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The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Star Wars Pt. 4

Welcome back to The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars. The last time we visited Marvel’s first stab at a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the entire crew was reunited on a water world filled with dragons and destroyed two different crews of pirates! Oh, and Han flew through space, shooting people. It was great.

In fact, thanks to the last two major story arcs, it’s been over a year since Marvel’s readers have even seen the Empire. It’s now September of 1978, two months before the legendarily bad Star Wars Holiday Special reaches the airwaves. Luckily for fans who are about to be massively disappointed by the variety show, the Marvel comic was about to have one hell of a good story to make up for it. 

Interestingly, these issues are also the last proverbial gasps of a bygone gimmick: dialogue on the cover. As an always-evolving medium, the cover is always an indicator of the status of the industry. The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were filled with dialogue balloons on the covers of comics, explaining the content of the cover, or trying to catch the reader’s eye beyond just the title on the cover. Around this time, Marvel Comics as a whole was moving to either narrative boxes describing the cover, or pin-up covers that were just artistic displays of the characters. DC would keep this up for a few more years, but also let dialogue balloons fall by the wayside.

There are still uses of dialogue balloons on covers even to this day, but it’s become an artifact of a bygone time these days. In a way, these Star Wars comics lose a small piece of their charm without Han Solo on the cover, screaming about how he’s got to die. 

It doesn’t mean they won’t still be amazingly fun, though.

We are overlooking issue 17 in our coverage at the moment. The story Crucible is a solid tale of Luke’s past with Biggs Darklighter, but it comes right between a pair of unrelated massive stories. We will circle back to it eventually, however.

Issue 18 kicks off the next major storyline with The Empire Strikes! Archie Goodwin is once again the writer and editor, with Carmine Infantino and Gene Day on the book’s art team. Janice Cohen colors the book, while Rick Parker letters the pages. Recovering from their adventure in the Drexel system, the Star Warriors (as Marvel calls them) are resting on the Millennium Falcon as it runs back to Yavin IV. However, something terrible has happened to Luke Skywalker!

Luke is unconscious, and no one can find the reason! Leia figures he could be in some kind of Jedi trance, but R2-D2 has the answer. As it turns out, he was taping the whole thing. As this was decades before social media and YouTube, and at least 5 years before mail-in VHS training tapes, we can only speculate on why. However, R2’s tapes show that Luke was having issues focusing on the Force during his training. Trying to clear his mind, Luke tries out the concept of meditation.

Obviously, Luke saw the prequels coming. Poor bastard didn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately, the remaining conscious cast has bigger things to worry about! You see, the Empire has set up a containment zone, presumably to keep the Rebels confined to the Yavin system. Or it would be, if it turned out the auto-navigator wasn’t setting the Falcon to drift off course, leaving them in the wrong sector of space. Blasting down the one lone TIE Fighter chasing them, Han figures they’ll be out of the system before running into more trouble.

Which is exactly what they find. The wrecked private merchant ship was owned by the House of Tagge, a powerful private family that works with the Empire. One of the older brothers in the family is even an Imperial Fleet Commander. They even find a living lone Rebel pilot in space alongside the wreckage, which doesn’t make sense since the Rebels wouldn’t be trying to rob private ships either. Han brings the pilot aboard the Falcon, but admits he probably won’t live long. The pilot takes the last of his strength to admit that the bodies of himself and his comrades were dumped here after an Imperial attack. That the Empire was framing them.

And then the Imperials show up. While the Falcon flees, they’re in big trouble. Not only are they being chased by a light cruiser, but the Empire has rolled out upgrades to their current TIE Fighter forces.

That’s right! The Empire has rolled out some kind of TIE Advanced fighters based on Darth Vader’s menacing prototype. The Empire’s Commander Strom claims this fits perfectly into his evil plans, chasing the Falcon into the welcoming arms of Space Casablanca Vegas.

They call it the Wheel, but this is literally Casablanca and Las Vegas in space. The Wheel is an independent entity that may pay taxes to the Empire, but the Empire agrees that those taxes will also keep them from poking their nose in on the gambling and promiscuity going on in the Wheel. It’s also allegedly independent from the whole Rebels vs Empire “thing,” hence the Casablanca comparison.

Of course, that’s not going to stop Commander Strom. But first, he has to get inside. This wasn’t an issue for the Millenium Falcon, however, as Han nearly crashes the ship taking up a reserved bay to avoid the latest Imperial patrol. Ditching the Falcon, Han and Leia run off in one direction, with the droids taking the still unconscious Luke to the nearest hospital. Chewie goes off on his own, and Han makes them all promise to meet up at the Crimson Casino Lounge. They’re in trouble for barging in without paying, but Han figures they can straighten things out with the authorities once they reach the upper levels.

Unfortunately, Strom really doesn’t give a crap about the Wheel’s alleged independence. He sends in Troopers to hunt down the fleeing Rebels, though he doesn’t know exactly who he’s hunting down. Strom doesn’t waste any time blaming them for the recent acts of piracy, however.

News of this reaches the administrator of the Wheel, one Senator Simon Greyshade. An elderly man who used the dwindling power of the Galactic Senate to make the Wheel with government funds, he delights in his ability to flaunt the law while keeping his people happy. He’s most displeased with Strom’s men running rampant over the lower levels of the space casino, but chooses to allow it once he blames the Rebels for the piracy that’s affected his recent profits. Greyshade doesn’t care much until the female Rebel catches his eye.

That’s right, he has his eyes on Princess Leia! The creep meter just hit an all-time high here, folks.

That brings us into issue 19, The Ultimate Gamble. Bob Wiacek joins the crew as the inker of the month alongside Carl Gafford on colors, while Irving Watanabe letters the book. The issue begins with the comatose Luke Skywalker being carried by C-3PO while R2-D2 attempts to locate the Hospital… and flanked by Stormtroopers. Luckily, R2 is able to shut some blast doors between them, which results in the death of three living beings.

R2 is hardcore.

R2 and 3PO’s antics have drawn the attention of the main computer of The Wheel, named Master-Com. The computer is both the central brain of The Wheel, but Senator Greyshade has also granted the computer a small army of robot bodies to interact with him on a more personal level. The robot body even has controls built into his form, but it genuinely looks like Master-Com is playing with its nipples the entire time.

Look, we don’t judge at GateCrashers.

Han and Leia are cornered by a squadron of troopers, but Wheel Security prevents them from being killed off. Unfortunately, this is just because Senator Greyshade wants them split up. Princess Leia is brought to him, while Han is dragged back to the Falcon to make sure that they don’t have any ill-gotten finances. Chewie is able to reach the upper levels of The Wheel, but is captured when security notices he’s missing proof of payment for entry. As his unconscious body is dragged out of the Casino, onlookers point out that the Gladiator Pits have found a new participant.

Senator Greyshade greets Leia in his office, and the two actually debate on if the Rebel Alliance is to blame for the recent piracy of the profits from The Wheel. Upon hearing that the private vessel from earlier was likely raided for taxes intended for the Empire, Leia realizes what’s really going on. The Empire, and Commander Strom in particular, have taken it upon themselves to create an artificial emergency that will result in the Empire taking power without upsetting the economy of reckless gambling.

I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling Rebels and that damned Wookiee!

Leia is taken away to a fancy jail cell, while Greyshade and Strom hack out a deal. Strom remains in power, and the Empire continues to blame the Rebels to make themselves look like the good guys. Also, Greyshade vows to have all the non-Leia rebels killed off through “accidents.”

C-3PO and R2 are captured, and taken to the storage hold. Apparently Han Solo has been let go, and has pawned the droids so he can gamble! Meanwhile, Luke lays half-naked in the hospital, still in a coma. Finally, Chewbacca is throwing fierce-looking aliens out of his holding cell, and he’s forced to stop or else he’ll be sent to the spine mines of Kessel.

No, not the spice mines. Spine mines.

I’m genuinely amazed no one has made a page for it on Wookieepedia.

As it turns out, Han has been trying to gamble to earn funds for the Star Warriors’ entrance fees and the docking fee for the Falcon. However, his line of credit quickly runs out, and he’s given an offer of dueling in the gladiatorial arena! Surely, this is an innocent offer, and not a grand plan by Greyshade to have Han killed.

Naah.

That cliffhanger rolls us up to issue 20, Deathgame. George Russos tags in for colors, and John Costanza is the letterer of the issue. The issue opens with Greyshade and Strom plotting and recapping the previous two issue’s events, bragging about how Luke will likely perish in the hospital while Han and Chewbacca are going to be killed off in the duels. They also plan to melt down the two droids, after wiping their memories.

Han winds up in his first deathmatch, a literal duel to the death. Han is given a power pace and power shield, rather than a blaster. His first opponent is a massive four-armed hulk that uses what Han calls dagger thorns. One scratch, and the poison will kill the victim in seconds. Han dives in, doing his best to block and bash while not dying. Unfortunately-

Yes, that.

With Han’s weaponry destroyed, he’s thrown to the ground easily. As the creature stomps towards him, Han uses his shield like Captain America and is able to make him fall. The dagger thorn scratches across the alien’s chest, dooming Han’s foe. It charges forward, intent on dragging Han to the grave with him. Luckily, Han is able to drag a rock into the way to take the final thorn blow, and survives.

Meanwhile, Master-Com frees 3PO and R2, feeling that he can spare them to analyze the devotion and dedication they show to Luke. They liken the relationship to friendship, and lets them loose on the station to try and save their friends. Leia is also able to escape, using a knife she stole during her last meal to sabotage the door locks. 

With Leia on the loose, we come to issue 21: Shadow of a Dark Lord. Gene Day comes back to ink the book, but the rest of the cast remains on board for their second issue in a row. The Rebel princess is able to take out a lone guard, gaining his gun in the process. She flashes back to the previous issues once more, as Marvel was running a theory at this time that any comic could be someone’s first and needs to be friendly to new readers. Meanwhile, Luke wakes up in a berserker frenzy and starts barreling down the corridors of The Wheel like Conan with a laser sword!

Eyes glazed, numb to the world. Are we sure he’s not just on drugs?

Inside his mind, however, Luke is struggling. He’s battling the memory and shadow of Darth Vader, while being coached by the late Ben Kenobi. Ben does something bizarre and actually gives Luke useful advice, which is most unbecoming of a Jedi Master.

It’s also kinda dark side, using your emotions and power recklessly to lash out at your foe. The hell, Ben.

Luckily, Luke only kills off a bunch of guards without realizing he’s done so.

My god, I was joking about Luke having mental trauma last episode. The poor guy needs a therapist!

However, now that Luke has snapped out of his murder trance, he realizes what sent him crawling inside himself. Darth Vader survived the destruction of the Death Star, and he’s mad.

The book cuts to an interlude of Darth Vader slaughtering Rebels, even using his lightsaber to finish off a Rebel begging for relief from the pain he was in. It turns out Vader was only finishing off these Rebels in general, as Valance has been hunting down rebels himself. However, Vader’s earlier mind-touch with Luke sets him on the right course: The Wheel.

