Categories
Books

Star Wars: Ronin: A Visions Novel Review

Star Wars: Ronin: A Visions Novel by Emma Mieko Candon is an adaptation and expansion of The Duel, the first episode of the recently released Star Wars: Visions show which was produced by Kamikaze Douga.  It focuses on the titular Ronin, a former Sith now wandering the galaxy with his faithful droid.  Forced into conflict with a Sith bandit to protect a small village, the Ronin is soon brought back into the life he had once left behind.  That’s a very vague description, and the official publisher summary gives more, but I think this book works best when you go in as blind as possible, aside from the Visions episode it’s based on which only makes up the first few chapters before it really starts expanding.  Ronin thrives with constant world-building as it explores a distant time-period in the Star Wars universe.

Having just seen the trailer by the time I started this book, The Duel was definitely the Visions episode that I was most excited for and filled me with questions about this fascinating take on the Star Wars universe.  Things like the strange umbrella saber, the lightsaber sheath and these two red bladed warriors fighting got me so interested and I just wanted to know more, and thankfully Ronin delivers in every regard.  Aside from a few brief moments before the events of The Duel, Ronin opens up with the events of the episode itself but is mostly focused on continuing the story of our titular Ronin.  Comparing the opening chapter to the show really demonstrates Emma Mieko Candon’s strength as a storyteller. After finally watching the episode, it looked exactly how the book had described it. The strong action narration is a constant throughout the book, something essential for a story that lives up to the name of the episode that inspired it.

As someone whose real love of the expanded universe of Star Wars really only started when Disney shifted the long, confusing complicated stories of “Luuukes” and Chewbacca getting killed by a moon into Legends, the so-called “canon” of Star Wars has been something I’ve cared about deeply, perhaps a little too much.  It’s easy to get caught up in the cameos and connections in a story and focus less on the story itself, and when it was revealed that Visions, and the connecting Ronin novel, were “non-canon” I was slightly apprehensive.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that was a good thing.  Allowing these creators their own interpretations of Star Wars would only get rid of restrictions and really let these creators run wild.  And Ronin absolutely proved that right.  It’s one of the most bold and innovative pieces of Star Wars media I’ve ever read, watched or listened to since the Original Trilogy, taking the standard trappings of the Star Wars universe that we know and love, the Jedi and Sith, Lightsabers and the Force, spaceships and droids and tells a truly unique and wonderful story with them.  Whilst Ronin may not be part of the larger Star Wars canon, I found myself caring less and less about that as I read on.  That being said, the story of Ronin is one that could easily fit into that canon, and I hope it one day does, as it fleshes out a part of the Star Wars universe that has been barely touched and is rife with potential.

With The Duel being a mostly action focused episode of Visions, Emma Mieko Candon was given a fairly blank slate with these characters, and they flesh them out wonderfully.  While I won’t spoil anything about Ronin’s history, having an ex-Sith protagonist makes for a fascinating story.  Seeing the Jedi vs Sith argument from a different perspective makes Ronin something truly unique, and the relationship between the Ronin and B5-56, his astromech with the lovely straw hat, is incredibly sweet and one of my favourite person/droid friendships.  In classic Star Wars fashion, Ronin also expands the cast of The Duel with a spaceship crew full of interesting characters to join the Ronin on his journey, each with their own fascinating backstories and motivations.  That’s very vague, but watching the secrets of these characters unfold in front of you is too good to spoil.

The inspiration of Seven Samurai on the original Star Wars is no secret and much like A New Hope, the Kurosawa influence is abundantly clear in Ronin.  Fitting for a book from a Japanese-American author that is inspired by the work of a Japanese animation studio, the Japanese influence is woven throughout the entire book and the world it builds.  Every name, place and food is packed full of inspiration from Japanese culture, and even the descriptions of the Force show a clear relationship to Japanese symbolism.  Despite being a reimagining of the Star Wars universe in many ways, Ronin’s real respect for it’s influences both cultural and Star Wars make it a wonderful and authentic story and a must-read for Star Wars fans.

I’m far from the only one frequently disappointed and underwhelmed by the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in live-action Star Wars, but once again the books deliver where the movies and shows have not.  One of the lead characters is non-binary, and it also features (to my knowledge) the first trans-man in Star Wars, Yuehiro.  And whilst he doesn’t have a massive role in the story, although it is important, it was still a very pleasant surprise to see a character definitively shown to be transgender, with even a mention of hormones.  There’s also a few prominent queer relationships, and it’s always nice to get more of that in the Star Wars universe.  

