issues we're low on aren't in stock anywhere online, and we haven't really had time to deal with it anyway. So this is the set we were saving for a special occasion — this week's chance to do one true start-to-finish collection. (It's North America only, I'm afraid; shipping gets crazy on a set this size, and as I say, it's not something easily replaced.)

Continuing a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50, I continue to answer reader questions about the entire series. You can still get questions in, by posting here)...

Grey asks: Did you read Jeff Smith's Bone? To me, KOTOR sometimes felt just a bit like it — huge differences, obviously, but there's something about the main characters (goofy kid, money-obsessed sidekick/mastermind, beautiful woman). ...Could it simply be that both series were largely influenced by collective Disney-influenced consciousness (as the money-obsessed guy was defined by Uncle Scrooge, for example)?

I started reading Bone with issue #3 — Comics Buyer's Guide, which I later worked for, was one of the first places to recommend Smith's classic series. I would say, though, you're right on in seeing a Disney connection, as my love for Carl Barks' work predates my knowing anything about Star Wars or just about anything else in comics. (There's a big Uncle Scrooge set above and to the right of me in the shot here.)

Interestingly, Roy Thomas writes that George Lucas is a Barks fan, and that a common interest in Barks was discussed in their first talks about doing Star Wars comics at Marvel!

Anonymous asks: Why was Saul Karath using a crutch during "Turnabout?"

Karath was injured in the melee aboard the Arkanian Legacy in #21. We see Morvis leading him out and asking for Carth's help.

Tyber asks: Can you distinguish the likenesses of Nahk and Tallie Sowrs? Who is the blond and who the brown-haired?

I don't think we were ever very specific about it — #22 was to be their one and only appearance, and it was. I think I might have noted somewhere that Nahk was the older child, which would make him the brown-haired one.

Ashley asks: The story has it that Gryph was originally intended to be an Ortolan, like Max Rebo. Were there designs or species of any of the other characters changed along the way?

Usually I've got the species settled before we go to the artist, but occasionally I'd go back and forth on what creature to use. Toki Tollivar was probably every diminutive non-Ewok species before I settled on a Bimm. There are so many different choices, it's often hard to choose.

What's nice is that some of the species come with traits that help improve the stories you're working on. Goethar Kleej went through a couple of different iterations in the plotting stage before I learned about how Gotals sensed the world around them; that suggested the entire Aubin portion of the story, and gave us the motivation we needed.

Andrei asks: Who do you imagine Jarael sounds like?

Catherine Zeta-Jones is probably the closest. Sort of a deep voice, with a lot of confidence. Your personal casting may vary!

Another Anonymous asks: After the Covenant was taken care of, what happened to all their Sith artifacts, like the Helm of Dathka Grausch and Gauntlet of Kressh the Younger? Also, how did they manage to collect so many Sith artifacts?

It isn't said what happened to their artifacts, although we do see the Helm incinerated on Odryn, and presumably Lucien had the Gauntlet long enough to help him survive the same fate. But we don't see what happened after that. We also don't learn how many more storehouses exist, or if everything that remained was in the chest Haazen had in the back room in #32. Certainly, Zayne could certainly have directed investigators to Odryn, but knowledge of any other locations would have had to come from someone else. We did suggest a certain compartmentalization of information in the Covenant, so even Xamar might not have known.

As to how they managed to collect the artifacts, we learn that in #25: with Shadows playing archaeologist.

And on a related note...

Benwinn asks: When Gryph and Zayne visited the Sanctum of the Exalted, was the item Gryph was holding actually Ludo Kressh's pedicure set? Or was he just crackin' wise throwing out a random Sith name? If it really was Kressh's pedicure kit, was there any connection to a certain vengeful Sith lady from Lost Tribe: Paragon?

It's actually his pedicure set, which means, yep, it is what you think it is!

More later...

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KOTOR Countdown #6: Large, Slow Targets take to space

Continuing a sequence of reminiscences about the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50. More reader Q-and-A coming tonight — and you can still ask questions, by posting here...

