|John Jackson Miller
Last month, Star
Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comic book series ended.
It told the story of an unlikely group of misfit fugitives
thrown together during the Mandalorian Wars some three and a
half millennia before Luke, Leia and Han are thrown together
during the Galactic Civil War, it has spanned some fifty comic
books (plus a #0 and handbook release), and has taken nearly
four years to reach its climatic conclusion.
It is the creation of one person, John Jackson Miller, who has
garlanded praise for Knights of the Old Republic's
story, and has become a favourite of Star Wars Expanded
Universe fans for not just Knights of the Old Republic
but also for his
Tribe of the Sith e-book novellas.
|Star Wars Books are pleased that John
has taken time out of his busy schedule to participate in this
welcome to Star Wars Books.
If you like, could we begin with a short description of your work to
Iíve written for a number of comics titles, including Marvel Comicís
Iron Man and Crimson Dynamo, Bongo Comicsí Bart
Simpson, and Star Wars: Empire for Dark Horse Comics. I
wrote the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics
series from its inception, and I scripted the comics adaption of Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. More recently, I
scripted Mass Effect: Redemption for Dark Horse. I continue
to work on a once-weekly webcomic, Sword & Sarcasm, with
Chuck Fiala. I am also the writer of the Star Wars: Knight Errant
comics, which are slated for release later this year.
Iím also writing a Star Wars: Knight Errant novel from Del
Rey ó but itís not the only prose Iíve written. Iíve also
wrote the Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith eBooks, and Iíve
written short stories for the official Star Wars website.
Comic book history is another hobby of mine Iíve taken to paper. I
produced four volumes of The Standard Catalog of Comic Books
ó and Iíve continued writing about comics on my website, The
you tell us what a typical working day is like for John Jackson
Every day is different for me, but generally I spend my mornings
working on my websites. After lunch, I usually get into the fiction,
and it goes from there. It was difficult getting into a routine,
having done my writing as moonlighting for so many years. I was very
used to doing all the writing nights and weekends!
could be described as a comic aficionado, for as well as writing
comic stories you also manage The Comics Chronicle website, www.comichron.com,
and are an advisor for the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Comics
must therefore be a major part of your life. How did you get into
writing comic stories and what were your earliest comic influences?
I started writing my own comic stories when I was six years old, the
first year I started buying comicsóor, rather, that was the year
that comics started being bought for me. I still own every comic
book I was given back then, with very few exceptions. I wrote and
drew my own science fiction, super-hero and humor comics as a kid.
Later on, I ended up doing small press mini-comics, which were the
webcomic equivalent at the time. Youíd make photocopies and
exchange comics via mail with others across the country.
I was mostly influenced by the TV, movies, and comics I saw. One of
the handmade comic series I did in middle school and completed 40
issues of was a space fantasy in the vein of Star Wars, Buck
Rogers and all the various different things I was watching in TV and
the movies. It was nice that I was later able to do a comic series
that lasted even longer than that. (It looked nicer, too!)
what would you say are your influences outside of comics?
Outside of comics, Iím a huge history buff. I read a lot of
nonfiction and have a masterís degree in Comparative Politicsóor
really, Soviet Studies. I was one of the last to receive a degree in
it before the Soviet Union collapsed on my dissertation. [The Soviet
Union collapsed on his dissertation?; Is John being funny or does he
mean something else?] Iím very interested in historical events,
current events, and finding drama in the events of the day.
Iím also an aficionado of British and American naval historyóbut
certainly everything from the tall ships era is interesting to me,
from the East India Company to the Napoleonic Wars. You can see this
reflected in my work.
maintain a constant online presence through your website www.farawaypress.com
(for which you publish your own writer's notes as each comic is
issued), a Twitter
page and you contribute to Dark Horse Comics' own Message
How important to you as a writer, is this 'instant' contact with
Comics have evolved into something similar to ďtheater in the
roundĒ. There are plays where actors are surrounded by members of
the audience, and the audience is not just passiveótheyíre
active participants, and their feedback is important. We do have
that sort of dynamic going on, where itís much more like live
theater than it is like a movie, where itís entirely one way. We
know what people think of something almost immediately after it
Now, you donít want to change your fundamental creative vision; itís
the creatorís story, not a collaboration between the creator and
the readers. But like an actor can watch the reactions of those in
the audience and fine-tune his performance, we can do that as well
as we go along. Thatís something you can do with serials.
fans' reactions to your stories are important in terms of sales and
positive feedback is always a sign that you are doing something
right, but how do you deal with the somewhat negative criticisms
made by some fans?