Overall Ronin is one of the most interesting pieces of Star Wars media in quite a while.  Free of the restrictions of canon, it’s not afraid to tell a vast and expansive story that becomes more and more intriguing with every page.  Its’ characters are complex and full of fascinating history and heart.  For anyone who enjoyed the Visions episode it’s based on, or anyone who enjoys Star Wars at all, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Categories
Anime Television

Star Wars: Visions Review – A Fresh Take on the Galaxy Far, Far Away

Jake: A lot of people love Star Wars, and a lot of people love anime. So, Disney had a thought: why don’t we just put them together like peanut butter and jelly or whatever the opposite of toothpaste and orange juice would be and made Visions! 

Dan: Star Wars is an IP that has so much potential with how it’s set up. There are so many types of stories that can be told in the galaxy. The strength of Visions is that it isn’t weighed down by “canon” and all that junk. Disney basically handed the IP to a bunch of big anime studios and told them to go wild. In my opinion, it was the best choice they could have made because Visions absolutely slaps. Making this an anthology series with different stories and teams on each makes it something truly special.

Exploring the Galaxy Far Far Away with a Renewed Hope

Dan: It’s taken you about 20 something years to get me to finally find an anime I enjoy. I just had a stubborn youth and I now know what works and doesn’t work for me in Anime. There is so much here that 3/4th of these episodes could be their own mini-series. I want to start by focusing on the abandoning of “canon” to tell extremely cool and fresh stories. Even though I think “The Duel” was my least favorite of the batch, it had one of the coolest uses of lightsaber tech. A lightsaber umbrella was just such a cool visual and use of the Star Wars stuff we know to do something radical. Every episode feels like a fresh take on the Star Wars universe and approaches it from different angles. There are episodes about Jedi, droids, and all the other odds and ends of the Star Wars universe.

Each episode has a score that stands out as feeling familiar in the vein of John Williams but never strays into feeling like carbon copies. Each has its own style that lends to the style of the episode. Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi’s score for “The Ninth Jedi” stands out for me personally as does the episode.

Jake: Anime is good and more people should have an open mind, and I think this series is a great sampling of what anime has to offer people. 

This series is so fresh with ideas of what Star Wars is and what it can be. Some of these are great interpretations and others are great additions to the mythos.

The Animation Domination

Dan: Jake, you know more about these studios than I do, how did these episodes hold up to other anime’s these studios have done?

Jake: Well, that’s a bit hard to say because some of these studios are legends in the industry. Also, it’s important to note which directors were involved in each studio’s piece. 

Production I.G that did “The Ninth Jedi” is responsible for animating the cyberpunk classic, the original Ghost in the Shell, and Psycho-Pass. I think for a short one-episode story they really brought their A-game! 

Then there’s Studio Trigger, founded by Gurren Lagann director Imaishi Hiroyuki, that did two episodes, “The Twins” and “The Elder,” both being very different pieces. Imaishi did the “The Twins” and it has big Gurren Lagann drill energy with the color choices of Trigger’s film Promare. I thought that was all big energy, big action, and lots of heart. “The Elder” was  very different in pacing and style. It’s director, Otsuka Masahiko, doesn’t seem to have much directing under his belt but he did a great job. 

Science Saru, known mainly for its Netflix releases of Devilman Crybaby and Japan Sinks 2020, bringing us “Akakiri” and “T0-B1.” ”T0-B1” reminded me of Astroboy and Megaman added into the galaxy far far away, and spiritually it lives up to their Devilman remake. “Akakiri” also lives up to it more thematically. 

The other studios all did great work as well, I don’t think any of them didn’t deliver their best work. Kamikaze Douga, did “The Dual” and it very much is in line with their work on Batman Ninja. Gave us the brilliant style of “Tatooine Rhapsody” which seems way different than their other works that I’m familiar with like A Whisker Away. Kinema Citrus did great work bringing with “The Village Bride” bringing their own style out compared to their catalog of adaptions. Geno Studio’s “Lop and Ocho” makes me excited for what appears to be a pretty young studio with only a handful of work under their banner. 

