“In Space, No One Can Hear You Bicker” – Making A Star Wars Comic #6 – “Wild Space”

June 30, 2017

Concept

Since Alex and I began making A Star Wars Comic, we had the luxury of using the well-established Star Wars universe and its characters to contextualize our stories. There was no real need to explain Mon Mothma or IG-88, or what happened to the first Death Star, to the people who would seek out or discover our comic. Thanks to pop-culture, toy-based marketing, and the myriad of novels and comics that already exist, we were able to rely on our audiences narrative awareness to emotionally contextualize our stories.

“Wild Space” was our first step into a larger world. It’s not that “Wild Space” is entirely devoid of context – it is Star Wars after all and the Empire does feature prominently in the story, but it is our first attempt at original characters. 

Like all ideas, there is no definitive origin for “Wild Space”. We knew we wanted to tell a story that felt a little more adventurous and a little less contemplative than our last few issues. We also knew that we wanted the main characters to be alien, specifically Duros and Sullustan since, well, they’re great and frankly aren’t utilized enough. 

We knew we wanted to explore the fringe-side of space. Although the effect has been a little more muted in the recent canon, the Empire has always been portrayed as humanist xenophobes. Opportunity for alien species is probably less and less available so the assumption was that you would have so many of these species trying their best to work and live and succeed outside the purview of the Empire.

Original concept art of Rad Rodan (Top) and Magratan Elib (Bottom)

Wild Space is largely unexplored in Star Wars, save for the recent YA novels that have garnered some acclaim. The idea of wild space, a many light year sized swath of unknown galaxy and adventure, is just too intriguing a sandbox to ignore. Threats always seem to come from wild space but nobody is every rushing to explore it. 

We wanted our characters, even if it’s just in our head canon, to be the first.

Some quick behind-the-scenes trivia that didn’t make it into the comic:

  • Rad Rodan’s ship is named the Ash Rabbit after a creature native to his homeworld of Sullust. We would have loved to include this since we both loved the name so much, but there was no organic way to bring it into the script that I could think of.
  • The Interdictor-class Star Destroyer is named the Portcullis. Thanks to West End Games for coming up with, and Timothy Zahn for popularizing, such an awesome concept for a ship.
  • The cover for Wild Space is actually, in a way, the first panel. It depicts the Ash Rabbit taking off from Ryloth – a system which is just a few light years from the border of wild space. We circled around for a bit trying to figure out what we wanted the cover to be, but Alex came up with this great idea of the ship taking off at the start of their adventure. To try and keep it as fictionally accurate as possible, I looked up what planets were closest to wild space on the galactic map and we settled on Ryloth. It’s one of my favorite covers he’s done to date.

Art

By Alex Ray

My favorite parts of Star Wars are numerous but no aspect of the galaxy is as wickedly cool to me as the space battles. I became obsessed with the various spacecraft and the exploits of the hero pilots that fly them when I read through the old Expanded Universe X-Wing series. When Jim sent me this script I was beyond overjoyed to get to draw some TIE Fighters, an Interdictor and our own (semi-custom) freighter, outfitted to explore wild space.

The Ash Rabbit as rendered in Google Sketch-Up by Alex Ray

To that end, I found an obscure reference to a Brayl-class bulk freighter from Legends. It fit the story because it was made by the SoroSuub Corporation on Rad Rodan’s home planet of Sullust. I modeled the ship in Google SketchUp Make to use as a reference for the story. You can check out that model or download it from SketchUp’s 3D warehouse here.

Concept art for the Ash Rabbit by Alex Ray

Working on this issue, we struggled with figuring out exactly what onomatopoeia to use for the sound of the TIE fighters’ engines. Went through iterations like “Rauughhh” or “HARRRrrrr” or “WEeeeerrrrhhh”… I hope the one we ended up using gave the right impression.

Also, I’m a fan of painting space to look like it’s full of weird radiation and particles and dark matter. That’s why, even though the Telranian Expanse is mainly empty space, I tried to give it character and a sense of mystery by using strange colors and lots of splatter brushes.

WRRRAAAAHHHHHhhhhh.

Script

Due to time constraints, Alex and I tend to work with characters the audience is already familiar with. This saves us, and ultimately the audience, time in the writing and design stages because we know exactly what the characters look and act like. Also, there’s no need for much exposition as the audience already tends to know exactly what the characters motivations are. We are comforted by the presence of familiar characters as they bring legitimacy to the story being told and represent an established narrative relationship. 

It was a little different with “Wild Space”.

The plot was always very simple. It starts, like all good Star Wars, in medias res when our two heroes have been pulled out of hyperspace by an Interdictor cruiser, on the edge of wild space, and have to find a way to escape. Outside of figuring out exactly how the two would escape the Interdictor cruiser, the plot was really just set dressing for the two characters we were about to introduce.

I was very lucky that Magratan Elib and Rad Rodan came onto the page close to fully formed. Mag and Rad occupy an odd couple archetype that Star Wars has utilized since its inception with characters like R2-D2 and C-3PO and, more recently, Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One. I had ideas about Mag and Rad’s backstories, but how they came together was ultimately less important to the comic than who they were in that moment aboard the Ash Rabbit. The two had to compliment each other. Rad is Mag’s better nature. In Mag’s mind – filled with numbers, solutions, theories, and ideas – it’s easy to paralyze himself and never move forward with anything. Rad pulls him out of that cycle. Rad’s philosophy may be more simple, but he’s also more impetuous and quick to anger. Rad’s unfocused passion is evened out by Mag’s cool logic. Mag gives Rad the focus he needs. 

Most importantly: they’re both dreamers. Mag would never admit to it, and Rad would probably happily tell everyone in earshot about every dream he’s ever had, but they both are driven to be something more than themselves. I wanted to create a sense of personal history between Mag, Rad, and the audience even though there was none.

I wanted the audience to feel like instead of meeting new characters, they were rediscovering old friends.

You can read the script for “Wild Space” here:

ASWC14 – Wild Space Script

Since this has come out, we’ve gotten a lot of people asking for more adventures with Mag and Rad and that may be the coolest thing that’s come from this project so far. Right now, there are some nebulous, distant plans as to what is in store for Mag and Ran. For all we know, their worst thoughts were realized and they were pulverized moments after engaging hyperspace by a unmapped star or asteroid.

Probably not, though.

I think Magratan Elib and Rad Rodan will return. One day. There’s just too big of a galaxy for them to explore.

167 days until Star Wars: The Last Jedi
25 days until A Star Wars Comic #7

– Jim