The final version, left, of “Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi,” issue #1 page 1, and artist Jan Duursema’s line art, right, for the page. (John Ostrander and Jan Duursema / Dark Horse)Link
The final version, left, of “Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi,” issue #1 page 2, and artist Jan Duursema’s line art, right, for the page. (John Ostrander and Jan Duursema / Dark Horse)Link
The final version, left, of “Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi,” issue #1 page 3, and artist Jan Duursema’s line art, right, for the page. (John Ostrander and Jan Duursema / Dark Horse)Link
The cover for "Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi" issue #0. (Rodolfo Migliari / Dark Horse)Link
“Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi” takes readers back to the beginning — the creation of the mystic warrior order known as the Jedi. In February, Dark Horse will launch the series with both #0 and #1 — that zero issue, according to writer John Ostrander, will be a handbook of sorts focusing on “many of the characters, places, and tech involved” in this new tale, as well as development drawings by artist Jan Duursema. To learn the ways of the new series, Hero Complex writer Jevon Phillips talked to Ostrander and Duursema.
JP: With all that is out there about the Star Wars universe and the Jedi, it would seem like a daunting task to lay the complete groundwork for this influential galaxy. What was the first task that you gave yourselves?
JO: This is a time of myth and legend. An epic era. Only a few facts are established about it. We’re working with what is already known and then building on that. For example, a given was the date when philosophers, warriors, scientists, and so on gathered on the planet Tython in the Deep Core to explore the Force. The question we raised was how did they get there, since hyperspace travel was very limited in that era and the planet Tython itself is in the Deep Core where hyperspace travel is difficult in any age. We created the Tho Yors – great pyramidal space ships that can travel through hyperspace around the galaxy; the Tho Yors gather Force-sensitive sentients from around the galaxy and bring them to Tython. These Travelers would become the Je’daii, the forerunners to both the Jedi and the Sith. In our version, the Je’daii on Tython create a great lost civilization, such as Atlantis is for us here on Earth. We knew how many planets were in the Tython system but none had been named or developed, so we did that as well. It’s been a lot of work but I think the excitement the fans will have will be a great payoff. We’re also making it accessible so that those who only know the films can come along for the ride. I mean, this is the start of the Jedi Order; what Star Wars fan wouldn’t be interested in it?
JD: Being given the task of figuring out what came before was daunting, but fun. One of the first things we needed to address was the state of the Star Wars galaxy at this time. We needed to know who the predominant movers and shakers of that era were and how involved they were in the galaxy at large. The next thing we had to do was to figure out how to get these early Force users to Tython, so we invented mysterious ships called Tho Yor — essentially floating city temples — that would transport them to Tython in the deep core of the galaxy. For the first Force sensitives to hear the initial call to travel on these ships, it was the beginning of a spiritual journey into the unknown. A good start for the Jedi — who were called Je’daii at this time.
JP: Can you tell us the basis/basics of the story you’ll be scripting?
JO: Sure. After a prologue that sets the stage, we jump ahead. The Je’daii have been on Tython for 10,000 years as the story proper begins. Descendants of the Travelers who are not Force sensitive have expanded out into the solar system, colonizing the planets and moons. The Tython system has been cut off from the rest of the galaxy, but that all changes when a savage group of Force-using aliens called the Rakata discover them. In particular, the arrival of one Rakatan slave named Xesh on Tython will set off a whole series of events that will lead to the Force Wars which in turn lead to the true founding of the Jedi. The scope will be epic but we’ll focus on it through the personal.
JP: And in terms of the artwork, what influences did you take in when creating Tython and the characters surrounding that world?