Force Highlights

Dan: So before I get into the best episode, I need to talk about “Tatooine Rhapsody” because it feels like someone working on this series was doing this for me. Essentially the plot is a rock band in the Star Wars universe and Jabba the Hutt is in it. I love Jabba the Hutt and somehow this series made Bib Fortuna very cute instead of looking like something that crawled out of George Lucas’s nightmares. When I saw this episode, all I could think was that we need 20 more seasons of Visions because this is the absolute best use of Star Wars.

Now I am going to say something that may turn some heads, I think “The Ninth Jedi” is my favorite Star Wars thing since Rogue One. The concept is brilliant, the storytelling and character are brilliant, and it could easily spin off into its own series with the wonderful concept that was set up in a short 20-minute window. It uses the tropes of Star Wars that we all know and rely on when watching, reading, or consuming Star Wars concepts and flips them in interesting ways.

Overall, I think Star Wars: Visions may have knocked Mandolorian out of my post-Rogue One favorite spot. It doesn’t rely on nostalgia like Mandolorian does in some ways. It takes things we know like the ideas, objects, and themes but never reuses them in a way that could be lazy to get some quick cheers. It stands alone as its own unique version of the Star Wars universe. If you were on the fence, jump off and ignite your lightsaber because you’re going to need it with all the wild ideas this throws at you.

Jake: I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about “The Ninth Jedi.” I really enjoyed the way it portrays lightsabers and their colors being loose and more of a reflection of their owner and their connection to the force. Also the colorless lightsaber was such a cool concept! Like it wasn’t just a which light it was just semi-visible energy. 

Visions is something I want more of and there are some of these episodes that I would love to see developed further into even just one or two more episodes. A few of them really left their ending open to further adventure and I want to see those adventures!

Categories
Various Media

Star Wars: Tempest Runner Review

Set 200 years before the start of the Skywalker Saga, the multi-media publishing line of the High Republic takes the Star Wars universe to a time of expansion for the Republic as they explore and begin settling the Outer Rim of the galaxy for the first time and encounter a whole new group of threats in the Nihil, a gang of space pirates and marauders with access to hyperspace technology beyond what anyone else is capable of.

The latest chapter in the ongoing High Republic era, Tempest Runner explores the past and future of Lourna Dee, one of the leaders of the Nihil in an all new format, the audio drama. Picking up where previous High Republic novels The Rising Storm and Out of the Shadows left her, Tempest Runner builds on a character that had been set up in such an interesting way over the previous books and leaves her as one of my favourite characters in this entire High Republic era.

Tempest Runner follows two narrative threads as we learn the past of Lourna Dee and what drove her from a rich daughter of a Twi’lek colony leader to one of the Nihil’s deadliest members and also continue her journey from the end of the The Rising Storm as she finds herself the most wanted person in the galaxy, believed to be the leader of the Nihil.  It strikes a strong balance between the two threads, giving each plenty of time to shine.  Lourna’s background features several jumps as we go through the key moments of her life that define who she becomes but it’s all woven together very well and easy to follow.  Jessica Almasy, the voice of Lourna Dee herself, does a great job of growing Lourna’s voice throughout the different time periods which helps separate the younger Lourna in flashbacks from the more grizzled Lourna in the “present” day.  

There’s always a challenge when characters make the jump from being featured solely in comics and books to being played by real people.  You build up that voice in your head for what a character sounds like and it can be difficult when that idea doesn’t match with what you hear.  But the cast of Tempest Runner absolutely nails it.  Every returning character feels like they’ve jumped right off the page.  While a couple of line deliveries felt a little off, for the most part the acting itself was brilliant and really brings the characters alive.  Special mention to Marc Thompson who returns as Marchion Ro from his role in the High Republic audiobooks who is an absolutely perfect Marchion.  He balances the terrifying gravitas that Ro has while still capturing that calm, calculating demeanor.  Although Marchion’s role isn’t large, it’s a performance that will be stuck in my head any time I read the character from now on.

Tempest Runner is a real culmination of Lourna Dee’s journey so far. Both The Rising Storm and Into the Dark from the second High Republic wave set up Lourna in such an interesting place, and this is the real pay off for that. We also get brief appearances by a variety of characters from the greater High Republic world, including the Marvel comic series also written by Cavan Scott. Although reading any of the previous High Republic books wouldn’t be essential, this audio drama would be pretty confusing without at least a basic knowledge of the era, it’s larger cast and especially the Nihil themselves.