The same numbers often have a way of finding their way into writers' stories. In Star Wars, there's a frequent use of 1138, part of the name of George Lucas' first film: Wookieepedia currently notes 16 different usages of the number in Star Wars films, novels, comics and other products. I imagine numbers like 94 (for the Docking Bay on Tatooine) have also made appearances beyond what random chance would lead you to expect. Often, you're grasping for a number, any number — so it's not surprising that these are the ones that tend to come up.

I did very little of that in the Knights of the Old Republic series. There are a couple of 17s, which was the age at which I began writing my first attempt at a novel — and then there are two 560s, which have significantly more personal meaning.

My grandfather, E.V. Taylor, served as chief machinist's mate aboard LST-560 in the South Pacific during World War II. That's him to the left, there, with my grandmother and mother. LST stood for Landing Ship — Tank. These were the massive vessels that brought heavy machinery to the shores of the Philippines and other islands; the ships would come in and winch themselves up onto the shore to discharge all manner of vehicles.

They didn't have names, just numbers — there were too many of them, and as logistical vessels, keeping track of them was the important thing. LSTs were armed — they had deck guns, primarily used in supporting their own amphibious operations — but they had the turning radius of an iceberg. The joke was the name stood for "Large, Slow Target."

My grandfather — that's him there, to the left, with my grandmother and mother — often told me stories about operations in the Philippines and life aboard ship; also how he trained and got out there in the first place. Before he passed away, we made some audio recordings of the stories, and also found some of his photos.

Some are from places they visited, like Mindoro; a few are also from aboard ship, like the one below right. That's him, seated at far left in the picture. (The landing photo at the top of the page came from somewhere else, online.)

We understand these photos are very rare —  cameras on board warships were contraband,  and the military examiner had to approve all photos. (Only one of these has the official 'Passed' stamp, so we don't know how he came by these pictures or if he was friends with someone in the press. Knowing my grandfather, as my sister puts it, "he could sweet-talk the bees from a hive, so there's no telling.")

Anyway, it was the stories about the LST that caused me to think about spacelift in the comics. How would the Republic Navy get ground forces from place to place? That became a major part of the Serroco storyline, in Days of Fear. I put Carth Onasi aboard a large, ungainly ship delivering vehicles and supplies; and it being science fantasy, I made him the only crewmember aboard the ship. It seemed to me that lading would involve droids and other mechanical aids. And while Carth called his own ship the Deadweight after its poor handling, we provided its official name in the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide: CXB-560.

I had always felt that the Deadweight was pretty sleek for a vessel intended to be ungainly — and I had always wanted to do something that involved unorthodox weaponry in ship-to-ship combat. Thus was born the Hot Prospect, a lightly-armed mess of a ship. Remembering my grandfather's stories about winching onto shore in the LST, we included a sequence in The Reaping where the ship's winch is used as an offensive weapon (because there's nothing else available). And, as we learn in that story, the Hot Prospect is part of the Calipsan 560 line.

A light little personal tribute to my grandfather, gone ten years this year. If Gryph got his world-class charm from anywhere, he was one of the original sources!

Learn more about LSTs at the U.S. LST Association website.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

KOTOR Countdown #7: Just-Asked Questions, Part Two

Continuing a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50, I continue to answer reader questions about the entire series. You can still get questions in, by posting here)...

Nobody asks:  On the first issue's cover, just curious why that Falleen Padawan was included on the cover? Most of the other covers usually sorta depicted a scene in that issue, but don't think the first cover ever happened. Sure looks cool though.

And I think that's why it's there. The covers at the time were designed well in advance, based upon the general information that's in the plots, so it wasn't clear that a scene like that wouldn't happen.

The amount of information the cover artist had varies over the course of the series; for most of the last year, for example, the covers have been pretty reflective of interior events.

Darth Malachi asks: What is the name of Borjak's granddaughter?

Borjak's granddaughter, whom we get to know in issue #30, is never named — something I came to regret, as Bong Dazo's design for the character made her look really interesting. We never did get to do anything with that character again — so she remains unnamed.

Mike asks: About how much time does the series cover? It was great to see you click over to 3,963 BBY at one point, but it seems like we've been there for a while now.