As if this isn’t enough, Master-Com has decided to come out of the closet to Senator Greyshade.

There’s subtext, and then there’s text. And then there’s Master-Com.

Greyshade seems to turn away Master-Com’s desires of friendship and companionship, but is also completely distracted by these things. Strom insists he forgot about things and just enjoy the gladiator duels.

Speaking of, Han is up for his final gladiatorial fight. It’s a battle royale against multiple opponents, and only one being can survive. If Han wins, he gets enough to save the Millenium Falcon, the droids, and all his friends. If he loses, then… well, he won’t live to regret it. Unfortunately, Greyshade has stacked the deck against Han.

And that cliffhanger drew audiences to issue 22: To the Last Gladiator. Bob Wiack returns as inker, while Bob Sharen works on the colors. Clem Robins (credited as C Robbins) letters the book as well.

The gladiator battle royale is utterly fantastic. Taking place entirely in zero-gravity, Han and Chewie are forced to team up with one another when it turns out their needle guns have been sabotaged. This leaves the two defenseless, aside from a pair of ray shields to block the lethal projectiles. The planetoids surrounding the combatants are also crammed full of boobytraps – from disintegration rays to explosives. The two are able to trick multiple combatants into killing themselves and pick up the discarded needle guns.

Meanwhile, Luke increases his nameless mook body count.

Good lord. Luke. I’m here if you need a shoulder, man.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to prevent Leia and the droids from being captured by Greyshade once more. Greyshade vows to let everyone go, but only if Leia runs away with him and all the riches he’s embezzled from The Wheel. Her friends will be safe, but only if she gives him a chance at love. Again, we’ve hit maximum creep levels with Greyshade, but he’s still a  family-friendly creep.

Luke doesn’t like that.

I was kidding about him willing to kill any threat to Leia! Kidding!

Unfortunately, Leia isn’t fast enough in making up her mind. Everyone watches in horror as Han encourages Chewbacca to kill him, and the Wookiee reluctantly does so. With one of the main characters dead, the final issue opens up: issue 23, Flight into Fury. Carl Gafford colors the issue, while John Costanza returns for lettering.

A broken and bitter Leia gives in, agreeing to go with Greyshade. However, she wants one last goodbye.

Man. No wonder Leia blue screened in Return of the Jedi when Luke told him they were related.

The Empire is also sick of playing it safe, with Commander Strom telling his troopers to take over the station and take no prisoners. This also has the side-effect of bringing Han Solo back to life, as it turns out he and Chewie faked the whole thing. However, his miraculous revival is likely going to be short-lived.

Luke and Leia are able to escape on Greyshade’s personal shuttle, as Greyshade chooses to remain behind and hold the Empire off. His reasoning is that he can’t compete with young brave souls like Luke and Solo, and instead says that he’s found a new reason to live: Master-Com!

Yes, that comes across exactly as it sounds.

Strom tries to interfere as well, but Greyshade takes him out with a point-blank grenade after being gravely injured. Luke and Leia and the droids escape while Greyshade and Master-Com’s fates are left unknown.

Like I said. There’s text, and then there’s Master-Com.

Han and Chewbacca are also able to escape to the Falcon, but Darth Vader shows up in an Imperial Star Destroyer, intent on wiping out the Falcon for its role in the destruction of the Death Star. Han and Chewie seem doomed to die when Luke reaches out with his frustration and inflicts pain upon the dark lord using the Force.

Man, weaponized angst runs in the family.

Yes, because that is a perfectly normal and well-adjusted thing a light side Force user will do.

Luckily, this distracts Vader enough for everyone to flee. Their objective? To reach Yavin IV, to reunite with the Rebellion and hope to find a new base that the Empire won’t know about. If they can… well, that’s a story for next time.

These issues are completely fantastic. Space Las Vegas is a hilarious concept, but this comic works it well. The fact that Greyshade is an unsubtly named neutral party helps add shades of grey to what has been a black and white comic world so far. The story of redemption for him comes out of nowhere, and his stated intent comes off as hilarious for an older man to desire a friend. However, it’s still touching, and the subtext that feels… remarkably blatant only adds to what becomes a good character resolution. The multiple death traps were also fantastic, and it’s hard not to love the gladiatorial arena concept and execution.

When it comes to long-lasting effects, this comic is weirdly precinct in some strange ways. It predicts that Luke’s first instinct with problems is to either lash out with his lightsaber or to use the dark side of the Force. These are things that won’t just pop up again with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but also the recent sequel trilogy of films. The Wheel is also a beloved piece of expanded universe lore, showing up in comics and novels before the Disney purge. It’s also returned for the new Disney canon, as it’s just hard to beat space casinos and family-friendly deathtraps.

Fans also loved these issues, with letter pages in the following months filled with love for the art, the new characters, and even the setting. Even though his role was limited, everyone went gaga over the idea that Darth Vader was back. For all anyone knew, his role was over in the saga after the first movie. I mean, he was also in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, but promotional material hadn’t even been released for The Empire Strikes Back yet and his only role in The Star Wars Holiday Special was recycled footage.

And then we have people determined to figure out the future plots ahead of time. It’s amusing to see people figuring that Darth Vader and the main cast won’t be able to be face-to-face in order to not contradict the next movie. It’s a lot like what would eventually happen during The Clone Wars cartoon with Anakin Skywalker and General Grievous, almost to the point of parody.

Join us next time on The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars as the Empire finally strikes back against the Rebels after a year and a half! The menacing Baron Tagge makes his push against the Rebels and Darth Vader! And a long-lost story of Obi-Wan Kenobi from the days of the Old Republic!

The Tally Count:

Issues Covered: 22
Accidental Incest: 3
Cast Members Killed: 18
Lightsaber-related Injuries: 13

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GateCrashers Originals: Star Wars Edition

The entire month of July, GateCrashers has been celebrating everything that is Star Wars. We couldn’t let GC Originals miss out on the action, so this second edition of original stories, poems, and art are all based within the Star Wars universe. Our creators have put together some incredible stuff for you this month. So buckle up, because we’re jumping into new adventures set in our favorite galaxy far, far away!


Art by Brandie Brimfield. Visit Brandie’s Etsy shop here.

“The Droid Cycle”
Submitted by José Cardenas
Medium: Short Story

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a droid named R2-X4, a squat astromech painted a dark, relaxing green with some stark white highlights. It was born in a batch of 40 identical siblings and sold to the Galactic Republic as repair tools for their battle cruisers. The factory would have sold them to a small traveling business, but the ever-present Clone Wars, as always, pay much, much higher. 

As with all other units like it, X4 was not at all a bright intelligence. The only personality required of it was quiet efficiency, and it accomplished that in every rotation, connecting fuselages and reattaching landing gear parts. 

Despite the size of X4’s assigned cruiser, the droid would never be one to explore. The cargo bay was its home and it lived a solitary existence among a battalion of worker droids, a small army of clone troopers and a cadre of military leaders. He’d be a metal ghost, until a random pilot would arrive in the bay, tapping its head and calling it “Conehead.” The droid held no feelings about the moniker. Its clicks and chirps were just as mechanical as its functions. 

It never understood the appeal in performing beyond parameters, unlike some strange droids there’d be rumors about. 

 Sometimes, when all other droids were unavailable, the commanding officer would draft it into a spacewalk crew, which was usually made up of a clone engineer and a droid quintet. 

That quiet efficiency was even quieter in the vast void of space, but the beauty of starry black vistas was lost on a droid, and the other worker droids. Even the clone engineer, a warrior capable of so much emotion and valor, considered the majesty of space as another wartime routine. 

What wasn’t routine was the Separatist ambush. An enemy frigate jumped out of hyperspace and immediately started firing against the Republic cruiser. Complacent and unprepared, the soldiers and leaders within desperately scrambled to initiate a counter attack. So desperate, that they forgot to bring in the repair crew still on their spacewalk.

The engineer was the first to die. A stray laser blast from a droid fighter caused an eruption in the area on which he stood and cracked his protective suit. His body froze into a twisted fetal position. His last words were uttered only to his fellow droids, who were never the emotional sort. 

What the five droids did understand though, was the importance of self-preservation. All of them screamed and glided across the ship, avoiding enemy fire and searched for any entrance back inside the ship. Their wildly swiveling heads threatened to screw up into the ether. 

Out of each of them, you could say X4 itself was the most desperate. It was not because it valued its digital life, but rather because X4 fretted over his work. Should it perish, X4 believed that its replacement would absolutely fail at the tasks it accomplished with such precise regularity. 

Each of the droids were born from a different mold and led different purposes, but none of them would ever “say” that they valued work. It was just their function, after all, and not the only thing they were capable of. 

X4 would never know its own capabilities beyond repair, as it was the first of the droids to get destroyed. A droid starfighter, its thrusters blown out by a clone pilot, was determined to take at least one more life in its final moments of consciousness. Its dedication to the Separatist cause, pure. Its satisfaction in the Republic’s destruction, absolute. 

It aimed for the droids, and crashed into a molten blaze. X4’s horribly cratered body, its legs blown off, rocketed upwards, much faster than the body of the poor engineer. 

But its story didn’t end there. The green-and-white droid’s head was still connected to its body so its operating system still ran. Through a kamikaze strike, X4 transformed into a conical missile, flying so far as to escape the battle arena. No one heard its screams. 

It watched as the Republic cruiser was ripped apart, a chain of explosions blew across the sides. A final flurry of torpedoes from the Separatist frigate eventually cracked the ship apart. The sight would put any normal humanoid into a deep state of despair, but with a droid like X4, it could only compute the impossible calculations it takes to repair.

With the battle lost and ended, it continued gliding through the ether. It took an entire planet’s length before its entire audio recordings were burned out.  

Only when it bumped against a trashy junk ship did X4 finally “feel” something. Next, it felt the pull of a tractor beam, and gazed upwards at the blighted light that awaited. 

Inside, a quiet scavenger, a lonely Weequay male, inspected the broken body of X4. In a foreign tongue, the scavenger muttered to itself, and kicked the droid across the floor. The droid could not speak or protest against such mistreatment, but after rolling down the ship and seeing all the broken-down robotic parts and severed metal heads, it would’ve chosen screams of bloody murder instead. 

What was this horrible scavenger going to do, it thought to itself? Multiple scenarios ran through its decreasingly attached head, but the reality turned out to be quite simple. 

X4 reached the end of the ship and went inside a particularly hot room. A smelter. A great sense of doom washed over, more intense than the heat. The green-and-white paint already felt like it was melting. Worse, empty gun and torpedo molds hung on the walls. 

Not only a scavenger, this alien wanderer was also a weapons seller, and it was easy to guess what the weapons were made from. The Weequay male, staggered into the room and leaned towards the droid. With all its strength, the scavenger lifted X4’s body and placed it into the claw hanging over the forge. 