Being a story built almost entirely by a cast of villains, it’s good to see Tempest Runner avoid a lot of tropes with Lourna Dee.  While she may be a character with many relatable aspects the story doesn’t shy away from her being an awful person.  What we get is the believable downfall of someone who was dealt one too many bad hands, but who still makes the wrong choices at every opportunity.  She’s easy to root for while still not being exactly likeable and a great addition to the Star Wars universe.  We also meet several new characters in Tempest Runner as well as the recurring ones.  My personal favourite being Ola Hest, a character who I could only describe as a space gangster with a voice by Orlagh Cassidy that is reminiscent of esteemed character actress Margo Martindale who I would love to see in other High Republic projects in the future.

A real strength of this project is the production design.  Sound is a key aspect to really capture that Star Wars feel and with a soundtrack mostly composed of the music by John Williams from previous Star Wars movies and fantastic sound effects, Tempest Runner is able to nail that vibe perfectly.  Close your eyes and you could feel like you’re just watching a new Star Wars film.  The action is vibrant and exciting despite a lack of any visual fights thanks to the great action effects and the general background effects used also add a lot to the story being told.  The production shows just how much Tempest Runner benefits from being an audio drama instead of just another novel.

As my first foray into the Star Wars audio dramas, I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive when Tempest Runner was first announced.  I often find it difficult to focus on things like podcasts when there’s no visual medium to go along with it.  But Tempest Runner had me engrossed from start to finish.  Although not necessarily essential to the larger story being built in the High Republic universe, it’s a fascinating look at one of the era’s most interesting characters and helps fill in some gaps in the larger ongoing story.  I’d highly recommend it to any fans of the other High Republic books, although I worry it would be a confusing place to start for people new to the era. 

Categories
Film

Yub Nub: Final Thoughts on Star Wars Month

When I was a child dreaming of a galaxy far far away, I would have never imagined that in the future I would still be living and breathing Star Wars. I wish I could go back and tell this kid that one day you’d watch the sun rise over the Falcon in person with one of your closest friends. That Star Wars would help him get through some of the toughest times. That Star Wars would guide him to friendships that would be with him forever. That Star Wars would lead him to the love of his life. That Star Wars would make his life so much better than he could have ever hoped.

Star Wars has been with me from the very beginning of my life. My father was a huge fan as a child as well, so luckily he had me young so my grandparents still had all of the toys he grew up with. My father has never had time for hobbies, his only one being sports which I have no interest in. So Star Wars was always the one thing we had until adulthood where you begin to see your parents for who they are rather than in your head. My father is more of a Galen than a Vader to me as an adult. Our relationship has changed dramatically to something where I now call him for advice and guidance. I just wish he would finally watch season 2 of Mandolorian

My relationship with Star Wars has been a constant in my life. It’s only now as an adult, on the verge of the next chapter of life that I have started to reflect on why.

I don’t think Star Wars has such an important part because of the Force, the Jedi, or even the scum and villainy. I think it’s so important to me because of the relationships that have been started because of it and have been made stronger through it. As the one with my father, Star Wars has been something that has connected me with so many important people in my life.

Star Wars isn’t about a lone person going against the odds alone. Each of the trilogies has their “chosen one” but they would be absolutely nothing without their friends. Success in Star Wars comes from a group of people uniting against unstoppable odds. Success comes from fully giving yourself to taking chances in hopes that it makes something in the universe better for others. Luke doesn’t destroy the Death Star without Han. Rey doesn’t defeat Palpatine without all of the Jedi behind her. Jyn Erso doesn’t get the plans to the Death Star off Scarif without everyones sacrifice to spark the flame that freed the galaxy from the Empire. And none of any of this happens without every single person at GateCrashers just wanting to share their passions in the hopes it makes someone else’s lives better.

When GateCrashers started, it was Jake, Mike, and I. Jake and I are blood but Star Wars has always been there for us. I remember the piles of figures we had growing up and how much we would play Star Wars games. Mike and I’s friendship started because he saw my goofy ass playing with a lightsaber in my yard. Now we have made our own Star Wars story with Wild Space. When Scarlett graduated college, we went to Disney World. It was around the 4th ride of Star Tours and her just constantly repeating that she wanted to see Gunga when I realized that I wanted to be with this person forever. Star Wars has made these bonds life long.