That question is directly answered in issue #50. Stay tuned!

Inquisitor Jerec asks: Favorite secondary character created by you? (Krynda, Lucien, Moomo brothers, Shel...)

It's sometimes kind of hard to say who's a secondary character and who's not— if they're important enough to play a role in the story, they shouldn't feel secondary. Lucien I would consider one of the principle characters, surely. The Moomos are incredibly fun to write — and Slyssk has a gentleness that really warmed up the scenes he was in.

Of the characters who were limited to a single story, though, I probably enjoyed writing Nunk Plaarvin from #36 the most. Gryph's delusions of grandeur crossed with Moomo stupidity, all in a monstrous package. If he ever hired the Moomos, they'd destroy the galaxy!

Dangerous Draays asks: Were the Covenant Jedi on the “Draay moon” in the final pages of "Vindication" Shadows? If not, were they merely Covenant followers missing/presumed dead after the events on Coruscant? For members of an institution as small as the Jedi Order, it can’t be an easy thing to retire to a secret “redoubt” in the galaxy...  

I won't address how big I think the Jedi order was in this period, but clearly, it was large enough to watch over a lot of territory and have internal divisions. But, yes, there were certainly  Shadows still in circulation — and as Lucien was managing that part of the operation, it's safe to imagine he had control over their locations and movements. And, yes, there would have been other supporters that would have gone to ground — not just on Coruscant, but galaxy-wide, fearing a purge. So both groups could have supplied the population you saw.

Tyber asks: Did Haazen kill Dossa and Dr. Uburluh after he awoke? Since it was "off screen" we can only assume that by what he said before.

That's what you inferred and that's what we implied. But as Len Wein says, "in comics no one is ever dead unless you can see the body — and usually, not even then!"

Anonymous asks: When exactly did you create Jarael's backstory?

 "Exactly" is a difficult thing to answer, especially when parts of the backstory came together and evolved slowly as we went along. No, I didn't have the whole thing mapped out at the time I pitched "Commencement" — but the blanks began filling in pretty early on. Brian's design was a huge part of the inspiration. There had to be a reason she looked different from other Arkanians — and even different from Camper (who didn't have the ears) — and there had to be a reason for the tattoos.

Those questions could have been answered simply without tying it into her past, but the more I thought about it, the more it unlocked possibilities. Moreover, where there was a single answer to why Camper was running, I recognized there could be two different answers for Jarael's origin — who she was as a child, and then as an adolescent. And that gave rise to the post-Vindication stories.

So some of the details filled in later, but quite a bit was there from very early on.

Lord Chafington asks: What was the overall purpose of Zayne's vambraces in the story? Was there a reason he lost one? It seemed you guys made it a point to show us this during the vindication arc.

The vambraces were created by Brian as part of Zayne's "traveling clothes" design, and I came up with a name and story for them. We got a story moment out of them in #20. I honestly don't remember why he loses one during #35; perhaps it shorted out.

Kevin asks: Were there any video game characters that you wanted to sneak onto the pages?

We went through quite a few. Readers may have noted that I tended to hit mostly the characters of the first game — and, then, characters who appeared in the opening few hours of that game. My presumption was always that those would be the ones most gamers would be familiar with, since those would be parts of the games that everyone got through. (I don't know how many people begin games and don't finish them — there ought to be some research somewhere on that!)

That said, it also happened that characters from those sequences were also the ones that most logically tied into our characters' lives; Gadon and the Hidden Beks would have been in Gryph's backstory wherever they appeared in the game. Of the other Taris cast, I'm sorry we didn't find a spot for Calo Nord — he was a fun villain, but there just wasn't a place for him.

More questions and answers tomorrow!

View all the countdown posts!  

KOTOR Countdown #8: Fandom-palooza!

Continuing a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50. More reader Q-and-A coming tonight — and you can still ask questions, by posting here)...

One of the fun things about writing Knights of the Old Republic was the impression it had on many readers, inspiring them to create things on their own. It was entirely a new experience for me to see readers creating costumes, action figures, and fan art based on characters from my stories.

