Before there was Luke and Leia, Darth Vader or even Yoda, there was the Jedi. But where did they come from? What are their origins? Shrouded in mystery since the beginning of the Star Wars mythos in 1977, their origin is finally being told in Dark Horse's Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi comic book series.
Launched back in February, Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi goes back to primordial days of the universe and a group of warrior monks called the Je'daii. Brought together from across the universe by a mysterious group of ships called the Tho Yor, they've assembled to understand their unique powers and their diverse backgrounds. The group consists of a variety of alien races, but they work together in relative piece, growing what would become the Jedi Order, when an uninvited visitor falls from the sky with dark tidings for these Force sentients.
Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #3 is scheduled for release on April 18, and we caught up with writer John Ostrander as he explains how he and artist Jan Duursema — another Star Wars comics veteran — have finally pulled back the curtain on the origins of the Jedi, the Sith and the Star Wars universe itself.
Newsarama: Set the stage for us, John. What's this primordial time in the Star Wars mythos like?
John Ostrander: There's been legends and myths, some of them contradictory, about this era; along with a smattering of fact. We know that different types — philosophers, warriors, monks, and so on — were gathered on the planet Tython, among them the Dai Bendu to study the Force and this would eventually lead to the Jedi Order. But how did they get there to a planet in the Deep Core? Hyperspace travel was minimal in that age and it was worse in the Deep Core where, even later, hyperspace lanes would break or change without notice. So how did they get to Tython? We'll tell you. Also, we also know that these proto-Jedi split and that terrible Force Wars eventually caused them to abandon Tython. What caused them? We'll tell you. We're going to tell you the story of all this and more and how it happened. And the story is going to be epic.
Nrama: Who are the key players in this origin story?
Ostrander: Our main players are the Je'daii, the precursors to the Jedi, and thus to the later Sith who grew out of the Jedi. The term "Je'daii" comes from the Dai Bendu monks, and means "mystic center." For the Je'daii, they looked for a balance in the Force between the light side and the dark side.
Nrama: Can you tell us about this foundation, these people, that would become the first Jedi?
Ostrander: The Je'daii were brought to Tython by great pyramidal ships called Tho Yors. Each of the eight Tho Yors traveled around the galaxy about 35,000 years before the Battle of Yavin (which was the climax of Episode IV, Star Wars: A New Hope , aka the original Star Wars movie) and gathered sentients who were sensitive to the Force. These Force sentients felt within themselves a call and answered it.The planet Tython is very rich in the Force and a very dangerous place for those who aren't Force sensitive, who aren't Je'daii. Many of the descendents of the original travelers were not Force sensitive and they would eventually leave Tython and colonize the other planets in the system. Each planet in the system has its own civilization. It's going to be a rich and interesting playground. Remember, we're talking 10,000 years between when the Travelers first arrival and when our story proper begins. That's a lot of time!
The Je'daii aren't light side or dark side, although they know and are aware of both. Instead they seek a balance in the Force between light and dark. Balance, however, is a difficult thing to maintain and there is always the danger of falling wholly to the dark side — and some Je'daii have done so.
Nrama: Although there is no Jedi as we know it, there is a Sith… although not the religious caste, but the long-dead race. Can you tell us about the Sith on the planet in this time period?
Ostrander: They, like other Force-sensitives, were brought to Tython by a Tho Yor. In this place, in this time, they are no more evil — and perhaps no less evil — than any other species on Tython. We wanted to play a bit with the expectations people have when they hear the word “Sith”. Our main Sith character wants to be a hero — and that can get you into a lot of trouble on Tython.
Nrama: Can you describe what the galaxy was like 25,000 years ago during this time period?Ostrander: The Republic itself was formed at around this time (25,053 BBY). The hyperdrive as it would become prevalent later was just being created. For the most part, our stories aren't going to focus on the galaxy at large but rather on the Tython system, the attack on Tython by the Rakata, and eventually the Force Wars that would pitch Je'daii against Je'daii.
Nrama: Let's back up a second… who or what are the Tho Yor?
Ostrander: Tho Yors are great pyramidal ships with hyperspace capability that first brought the travelers — the Force sensitive sentients that would become the Je'daii — to Tython. Even the Je'daii don't know who created the Tho Yors or for what purpose other than to bring Force sentients from around the galaxy to Tython. Eight of them traveled the galaxy and then, on arriving at Tython, orbited around a ninth and larger Thor Yor before departing for different areas of the planet. Around or below each Tho Yor would grow a temple and a settlement.
Nrama: This is early on in Jedi history before they came to wield their trademark lightsabers. What do they use in battle during these times?
Ostrander: Well, of course they have various Force abilities but they also used metal swords tempered to a high degree. There are laser blasters and slug throwers (guns to us folks). In the series the Je'daii get introduced to a new weapon, a forerunner to the lightsaber.
Nrama: Instead of a Republic, Empire or Trade Federation, the closest thing to it is the Infinite Empire. Can you tell us about them?Ostrander: The Rakata are an alien species that are strong in the Force, but focus wholly on the dark side. They created a hyperdrive that used the Force and their Infinite Empire was focused on those planets that were rich in the Force. These planets they plunder for Force sentient slaves and any resources they may want. They are one of the most truly alien and nasty species I've found in Star Wars — which will make them a lot of fun to write in the story!
Nrama: Telling a story about the origin of the Jedi seems like a rare assignment, and one fraught with oversight from LucasFilms to make it right. Can you tell us about the talks between you, Dark Horse and LucasFilms to get this story down right?
Ostrander: Both Dark Horse and Lucas Licensing have been enormously supportive and helpful in putting this project together. Everything Jan and I have ever done in the Star Wars galaxy has been subject to approval by Lucas Licensing from concept to story to art. This was no different.Jan and I did our homework, basing our concept on what already existed about the era and then building on that, asking ourselves (and them) questions, and reasonably extrapolating from there. We also retrofitted from what was known later. Did the roots of something come from this era and, if so, what did they look like? We knew the number of planets in the Tython system but none of them had been given names or descriptions. We did both, creating civilizations for them and the entire Tython system overall. FACEBOOK and TWITTER!