“There is No Emotion, There is Peace” – Making A Star Wars Comic #7

July 28, 2017

 

Concept

Non-attachment is one of the central philosophies at the core of Star Wars. It’s the Jedi tenet that puts Anakin Skywalker at odds with the Jedi Order and the philosophy that Anakin completely rejects when he turns to the dark side. It’s the Jedi belief that only by letting go and freeing yourself of the desire to possess people and things, and the emotions that accompany and cloud the decisions around them, that you will be able to act justly and selflessly.

It’s an important philosophy for an Order that is charged with mediating the peace of an entire galaxy.

“No Emotion” started as a conversation with myself about the Jedi tenet of non-attachment. The idea was that Alex and I could insert that conversation into the mouths of some characters while juxtaposing against some lightsaber-y action stuff to keep readers interested. The comic was basically going to be an essay in the form of dialogue and color.

Originally the Jedi Order, mostly in the form of Mace Windu and Yoda, would be placed at odds with an archaeologist in the form of a Jedi Knight Mai Fel-Tor. She would argue to keep her place in the Jedi Order after revealing that she had fallen in love with a dashing figure in the form of rogue astrogationalist Nik Ardomé on her latest adventure. Mai, who I had thought initially would be accompanied by Qui-Gon Jinn because I believe he’d take her side on this, would put up a valiant defense against the Jedi, but fall short thanks to their 1,000-year-old stubbornness.

(Qui-Gon never even made the first draft because I figured the reader, and myself, would be distracted by his presence instead of focusing on Mai.)

Eventually, after the first two drafts, the “essay” idea took a backseat. Alex and I fell more in love with the characters than with making any sort of philosophical argument by fictional-proxy.

In the end, our so-called examination of non-attachment became a story about love in the face of duty. We think it works better this way.

Art

Mai-Fel-Tor was a character on the fringe of stories Jim and I had talked about before, so I had a hazy idea of how she might look, but Jim helped when he said, “She should look like she could be Toshiro Mifune’s mom.” Jim’s descriptions of Regus Markonas and Nik Ardomé were helpful for their designs as well and on top of that I got to design a spaceship again! WOO! The “A-Type 1029 Nubian Freighter” as it was christened by Jim. October 29th is my birthday! And my name starts with A! Maybe he did it on purpose…

ALL THE LOVE TO JIM.

It’s based off a mixture of the N-1 Starfighter (from The Phantom Menace) and the Naboo Royal Cruiser (the one that gets blown up at the beginning of Attack of the Clones).

This was a taxing issue because I had other projects pop up while drawing it. To create a fully-realized environment aboard the Presidian Dor—complete with Sith War Droids, bounty hunters, an expansive bridge, galactic holo-maps, and garbage compactors—in just six pages was a tall order. Overall, I appreciated the challenge, and now people can add all of this backdrop from our tale to their head canon, if they so choose.

Mostly, I got to draw Yoda. And he is the karking MAN. Creature. Yoda-species…

Anyway, May the Force be with you!

Script

When the last key was struck and the final word was written, I think “No Emotion” went through five rewrites, not counting the tinkering that normally comes in the final lettering stage when you see how the words fit with the images on paper.

Take from that what you will.

We’ve struggled with space before with our six-page limit, but it usually was derived from my tendency towards decompressed layouts in my scripts. This time it was because we really had so much story we wanted to tell. Alex and I originally mentally discarded the first draft of “No Emotion” because there was just too much to it. We are keenly aware of what our format limitations are, but this time the backstory to this small section of the Star Wars galaxy, our section, kept growing along with the characters.

It was too ambitious for just six-pages. (It probably still is.)

The biggest danger writing “No Emotion” was getting lost in that backstory and the rudimentary plot exposition, therefore losing time with what really mattered – the characters. The story is about Mai Fel-Tor and her internal struggle after meeting someone whose mere warm presence challenges everything she believes in, not the backstory to the Sith holocron, the bounty hunter pursuing them, or the Presidian Dor itself.

