Marking the twentieth year since publishing their first Star Wars comic, Dark Horse brought a bunch of talent and news to the 2011 C2E2 in Chicago. Dark Horse Director of PR Jeremy Atkins led a panel that included editor Dave Marshall, writer/editor Scott Allie, artist Mahmud Asrar and a conspicuously empty chair or two. Reiterating what a pleasure is has been to work with the Star Wars license all these years, Atkins got right to the slideshow and a long list of new and upcoming Star Wars comics.Star Wars: Jedi: The Dark Side The book that Scott Allie and Mahmud Asrar have been planning since last year’s C2E2, it will tell a story of Qui-Gon Jinn during his younger, wilder days and his first brush with the Dark Side. Instead of Obi-Wan, his previous Padawan, Xanatos, will accompany Qui-Gon. The series will also feature covers by Stephane Roux. Star Wars: Invasion The latest arc promises to reveal more of Finn Galfridian’s back-story and of the conflict between the New Republic and the Yuzhan Vong. Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command Atkins announced that this title, telling an untold tale of Vader before the events of "A New Hope," will be wrapping up with issue #4, and that a collection will be released shortly thereafter. Star Wars: Dark Times This title will be starting a new arc called “Out of the Wilderness,” and it will feature the same creative team. Showing off some art of Darth Vader attacking the crew of a starship, Dave Marshall joked that the infamous Sith Lord will actually use his lightsaber in this story. Star Wars: Clone Wars In the upcoming “Star Crusher” storyline of this youth title, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan will team up to destroy a new Separatist battle cruiser. Star Wars: Knight Errant For this point the panel was joined by Star Wars: Knight Errant scribe John Jackson Miller. He’s there to remind the audience about the recent announcement of the second arc for Knight Errant called “Deluge.” [Click here for the exclusive announcement interview right here on Newsarama] After reiterating the comic’s premise dealing with Jedi Kerra Holt’s inadvertent solo mission behind Sith line, it was revealed that in the new arc she will get some help in the form of a squadron of star fighters. Unfortunately she finds that the help is not all that it is cracked up to be, and conflict between her and her new allies is assured. Miller revealed that this arc will feature a lot of great Star Wars-style space battles with the unique ’hang-glider-esque’ fighters that are totally unlike the snub-fighters seen in the films. Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Old Suns Taking place during the same time frame as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic massively multiplayer online game, this new arc will feature the writing of Alexander Free, who is also a writer on the game. Star Wars: Crimson Empire III Original Crimson Empire writer Mike Richardson returns to the long-awaited series, which will take place two years after the events of Crimson Empire II. Jeremy Atkins revealed that the first issue will be printed in the returning book Dark Horse Presents, itself celebrating 25 years this year. Star Wars: Agent of the Empire The last empty chair on the dais was then filled by John Ostrander, who was announced as the writer of this new book that will take place just three years before the Battle of Yavin (see the cover above!). Ostrander described the book as “James Bond meets Star Wars.” It was later revealed that this agent will be less of the misogynistic Bond of the original literature and more like the one of the recent movies. In addition, he teased that because this super-spy for the Sith is working in the classic era of the films, cameos of characters of that time frame are not out of the realm of possibility, name dropping Han Solo, Leia and Winter. Ostrander then teased another title he is working on, but can’t reveal, before adding that his other Star Wars book, Legacy, will end with the “Legacy War” and that it will have causalities. When the floor was then opened to questions, the first fan asked about a possible Star Wars: Battlefront game comic, Dave Marshall replied that their focus in regards to gaming is on the upcoming MMO. On more Del Ray book prose tie-ins, John Jackson Miller plugged the recent release of the Knight Errant prose novel and the fact that he would like to write more. On perceived fan tension over Clone Wars material conflicting with the larger Expanded Universe’s continuity, Marshall reassured that everyone works closely with Lucasfilm to cooperate and not step on any toes. On the similar subject of the history between Plo Koon and Ahsoka, nothing can be revealed. When asked about the span of time between issues on Dark Times, Jeremy Atkins complemented the sharp artwork on that book and they are working to get it out quickly, but only if it is of the highest quality. A fan of John Ostrander’s asked him about the prospect of a Star Wars: Legacy video game, and he wished he knew if there could be one, since he and [artist] Jan [Duursema] would love to work on the property again; that is if anyone survives the end of the comic. Ostrander was then asked about Quinlan Vos; he revealed that he thought that Quinlan’s story had been told and that George Lucas himself said to “leave Quinlan Vos alone.” Several fans asked for the return of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, but Dave Marshall said there are no plans for the property outside of the upcoming prose novel. Dealing with Dark Horse’s production policies, one fan asked about an increase of their limit of three Star Wars books per month, and Dave Marshall replied that it is a policy that helps space out the material and go easy on fan budgets. When the idea of animated Star Wars movies like DC’s recent efforts, Marshall reminded the enthusiastic crowd that Dark Horse doesn’t own Star Wars, and can’t make those decisions.
A young fan asked the panel if they ever used real world political situations in their Star Wars comics. John Jackson Miller told the story of how his degree in Soviet studies was rendered obsolete just as he earned it, but how his knowledge of totalitarians came in handy when depicting the personalities and characteristics of Sith Lords, drawing parallels to the ruler of North Korea and a Sith Lord in Knight Errant. Ostrander added that all good fantasy has a foot in reality. Finally Scott Allie said that just the terminology he uses have impact, citing the difference between calling a group ‘rebels,’ especially in the context of Star Wars, and calling that same group ‘insurgents.’On where a new fan could jump into Star Wars comics when there are so many out there, Ostrander suggested The Dark Age, which is self contained or Legacy which is in trades. He explained, “Dip your toe in, we’ll take all your money!” to great laughter. Jeremy Atkins offered that you can pick an era you are interested in and/or ask your comic shop owner for suggestions. Marshall suggested checking the Star Wars timeline on the Dark Horse website. Further on the subject of the franchise timeline, the panel answered a question about going even further back in time with the comics, and the panel agreed that they don’t like to put signposts in history because it might limit storytelling possibilities in the future.
A young female fan asked if there are more female characters in the offing. Dave Marshall noted that Satele Shan is the leader of the Jedi High Council in The Old Republic MMO and will be featured in the comic. John Jackson Miller noted that the Captain of the fighter squadron joining Kerra Holt will also be female and that despite the Captain’s brash starfighter personality; the two of them will become friends.
On a possible oversized hard cover version of Dark Empire, the sales figures on those are mixed, so there are no plans.
The final questions was for John Ostrander asking him if it was hard to write in the ‘classic’ era for Agent of the Empire. He said it was instead exciting to ‘tip-toe’ around the continuity of the films, but he will be using it to his advantage when the book comes out in December.