It was a rare thing in the beginning. There were two Jaraels and a "Dark Lucien" at Star Wars Celebration IV — and I wondered how many people in the hall knew who they were portraying. It'll be interesting to see Celebration V this year in Orlando, and what's happened to the number of KOTOR costumers. 

The wildest thing without a doubt was Tim Brown's Gryph muppet, from 2009's Midsouthcon. Not only did I do a partial reading of "Labor Pains" with a puppeteer acting out Gryph's role, but the Gryph puppet came home with me. He now sits atop one of the bookcases in my library, scaring my daughter. (Gryph, not Tim!)

Zayne and Jarael's fans are a committed bunch. Nicki and Traci made their own Zayne-and-Jarael shirts — and said they considered making shirts with Shel's face crossed out. (Poor Shel...) And Nicki recently named her cats Zayne and Jarael...

And SithFire30 created a whole bunch of hand-crafted KOTOR action figures, including Rohlan, seen here...

This is just a sampling of some of the images I had on file; there are many more I wasn't able to find. But I really do appreciate all the effort people have gone to on behalf of the series. Hopefully, I'll have some new springboards for folks in my next series!

View all the countdown posts! 

Friday, February 12, 2010

KOTOR Countdown #9: Just-Asked Questions, Part One

Continuing a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50, I hit the mailbag for a few of the questions readers have asked about the entire series. There's more to come — and you can still ask, by posting here)...

Going through the mailbag on the site — and some questions sent me through other means — a few questions a day. I can't get to everything, of course, and note that I really can only clarify what we saw on the page. I may be able to speculate about some other things, but obviously, such speculation would not be canonical.

Mike asks: What's your favorite cover?

Aha! Here's a question I can answer. There are several favorites. I have a number of them on my office wall, and ran out of space before I ran out of covers. Some favorites include Benjamin Carre's comet action on #43; Travis Charest's Zayne-in chains from #6; Dustin Weaver's iceworld on #26 and his gallery on the KOTOR Handbook; Brian Ching's Zayne-in-pain on #15; his moody duo of Lucien on #9 and Zayne on #31; and his much-reprinted Haazen from #33.

But if you're looking for a single favorite? That'd have to be the Dustin's "raiders of the lost vault of the covenant" cover from #29. Full-cast in action — and even a little misdirection with Jarael disguised as Celeste. Couldn't have asked for a better follow-up to "Vector."

Vasili Volkoff asks: What year was Malak born?

I really have no idea. And if I did, this would qualify as one of those things where my answer wouldn't count for much, since it wasn't said directly in the comics.

He's definitely older than Zayne, though, and probably closer to Jarael's age. He said enough in #42 to suggest that.

Tyber asks: Is there a chance we can distinguish Garragor and Klydeker from one another?

Garragor and Klydeker were two of Haazen's aides in #32. Given the direction that Haazen's looking, I would guess Brian intended Klydeker to be the human figure on his right.

Darth Cronos asks: Did Revan know the masters had killed their padawans?

What an excellent question! Basically, what we see on the page is all we know: Revan makes a curt comment to Lucien — "I have learners to save" — on the way out of the Jedi Council chamber.

Now, remember what's going on at this moment. Revan is on his way out to meet with Malak and his own followers, who suffered in his absence. Meanwhile, he obviously knows Lucien, a hoped-for ally until the rejection of #0, has been called on the carpet for failing to protect his own students. So the comment is really more of a "so-there" than a suggestion that Revan suspects anything more. Anything else we might say about what Revan knew is speculation.

So what about speculation? Lucien definitely has informants in Revan's movement, but it's hard to imagine it working much the other way. Anything's possible — but the Revan that we see pretty much has his hands full worrying about his own group. He knows Lucien will be no help to him, but that's probably as far as it goes.

Anonymous asks: What were the reasons which make you decided KotOR would not focus on the Mandalorian Wars and Revan/Malak crusade, but instead on a padawan? To make Zayne your principal character instead of Revan or the Exile for example.

