This week, Dark Horse Comics brings back Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics with KOTOR: War #1. GONK chats with writer John Jackson Miller as he returns to the continuing story of Zayne Carrick.
After a break of nearly two years, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic returns. Under the writing of John Jackson Miller, the adventures of the Jedi-dropout-turned-fugitive-turned-galactic-hero Zayne Carrick lasted for a fifty-issue run, and is now being relaunched with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War. Miller took time from his busy schedule (he’s also the brains behind the Knight Errant comic and novel), as well as the Mass Effect comics, and his work in comic book circulation history, to answer a few questions for Big Shiny Robot! about War #1.
Big Shiny Robot!: When we last saw Zayne Carrick, it looked like he and his friends had finally caught a break after stopping the Mandalorian mad scientist Demagol and the Crucible, which turned slaves into an army. What’s Zayne gotten himself into this time?
John Jackson Miller: After fifty issues and nine volumes (still available!) of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Zayne was ready for a vacation. It was a pretty tough freshman year for the former Padawan-turned-freelance hero. But Zayne never goes anywhere without his rotten luck — and no sooner does he get back to his home planet for a visit than he’s picked up by the draft board. The Mandalorians, the armored nomads who’ve been rampaging across the galaxy — are threatening, and since Zayne isn’t a Jedi, he’s eligible for the draft.
So #1 finds him alone, separated from his friends, hitting the beach with the rest of the infantry. It’s a challenging situation for him, because Zayne doesn’t believe in killing. That complicates everything for him — it is a war zone, after all!
BSR!: So how does the draft work in the Old Republic? After saving the galaxy a few times, Zayne went home and his dad says, “You got some mail – couple bills, an Aberwookie & Bith catalog, and oh yeah – something from the Phaeda draft board, says your Jedi deferment is no longer valid?”
JJM: Zayne tells us a bit more about it in the story — but one of the things that we talked about a ways back in the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide for the role-playing game was that the Republic, while having
a spiffy navy, has no standing army in this year of the timeline. They work instead with mercenaries and with the planetary militias of their member and client planets. Phaeda isn’t a Republic member in this early part of the
timeline — it’s fairly remote — but the Republic is willing to work to protect it because it’s on one of the approaches to the Coreworlds.
And yeah, that’s pretty much it — Zayne is no longer a Jedi candidate nor a wanted criminal, so he has no choice.
BSR!: Knights of the Old Republic introduced a lot of great characters: Jarael, Elbee, Rohlan, Slyssk, and my favorite, Gryph, – with War being a good starting point for new readers, will fans of the previous series be seeing some familiar faces besides Zayne Carrick? Similarly, will fans of the KOTOR games see some familiar faces that you haven’t used previously?
JJM: We specifically geared War toward the new reader — you don’t have to have read the earlier books to hit the ground running. Since Zayne starts out alone, we fill in the picture as we go along; there will be some familiar faces later on.
There is one unwelcome sight for Zayne right away, though — Captain Dallan Morvis, who commands the frigate carrying Zayne’s unit, appeared in a lot of the earlier comics, always as antagonist to Zayne. Arrogant, entitled, careless in battle — he’s everything that Zayne isn’t, and the two of them don’t get along at all. Naturally, his presence makes Zayne’s life tougher!
BSR!: Who are some of the new characters in War that we should keep our eyes on – in the first issue, there’s some Jedi, Mandos, Republic Navy officers, and a ragtag group of draftees?
JJM: The big new face is Dorjander Kace, a Jedi master who’s joined Revan’s movement to fight the Mandalorians. Kace is the highest-ranked Jedi to volunteer, and he’s got his own coterie of followers that he’s led into battle. Kace will be a major presence during the series, which gets a lot into the relationship between the Jedi and the Republic.
We also will get to meet some intriguing Mandalorians as things go along. The Mandalorians are interesting foes because they’re not evil — they’re just driven to spread their way of life. Zayne has met Mandalorians before, but he will be learning a lot more about them in the issues to come.
BSR!: For War, you’re teaming up with someone new to Star Wars comics, Andrea Mutti. What is it like to revisit a familiar character with a new artist? What’s the process of developing a comic for you?
JJM: Andrea’s work has been great — it’s always fun to see a new interpretation. This series is a little grittier, and Zayne’s grown up a little from the first time we saw him. That’s reflected in the art.
The process is pretty much that I think of the kind of story I want to tell and what I want to say — and then building a plot around that. Here, I wanted to delve more into the underpinnings of the Jedi-Republic relationship and the Mandalorians’ methods — while also seeing how Zayne’s ideals would stand up under fire, if he were alone and away from his clever comrades. That blossomed into the story that we have here.
BSR!: So, after nearly two years, KOTOR is back in comics – was returning to this story your idea or Dark Horse’s?
JJM: It was a combination. The KOTOR trades and downloads continue to be popular, and it made sense to add something more for the existing readers and to introduce new ones to the line. And I was very much up for it. This
is the story that I had always intended to be the next one for Zayne after ‘Demon,’ and the fact that we had a break in there probably makes it work a little better.
BSR!: Both your Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant stories deal with people with Jedi training who are caught up in much larger machinations: Zayne Carrick in the Mandalorian Wars, and Kerra Holt stuck behind enemy lines in Sith space. What are some of the challenges of keeping these characters and situations feeling different?
JJM: Yeah, there’s always the feeling of the individual caught up in a bigger picture — but I think the specifics of the situations are so wildly different that it’s not hard at all to treat them as separate stories.
Knight Errant doesn’t have a vibrant Republic presence — it’s all Kerra Holt, on her own against squabbling Sith dictators. The third batch of comics, ‘Escape,’ starts in June and is easily the darkest story yet. And of course the Lost Tribe of the Sith stories give us a completely different take on the Sith, given that we’re dealing with a bunch of Sith followers who crash-landed on a remote planet and had to build a civilization that stood centuries. My prose collection of those stories, including an exclusive new novella, comes out in July.
The Knights of the Old Republic era has a different feel, even when things are dark; I think Zayne’s upbeat spirit has a lot to do with it. I think readers of the old series will find it fun to see what he’s doing now — and that new readers will find an open door here to an interesting world.
Readers can find out more about the series at the official Dark Horse site (http://www.darkhorse.com) and also my own website (http://www.farawaypress.com), where I maintain a behind-the-scenes page for every comic book I’ve ever done. There’s a lot of fun background there. Readers can also follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jjmfaraway and catch my comics history work at http://www.comichron.com.
BSR!: Those behind the scenes notes are pretty cool! Thanks for answering our questions about Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War. Issue #1 is being released on January 11, 2011, so go pick it up! Stay tuned for my review on Wednesday.