Stomping towards a control panel, it pulled a lever. The room rumbled, and the claw descended. 

Half-submerged into the forge pit, X4’s last “thoughts” would be the mourning of one thing. It would be so much better as a tool. R2-X4’s were made to repair spacecrafts, after all. 

Months later, a Republic cruiser, vitalized with desires for vengeance, ambushed a Separatist frigate. The battle occurred in a barren section of space, where no planet or life-filled moon could witness it. The first shot fired, a metal torpedo, conical and white, with small green streaks. 

Thus begins another battle in an ever-present age of war.


Art by Brandie Brimfield. Visit Brandie’s Etsy shop here.

“Protocol 5”
Submitted by Richard Durante
Medium: Short Story

The ravaged planet of Ibu held two secrets; the first being that at one point its waters were used to make the galaxy’s finest spirits. The other, that high above its atmosphere a Venator-class Star Destroyer orbited the planet with enough classified data to finally put an end to the Empire’s reign of Terror. Now, most of these ships were decommissioned when the Imperial class took over, but the modifications made to this one overcame any of its’ previous shortcomings. This particular vessel had a name amongst the Rebels, though few had ever seen her, as she had garnered enough intrigue to deserve a title: The Bully. Odd, but fitting, for this craft had a tough exterior, but a distinct vulnerability within that would allow the right person to make a stand against her. In this case, this person is actually people; Katmar Lannic and Tyroc Rolken, known to get their hands dirty for the Rebel Alliance as they now found themselves on this very ship.      

Tyroc’s belt shifted as he unhooked his blaster, the faded BlasTech DL-22 that had become less of a piece of metal and more an extension of his arm. His brow furrowed as he looked over at his trusted companion, Katmar Lannic, mimicking his move. “Haven’t run into as much trouble as I thought we would,” he whispered. “That’s a shame, you know I love trouble.” she replied with an added wink for good measure. A ship of this size would typically run with a crew of around 8000, but The Bully appeared to be nothing more than a ghost town. 

Tyroc moved closer to the entrance of door JL1138: “Looks like no one’s home, maybe they’re short-staffed after the Death Star was obliterated?” Katmar chuckled, she had missed out on the Yavin escapades, but every planet was abuzz with news of the explosion. She replied, “Maybe they are all learning how to shoot straight! I mean, aside from the handful of white helmets we blasted when we got here, it’s practically just you and me.” Tyroc’s eyebrows lifted. She was right, something that was hard for him to admit, but the admission had also made the air around them more electric. Something seemed off. He shook the feeling aside and entered the code they had luckily intercepted from a transmission between two Empire admirals. The door whooshed opened and they stepped inside.

         They walked over to the main terminal and plugged in their Network Mapper that instantly went to work. Ship schematics, base layouts, weapons suppliers; it was just what the alliance would need to add another blow to their weakened enemy. That’s when their eyes tracked onto another file, one that remained closed. “Why isn’t this one opening?” Katmar demanded. Tyroc had seen his fair share of data files to know that the hardest ones to crack were usually worth the most. “Let me work my magic,” he replied. Her eye roll went unnoticed as he put forth all his energy into this one task. “I’m in!” He shouted. Their mouths fell open as plans for something the Republic knew nothing about began to materialize, a second Death Star.

 Before they could celebrate the find, the overhead PA announced: 

“ALERT. DATA BREACH. PROTOCOL 5 IS IN EFFECT, 10 MINUTES TO SELF DESTRUCT!”

 Katmar grabbed Tyroc: “What the fuck is Protocol 5!?!” As Tyroc sheepishly replied, “Does it matter? It’s probably a Stormie reminder like – lift your helmet when you piss or else you drench the seat. The IMPORTANT part of the message was 10 minutes to self-destruct. The mapper has about 4 minutes left, and we NEED these plans. We can get back to the ship in less than 3 and out of here with a little over 2 to spare.” Katmar reached for her belt and pulled out her remote cam that she had linked to the ship’s security feed. She noticed something more alarming than the blaring message above. “Why are they abandoning the ship?”

         Tyroc was already back to trying to speed along their data theft, while Katmar’s words bounced around his head. Why were they abandoning ship? Usually, they would try and root out the problem and eliminate it, but it appears they prefer to escape instead. Katmar grabbed Tyroc’s shoulder gently, before saying: “We need to go. We know there is a second one, that’s enough. We just need to go.” Tyroc heard the uneasiness in her voice, but also heard another voice louder, his own, calling him a future General of the Rebel Alliance after securing these files. “No Katmar. We get everything and then we go.” They were interrupted by another announcement: 

“PROTOCOL 5 IS IN EFFECT. 6 MINUTES TO SELF DESTRUCT. 6 MINUTES!” 

Tyroc looked back down at the screen and saw the ‘Completed’ dialog box come up. He unplugged the mapper and looked at Katmar, giving her the unspoken nod that meant time to fly. 

They bolted out the door with their blasters drawn but encountered no resistance. Breaking in a full out sprint to return to their ship, loot in hand, a thought ran through each of their minds. For Tyroc, it was a ceremony where he was greeted by that wild-eyed Princess, and the possibility of securing some time alone with her. For Katmar, it was an unshakable feeling that they had made a grave mistake and that they should have left sooner. As far as thinking goes between the two, Katmar had the right one, but unfortunately, it was their last one.

         Half a galaxy away, a notification had appeared in front of First-Officer Rydel’s COMMs Screen informing him that the aptly named Bully had self-destructed due to a data breach. He leapt from his chair and sprinted to Admiral Piett, who had been looking over some possible hiding places for the rebels. Rydel’s voice squeaked, “Admiral, the VCSD-77 enacted Protocol 5 and is no more.” The Admiral looked up and inquired, “Our troops make it off?” Rydel replied, “All accounted for, except for some that may have been eliminated by the intruders, but either way, the Rebel scum went down with the ship.” The Admiral smiled, something that hadn’t happened since before they lost the Death Star. “Lord Vader will be pleased. Rydel, do you know how we came up with Protocol 5?” the Admiral asked. Rydel was about to guess, but thought better of it. “No, sir.” The admiral leaned back in his chair. “The emperor came up with it. We had it timed that most evacuations can be done in 4-5 minutes with the minimal number of acceptable casualties. Now the enemy thinks they have 10 minutes, which some interpret as an eternity, but we know what Protocol 5 really means, 5 minutes less than the quoted evac time. Once enacted, our boys in white don’t waste time. They make their way out. Some rebel spy will sit there thinking they’ve won, then boom, they’re floating particles in space. It’s rather brilliant, and the emperor himself went so far as to say that the thing that kills the most Rebels, is the same thing that inspires them, the thing that makes them think they’ll make it out in time, even have a chance against us. One word. And do you know what that word is, Rydel?” The Admiral’s face looked sinister. Rydel again declined to guess, “No sir, what is it?” The admiral uttered the word in a mixture of laughter and contempt: “HOPE.”


Art by Brandie Brimfield. Visit Brandie’s Etsy shop here.

“I Am a Jedi, Like My Father Before Me”
Submitted by RJ Durante
Medium: Poem, written in the Tanka form

{For Jimmy, Trent, and anyone who shares “A New Hope” with the next generation}

More than a movie
A generational bond
As text starts to scroll
The parent glances over
Seeing their Padawan smile


Art by Bree O’Possum. Visit Bree’s Etsy Shop here.

Prey”
Submitted by Dan McMahon
Medium: Short Story

Balance is something they preach about heavily when you’re being indoctrinated in the Jedi Academy on Coruscant. Day in and day out, you learn the ways of the Jedi order. You’re taught more than just combat. I yearned for the days I would study the arts and music tucked away in one of the galaxy’s greatest libraries. Towards the end of my time as a Padawan though, all we knew was war.

The Council had become merely a pawn of Emperor Palpatine; used to weaken the Separatist movement. What the Separatists wanted was to be free of Republic rule. What they got instead was the fingers of the Empire gripped around their throat. The Jedi became warriors for the Clone Wars. They knew nothing of balance as they were dropped onto countless battlefields to annihilate waves of droids and organic life. 

All it did was leave the Force out of balance for the side of the light. Now the light is gone and we hid like womp rats as Darth Vader and the Inquisitors hunt us down. 

I thought I would be safe here. Dathomir was always whispered about in the Temple. Children always shared stories of it being haunted. To be fair, the only thing haunting the planet now is me. The wildlife is merciless, but I have a small homestead tucked deep inside the swamps. Its vegetation is thick enough to block natural light from coming through and the sudden changes in heat creates a thick fog that hides my new life on the run.

But it found me. I let my guard down as I collected some of the food I had been growing. That’s when I saw it in the distance. The black outline looked like a poison running through the veins of the fog. Every hair on my body stood alert as it started coming towards me. The earth under its feet made a curdling thump as the wet mud tried to hold its boots in place as if it were acting as my protector. This was all the head start I needed to leave. I ran as fast as I could, the mud taking one of my shoes as I sped back towards my home.

The blast doors slammed down with a metallic clang over the entrances as I turned on the defenses I installed. There was no way out of this. No ship waiting outside for me to leap into to make a daring escape. The Inquisitor was outside. Only thick metal walls separating it from me now.

Dread sunk deep into my heart, waiting for the door to burst open from an explosive but it was quiet. Everything was still until it started. A loud screeching from the door as the Inquisitor ran its talons over the door. Sharp jagged fingers slowly ran down the blast shield before the sound quickly came from across my home as the power flickered before the darkness overtook my home. It kept repeating, the sound coming from different locations over and over. Louder and louder each time it moved. The monster was playing with me… torturing me in my own home knowing that no one would save me now.

As thick as the walls were, I could hear it laughing. A warped and twisted crowing of a former Jedi corrupted to the rotten core by the dark side. As easily as it could get in, it didn’t. This was fun for it. This was a game. Something it lived for. The hunt. I was it’s prey.

I couldn’t just sit there, I needed to go for my lightsaber in my trunk by the bed. As I ran through the hall, the metal warped in towards me in the shape of the Inquisitor’s hand as he used the force to push it in just to scare me. It wouldn’t be long now before it was inside.

I made it to my bed, the screeching was so intense now that I could almost feel it on my body. I bent down to grab my lightsaber but when I stood, I felt it. The cold steel pushed through my flesh and into my skull as I was lifted into the darkness of the swamp above.


Art by Brandie Brimfield. Visit Brandie’s Etsy shop here.

“Nerra”
Submitted by Rodrigo Arellano
Medium: Short Story

As long as Numa could remember Ryloth has always been ravaged by war. First it was the Separatist occupation, a conflict Numa almost didn’t survive, and then soon after there was the imperial occupation. Inspired by the troops that saved her home in the Clone Wars, Numa decided to join Cham Syndulla’s effort against the Empire. 