JD: At first I immersed myself in looking at images of our world and what both nature and man has created throughout history. John and I had talked about various aspects we would like to see on Tython — and we had images of the world as it appears later in the Star Wars galaxy. One thing we considered was that this was so far back in history that the entire world could have changed — and considering that Tython was eventually devastated by the Force Wars — it probably had changed a lot. My initial impression of Tython was that it should be both a breathtakingly beautiful and savage world. There are places on it that are peaceful and pleasant, like the Arts Temple — and other places where the Je’daii have harnessed the core power of the world to create a temple they call ‘The Forge’ where weapons and machines are made. Another temple, all durasteel and glass, straddles a chasm and plumbs its depths with a beam, searching for answers to why those who enter it go mad. I built a lot of the temple structures in 3-D programs so I could have turnarounds of them to view from all angles. Developing the characters for Dawn of the Jedi was interesting. When we were developing characters for “Star Wars Legacy” and “Republic” there were already established characters who had come before to play off of, but with “Dawn” there were none. But as we “discovered” the Tython system, creating worlds and places, the characters evolved and a look for their costumes and weapons also evolved.
JP: Yoda and Obi Won did it well, but describe, now that you’re delving into its founding a bit, what the Force is – and specifically, if your definition has changed from when you were first introduced to it.
JO: Thing is, I don’t think you can do better than how Obi-Wan and Yoda described it in the movies. That’s bedrock. My understanding of the light side and the dark side of the Force has changed over the years. As I see it, those working on the light side work with the Force, channeling it, open and sensitive to what it tells them. They serve it. Those on the dark side try to impose their will on the Force, to make it do their will, to make it serve them. The Je’daii believe in a balance between the light and the dark side and so attempt to use both. Problem is, a balance is hard to maintain and the dark side is so very seductive.
JD: For me, Jedi and Sith are well defined into good and evil, light and dark, those who serve the Force and those who bend the Force to their will. Our question was — was the Force always so polarized into two schools of thought? How did those who became the Jedi view the Force before the Force Wars happened? At this time the Je’daii believe in a balanced Force that is inclusive of all aspects of the Force — from light to dark. This interpretation allows them to explore all aspects of the Force as well and we will see some Je’daii manipulating the Force through what is later considered to be Sith alchemy to create new life forms.
JP: The general public believes that George Lucas = Star Wars. How much input did/does the “Red Tails” guy have in this creation story?
JO: We haven’t heard from him. We deal with Lucasfilm Licensing which handles all of the approvals. We have a great relationship with them going back 10 years. I’m sure that if anything we’re doing does come to the attention of Mr. Lucas and he doesn’t like it, we’ll be told.
JD: George Lucas will always be Star Wars to me. It was “A New Hope” that first took me to other worlds and when I thought I’d forgotten those worlds, it was “The Phantom Menace” that drew me back in and revitalized my art. John and I were given the go-ahead by Lucasfilm and Dark Horse to develop “Dawn of the Jedi,” and we work with them to make it happen. Beyond that, George Lucas’ input is as mysterious to me as the Tho Yor are to the Je’daii.
JP: With “Legacy” and “Republic” behind you, and “Agent of the Empire” as a current title, you’ve ventured outside of the mainstream movie-verse often to expand. Are there some things that you would like to expand on that we saw onscreen? Worlds to explore?
JO: I’ve always been interested in the Undercity of Coruscant. I’m also interested in the planet of Serenno that was Count Dooku’s home base. What happened to it after the Clone Wars? The planets of the Outer Rim are interesting to me because the influence of the Republic or even the Empire isn’t as strong; they’re more like frontier worlds. Actually, the worlds I’m most interested in exploring right now are the planets in the Tython system. We’ve named them and figured out the basics of their societies. I’m really looking forward to exploring these more in depth.
JD: Both Legacy and Republic were great adventures and I was able to explore so many worlds with my art. Underworlds on any world are always favorite haunts of mine. Worlds with strange landscapes and bio-structures are others. With “Dawn of the Jedi,” I feel like a kid in a candy store — every world in the Tython system is new and unexplored! Now it’s time to delve into the mysteries of them all.
JP: What do you think of the upcoming 3-D re-releases? There are generally mixed feelings, it seems.
JO: I’m going to them! George Lucas has always put himself on the cutting edge of technology in film. Generally speaking, I prefer it when a film was created with 3-D in mind but I’m betting that Lucas has figured out how to make it work with these films as well. I want to see how they look – experience them in a new way. Sounds like fun to me!
JD: I’ll see them. When you’ve already got a great story, 3-D is just going to add to the fun!
– Jevon Phillips
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