In February, Dark Horse Comics and Del Rey Books announced jointly that John Jackson Miller would be writing a new comic book series and a 320-page novel, both sharing the title, “Star Wars: Knight Errant.” The series kicks off in two weeks while the novel is due in stores on January 25, 2011.
Fresh off his 50-issue run on “Knights of the Old Republic,” in “Knight Errant,” Miller will explore what the publishers are calling “some of the darkest times of the Galactic Republic.”
The story takes place more than 1,000 years before the events of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” during the Dark Age of the Republic when the Sith were powerful.
It’s more than a generation before Sith in-fighting led to the rise of Darth Bane – the Big Bad of the “Jedi vs. Sith” comic book series, as well as the novels “Darth Bane: Path of Destruction,” “Darth Bane: Rule of Two” and “Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil” – and his restrictive “Rule of Two” that restructured the order to operate in the shadows. At this time, the Republic is in shambles, crippled by plague and war, and the Sith are dominant. That is until they run into Kerra Holt, Miller’s leading lady and a Jedi you don’t want to cross. Or double cross for that matter.
CBR News spoke with Miller about “Knight Errant” and the writer confirmed that both the novel and the comic are independent stories with neither being an adaption of the other. Miller also teased some of the new Sith that readers will meet in the novel and the comics.
CBR News: You have a long history with the Star Wars Expanded Universe, writing comics, novellas and roleplaying guides. Taking that into account, I assume it’s safe to say you’re thrilled to be writing a new comic book series and novel.
John Jackson Miller: Oh yeah, definitely. Of course, this is something unique because we’re doing both a comic series and a novel. And I’m writing both. I think fans are going to be able to get in on the ground floor of something really neat here. This is an era that we really haven’t done anything in before. And we’re going to have elements that prose readers are going to be able to find out about and comic readers will be able to find out about, so my hope is that we’ll get people to crossover and read both.
The novel is not an adaptation of the comics. The comics are not an adaptation of the novel. They are original stories. You don’t have to have read one to appreciate the other, but our hope is that people want to do just that.
Continuity-wise, do the events that happen in the comic happen before the novel or vice versa?
The first comic storyline precedes the events of the novel. However, we’ve crafted it so that people who read the novel will not have to have read the comic. There are references to what happened in the comics, but I think we made it so that it would interest readers enough to go back then and see for themselves what happened in the comics. But it’s not something where there is any vital or pivotal information that is necessary the story in the novel .
Part of our ability to do this comes from the fact that we’re following a single Jedi in her travels through occupied Sith space. So in a sense, it’s a lot like “The Odyssey,” where it’s episodic. She’s going from one set of adventures to the next. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t go through changes or that she doesn’t impact the galaxy’s state of affairs in each of these stories, she absolutely does, but we have tried to craft things so that while each story is a part of the larger scheme of things, each story also stands alone.
What can you tell us about your new Jedi, Kerra Holt?
Well, Kerra Holt is a young Jedi. She’s 18 years old, the same age of our last series’ star, Zayne Carrick, the main character for “Knights of the Old Republic,” when that series started, but she could not be further from him in terms of her skill level.
And not just her skill level, but also the abilities that she likes to use. Zayne Carrick was all about misdirection. He was all about sneaking around and trickery because he didn’t really have great combat skills. Kerra has great combat skills. She hates disguises. She hates the indirect route. Of course, we confront her with this situation where she is the lone Jedi and she ends up getting stuck out here in this occupied area where, if she does take the strategy that she would most like to take, she’s not going to last very long. That’s one of the fun things about [the stories]. We confront her with situations that she finds uncomfortable where she has to find her way through it.
At what point on the Star Wars timeline does this story take place?
The period that we’re in is 1,000 years before “Star Wars: Episode I” and is set about a generation before the Rule of Two was instituted, where we go down to just two Sith Lords. There are a set of novels with Darth Bain that describes that happening. We are actually in the period years before that where there are just heaping gobs of Sith lords out there – there are just bunches, and they control a lot of the outer rim, a lot of the outer reaches of the galaxy. The Republic is under tremendous strain. They have basically cauterized the wound. They have cut off the outer reaches of the galaxy. Planets that are a part of the Republic are left hanging out there. They have turned off the communications systems that allow sub-space communications simultaneously, so nobody can phone home from these areas.
At the same time, they’ve turned off the database where all the hyperspace lanes are. They’ve really tried to build a firewall of nothingness in between themselves and all the Sith area to keep the contagion from spreading. This is fine for the Republic, but it’s pretty bad if you’re somebody who lives out in this space. There are not a lot of Jedi who are spared to go out and try to spread hope in these areas, with the exception of a few weekend warriors, if you want to call them that. This is where Kerra Holt comes in.
She is a part of a task force of Jedi who are willing to risk their own skins to at least go out and do raids every now and a then and show the flag and remind people that the Jedi still exist and that there’s hope. Unfortunately, as Kerra finds out in her very first mission, this is a dangerous game and you don’t always know what you’re getting into when you go out to a place like this. And that’s a part of the problem. When they cut off the communications and everything, they don’t know what the situation is or whether they’re walking into a trap or who’s out there. There are so many different Sith lords that are running their own states, their own mini-Empires. Every one of them wants to be the one that will defeat the Republic once and for all and every one of them hates the fact that there are so many other Sith lords out there. They are fighting each other just as much as they are fighting the Republic.
With all these Sith lords to choose from, is there one Big Bad that Kerra will have to face?