Numa had been part of countless missions under General Syndulla, but that day Numa came to Cham with a mission of her own. She believed there was some valuable information stored in an old Republic base known for being one of the biggest archives in the Republic. The base had been abandoned since the empire took over, so this was supposed to be a simple mission. 

Cham wasn’t convinced and his doubts grew when Numa revealed the location of the archive.

“Are you crazy?!? We can’t go near the Coruscant system, not even one of the moons. If the base is in Centax-2 I cannot approve the mission, and that’s final.”

“But General, the contact that tipped me about the base has an Imperial shuttle and access codes for the Coruscant system. We can just fly in without being noticed. Besides, that part of the moon is almost deserted and there haven’t been any imperial sightings since they rose to power.”

“Tell me what was this “valuable” information again.”

“Some schematics for some unfinished weapons the Republic was planning on building, if we get that information, we might be able to build one of these weapons, or destroy them if the empire decides to use it against us.”

“Ok, I will approve this mission, but first I need you to answer me this question, and be honest.”

“Of course, General.”

“Is this about him?”

Numa knew this question was coming, but still, it caught her off guard. Either way she did what she planned from the beginning, she lied. 

“No, General.”

“Ok then go prepare your mission, and Numa…” 

“Yes General?”

“I trust you.”

“Thank you, Cham.” 

Considering the nature of the mission Numa formed a small team consisting of her trusted friend Gobi, an astromech named R3-D6, and herself. The first steps of the mission happen exactly as planned; the access code that Numa’s contact provided worked and the imperial shuttle was granted access to Coruscant space. When they arrived at the surface the fact that the moon was deserted was confirmed, and the team located the base without problem. 

When they arrived at the entrance, D6 got the doors open as the Twi’leks secured the perimeter and didn’t find anything. D6 gave Numa an information spike and stayed at the door to stand guard. When Numa and Gobi entered the base they were amazed at the size of the computer servers that field all of the information.

“This will take hours Numa.”

“Nonsense. Go to the console at the right and power up the servers. Then start looking for the files, and I will do the same with the console on the left”

Gobi powered up the archive and the Twi’leks started looking for the field. Half an hour later, D6 started beeping through the comms.

“What do you mean there is another Imperial shuttle approaching? Numa, I thought you said there was no imperial activity on the moon?”

“Calm down, Gobi. It’s probably just a small stormtrooper patrol that saw our shuttle enter the moon and they just want to investigate. D6, seal the door and go hide. Gobi, continue to search the schematics.”

They continued to search the information, even though they heard knocking at the door. A few minutes later, the stormtrooper squad started using a blowtorch to get in.

“Gobi, we need to hurry.”

“Wait. I think I found them! I found them!” 

“Great. Here is the spike, start downloading the information. I still need to find something.”

“What?”

“Just download the information and when you finish that, start guarding the door. They are almost in.”

With some doubt, Gobi did what he was told. At the end of the day this was Numa’s mission. Numa continued to search when the stormtroopers finally got in. As soon as the squad saw the Twi’leks they started shooting and Gobi did the best to cover Numa.

“By the glory of Ryloth. I found it; I found his field.” 

“Numa, less celebration, more shooting.”

Numa took the spike, downloaded the field, and quickly started shooting the squad. After a bit of a skirmish, the Twi’leks defeated the stormtroopers and ran to the shuttle. Once inside they found R3-D6 starting the motors. When everything was ready the ship left the moon and entered hyperspace. When the team arrived home, Numa inserted the spike into the computer and after reading the file she dropped to her knees and started crying.

“Numa, what’s wrong?”

“He is dead, Gobi! He died in Umbara; shot by one of his own brothers.”

“What are you talking about? Who died?”

“Waxer! One of the clones who saved me during the Separatist occupation. I thought maybe, if he was alive, I could save him from the Empire. But he is dead and I will never see him again…”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Numa.”

The shuttle arrived at Ryloth and D6 landed it on the camp of the Ryloth freedom movement. When the team got off the ship Numa went directly into her tent and Gobi went to brief Syndulla. After some time, Cham entered Numa’s tent.

“I heard about the clone.” 

“His name was Waxer.”

“Sorry, Waxer. Look, I know how it feels to lose those important to you… My son died when he was really young, and Hera left just after her mother died… the point is that we can not let our losses bring us down. We need to gather the best of them and keep going.”

“He saved me, Cham. He is one of the reasons I fight with you now… You know he had a drawing of me in his helmet when he died? We just met once, but he was like a brother.”

“I know, Numa. But he is only dead if you think of him as dead. His spirit lives in you. It gives you the strength to fight, to go on, to be strong.” 

“Thanks, Cham. Really.”

“I just have one question. Didn’t he have a partner?” 

“Yes, Boil. I couldn’t find his file. We didn’t have the time.”

“Well then, we will go back. If he is alive, we will rescue him… if he is dead, we will honor him. We will honor both of them.”

Numa smiled and gave Cham a hug.

“Well then General, let’s get ready.”

Categories
Comics

All Too Easy: How Kieron Gillen Cracked the Darth Vader Code

Darth Vader comics should not work. It’s easy to forget this right now, as Marvel currently publishes its third consecutive well-received volume of a Darth Vader ongoing – not counting multiple miniseries – but they shouldn’t. Dark Horse gave it many tries over the years, from countless dedicated stories in Star Wars Tales and Empire to a series of Vader-focused miniseries, all of which were entirely, aggressively fine. ‘Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows’, ‘Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin’, ‘Darth Vader and the Lost Command’; if you weren’t reading Star Wars comics at the time then you’ve probably never heard of any of these and frankly, you’re not missing much. You could read worse Star Wars comics – but you could also read much better ones. 

This sheer overwhelming averageness was not the fault of the writers involved. It’s really baked into the premise of a Darth Vader comic itself. Yes, Anakin Skywalker is probably the most popular character in his universe, but he’s also the one whose every life-changing moment has been most fully documented onscreen. We’ve watched his youthful dreams, his friendships, his fall, and his redemption. We know he cannot undergo much development or growth except what’s been seen already, so there’s nowhere to take him. And beyond that, Vader makes a lousy ‘point-of-view’ character: he is famously taciturn and has no friends with whom to break his silences or share his thoughts. Worse still in a visual medium like comics, his famous mask also makes it impossible for him to convey emotions that way either. This brings us back to where we started: Darth Vader comics should not work.

The fact that they do is down to Kieron Gillen, whose 25-issue run on Darth Vader from 2015 – 2016 represents one of the all-time pinnacles of Star Wars in comic form.  

Vader’s Voice: “You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander.” 

The first thing Gillen gets right – the thing that bedeviled those Dark Horse comics and has tripped up other writers too – is the voice. And, just as importantly, the importance of using that voice sparsely. Despite being a near-constant presence on the page, Gillen’s Vader is never at any point the most loquacious character in a scene. He communicates almost exclusively in sharp, imperious bursts with just-slightly archaic language lacking contractions. The main exception is the Dark Lord’s well-documented penchant for hammy one-liners – an area where writers can easily err too far in the direction of either omission or exaggeration. Not so Gillen. “Your slowness is most aggravating,” he lectures a Rebel cell who think they have ambushed him; it’s just right for a character who famously couldn’t resist offering a dinner invitation to the Rebels he had entrapped. 

The ability to easily imagine James Earl Jones thundering his way through every line is necessary for a great Vader comic, but it’s not sufficient. After all, if your Vader is suitably untalkative, then you need someone else to carry the brunt of the dialogue – and that is where the run really takes off.

Vader’s Supporting Cast: “We would be honored if you would join us”

It is impossible to suitably summarize the broader effects of Doctor Aphra within the confines of this article. Others have written much more eloquently about what this rogue space archaeologist means for representation as both a woman of color and perhaps the most prominent queer character in the Star Wars galaxy. Brilliantly conceived, brilliantly written, and the only comics-original character to have sustained her own ongoing, – for almost sixty issues and counting! – Aphra is indisputably the biggest contribution to Star Wars made by this series, and probably by all canonical comics. But what if we strip away all of that, and focus exclusively on her contributions to these twenty-five issues alone? 

Even in this limited context, Aphra represents a carefully crafted masterstroke. Her compulsive over-sharing is a perfect complement to Vader’s imposing silence while her nervous humor prevents an antagonist-focused series from ever getting too dark. Except of course when it very deliberately doesn’t, as in one memorable scene where Aphra hands over an innocent retired doctor to torture and certain death, because she is after all a villain too, just one whose crimes are born more of self-preservation than glee or power-lust. The character’s sheer unpredictability allows her to shine every moment she’s on the page, while her rapport with Vader is never less than utterly compelling.

The same balance is struck by Aphra’s quite literal partners-in-crime, the delightful Triple Zero and BT, affectionately known as the Murder-Bots. These twisted and sadistic parodies of C-3PO and R2-D2 are kept just frightening enough to prevent them from becoming pure farce, and comedic enough that we can almost forgive the atrocities they commit – or more often and to their intense frustration, futilely dream of committing. 

This inspired posse of supporting characters make up a fundamental element of how Gillen transcends the limitations of Vader books past, carefully compensating for the limitations of his protagonist while highlighting his strengths. Indeed, perhaps the most impressive element of this balance is the underlying sense of dread that characterizes the characters’ relationships from the moment Vader first threatens to take Aphra’s life in her initial appearance. The certainty that our ‘hero’ not only can but will ultimately kill Aphra is vital to the reader suspending their disbelief that he would put up with her in the first place; the way in which this plot thread reaches its inexorable conclusion in the final issue is a highlight of the entire volume.

Vader’s Quest: “I will deal with them myself.”

The protagonist’s voice is note-perfect; the supporting cast is inspired. But that still leaves the major problem of, well, the plot, and more importantly, the character journey that goes with it. This is the single problem that has most bedeviled almost every non-film Vader story.  It’s not difficult to tell a story about Darth Vader doing cool things, but when every important stage of the character’s journey has been seen on screen, it’s very hard to tell a story in which Darth Vader experiences change in some meaningful way.

Gillen’s solution is a simple and elegant one. He avoids the most obvious routes of either telling a consequence-free adventure tale (most favored by Dark Horse) or relying heavily on flashbacks and parallels with the more innocent Anakin of the prequels (beloved of the Soule and Pak runs that have followed). Instead, Gillen finds his story in the cracks between those that have already been told.  Vader spends A New Hope as a lackey and ends it spinning off into space in disgrace; he begins The Empire Strikes Back as the unchallenged master of all he surveys, pursuing his own agenda with near-impunity. Gillen highlights this, and asks: Why? What happened? And how did it change him?

It is the answer to that question that gives Gillen both his story and the central journey Vader undertakes under his pen. We know Vader cannot permanently defeat our Rebel heroes in this period, yet we also know that he must have proven himself in some way that enabled him to turn disaster into personal triumph. Gillen fills the void by providing two new antagonists for the book, once again carefully calibrated to provide distinctive challenges. One, Doctor Cylo, is a Gillen invention who highlights Vader’s struggle with his machine side; the other, General Tagge, is a pre-existing minor character from the films who challenges his status in the imperial hierarchy. Following his demotion after the Death Star debacle, Vader is required to go rogue to overcome the pair, cleverly allowing Gillen to believably place him in the uncharacteristic position of underdog even in an inter-imperial power struggle.  