I answered this question in another thread, but it's worth repeating here — and it's a restatement of what we've all said several times over the years.

From our thinking, Zayne wasn't a sidequest — he was the main quest. I didn't even know where we were going to set Zayne's story in the KOTOR era when we started, so the existing historical events became the backdrop, rather than the star. They were important, and obviously had an affect on the characters' lives — but they weren't why we did the series.

Nayayen asks: Is the Jedi Tower located in Highport or Patrol Plaza? It says one in the first Taris Holofeed and the other in Knights of Suffering.

Aha! This takes me back to journalism class. The Holofeed writers in #0 were using Associated Press Style — or the galactic equivalent: "A dateline should tell the reader that the AP obtained the basic information for the story in the datelined city." The main interview was with Constable Sowrs at Patrol Plaza and about the hopes that officials had, so Patrol Plaza was the datelined location. If the story had been mostly about Lucien's interview, then Highport — the location of the Jedi Tower — would have been the dateline.

See? Comics can be educational!

More tomorrow...

View all the countdown posts!

KOTOR Countdown #10: The Naming of Knights

Beginning a sequence of short pieces on the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which ends Wednesday with #50; coming later tonight are some answers to questions you've asked (and you can still ask, by posting here)...

People often ask where I get the names for the characters and locations in the Knights of the Old Republic comics series. Mostly, I just make them up — using words that have interesting sounds. Occasionally, writers use names from real life — but there are problems with doing that.

One is that you’re working in a world in which every word is potentially trademarkable, and every character copyrightable; whatever you create belongs to the rights-holder whose sandbox you're playing in, depending on how the contract is set up. As my friend Bob Ingersoll once noted in a Comics Buyer's Guide column after having appeared as a lawyer in several Marvel comics, he's now trademarked by Marvel Comics. So while I was tickled that a fan at my first KOTOR panel in 2006 brought along a flier campaigning to have his online alter-ego, Hedec Ga, incorporated into an issue of the series, I just couldn't do it. But I always remembered it, and I still have the flier somewhere!

There's also the matter of not wanting to actually depict any individual. Todd MacFarlane got into legal hot water with hockey player Tony Twist years ago over a character in Spawn he argued was based on him. That disclaimer in the front of the book you're reading and at the end of the TV show you're watching — the one that states that characters don't represent any person living or dead — it's there for a reason.

Now, in my early days in comics, I did slip in a few familiar names. My mother became a senator interviewing Tony Stark in the Senate Subcommittee Hearings in Iron Man #76. The comet in #83 is named for high school friends Carlin Stuart and Ken Barnes. Another character that appeared in the Iraq storyline was named upon my good friend Major Michael Singleton, who was over there in the Army at the time and who had helped me with details about what things were like. But the General Singleton that appeared in Iron Man #81 looked nothing like him (and had a promotion).

Neither character ever appeared again, but when I began writing Star Wars, I'd been working long enough to know that there was no such thing as a throwaway character. Every character with the tiniest mention wound up on Wookieepedia. So when it came to names my real-life resources down to a few physical place names. The best example of this is Jarael’s birth name, Edessa, which I plucked off my wall map of Greece. As a collector of maps and globes, I find some interesting spellings now and again, particularly in foreign atlases. Often the names are only starting points; to a large degree, you want words to sound like they're spelled, so that requires some rethinking.

My one real case of "tributing" others in a KOTOR name was extremely indirect. Feln, one of Zayne’s Jedi Masters, has an appropriate name for a member of his Feeorin species: short, blunt, and to-the-point. But it also hides the names of my sister’s four children, some of whom had helped me through the Knights of the Old Republic video games. Just as advancing one letter forward in the name of the computer, HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey gets you the acronym IBM (just a coincidence, as any Clarke-phile will tell you), Feln's name held an Easter egg. Going back two letters from Feln gives you the first initials of Daniel, Christopher, Joey, and Laurie!