Again, it’s an odyssey, so there are quite a few Sith lords that she is going to run into. Immediately, in the comic series, she falls directly into a war between two Sith brothers. There’s Daimen, who is the younger sibling and there is Odion, the older sibling. These guys are two sides of the same coin, more or less. Daimen believes, well, he is under the delusion that he created the universe and everybody walking around is just a figment of his imagination. This is how he has interpreted Sith teachings. Sith teachings are all about the glorification of the individual and the subjection of everybody else. Well, Daimen takes that to an extreme and says, “I’m a demi-god and everybody else is just nothing.”
His brother Odion is the absolute opposite. He believes he’s the only one that should exist and so he kind of has this death cult that surrounds him. These are people who are devoted to the idea that [Odion is] going to be the destroyer of the universe, and that’s how he sees his role. I think this is a bad couple of guys to be stuck between, because we have one guy who has no empathy whatsoever because of how he views the galaxy and then we have another guy who views everybody as a potential corpse to pile up in his quest to ascend to whatever his vision of Sith power is. Stuck in the middle, here, are all the poor people that are out there.
Kerra shows up in the middle of this and she has to make a decision; what is more important for a single Jedi to do? Should she try and take out one of these guys and go out in a blaze of glory and help people in that way or should she do something else?
It’s really an interesting question because the Jedi as a group means something different, I think, than a single Jedi does. The idea of going out there and trying to do something strategically important because that is something you can do when you have a lot of people with you [versus] when you’re one person alone, you’ve got to really think, “What is the best way I can spend my life?” She has to make that decision in the course of the series and the novel, and we’re definitely going to keep going on from there.
You say Kerra acts alone, but is there a supporting cast? Does she have any friends or allies?
Well, the interesting thing about it is, because this is a really rough time and a really rough period, you don’t have friends so much as you have temporary allies. Or allies are only your allies for the amount of time and to the extent that you have a parallel interest. We run into this particularly in the novel, because she comes up against a spy who is working for one of the Sith lords. She also becomes entangled with a group of mercenaries that work for the Sith lords. There is certainly a temptation on her part to work with some of these guys and play the Sith lords off against each other, but there is also the realization that, as anybody knows the Sith knows, there is no such thing as the lesser of two evils out here. So she really comes to the conclusion pretty early on that, “I’m not sure that I can work with anybody.”
Whenever she does have allies, she’s very reluctant to take them on. This is a character that we learn, as we explore her past, came from this territory in the beginning. She was a refugee that fled to the Republic. So how does she feel about the Sith having taken over her homelands? I think that she is a lot more cynical about the Sith that are out here and what their true purposes are than a lot of other characters would be.
So yeah, I think we do have a variety of supporting characters, but most of our variety is going to be on the villain side, just because we do have these different casts that surround each of these different Sith lords. Again, we really tried to make the Sith lords unique and give them their own world view and surround them with people that reflect that world view. We’ve built out the planets and the spaceships and their fighting style and the compositions of their military and the particularly horrible weapons they like to use. We’ve really tried to make that distinct for each of the Sith lords.
Something that I think people are going to find interesting, and this is a bigger picture thing, is how much of a Dark Ages this is, not just for the Republic but for the Sith themselves. If you think about it, having all the space lanes cut off, having had these leaders in charge of so many places, technology has kind of regressed in a lot of places. It’s not medieval by any stretch of the imagination, it’s still Star Wars, but it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be to be out here in Sith space. They have to rediscover things that have been lost just because, what’s the first thing they do when they hit a civilized planet? They destroy the library, they destroy everything that is good and decent that they can’t exploit. Rather, these things just end up getting blown up anyway, so I think the historical connection that I drew is, if you think back to when around the fall of the Roman Empire, when you had these places like out in Britain with the Roman colonies and there is this outpost of Roman civilization out there and then with things going wrong and the barbarian hordes going this way and that, the Romans pretty much say, “Well, we really can’t protect you anymore, good luck.” Well that’s what it’s like to be out on the outer rim with all this stuff going on, and that’s when the Dark Ages started. That’s the Dark Ages for the Republic and for the Sith here.
Fans always want to know if we’ll see any cameos of classic Star Wars characters or perhaps in this case, their descendants.
Well, this is the problem. We are so many years between where we are [telling our stories] and anything else. You and I are closer to William the Conqueror than Luke Skywalker is to Kerra Holt. So talking about descendants doesn’t really mean anything.
Where continuity plays a role is in painting the background. How things are, that’s reflected in the environment that we see. We did not create this series in order to connect the dots or fill in blanks continuity wise. One of the reasons we set our series a generation before the Darth Bane novels is, we wanted to make sure that we were before the birth of most of the main characters in that series. So we’re not here to just do a variety show with guest appearances by this character and that character. That said, we do have a number of places where continuity is used as an Easter egg, where readers that are aware of certain later events or certain earlier events will look at something and say, “Hey, that’s a reference to something, to that certain story or that certain thing.” This comes naturally because we’re using the same galaxy and the same locations that we’ll see later on and that we’ve seen earlier. We’re using some of the same technologies that are out there, so people will be able to look at something and say that particular element looks related to this other thing.
I think in the novel we do a lot more painting of specific historical connections. We’re able to get a little more into how things came to be the way that they are. We’re able to refer to other past things, but some of the Easter eggs that are in there, some of them are very subtle and don’t need an in-universe explanation at all.
There are connections that can be found that I think readers will perceive but we’re really there to tell our own story, first and foremost. Then, if there’s anything else that we do like that, it’s just gravy.
“Star Wars: Knight Errant” #1, written by John Jackson Miller and featuring art by Federico Dallocchio, goes on sale October 13.