In this way, Gillen crafts a plot which places Vader in a context in which we have never seen him in the Star Wars movies, yet one which emerges as the entirely logical product of the choices made within those movies. The result seems simultaneously obvious and ingenious; of course something like this must have happened, but of course the reader had never thought of it before now. In this way, the series ultimately functions like Star Wars media such as Rogue One or The Clone Wars at their best, shading in new layers of depth around images and stories we previously thought already completed. 

Wrap-Up: “Your skills are complete.” 

There are many other successful elements of this book that could be discussed at great length. Salvador Larocca’s artistic strength in presenting inorganic material rather than human expression finds a more than suitable match here, for example, while the interactions between this book and the Star Wars title under Jason Aaron are a model in well-constructed comic book intertextuality. Yet when reflecting on the many levels on which this series succeeds, it is its fundamental improbability to which I find myself returning again and again.  

Because one more time: Darth Vader comics should not work. It was Kieron Gillen who changed that, and in so doing created the formula which has been adopted by Charles Soule and Greg Pak on their subsequent Vader ongoings. It was Kieron Gillen who made it so that readers would forget the fact that Darth Vader comics should not work, that the character should be too static, too taciturn, too visually inscrutable to thrive in this medium. He cracked the code not by ignoring the limitations of his subject matter but by tackling them head-on, and blending the pre-existing universe he found with his own innovative additions. In so doing, Gillen produced not only the first great Darth Vader comic, but perhaps the greatest Star Wars comic run of all time. 

Categories
Episodes

Star Wars: Rogue One

Rebellions are built on hope.

Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Star Wars: Rogue One GateCrashers

Rebellions are built on hope. Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.
  1. Star Wars: Rogue One
  2. Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
  3. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
  4. Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
  5. Interview with George Motz
Categories
Film

Star Wars: Interview with an Armorer

As someone who was truly born into nerdiness and has been cosplaying since 2005, I am keenly aware of what being a woman in a primarily male dominated hobby is like. Somewhere along the line, I met Brittany Kenville and we immediately clicked. Ever since that magical meeting, we’ve been inseparable and we’ve helped each other grow and progress in our crafting along the way. Once The Mandalorian hit Disney+, Kenville’s cosplay focus and skills have taken a surprising and abrupt turn to a new facet of the hobby for her: armorcraft. Being so close to her, I felt it was only right to crowdsource some questions from my fellow GateCrashers  to ask the Madam Mandalorian Maker herself. What follows is an interview with Kenville with the questions crafted from the GateCrashers crew and edited for clarity where needed. 

What specifically appeals to you about the Mandolorian armor itself?

I admire warriors. The Klingons, the Warrior-of-the-People Buffy Summers, Xena, Okoye, Aragorn…. they’ve always been the types who appeal to me. Mandalorians fall into the same category. I feel that part of being a warrior tends to involve you having some type of armor, but the Mandalorians and their beskar…. they just know how to make armor look GOOD. I was dazzled by Din Djarin and the Armorer, and the rest is history. 

What got you started with focusing your craft on armorsmithing?

I’d made a few props before, like Buffy’s spinning stake, the Slayer Scythe and a Scarlet Witch crown, but nothing near the level I’m on now. When I watched the first season of The Mandalorian and saw the Armorer’s fight scene at the end of the season… that changed everything for me. Lauren Mary Kim did that fight over 400 times to make it perfect and it shows. I’ve never been captivated by a fight scene like that in my entire life and I knew I had to make her armor the second I saw her standing like a champion over the destroyed Stormtroopers. You immediately know why she’s the only Mandalorian left in their covert.

While making your armor pieces and props, do you prefer to work in silence or with music?

Typically I like to watch/listen to TV shows, since I make everything in my house. While making the Sabines I watched the entirety of Yellowstone, Longmire and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and a lot of Frasier. When I was making Bo-Katan and Armorer I watched all of Clone Wars and Rebels. It’s easier to zone out and work for hours straight when you have shows autoplaying, rather than having to stop every so often to change the music. 

What made you decide to start working in the often overlooked medium of cardboard?

I started using cardboard because I wanted to make an Armorer helmet, but all the 3D printed ones I’ve seen online (to this day) haven’t gotten the back of her helmet right, which I get because you can only see it for a split second in the show. I wanted to try to get it right though. I attempted to use paper clay, and foam, and a few other things but I wasn’t happy with how any of it came out. Then I tried using cardboard because I had a bunch of old boxes saved from shipments I’d gotten, and now I love it because you can truly do so much with it. It’s nice to be able to recycle all my old boxes, and I feel like making props from cardboard is more accessible for broke bitches like me. I’m trying to avoid getting a 3D printer because I remember when they didn’t exist, and I don’t like to imagine a future where people can’t create art without computers. I want to keep the old ways alive. 

What are some of the challenges involved when working with cardboard?

The challenges are endless, I swear. I’m thinking of changing up the way I do things because as good as I consider my helmets to be, I’m still not satisfied with how they’re coming out. Cardboard alone is not stable enough for what I do with it, so I also use papier-mâché to help everything stay together, and then tons of gesso to have something to sand smooth for painting. But the papier-mâché tends to soak into the cardboard and cause it to swell and ripple, and I’ve probably redone every single component on every single helmet I’ve made at least five times. For the life of me I still can’t get the range-finders to do what I want or get a visor to fit perfectly, but I have many more helmets in my future and am hoping I can perfect my methods eventually. 

Outside of more Mandalorian armor, what’s your next cardboard creation?

I’m dying to make Jadzia Dax’s bat’leth from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She specifies her dimensional preferences for it down to the centimeter, so I’ll be able to make it just like hers. I’m also going to be making her outfit from the episode “Blood Oath”, so I’ll have some cardboard Klingon armor in my life. 

When it comes to suits from comics or games, what is the most difficult part about making them look good in real life?

Well…. this is where I get into trouble. A lot of times I don’t think canon designs look that great. I take tons of artistic liberties, and I think that’s part of why I don’t get much recognition from the Star Wars community. The Sabines were definitely the most complex things I’ve ever made. Sabine is animated, and the design of her helmet is just not….rooted in physics or reality. So I tried to use my knowledge of how they translated Bo-Katan’s to real life, and I attempted to replicate that process. I am a painter, like Sabine, and to me some of the ways her helmets were painted by the animators just didn’t fit with the way her painting style on other things was. Her armor is painted in a different style than her helmets. Sabine to me is like a graffiti artist, with a good eye for colors and a desire to show off. In my opinion her helmet paint jobs would look a bit bland and flat in real life, (no disrespect to the artists, just looks better in animated form), so I did what I felt Sabine would have done if she were a real person and a real painter. I think the extra touches of color that I added, along with the ~purple beskar~ give them a deeper, more cohesive and beautiful feel. And now they all match! 

Judging by your Instagram, you’re a woman of many talents. How do you incorporate what you learn in your cake decorating into your armor building and vice versa? I feel like the attention to detail and patience required for both factors into it a bit, yeah?

Both cake decorating and armor building have a lot in common. I do a lot of planning prior to attempting either one. Cakes are a bit more forgiving, I’ve messed up cakes and have been able to fix them with just a little bit of time. Building armor is an entirely different beast though, and I’ve had to toss entire helmets because I’ve messed them up so badly. I think doing both has helped me with patience, doing a four-tiered wedding cake in 3 hours feels just as daunting as spending 3 months working on a helmet. I’ve learned that I can’t rush things, and if I want to spend my time repainting a helmet twenty times or redoing an inscription on a cake twenty times I’m going to, because the effort shows. I always try to present my best work, whether it’s a cake or some armor. 

As a woman in a fandom with rampant sexism, how do you navigate that?

I don’t really know how to. I spend a lot of time feeling like shit about it. It’s frustrating to see male cosplayers and creators getting supported overwhelmingly more than female/non-binary cosplayers and creators. It’s annoying opening my DMs and seeing dudes wanting to flirt with me instead of talking to me. It’s all discouraging and definitely gives me imposter syndrome and makes me want to only cosplay Jar Jar in a Star Trek dress so that Star Wars fans won’t want to talk to me. It’s pretty easy to find male Mandalorian helmet makers on Instagram, but it took me a while to find another woman so let me do you a favor in the spirit of supporting women: follow @vaultfox! She does fantastic work and gives me hope that the Star Wars community isn’t all bad.

What advice would you give other folks wanting to dive right into armor crafting and cosplay?

My best advice is this: don’t compare yourself to anyone else, don’t let anyone make you feel like your costume looks bad and don’t be discouraged if you mess up. People can be cruel and judgmental, but at the end of the day, if YOU like your costume that is the ONLY thing that matters. And if you make a mistake, just remember that I have probably made a worse mistake than you so don’t beat yourself up about it. I see people with flawless 3D printing files struggle to get their prints to come out right. It happens to the best of us! And please know that I’m happy to help any of you with anything you’re making!


Want to know more about Brittany Kenville and keep up with her latest cardboard cosplay exploits? You can find her over on Instagram: @swordofkahless.

Categories
Film

Star Wars: The Lego Starships We Hope to See

Lego has made a lot of Star Wars vehicles in their slightly over 20-year history with the franchise. And I’ve bought…a lot of them. Nothing makes me happier than rewatching a Star War and pointing at the screen every time I see a ship that I own. Underneath my TV, and frankly all around my room in general, are as many Star Wars ships as I can fit on shelves. But every now and then, there’s a ship I see that no matter how much I want it, I can’t have. So with all that Lego has ever made, from the X-wing to the TIE-Defender, what hasn’t made its way from a Galaxy Far, Far Away to a world of bricks?

The Prequels

Public perception of the prequels hasn’t always been favorable, and that’s definitely shown in the sets lego produces. Out of the 31 “Ultimate Collector Series (UCS)” sets that Lego has produced, just 6 have been based on the prequel series. And while the prequel popularity continues to grow, that change has been slow with Lego. Although the recently announced UCS Republic Gunship could hopefully see a change in that.  

So what ships from across this era haven’t yet made their way to Lego?

Naboo Royal Starship

A major part of The Phantom Menace, the reasons for the Naboo Royal Starfighter (or J-type 327 Nubian starship) not being made are pretty clear. The ship itself is chrome, and lego parts in chrome are very inconsistent in quality, and presumably more expensive to produce. After reading Queen’s Peril and Shadow recently though, I’m desperate to see Padmé represented better in Lego. Despite being a main member of the prequels cast, there are only 5 (technically 6) figures of Padmé ever made. Meanwhile, there are 7 figures based on Anakin’s Phantom Menace look alone. The “Queen Amidala” figure (technically Sabé, not Padmé) is one of the rarest figures out there, so it would be great to get a rerelease. Or an Amidala Handmaiden or two, with a new Captain Panaka?  There’s just so much potential there, and as much as I understand the restrictions with chrome I’d love to see a way to make it work. There are also several options with this ship since it appears with 3 completely different designs in each prequel movie. The Phantom Menace version is the most iconic though, and the one I’d want to see most.