And here we see another reason why you don’t want to use names of people you know in fictional works in any way — since readers know Feln's eventual fate. (And besides being cool-looking, he's not that nice a guy anyway.) It’s not exactly a tribute if the person whose name you use ends up dying or becoming evil. That came home to me when I was writing Knights of the Old Republic #20, in which a boy and his younger sister — the children of the constable of Taris — are rescued by Zayne from kidnappers. Given the children’s ages, I had briefly considered taking my own children’s names and anagramming them or somehow otherwise working them into this one-time cameo appearance.

I soon thought better of it when I began plotting Vector and realized that their mother, the constable, would be turning into a rakghoul. Not something you want to do to the mother of anyone you like — or their characters! The constable was not based upon her anyway, nor were constable's kids based upon my own. So we named them something else entirely.

Interestingly, the final stretch of Knights of the Old Republic contains a fairly expansive use of a real person worked into a character: Pete Hottelet. The winner of the Penny Arcade Child’s Play Charity Auction, Hottelet earned the right to appear in a Star Wars comic book — and he first appeared, looking like himself, as Captain Telettoh in #42. (Three guesses how we came up with the name.) We used him again in #49, so it wasn't a one-shot deal. For charity's sake in the future, hopefully Telettoh can retire in good health!

More on names later. And the first round of Answers to Burning Questions is coming later tonight...

View all the countdown posts! 

Win Knights of the Old Republic Vols. 1-8 from Dark Horse!

In honor of next week's final issue, Dark Horse has announced a great way to get caught up on Knights of the Old Republic!

How to Enter:

1) Follow Dark Horse Comics on, winners must be “following” Dark Horse Comics to be eligible.

2) Use the tag “#followfriday” and direct it to “@darkhorsecomics” to show your support. Winners must use “#followfriday” and “@darkhorsecomics” to be eligible.

3) Wait to see who wins!

Before the end of the day, one (1) winner will be picked and sent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vols. 1 – 8!

Once winning names are posted, winners should send a direct message to Dark Horse Comics via Twitter, or send an email to acolter [at] darkhorse [dot] com, with their full name, email address, twitter link, and shipping address. Full rules here. Good luck, and good tweeting!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Knights of the Old Republic: The countdown begins!

An exceptionally busy week here, as mentioned. A few housekeeping matters:

• I'll be attending the new Chicago convention, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, in April. I don't know yet whether I'll be making the Wizard show in Chicago in August, given its proximity to Star Wars Celebration.

• Jazma Online has an interview conducted with me before the Knight Errant announcement.

• I now have the name of the artist for the spooky Lost Tribe of the Sith covers added to the pages here: Random House's Dave Stevenson. (Don't forget, that new Lost Tribe ebook is now available for free download.)

• Finally, tomorrow I begin counting down to Wednesday's final issue of Knights of the Old Republic with a blog post a day with some reminiscences about the series and a few answers to some of the questions I've had over the years. I'm clearing the decks somewhat for Knight Errant, so if you've got a burning question about KOTOR — something trivial or big-picture — click "comment" and ask your question here. I'll collect a few of the questions for a blog post later in the countdown.

No promises for answers to everything — we've got to keep some secrets! — and I won't address any character's future. This is just about the existing series. But now is the time to ask, while the answers may still be rattling around in my head...

View all the countdown posts! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Double duty: John Jackson Miller pens Star Wars: Knight Errant novel and comics series!

I didn't know when this news would break this week — but the feline is out of its sack. Yes, as just announced on and Dark Horse's site, I am playing iron-man football: Star Wars: Knight Errant is both my new comics series from Dark Horse and my first professional novel, for Del Rey. Wahoo!

The comics series launches later in 2010. The novel, due in 2011, is not an adaptation of the comics series, but a brand new story set in the same continuity. The series and novel both follow the adventures of Kerra Holt, a young Jedi knight living in what's been termed the Dark Ages for the Republic — a thousand years before Episode I, and more than a generation before Darth Bane introduced the Rule of Two. Sith are plentiful in this era. How do you keep order when chaos is everywhere?

This is my first full-length novel — though if you're new to my work, you can see from here and from looking around the site that I've been around for awhile. If you're a comics reader looking for a taste of my prose work, check out today's free Lost Tribe of the Sith download — and if you're new to comics, click my Amazon page or on any of the books depicted on the site at lower left to check them out. I maintain a production notes and trivia page for everything I've ever done here on the site; just click the navigation at the top of the page.