Now all of this is so much bigger. GateCrashers is so much bigger than I could have ever imagined. Every day I am amazed at the talents spotlighted on this website. Through their passion, people are connected to things that could bring them as much joy as the voice that spoke about them.

Now, sure Star Wars may be pretty accessible because of the Mouse and the sheer amount of content. But for so many, it’s not approachable because of the toxicity of so many of the fans. It’s been gatekept hard by white dudes who think it belongs to them and them alone. That’s why Star Wars was episode 100. Sure, we wanted to do it because as you can tell, we love it. But we wanted to show that anyone can talk about Star Wars. We put our hearts into everything we do even if it seems silly. We want to put our hearts on our sleeves so maybe we inspire someone to do something they wouldn’t before. We have your back. Anyone should be able to share their feelings on it. Everyone should be free to build relationships that include the galaxy far far away.

I was supposed to write a piece about the Clones and the humanity they possess which I may still get to. But instead I wrote this, a letter to you. A letter to tell you that sometimes I cry when I hear John Williams scores. A letter to say thank you for reading. A letter to say thank you for supporting my friends, their passions, and letting us take up some of your time.

Having something like GateCrashers in my life has made my life worth living even when my brain tells me otherwise. I cannot write a thank you to each of our members personally because there are a lot. I do want to take a second to thank Ethan for putting in so much time and effort for the site, for editing so many articles, and helping people find their voice to talk about all of this. Ethan has been a constant source of friendship and joy that came to us through twitter but I do not know what my life would be like without him at this point. I have thanked Mike on multiple occasions for all the work he did for the episodes but again, go listen because WOW. Thank you to Ashley for putting together the Originals this month and showcasing some fantastic art. Thank you to our wonderful Wild Space cast, especially happy to rope in Dan Avola and Nolan Hennelly into the GateCrashers.

Thank you to every single person who has contributed.

I try to make it clear that this platform is as much mine as it is theirs. I will always support passion and do everything I can to nurture it. If you need a gate crashed through, give us a call. Don’t forget that rebellions are build on hope.

May the Force be with you, always.

Daniel McMahon

Categories
Film

For the Last Time, Rey is not a Mary Sue

Like many things in fandom, the term “Mary Sue” originated in the Star Trek fandom, first appearing in A Trekkie’s Tale; a 1973 short story by Paula Smith that parodied other stories that featured idealized female characters without any weaknesses. The main character of that story, Lieutenant Mary Sue, was at age fifteen the youngest lieutenant in Star Fleet. Over the course of the ten paragraph story, Mary Sue receives advances from Kirk, Captains the ship, and dies tragically young while surrounded by Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, all of whom are weeping at the “loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability, and all around niceness.” Oh and she also forever changed the perception of female characters in fandom. Thanks Mary Sue!

In her book Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, Camille Bacon-Smith says:

“Mary Sue is the youngest officer ever to serve on the starship Enterprise. She is a teenager…with clear skin and straight teeth. If she is not blond, Mary Sue is half Vulcan… She is usually highly educated, with degrees from universities throughout the known universe… She can mend the Enterprise with a hairpin, save the crew through wit [and] courage… Lieutenant Mary Sue dies in the last paragraph of the story, leaving behind a grieving but safe crew and ship.”

An image that accompanied A Trekkie’s Tale by Paula Smith

In short, Mary Sue is perfect. She is young, intelligent, and utterly flawless. She dies tragically and she is above all else, loved by all. That is, loved by all of the characters in the story. As Bacon-Smith says in the next paragraph, “Mary Sue is also the most universally denigrated genre in the entire canon of fan fiction.” From the inception of the term, Mary Sue has been a derogatory term, a way to refer to characters that we don’t like, that we see as lesser.

While Smith stated in 1980 that her intention was not to put down stories about inspiring women, the damage had already been done. Per Enterprising Women, during a ClipperCon 1987 discussion by female authors who didn’t write female characters, one author said “every time I’ve tried to put a woman in any story I’ve ever written, everyone immediately says, this is a Mary Sue” and that “the automatic reaction you are going to get is ‘that’s a Mary Sue.’” The fear of being accused of creating a Mary Sue had already become such a massive issue that one decade after A Trekkie’s Tale was published Johanna Cantor, a TOS (short for The Original Series) fan writer and fanzine editor posed a challenge, “why is it that in a group that is probably 90% female, we have so few stories about believable, competent, and identifiable-with women?” By the 1990s, a shockingly familiar phenomenon arose as participants in a January 1990 panel noted that “any female character created in the community [was being] damned with the term Mary Sue.”