Trade Federation Battleship

The Trade Federation battleship, or Lucrehulk-class Battleship, is another key part of The Phantom Menace that has yet to make its way into Lego. And this one has another pretty clear problem holding it back, size and shape. Making a ship this size would be expensive, especially since it’s a giant sphere, and there aren’t exactly many die-hard Trade Federation fans out there willing to drop hundreds on this battleship despite the potential the set could have.

The Invisible Hand

Now this one has no excuse. If we can get a lego Malevolence, General Grievous’s vastly inferior ship from The Clone Wars, we can get the Invisible Hand. Anakin didn’t say it was “where the fun begins” for nothing!  Just think of the features for this set. It could split in half!  This has been my most wanted Lego set since 2005 and every time I watch Revenge of the Sith I want it a little bit more.

Rogue One

While technically a prequel, it’s hard to loop Rogue One in with that trilogy thanks to its clear effort to be more stylistically in line with the Original Trilogy. Rogue One still did a lot of work to design new spaceships for the Star Wars Universe. As a huge fan of the U-Wing, thankfully many of these ships have already been adapted by Lego, but there are still several to go.

Hammerhead Corvette

Although technically a ship dating all the way back to the Old Republic era, the Hammerhead Corvette made its new canon debut in Rogue One and frankly stole the show. Sacrificing itself to destroy the shield over Scarif, a Hammerhead Corvette deserves a place in Lego’s line-up.

Rogue One

Despite being the ship that gives the movie its name, the Zeta-class heavy cargo shuttle is another Star Wars vehicle to not yet make its way to lego. Even with its 4 large wings, it wouldn’t even have to be a huge set if done in a similar style to the recent Imperial Shuttle and would be the perfect way to celebrate the movie’s 5 year anniversary this year.

Antoc Merrick’s X-Wing

Is this technically cheating since Lego has made many, many X-wings before in red squadron? Maybe. But have you considered…

Solo

Thanks to Solo’s underwhelming (but underserved) box office performance, it didn’t get as many Lego sets as it maybe needed. They never even made two of the main characters! I believe that this came down to the last rewrites to the film as it changed directors, but plenty of time has passed now and there’s a clear choice for the Solo ship that needs to be made.

First Light

The Nau’ur-class yacht owned by Crimson Dawn leader Dryden Vos, the First Light would provide the perfect opportunity to actually make a minifigure for Dryden himself. He is the main villain of the movie after all! And although she doesn’t appear on the yacht, the lack of L3-37 in the Solo line is another travesty.

The Original Trilogy

Unsurprisingly after 20 years of having the license, there are few ships from the original trilogy that Lego is yet to make. But not none!

Nebulon B Frigate

When the previously mentioned UCS Republic Gunship was announced, it was actually part of a vote for the next UCS set. The options were between the Republic Gunship, a TIE-Bomber, and the Nebulon B Frigate. So what did the people choose between a ship we’ve seen in Lego three times, the one that hasn’t appeared since 2003, and the giant rebel flagship that has never been made in lego and probably never will be if it doesn’t win the vote?  The Republic Gunship of course. As you can tell, I’m definitely not still bitter over that. Several other Rebel flagships would also be valid options, such as the Home One, but the Nebulon B Frigate has always been a favourite of mine.

Sequel Trilogy

The movies that brought me back into Lego after several years of absence, the sequel trilogy received fewer and fewer sets as it went on, from 17 (and 4 single figure polybags) for The Force Awakens, to 14 (and 1 single figure polybag) for The Last Jedi, to 10 for The Rise of Skywalker. That left plenty of opportunities that Lego passed on in favour of giving Poe 3 different X-Wings.

Resistance Transport Pod

One of the strangest sets to ever not exist, the ships used by the Resistance to evacuate to Crait in The Last Jedi was actually made into a set. It was shown off at a toy fair and a full leaked description was given. And then it just…disappeared. We never heard anything about it again. It’s still a great idea for a set though.  It would also be a great opportunity for a new Leia, who only got a sequel version from Episode VII.

First Order Dreadnought

Used over D’Qar to stop the Resistance from fleeing, the First Order Dreadnought may be a little on the large side but its unique shape and design could make for a very interesting build.

TIE-Whisperer

Clearly The Last Jedi’s “TIE Silencer” was deemed “too quiet”, so The Rise of Skywalker brought the volume up a bit with Kylo Ren’s latest, and final, starfighter. Due to Lego’s unfortunate lack of TIE-Interceptors, the Whisperer would fit in perfectly.

Bestoon Legacy

If you told me walking out of The Rise of Skywalker that a few years down the line I’d be a genuine fan of Ochi of Bestoon, Sith assassin extraordinaire, I’d have laughed in your face. But the current Star Wars: Darth Vader comic by Greg Pak has really turned me around on the weird little guy. He sucks, but in a very endearing way. And with the Legacy being so important to Rey’s story, it makes sense that his ship would appear in Lego form.

Final Order Star Destroyer

It’s been quite a while since Lego last released an (affordable) Star Destroyer, and the final order variant gives plenty of room to do something a little new. Essentially just an Imperial Star Destroyer with a big gun on it and a red trim, the fleet over Exogol provides plenty of scenes for Lego to draw on for a set. Like maybe finally releasing the main villain of the movie?

The Games

Although there haven’t been as many single-player Star Wars games since EA got the license, I’ve really enjoyed the ones that have been made and feel there’s plenty of potential there for Lego to use.

Jedi: Fallen Order

Stinger Mantis

I want an official Lego Cal Kestis. I will happily buy a full starship, just to own an official Cal Kestis. And more importantly, BD-1! The Stinger Mantis is also a great-looking ship with a design just waiting for Lego to make, with that wing that twists around in flight. I thought it was such a missed opportunity when nothing was announced.

Battlefront II

The Corvus

As happy as I am that Lego released an Inferno Squad battle-pack to coincide with the release of Battlefront 2, I’d love to see the Squad’s ship in bricks. An Imperial Raider-II class ship, the Corvus stayed with Iden Versio and Del Meeko when they defected to the Rebel Alliance and helped fight in the battle of Jakku. Seeing official Rebel variants of Iden and Del in figure form would also be great.

The High Republic

Lego has never based a set off of a book series before, but there’s always a first for everything. With the line-wide High Republic era dominating so much of the Star Wars publishing line at the moment and telling some fantastic stories while doing it, it makes sense for lego to cash in on that for at least the one set. And what better than…

Jedi Vector

The personal fighters used by the Jedi during the High Republic era, the Vectors are fascinating ships with lasers that use lightsabers to function and that can even be flown remotely using the force. I could list Jedi that I’d want to see included in the set for days since I love every High Republic Jedi we’ve seen so far, but Avar Kriss seems to be the best option.  As both the face of the Jedi Order thanks to her fight against the Nihil and the face of the High Republic line, she seems the perfect choice to become a minifigure.


Thanks to the many, many starships all throughout that Galaxy Far, Far Away this is far from all the ships that Lego hasn’t yet made, but I hoped you enjoyed this list of a few of my favourite candidates.  

Categories
Film

The Tragedy of Darth Vader’s Helmet

One of the earliest memories I can recall is that of a nightmare. I must have been 4 or 5 years old, but I remember like it was yesterday.  I was standing in a room surrounded by darkness when suddenly a pair of red flaming eyes appeared. As I approached these bloody lights a form started to appear around them, a skull-like shape, but it wasn’t a face, it was a helmet, it was his helmet. I remember waking up screaming and running to my parents’ room, when my mother asked me what was wrong I just said: “He was in my dreams, Darth Vader was in my dreams”.

Since that day, and until recently, the helmet of Darth Vader represented for me evil itself. But after seeing all of Clone Wars and Rebels, and reading tons of books and comics, my point of view changed, what once was a symbol of horror and cruelty, soon became the embodiment of tragedy, loss, and guilt. I believe that Darth Vader’s helmet is the perfect visual representation of Anakin’s journey into the dark side… and back.

Throughout the saga, Vader’s helmet fulfilled three main roles (other than helping him breathe), show Anakin’s transformation into the dark side, show Anakin’s guilt and regret, and show Anakin’s vulnerability (granted this is in situations when the mask is removed or damaged). Let’s see some examples. 

The first time the mask appears in the movies chronologically is near the end of Revenge of the Sith in the scene where Darth Vader’s armor is assembled. The last piece of the suit to be adjusted is the helmet, and just when the machines are putting it on Anakin we see a glimpse of his point of view: the eyes of the mask open up, almost like it’s come to life, and show red lenses that will forever change Vader’s point of view. One can even say this is the point the dark side completely clouds Anakin’s vision. 

Just after this moment, we see the mask settle into Anakin’s face and the headpiece being placed, this is the true birth of Vader, the final moment in his transformation. One of the reasons the coronation of the Lord of the Sith is so important is that this is the moment when Anakin lost his humanity. For many the face is the “most human” part of the body, it’s the part we concentrate the most on, it’s where the eyes are, the so-called windows to the soul. So the moment the mask is put on Anakin’s face, it’s hidden in a skull-like prison. What once was a symbol of humanity is now a symbol of death and tyranny. 

The animated series also has some key moments that show Vader’s helmet as the symbol of Anakin’s tragedy. At the end of The Clone Wars, when we see Darth Vader going through the wreckage Ahsoka left behind, there is a moment in which Vader looks into the sky, and if you watch very close, through the red lenses of the helmet, you can catch a glimpse of Anakin’s eye, filled with regret and guilt about the fall of Anakin and Ahsoka relationship. Later on, in Rebels, we see the reunion of these two, culminating in a duel. Vader’s helmet is damaged and once again we can see Anakin’s eye, this time showing both vulnerability and guilt. This is the last time they will ever be together and Vader/Anakin knows this, Vader took away any chance for Anakin and Ahsoka to be friends, brother and sister. Anakin sees this, and he sees it through the helmet, through the veil of the dark side, and for a moment he realizes everything he has lost. 

And this brings us to the original trilogy where we see some of the best uses of the helmet, or in most of these cases the absence of it. In The Empire Strikes Back we see the helmet being put on Anakin’s scarred head, this is the first moment we see Vader as a human, as someone who is not pure evil, it gives us a chance for redemption. 

Later in the movie, we see Luke having a vision where he sees his own face in Vader’s helmet. This is his worst nightmare, to become Vader, and this is represented through the helmet. Luke is afraid to be trapped in the same skull-shaped prison that his father is trapped in. 

