Darth Maul’s screen time in 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” may have been relatively short, but the horned Sith Lord’s ferocity,fearsome tattooed visage and fighting ability with his signature double bladed lightsaber made him a fan favorite villain. In fact, he proved so popular that his apparent demise in the film was later reversed.
In the animated “Clone Wars” series, which chronicled the epic titular war that occurred between episodes Two and Three of the prequel trilogy, Maul was reintroduced and became an even more dangerous and cunning villain. He continues to plague the last remaining members of the Jedi as a reoccurring adversary in the Disney XD animated series “Star Wars: Rebels,” which is set in a time just after the prequel trilogy, but before the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
This February, Marvel Comics’ line of “Star Wars” books takes a look at some of the events that shaped Maul into the villain he is today with a five issue series from writer Cullen Bunn and artist Luke Ross that is set just before the character’s cinematic debut. Ahead of his comic’s debut, CBR spoke with Bunn about his take on Maul, the fiery hatred of the Jedi that drives the character, and the new and familiar Star Wars characters that will play a role in the series.
CBR: You’ve tackled many of pop culture’s greatest superheroes, and now you’re about to write a series set in the world of Star Wars. How does it feel to be given a chance to play in the sandbox of a galaxy far, far away?
Cullen Bunn: It’s a dream come true! You have to realize that I was the biggest Star Wars fan for many, many years. Watching the movies over and over (and even getting out of school early to watch “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), grabbing all the toys I could get my hands on, reading all the books, hanging model X-wings from the ceiling of my room, decorating my walls with Star Wars wallpaper, putting Star Wars sheets on my bed — you name it. I lived and breathed Star Wars for a long time.
That kind of fandom never goes away, and I’ve absolutely loved the new Star Wars comics Marvel is putting out. It also doesn’t hurt that my son loves Star Wars, and I can experience his discovery of the universe right along with him. I’m honored to be a part of these stories–especially when you talk about telling the tale of one of the coolest cats around, Darth Maul.
You’re tackling the early adventures of Darth Maul who is a fearsome and forceful character (no pun intended). I imagine those two aspects alone make him fun to write, but what other elements of the character do you find especially compelling? What made you want to turn back the clock and look at the character’s early days?
I didn’t want to shy away from the “fearsome and forceful” aspects of the character, but there’s much more to him than that. In “The Phantom Menace” he is a vicious attack animal, chomping at the bit to kill some Jedi. If you’ve followed the exploration of the character in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels,” though, you see that he’s cunning and calculating, too. I figured those aspects of his personality were always there. We just haven’t seen them yet. In this series, we get to explore a more multifaceted version of Maul. I love that he’s been trained to hate the Jedi, but the very person who has instilled this hatred in him is compelling him to stand down and bide his time. That kind of thing drives Maul crazy, and that’s something I really want to delve into.
Who is Darth Maul when we meet him in issue #1? How far along is he in his training as a Sith?
Pretty far along at this point. This story takes place not terribly long before “The Phantom Menace,” so I’d say that, power wise, Maul is pretty close to where he was in that movie. We will, however, see some of his training in this book. I kept thinking about the scenes in “Empire” where Luke undergoes this trial and confronts his fears. I wanted to know what that might look like for the Sith.
As I mentioned, Maul is impatiently waiting for the moment he can strike against the Jedi. He’s testing himself against some of the most terrifying creatures and people in the galaxy, honing his talents, pushing his limits, but it simply isn’t enough for him. He wants revenge against the Jedi, but he is denied that desire. He is willing to go to some extreme lengths to slake his blood lust and hunger for revenge.
How big a role does Maul’s master, Darth Sidious, play in your series? How would you describe the relationship between apprentice and master at this point in time?
Darth Sidious has a big role to play in this series. We will see his teachings, which are not kind. We will see Maul questioning his master, which Sidious will not tolerate. And we’ll see the student secretly going against the teacher’s wishes, which will be very bad for Maul if he is caught. Sidious is not a kind master. If we look at Anakin and Sidious, the Sith lord had to seduce the Jedi to the dark side. He played at being his friend. With Maul, there’s none of that. He is a cold and ruthless master.
What can you tell us about the trouble Maul gets into in this series? What’s he out to accomplish?
We’ll be seeing a number of different worlds, some new, some that have appeared in the comics or movies, or even in video games. Maul is going to be hopping around the galaxy and encountering many different people and creatures. He’s testing his limits, hunting down some fierce prey.
One of the things I like is that we really get to see Maul in action and how that is different from, say, [Darth] Vader in action. Vader is like an indomitable force. He is imposing. He stalks slowly and monstrously. Maul, on the other hand, is fast. He jumps. He kicks. He’s always in motion. Everything about him conveys that he’s not patient, and that goes against what he has been required to do in order for his master’s plots to unfurl.
Who, or what, is Maul up against in your story?
In a lot of ways, Maul is poised against his own anxiousness. During one of his many hunts, he stumbles across some interesting intel. A Jedi Padawan has been captured by a crime lord. This Padawan is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder from among some of the worst of the worst the galaxy has to offer. It’s only a matter of time before the Padawan is killed or the Jedi find and rescue her. Maul decides to go after her himself–without permission from his master. He intends to kill her while no one else is the wiser. It doesn’t go as planned.
Who are some of the supporting players in “Darth Maul?” Did you get a chance to create some new characters?
There will be a sweet supporting cast for this book. In addition to Darth Sidious, we’ll be seeing some other faces that are familiar to Star Wars fans. In some cases, we’re seeing some characters who have appeared in other comics. In others, we’re seeing some characters who haven’t appeared in the comics before. I’m also creating some new characters, not the least of which is Eldra Kaitis, the Jedi Padawan who draws Maul’s ire.
Other than that, I’d love to hear any speculation fans might have as to who else is going to show up.
What’s it like to add new characters and elements to the Star Wars Universe?
I knew it would be a rush to add some new characters and mythology to the Star Wars galaxy, but it’s even more exciting than I imagined. It’s absolutely exhilarating when my editors, the folks at Lucasfilm, and I start spitballing ideas for new additions to the story or for connections that might not have been made before.
Your artistic collaborator on “Darth Maul” is Luke Ross, an incredibly diverse and veteran artist who has quite a bit of experience with Star Wars comics including the recent adaptation of “The Force Awakens.” What’s it like working with Luke? What do you enjoy most about his style?
Luke is really terrific. He brings a kind of darkness to the page that is vital in a story like this. His rendition of Maul is so cool. You can see the anger and cruelty in the character’s eyes. And, as you said, he’s very versatile. That’s good in this book, because we’re seeing the bright and shiny worlds from the prequel trilogy, as well as some of the more sinister corners of the Star Wars galaxy.
Can you leave us with some final teases about the tone and action set pieces we’ll see in “Darth Maul?”
I’m not sure how much I should reveal here. One of the things the prequel films showed off were these crazy set pieces where Jedi battles took place. I’ll be embracing that aesthetic.
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