Obviously, there will be more news to come on this. There's a Star Wars Insider article on the way; note that there and in Knights of the Old Republic #50, the comic still had the working title of "Jedi" — but it's definitely Knight Errant. Check the two links above, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more information as we're ready to talk. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to develop stories for both media at once.

Onward and upward!

Lost Tribe of the Sith #3 now online!

And it's online! Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #3: Paragon is online now for free download. Let's catch up with those crazy castaways from the good ship Omen as they scheme, plot, and make lightsabers out of coconuts!

You can find the simple PDF at the official site — and you can get the Kindle download from Amazon here. You can get the Sony ereader file here — and the Barnes & Noble version here. A veritable feast of digital choices!

"Paragon" moves the action up 15 years or so — to a time when the Sith have consolidated their position on Kesh. This episode follows Seelah, the widow of Captain Korsin's brother, as she manages her realm and nurses her anger. But there may not be a kingdom to rule, if she isn't careful...

It's a fun — if extremely dark — episode that ties together several of the threads between the Golden Age of the Sith period and the later Fate of the Jedi novels. And Seelah's one of the vilest characters I've ever written — I felt like I needed a bath afterwards!

The download also includes a nifty preview of the fourth Fate of the Jedi novel, Backlash, by Aaron Allston.

Enjoy — and drop me a line, And come back tomorrow for some really big news... quite the biggest news of my year.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mass Effect #2 sells out: Second printing planned

Mass Effect Redemption #2 ComicOnly out six days, and Mass Effect: Redemption #2 has followed the first issue in selling out, Dark Horse reports. Gratifying to see. My first comic book years ago was heavily over-ordered, killing momentum on the book; it's a lot more fun to start under-ordered and work your way up!

A colossally busy few days coming up here. Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith Vol. 3: Paragon goes live everywhere on Wednesday; the countdown for Knights of the Old Republic #50 starts now as well. If time allows, I'll try to get some extras on the site for those days.

Oh, and I'd check back in Thursday afternoon if you're curious about what my other plans are for the future. I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some podcasts, Mass Effect #2 notes, and more

First off, a couple of interviews I did are now online. I spoke again with Philadelphia's Fictional Frontiers radio show about the end of Knights of the Old Republic, the beginning of Mass Effect, and other things; you can find the broadcast online here.

A longer interview on the same topics has also gone online, as I was the guest for this week's The Legion of Dudes podcast.

The production notes for Mass Effect: Redemption #2 are online as promised, and there's also a page online here now for the Mass Effect Redemption collected edition, slated for June. And it's not online at Dark Horse yet, but Amazon is already taking preorders for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 9: Demon. Now, my understanding is that mass-market solicitations and those for the direct comics market are different things, but I would imagine from the shipping date (and the fact that Dark Horse has already announced its June shipping list) that you'll see the book in your May-for-July Previews. Be sure to reserve your copy now!

This is turning out to be my busiest month in years, and it's only the 4th. Someone bring the energy drinks...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mass Effect Redemption #1 sells out, second printing slated

And while Mass Effect: Redemption #2 is out today, news that the first issue is now sold out at the distributor level; Dark Horse has announced a second printing is on the way.

I think it's my second snap-reprinting — there was one for Knights of the Old Republic #1. Gratifying to see this kind of support on this project — thanks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mass Effect Redemption #2 out on Wednesday!

OK, you're all still busy playing Mass Effect 2 — or some of you have already won and you're on the second go-around. So you've probably seen some of the locations and characters that the Mass Effect Redemption shares with the game. Well, there's even more — in tomorrow's Mass Effect Redemption #2, available at finer comics-retailing establishments everywhere! Make sure to grab your copy — and head back here to catch my notes in a few days!

More big stuff heading your way this month; Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith Part 3: Paragon hits next — and then there's that fiftieth issue of that comics series coming out. And stay tuned — you never know when you might hear that news that you've been waiting for...

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