And finally, there is the most iconic moment in which the helmet is involved. The redemption/death scene. In his last moments, Anakin asks Luke to remove his mask just so he can see Luke’s face with his own eyes. In a scene that makes a perfect parallel to Vader’s coronation, the helmet is removed and Darth Vader is no more. The prison is broken, the veil disappears, Anakin is finally free. 

And that is what everything is about. Ever since he was a little boy in Tatooine Anakin has been a slave, a prisoner, and the helmet brings that to life, it’s the symbol of his lack of freedom, the embodiment of Anakin’s tragedy. 

Anakin’s journey is one of my favorite stories ever, it’s the story of a little boy consumed by his fears and the way he is able to overcome them. The fact that we can see that journey represented by a weird piece of plastic encapsulates why I love Star Wars, because it brings so many ideas and themes to light in the strangest and most amazing ways.

Categories
Comics Film

The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Star Wars Pt. 3

Welcome back to The Weird and Wonderful Worlds of Marvel’s Star Wars. For those who missed the last tall tale told, Han Solo and Chewbacca teamed up with a bunch of misfits and pop culture references to fight an artist from MAD Magazine and a Kaiju. It was rather awesome.

I love how Don-Wan now looks like he needs to go back to Hogwarts for the new semester.

During those same issues of 7 through 10, the audience was treated to several asides featuring Luke Skywalker looking for a new planet to host the hidden Rebel base. He promptly went missing, and Leia stole a ship to chase after him, despite being a relatively high-ranking person in the Rebel Alliance. For those fans demanding more of the actual main character of Star Wars and the leading lady, issue 11 would at least satisfy one of those demands.

Issue 11, Star Search, welcomes Archie Goodwin as the new main writer and editor of the book. We also have a new art team, in the legendary Carmine Infantino and Terry Austin. Janice Cohen colored the book, while Joe Rosen lettered. Roy Thomas remains on as a consulting editor, and he presumably passed on any notes from his cast interviews to Goodwin. With this, we’ve actually gone from one legendary team of creators to another. 

Archie Goodwin? He worked on a lot of early-1970s Marvel books, and even co-created Luke Cage and the Jessica Drew incarnation of Spider-Woman. Carmine Infantino? He made roughly half of the Silver Age DC Comics roster, especially Barry Allen’s incarnation of The Flash. Terry Austin? He’d spent time on the seminal revival of Batman in the mid-1970s, and was also working on Uncanny X-Men at this time. The tone and feel of the comic is certainly going to change, but the quality is going to remain excellent.

Han and Chewie have been able to leave Aduba-3 finally, but spend less than an hour in space before they’re jumped by Space Pirates once again. It turns out Crimson Jack slapped a tracking device on the Millenium Falcon when he stole Han and Chewie’s reward last episode, and the two of them were unlucky enough to stumble their way into his path once more. This time, rather than running, Han lets the Falcon be taken by Jack and his pirate crew. You see, he’s got a plan: The Rebellion could always use a captured Imperial Star Destroyer, and-

Why is Princess Leia a captive of Crimson Jack?

Tragically, the cast is going to remain in their movie wardrobe for a while, but Infantino makes it work.

Leia was on her way to the mysterious Drexel system to find where Luke Skywalker had vanished when Crimson Jack and his motley crew grabbed her ship and captured her. Jack figures he’s going to keep the Falcon and kill off Han, then ransom Leia to the Rebels… when it turns out Chewbacca is blasterproof!

I never thought I would see a literal example of plot armor!

Han is able to wrangle up a blaster and uses it to weasel his way into a partnership with Jack. There’s totally a Rebel base with a ton of cash out there, and Han knows exactly where it is. Also, the Princess totally loves him, see?

Wait, how was Leia captured again?

I’m not gonna lie, I love how nuanced their flirting has become. It actually feels like something that could evolve and mutate into the sheer married couple bickering we see in The Empire Strikes Back. Leia “gives up” that the Rebel treasury is hidden in the Drexel system, but promises that Luke Skywalker is there, with deadly surprises!

Hey, speaking of, how is the farm boy doing anyhow?

Yep, that figures.

The comic slams back to Leia being escorted over to the brig by the first mate Jolli. Unlike her namesake, Jolli is a cold woman with no time for romance or humor. She even remarks she’d rather shoot Solo than kiss him, and Leia comes back with a weird remark that again perfectly predicts The Empire Strikes Back.

Jolli feels like a weird interpretation of a feminist character seen through the perspective of an older white guy in the 70s. Hates men, yet is tempted by the heroic handsome hetero male all the same. To be honest, a more modern interpretation of Jolli could make her asexual or aromantic and place her on a more diverse section of the spectrum of sexuality. I know Disney likely wouldn’t do this, seeing how their one bone tossed to the LGBTQ community in The Rise of Skywalker was an easily trimmed moment of background characters of the same sex kissing… but it’s still nice to dream. It feels like Goodwin is scratching at the surface of what could be a great character – or at least some good representation.

Jolli violently reacts to the idea of being kissed, and Leia takes the time to flash back to the movie she starred in a few months ago. Han bargains for Chewbacca to access the Falcon so they can provide accurate charts for the Drexel system, and the comic returns to Luke Skywalker as Han hopes the kid isn’t in trouble.

Well, issue 12 goes into the kind of mess he’s in, titled Doomworld. The creative team remains the same, but Roy Thomas has left the book as consulting editor. Now we have Jim Shooter, the man who would eventually run Marvel as Editor in Chief for most of the 80s. Luke’s escape pod has fallen onto a world of fantasy on the high seas, as dragons menace him – and sea pirates on hover boats hunt them.

It’s quite the change from Tatooine, for sure! Two of the four hunting skimmers are trashed before the dragons flee, including a weird man riding the dragons. Luke and his droids are saved by them, but they want to gut Luke and scrap the droids for spare parts. Luke takes exception to this

Ah, I see he picked up diplomacy from his father’s side.

Luke whips his blade around, sending people flying. While it looks like the art has them being hit, the dialogue explains they’re all jumping for cover. The end result makes it look like Luke is using his lightsaber as a baseball bat, and it is hilarious. R2-D2 squirts oil onto the deck to slip up the other sea pirates as Luke makes like Erroll Flynn and jump-kicks his way into command of the boat. Luke demands to meet the leader, and an explanation as to who these “Dragon Lords” are. It turns out Luke landed on the previous incarnation of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

I’m not gonna lie, this is some fantastic stuff. I adore the image of a large sailing vessel having been turned into a home by necessity. Any free sailing this ship once did looks to have long since ended, and the homes seem to be made up out of a combination of the sails and what could be moss. It easily explains the kind of dilapidated life these sea pirates experience, and tells a lot without needing excessive narration.

The Governor is a horrible rotund man, looking like actor Trevor Howard in the role of Captain Bligh from 1962’s Mutiny on the Bounty with extra flair.

No, seriously.

We may no longer have Howard Chaykin making pop culture reference characters, but this doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.

And like Captain Bligh, Governor Quarg is a paranoid and vindictive man. He vows to kill everyone who let those two skimmers get wrecked, and only holds back on wrecking the new droids when Luke brandishes his lightsaber once more. Interestingly, this comic also lists the Jedi as Warrior Priests and Wizards in the rumors about them, which kinda nails what they would become to a vast degree for the prequel movies. I’m sure this stems from the ideas George Lucas had about the old Jedi Order at this time, but it’s still really cool to see what could be nailed this early in the franchise.

We cut back to Han and the Pirates, and Han is trying his best to continue lying about the treasure the Rebels have hidden in the Drexel system. He’s able to wrangle Chewbacca access to the Falcon for a little while, and Jolli provides a distraction by rambling about kisses and then trying to shoot anyone who tries to kiss her!

Yanno, I am totally ok with her killing rapist pirates.

Jolli says she hadn’t given consent to being kissed, and was frying those who were trying to take advantage of her confused state. And since it’s somehow Han’s fault, she slaps him hard. Meanwhile, Goodwin nails that Chewie is a lot older than fans guessed at the movies:

The fact that the pirates have no idea what he’s saying, but are just snapping to attention is hilarious and perfect.

Finally, they arrive at the planet Luke Skywalker vanished at, but it’s a water world! The Rebels couldn’t possibly have a treasury or even a base there, could they? Han sweats bullets as we roll into issue 13, Day of the Dragon Lords. Rick Parker has joined on as letterer, but the rest of the creative crew remains the same. 

Luke has been taken in by the Governor, as R2-D2 has proven to be a rather good mechanic in his own right. Luke isn’t too bad either, and Governor Quarg is considering making Luke his new Master Machinesmith. The old one takes umbrage with this and tries to kill Luke while the lad tests out a repaired sea skimmer.

Luckily, Luke is able to ditch the man into the sea, where he is merely knocked unconscious. Until the Governor gets his hands on him.

That’s a death by hanging, in a Comics Code approved comic book! Star Wars!

Luke realizes he’s only alive at the whim of the Governor while the madman relates his backstory. His father worked for the old Republic, as a Governor of an asteroid belt colony. They would salvage from wrecked ships, and would even cause a few accidents for nicer targets, until they were stopped by the Republic and their Jedi. Fleeing, they crashed onto the planet Drexel and tried making a life for themselves. A rebellion would result in some people fleeing and living with the sea dragons of this world, while others would fall under Quarg’s rule. Quarg would continue his father’s work, dragging down ships to salvage to stay alive and in power. And hey, an Imperial Star Destroyer has just come into orbit.

Crimson Jack and his crew are thrown into a panic when all power on the ship cuts off and begins a slow descent to the planet. Han and Chewie take the time to escape, and Leia seems to be the only sane person on board.

Han should know who wears the pants in these rescues by now.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca escape in the Falcon to the planet’s surface to find Luke, only to crash in the middle of a massive war between the Quarg’s sea pirates and the Dragon Lords!

“This must be a Thursday. I never could get a hang on Thursdays.”

The Falcon is struck by turbolaser fire from a sea skimmer, and several of the crew are knocked overboard. Luke pulls up on his own to try and save who he can, only to be nearly killed by Chewbacca’s iron grip! Luke’s sea skimmer exploding stops this, but Luke wakes up in the brig next to the angriest Wookiee he’s had the misfortune of meeting!

I love how Chewbacca is just going to use C-3PO to crush Luke.

Luke’s life-threatening encounter with the limb-ripper himself continues in issue 14, The Sound of Armageddon! Denise Wohl takes over letting duties for this issue, as Chewbacca continues to rip the wooden brig apart as he tries to pop Luke’s head from his shoulders like a ripe space-grape. 

Luckily, Han is still alive, being dragged around underwater by one of the Dragon Lords. Leia is also safe, locked in the Millennium Falcon and waiting to blast anyone who walks onboard. While Leia is, again, captured by a group of pirates, Luke is barely able to hold off Chewbacca for R2-D2 to blast him with fire-retardant. This somehow knocks the Wookiee unconscious. Poor guy must be having an off day.

