Interview: John Jackson Miller, Writer – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War

KOTOR-War small

We’ve peered into the world of Star Wars comics before, but those comics took place between the original trilogy and the prequels. This time, we have a look into a time almost 4,000 years BEFORE A New Hope. The Old Republic time frame in Star Wars is one of the largest, with a mythology all its own.

We got a chance to talk to John Jackson Miller, the writer of new Knights of the Old Republic comic series: War.

Geek Crash Course: Our show is designed to be a resource for newcomers to geek culture: comics, movies, video games, anything. We’ve previously talked to John Ostrander about his Agent of the Empire series, which takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Your section of the Star Wars Universe takes place before any of the films. So firstly, can you give us a Geek Crash Course on the Old Republic corner of the Star Wars Universe?

John Jackson Miller: This part of the time frame was first explored by Dark Horse comics in the 1990s, elaborating on the long period Obi-Wan spoke about in the movies in which Jedi kept peace in the galaxy. It was later the setting for two popular video games, and then my own fifty-issue KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC series, which is still in print in nine volumes from Dark Horse.

It’s a period of relative wealth and stability for the galaxy; the Sith are almost nowhere to be found, for much of the period we’re working with. (They’re never entirely gone, of course!) The big exception to peace and prosperity — and it’s a doozy — is the growth of the Mandalorian movement. Armor-wearing nomads who travel from planet to planet conquering, Mandalorians scavenge what they find and recruite (or enslave) those they capture. The Mandalorians have finally decided to take on the Republic once and for all to prove their system is better — sort of a trial-by-combat on a galactic level

The Republic isn’t ready for the assault, and the previous KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC series told of the first year of the war, and how some rogue Jedi under Revan decided to fight on the Republic’s behalf. Our story finds a group of these Jedi volunteers on an important mission — but our focus is actually on one of the grunts that’s there to support them: Zayne Carrick. A nineteen-year-old former padawan, Zayne was the star of our previous series, his bad luck getting him into one tricky situation after another. Now, in KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC – WAR, it’s gotten him drafted!

Wars are nothing new for STAR WARS — it’s in the name, of course. But as we say in the previous series, Zayne’s vowed never to take a life. Which made him a bad candidate for a Jedi — and will make it tough for him to survive as a soldier!

GCC: What’s it like working in the Old Republic time frame? How does being “approximately 3,962 years before the Battle of Yavin” free or confine you as a writer?

John Jackson Miller: It isn’t confining at all. There’s a lot of real estate to work with, and we can go quite a ways without running into anything. The whole past 50-issue series took place in a calendar year. And it looks very much like the STAR WARS galaxy we know later on, so it’s familiar territory.

GCC: War features previous Old Republic character Zayne Carrick. What’s it like writing for a Jedi who doesn’t have the skill of a Kenobi or Skywalker?

John Jackson Miller: It’s a change of pace, because Zayne has no choice but to use his smarts to get him out of all his jams. Zayne really has come up with a number of crazy schemes over the years — the TVTropes website has referred to some of them as “Batman plans,” to mix genres — and this series is no different. We have the granddaddy of “so crazy it just might work” ideas in this series, and it’s fun to watch him work.

Zayne is also such a good-hearted character that it’s hard not to root for him — especially when we put him in nearly impossible situations, as we’re doing now. He developed a lot of important friendships in the previous comics, and while those people aren’t gone forever, the series does initially focus on Zayne alone in his new situation. You do NOT have to have read any previous KOTOR comics — or even STAR WARS comics — to enjoy this series; that’s one reason we started things anew with KOTOR – WAR.

GCC: War takes place during the Mandalorian Wars. Is there any chance we’ll be seeing an ancestor of fan-favorite Boba Fett?

John Jackson Miller: We saw an important field marshal, Cassus Fett, in the previous series, and we’ll be hearing more about him — but there’s been no connection made as yet between him and Jango and Boba later on. Our series is farther from Boba Fett than our readers are from the Trojan War, time-wise, so direct connections are hard to make. But the Mandalorians are certainly a big part of the series, and I draw on a lot of what’s already been developed for them. We’ll be seeing how they live.

GCC: The art in the first issue of War is terrific. How did you and artist Andrea Mutti cross paths?

John Jackson Miller: Dark Horse Editor David Marshall discovered Andrea, and I’m pleased to be working with him. I should also note we’ve also got some others returning from the original KOTOR series: Michael Atiyeh, who colored almost all our issues, and Michael Heisler, who lettered them. Plus Benjamin Carré doing covers. It’s great to have the team back!

It’s great to get to return to this series — especially because I was able to work it in between storylines of STAR WARS: KNIGHT ERRANT, a story I’ve been telling through Dark Horse comics series and a Del Rey novel. Another round of KNIGHT ERRANT comics comes out this summer, as does another prose book of mine, STAR WARS: LOST TRIBE OF THE SITH. The galaxy far, far, away keeps me pretty busy — readers can follow what I’ve got coming up and read my production notes on past issues at http://www.farawaypress.com. My Twitter feed is http://www.twitter.com/jjmfaraway, and Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/johnjacksonmiller.

GCC: Finally, a basic geek question: if you could have any superpower, what would it be?

John Jackson Miller: I would imagine all the creators in the audience probably want to be able to slow time, just so we can deal with our deadlines!

Thanks again to John Jackson Miller, Aub Driver, and the other fine folks at Dark Horse Comics!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #1 is out in comic stores and online January 11th.

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