The first few rewrites were merely a distillation of what was necessary and what was not. After that, it was trying to streamline the scenes that made the cut into something cohesive and still poignant to the story’s intention. After I made the initial cuts, the story still didn’t feel right and I ended up rewriting the ending three different times in order to examine how they made me feel. The original ended with her leaving the Order to be with Nik, but that also didn’t feel right. It didn’t make sense to me that a Jedi, especially one like Mai, who has found her purpose in the Order, would simply leave it. We eventually settled on the ending we have now, which felt more natural.

I  don’t think I am capable of writing a great romance in the classical sense and I struggled with trying to convince the audience that these two were in love without any of the usual tropes. Mai has been a Jedi her entire life and has never experienced an emotion even approaching romantic love. I don’t think she’d be leaping into Nik’s arms no matter how charming he may be. She is, first and foremost, a Jedi. I wanted the reader to see the mutual respect and warmth between them. Instead of the desperate forbidden kiss, I wanted visibly restrained distance. I wanted tension. It’s maybe not as outright romantic, but I’ve never been one to think that the idea of “love” most fiction tries to sell as convincing or even healthy.

Again, take from that what you will.

To me, the creation of a good story is an act as miraculous and accidental as the formation of the earth. A good story is usually stumbled upon in a confused, terrified state and the discovery isn’t usually realized until after the fact. I’ve found this to be true even for our Star Wars comic.

I don’t know exactly what kind of story Alex and I uncovered here, but I know I want us to tell more of it. Mai and Nik are too rich and too alive, at least to us, for just six-pages. The rest of their adventures lie just beyond the last panel of the comic in as yet undiscovered ancient Sith ruins and seedy black antiquities markets. It’s in the hum and whine of the Found Ruin’s engines as Nik and Mai punch her sub-lights and heads for the stars.

You can read the final script here: ASWC6 – No Emotion

Before we go, here’s some fun trivia about this issue:

  • Although he’s not named in the comic, the astrogationalist that Mai Fel-Tor falls in love with is named Nik Ardomé. Nik is largely employed by criminals for his vast knowledge of hyperspace routes, including ancient ones that are less traveled and therefore excellent for illegal operations. He most recently worked for Grakkus the Hutt (from the latest Marvel Star Wars series) – a Hutt obsessed with the Jedi and their artifacts. Nik’s homeworld is Naboo.

  • Jedi Knight Mai Fel-Tor is, maybe surprisingly, modeled on legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune and the many samurai characters he played. She’s also heavily inspired by, maybe not so surprisingly, Indiana Jones.

  • Nik Ardomé’s ship is named the Found Ruin. It’s an A-Type 1029 Nubian freighter that we made up for the comic. We wanted something that reflected both his Naboo heritage but still has that worn smuggler style.

  • Initially, the bounty hunter, who is named Regus Markonas, had a prominent role and introduction but was cut down to two panels due to space and time. Regus Markonas is of the Gank species and, like other Ganks, a good portion of his body has been replaced with cybernetics. He works for Grakkus the Hutt as a bounty hunter, but instead of hunting people, he hunts artifacts. Regus is completely amoral and doesn’t really care about the artifacts he seeks as long as Grakkus pays him at the end of the day.

  • The Presidian Dor is a Sith battleship modeled after the ones seen in the Star Wars: The Old Republic game developed by Bioware. The idea was that the Presidian Dor was Darth Auretus’ flagship when he went rogue and turned on the other Sith. When Auretus realized that battle with his fellow Sith was lost, he engaged hyperspace, but since his ship was horribly damaged, it began to tear apart. The debris field around the Presidian Dor are pieces of the hull that had begun to tear apart right before it came out of hyperspace.

Another thing before we go: Alex and I had a lot of help on this issue (and the next one) to get them out on time. Thanks to Tony Ray, who helped letter most of the issue, and Niki Ray, who helped with the colors. Thank you to Hayden Grover and Malik Butler, who edited and gave feedback when necessary. These people make this goofy little thing possible.

And there you have it. Thanks for reading! See you on August 25th for a very, very different kind of Star Wars story.

139 days until Star Wars: The Last Jedi
29 days until A Star Wars Comic #8

– Jim