The Dragon Riders are still assaulting Quarg’s base ship, and Han meets with one of their leaders in their secret base. As it turns out, the very system that Quarg uses to bring down ships causes immense pain to the water dragons, and is causing ecological damage that is slowly driving them to extinction! Reluctantly, Han signs up to take out the ship, but is also told the Dragon Riders want to wipe out the Falcon too!

In the chaos of war, Leia is able to escape the Governor’s men, and Chewbacca rips free of his wooden jail. Luke and Han meet up in the Falcon by chance, and the plans of both men line up perfectly. Luke wanted to link up the Millennium Falcon to the Governor’s EMP beam to pretend to work with him, but the same link would make the Falcon immune to the EMP. Han realizes that this would allow him to destroy the device with the ship’s turbolasers, saving the Dragons and his ship! But they can’t fire yet, because Leia has found herself trapped by Quarg!

I’ve really got to wonder what Luke’s mental state is now that he’s willing to kill anyone who threatens this girl he likes.

Luckily, Luke swings by out of nowhere to save her and kill Quarg at the same time. Now that the war on the surface is over, however, Han is worried about what waits for them in space. That brings us to issue 15, Star Duel! John Costanza steps in as the letterer of the month, and the story starts out with a screaming red-bearded pirate.

Crimson Jack wants the blood of Han Solo. Han not only left Jack and his crew in the lurch, but he also sabotaged every single one of his fighters. Jolli manages to repair her craft first, which looks like a yellow prototype Y-Wing. She strafes the Falcon as everyone scrambles aboard, but not before Luke reveals one of his darkest secrets.

This is perfect. It makes sense that Luke wouldn’t know how to swim, coming from a world where moisture farming was a viable job. It also helps show that while Luke could someday become a super-cool space wizard, he’s still just a normal Joe. Leia helps Luke flounder to the Falcon so they can all escape into space. As they do so, Jolli reveals her dark past that made her hate men: her father abandoned her mother (and herself) rather than fight the Empire. A space torpedo then struck nearby, killing her mother. So, thus, she hates men.

As the Millennium Falcon streaks by the Star Destroyer, Jolli’s bootleg craft rams the Falcon. This somehow knocks loose the gyro control module, and they need a replacement before they can fly again. Luckily, the Star Destroyer can’t destroy the stranded Falcon, as Han and Chewie wiped their entire star logs from the pirate ship. This leaves the ship unable to jump to hyperspace without risking landing in the middle of a star, planet, or black hole.

Han proposes a trade: a copy of the Falcon’s star charts for a new gyro control module. How is this done?

IN SPACE.

Without the super-serious rules of “hard” science fiction to restrict them, the team working at Marvel decided that Buck Rogers rules were due for Star Wars. No fancy space suits, just a mask that keeps you with breathable air. This, hilariously, also predicts The Empire Strikes Back’s “asteroid cave” scene where Han and Leia survive in open space (space worm lungs?) with similar masks on their faces.

A massive shootout ensues, with Han having to face down roughly 30 pirates on his own. As he panics and flails like any scruffy nerf herder would, Jolli decides to rebel against Crimson Jack. The collision with the Falcon left her stranded in space, and Jack was ok with her dying out there, since it was her fault. She shoots nearly every pirate dead, then rams her ship into the bridge of the pirate ship, killing everyone else. Han takes the chance to shoot Crimson Jack dead.

Once more, Han shoots first.

The Star Destroyer is either damaged beyond repair, or they just don’t have enough people to crew the thing. Han finds Jolli’s corpse, just dangling out of her ship, and decides to thank her for saving his life in the only way he knows how.

I firmly believe that Goodwin and Infantino wanted to be touching and kind with this scene. However, with a modern perspective, this actually comes off as creepy. Yes, she’s dead, but she really was a confused person who may have wanted to explore what she wanted, but certainly never wanted to do so when she was alive. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this really struck me as wrong when I first read it as a kid, and still does today.

And with that, the second major original storyline of Star Wars comes to a close. Long-running multi-issue stories were rare in the 1970s for comics, and Star Wars had run two of them in their first year of stories. The comic has also been granted two fantastic creative teams, and it’s hard to see how a kid living in a post-Star Wars world wouldn’t love these comics. There’s action, adventure, weird romance, and everyone gets a chance to be awesome. Except C-3PO.

Fans adored these issues, but the letters were still highly focused on what they found to be wrong with the comic. The first-ever original novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster had been released a few months back, so comparisons between the two books were inevitable. 

As you can see, Bill here was convinced that we need to figure out why Leia and Luke couldn’t swim in one continuity or another. It’s amusing, but these things still happen. Again, it’s fascinating to see how little the fandom has changed.

The universe of Star Wars is starting to feel richer and more nuanced, with examples of corruption from the previous Republic and space pirates to go along with the space smugglers. The events of these issues are fairly self-contained, and with almost the entire cast of new characters killed off, it’s easy to see why. The Drexel System would get a namedrop in the later original Expanded Universe novels with a Drexel Minor System to have a planet named Drexel II since this Drexel System was a one-planet solar system. It feels somewhat convoluted for a name drop, but that’s the original Star Wars Expanded Universe for you.

The Tally Count:

Issues Covered: 17
Accidental Incest: 2
Cast Members Killed: 13
Lightsaber-related Injuries: 6

Categories
Film

Star Wars: The Failure of the Skywalkers

Key Gunray is the galaxy’s foremost expert (self-described) on Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. The following piece is based on his own findings and does not reflect the stances or opinions of this establishment.

ed. Sir Traagi Culo’uss

I am honored and humbled to be able to share my new findings here at The Bar’leth Journal of Antiquities. Being the foremost expert on such an elusive subject as Jedi Master Luke Skywalker typically means that my expertise is largely in the form of fun facts that breathe life and context into an essentially ubiquitous war hero. That prevalence is precisely why I felt the need to reach as many as possible with my recent findings, which I believe supply some context for his disappearance. 

Typically, I treat any recordings of Master Skywalker with great skepticism. In nearly three decades of chronicling his adventures, I have maybe seen minutes of footage, and own even less. A tip about the last Jedi Master in action was likely too good to be true, but with his recent disappearance, any information about him is especially important to uncover. While I do not believe the newly discovered footage will materialize any leads on his current whereabouts, it is an incredible artifact from the brief period where Luke Skywalker was the hero of the galaxy rather than the failure he would come to be.

The recovered footage is not time-stamped (it is also lacking any audio), but I believe the time frame can be reasonably gleaned from Skywalker’s physical appearance and the mission he appears to be accomplishing–that of reestablishing the Jedi Order by collecting force-sensitive children to train them in the ways of the force. My best guess is this would be somewhere around a decade into the New Republic, when he had time to be galavanting about, dragging children into his dormant religion.

By this period of time, the Master Jedi’s reputation had grown from war hero to galactic legend, whose feats (allegedly) included healing, seeing the future, and even creating black holes. At a certain point, the tales become ridiculous, but the point is clear: Luke Skywalker is one of the greatest heroes the galaxy has ever seen.

The reality, as demonstrated by this footage, is that the power Skywalker wields as a Jedi Master is more terrifying than it is inspiring–more destructive than sacred.

The ownership of said footage is currently under dispute by multiple owners. A brief description of its contents will follow. 

> An X-Wing docks. <

> Shortly thereafter, a cloaked figure is seen walking down a hallway. <

> A number of fourth-degree battle droids disengage from their previous task, targeting the approaching enemy. <

> The cloaked figure, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (identified by his green lightsaber and use of Force-derived powers), engages the droids in various formations and in varying numbers. He eliminates them all with stunning efficiency. <

End Description.

For many, the footage confirms more or less what one would expect of a Jedi Master, especially one of Skywalker’s caliber. This is the kind of adventure most would expect from him, a heroic last-minute save and a demonstration of his great power.

However, historian that I am, I’ve come to view the footage in a different light, namely the context of the Skywalker family and the galactic legacy to which Skywalker belongs as the son of Darth Vader. The event in question is particularly reminiscent of one particular battlefield tale of Lord Vader’s, at least as relayed by rebel soldiers, and has significance in its parallel action as well as historical context.

By way of a preface, although the following is almost certainly true, there is no material proof of it occurring. It is an old rebel legend, widely used in rebellion propaganda all the way through the end of the war, both to underscore the terror-struck by the figure of Vader alongside the heroism, tenacity, and perseverance of the average rebel soldier (including my good friend Greth Ewdard, noted survivor of the encounter). Nonetheless, the following is an approximation of what occurred and is not necessarily the exact truth of the matter.

The legend takes place over Scariff, just as the battle there closes. The rebels are escaping with the plans to the Death Star, unknowingly pursued by Vader. The carnage has been related to me many times, each iteration slightly different, but a few elements remain constant: the rebels are easily dispatched, Vader goes untouched throughout the engagement, he advances slowly, methodically, but perhaps most importantly, the effort turns out to be a great failure. Lord Vader displays his great mastery of the Force in much the same way his son Luke would around a decade later, but their respective missions result in markedly different outcomes. Luke’s adventure leads to the addition of a new student to his temple, whereas Vader’s culminates in what may well be his greatest disappointment as a military commander: the destruction of the first Death Star.

This, however, is where I must remind you of our own historical context, two decades removed from Skywalker’s great child hunt. His New Jedi Order was, indeed, a failure. As far as we know, the Jedi Master did not train a single Jedi to mastery, nor even to a point from which they could reasonably leave to continue their training alone, a fact often considered especially disappointing given the tragic storm that destroyed the temple structure itself.

It is possible, even likely, that Skywalker’s disappearance led to the First Order gaining the opportunity to grow in power enough to now wield a troubling amount of power throughout the galaxy (Senator Leia Organa, however, Skywalker’s twin sister, also has a hand in that, although that is perhaps a subject for another time).

Luke Skywalker, like his father before him, was impressive. He had proved himself time and again that he had everything it took to be a hero. Yet, he failed. The whole galaxy required his assistance, including his students and, ultimately, himself. But he failed, just like his father before him. The legacy of the Skywalker name is one of heroism across the Galaxy, but I hope that this understanding evolves through the coming years, with my expert assistance, of course. The more we bring history of this sort into the light, the better prepared we are to confront the horrors of the future—and the present.

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Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy

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Today, Ashley and Ethan sit down to discuss the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. They talk about everything from their love of these films, emo bitch boy Kylo Ren to the one, the only, Babu Frik.

Make sure to listen at the beginning for the penultimate chapter in our four-part audio drama, Star Wars: Wild Space Episode III – The Return of the Imp.

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Star Wars: Rogue One GateCrashers

Rebellions are built on hope. Fitting that the end of our Star Wars month is about the story that sparked the fire that freed the Galaxy from the Empire. Tim Daniel joins Dan to talk about their favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One. We talk far too long about Saw Gerrera, the themes of the film, and what makes it stand out amongst giants.
  1. Star Wars: Rogue One
  2. Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
  3. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
  4. Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
  5. Interview with George Motz