For years, Mary Sue has been applied almost exclusively to characters within fanfiction. However, by the time that Star Trek: The Next Generation was airing, the term had begun to be applied to non-fan media with Wesley Crusher acting as an incredibly rare male example of a character referred to as a Mary Sue or, in his case, Gary Stu (this, of course, was helped by the fact that Gene Roddenberry’s middle name just so happens to be Wesley). Another example of a prominent “Canon Sue” can be found in Bella Swan, the protagonist of the Twilight series and its film adaptations, something which is inherently attached to the often misogynistic hatred of Twilight and by extension, the ridicule of its young female fans. But that’s an article for a different day.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) in The Force Awakens / Source: Lucasfilm

In 2015, a new target to attach the term emerged. The main character of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a young woman named Rey from a desert planet called Jakku. Rey has lived her entire life longing for more than the desert she has spent her entire life in. As well, Rey is a scavenger; she hunts through the old rusted out remnants of a long ago battle between Imperial and Rebel forces for anything of worth that hasn’t already been taken by other scavengers. Because of her entire life spent as a scavenger, Rey has gained several skills that are obviously related to her life on Jakku; she has skills with mechanical devices, has learnt to use a weapon to defend herself, speaks more than one language because of the seemingly multicultural nature of Jakku, and has learnt to climb the large structures she scales in order to survive. These skills combined with the fact that she showed some ability both as a pilot and a force-user led people (read: angry men on the internet) to decide that Rey was to be written off as just another Mary Sue.

Perhaps the most prominent example of that criticism came from notable shitstain and alleged abuser Max Landis, who took to twitter in December of 2015 to refer to The Force Awakens as “a fan fic movie with a Mary Sue as the main character.” This led to considerable discussion of Rey’s status as a Mary Sue, with Caroline Framke of Vox pointing out that Rey’s character arc within the movie was similar to Luke Skywalker’s storyline in A New Hope, stating that, “not every seemingly perfect heroine deserves to get written off so quickly – especially — especially because it is so incredibly rare that a seemingly perfect male hero gets the same dismissive treatment.” Framke’s argument echoes something that Bacon-Smith points out in Enterprising Women, “Other fans have noted that James Kirk is himself a Mary Sue, because he represents similarly exaggerated characteristics of strength, intelligence, charm, and adventurousness.”

An example of Max Landis’ criticism of Rey in The Force Awakens / Source: Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

From the moment Max Landis tweeted that first tweet, a non-insignificant portion of the Star Wars fanbase decided that Rey was unrealistic and the evidence of some sort of feminist agenda that aimed to destroy Star Wars; it isn’t difficult to see how little time it took for people to connect the dots between Kathleen Kennedy, the current president of Lucasfilm and their imagined feminist agenda. After all, Kennedy is a woman, why wouldn’t she be behind the feminist plot to ruin their precious Star Wars. It was perhaps the worst time to be three things at once: online, a Star Wars fan, and a woman or girl. Thank god I was only on Tumblr.

The thing about that dismissive treatment is that it implies that women are inherently less capable than men, and that to pretend that a woman can be more capable than a man is unrealistic and a sign of poor writing. This is what the term Mary Sue means, perhaps it meant something different in the 70s, but this is what it’s been twisted into. 

Rey (Daisy Ridley) in The Force Awakens / Source: Lucasfilm

Rey is no more a Mary Sue than Luke Skywalker is, and if she is a little “unrealistic” so is Star Wars. Believe it or not, the Jedi don’t exist and neither does The Force. If you can suspend your disbelief for that, why can’t you accept the fact competent women do in fact exist in real life and aren’t some sort of grand conspiracy from the left or something that exists only in badly-written stories. Rey isn’t a Mary Sue, she’s just a woman who happens to be good at things.

Categories
Comics Film

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!

Halloween GateCrashers

The GateSlashers continue their dive into all things horror as the Grave Robber gathers a fresh group of innocents to experience The Night He Came Home. Yes, we’re here today to talk about Halloween 1978, and Halloween 2018, to get you prepped on everything Michael Myers before the new film releases this week!
  1. Halloween
  2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  3. Interview with Marcus Parks (Last Podcast on the Left)
  4. James Bond 007
  5. X-Men
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.