Feedback is always helpful, and thereís usually something
constructive in most criticisms. I think storytellers in popular
fiction, though, often wind up playing an expectations game. People
naturally compare the story youíre telling with the story that
they imagined you might tell. We all do this whenever we go to
certain movies ó we bring with us a certain set of expectations.
Thatís fine, but as Randy Stradley at Dark Horse likes to say, ďwe
donít give people the story they want, we give them the story they
need.Ē Taking the theater-in-the-round example, if you ONLY played
to the crowd, youíd never give anybody anything new or surprising.
four years and fifty comic book issues, Knights of the Old Republic
has come to a close, how pleased are you with both the overall story
and its conclusion?
Iím satisfied with it. We managed to pack quite a lot into those
thousand-plus pages, and we were able to resolve most, if not all,
of the questions that we ourselves raised in the series. And there
were memorable characters and a lot of great art along the way. It
was a terrific experience.
you feel any regrets for missed opportunities in the Knights of the
Old Republic story?
There were a few points where I found I had elements planned that
didnít fit the mood of what was going on in the title, and so I
wound up moving some things on the fly. The tale of Gryphís escape
from Serroco was conceived of as an extended light-hearted sequence,
but kept getting shifted ahead, as I realized it was too light for
the stories surrounding it. 2008 was a pretty serious year in the
series ó and by the time we got past ďVindication,Ē we were
really pushing to tell new stories rather than resolve old threads.
It does find a place eventually, but I took an important lesson from
that Ė if the mood of the title looks like itís going to be dark
for a stretch, itís not a time to schedule any extended comic
back to the beginning, where did the idea for Knights of the Old
Republic come from?
In early 2005, Randy Stradley asked if I had any ideas for a series
that would be set during the Old Republic period. The idea was to
come up with a good storyline, not to resolve video game continuity;
we didnít even know when exactly in the period weíd set it when
But along the way, we also saw opportunities to link our story into
the video game stories without hurting the established canon, while
reaping mutual benefits for both their story and our own. We wanted
to be respectful of the KoTOR environment and only use what we
needed, while remaining respectful of the potential for future
stories to be told with those characters.
did you choose the principal characters, as they are quite an
eclectic bunch of people: a failed Jedi Padawan, framed for a crime
he didn't commit, consorting with a known con-artist, a mysterious
and beautiful female warrior and a Mandalorian soldier on the
Certainly we had a lot of people who were on the run for one reason
or another. Zayne wasnít ever the only fugitive. The trick with
ensembles is they sometimes donít have a real reason to be
together. Thatís why I split the team up in #13; there was no
logical reason for them to stick together that they could see. Of
course, they realize there is a reason to be together, and that
brings them back home. They had things in common that they couldnít
Otherwise, we played a lot against type. Slyssk is the reverse of
everything we know about Trandoshans; the Moomos are the reverse of
everything we know about Ithorians. Thatís fun to do. Not all
humans act one way or another ó why should aliens?
to the other persons involved in Knights of the Old Republic, your
editor, artists, colorists and letterers, how important and what was
their influence on Knights of the Old Republic's characters and
We were blessed with great artists on our team. Brian Ching created
such interesting character designs. Dustin Weaver added a lot of
spectacular ship designs -- I probably developed the Saul Karath
material more than I might have because I so much enjoyed seeing the
world he had created around Saul in that opening issue.
Our colorist, Michael Atiyeh, has been invaluable. People donít
always see all that the colorist does, but itís very important for
setting the mood in the scene and helping the reader navigate
complicated sequences. And as a writer who prizes dialogue, I
definitely saw what Michael Heisler, our letterer, added to the
series. Getting those words positioned properly on the page really
helps the reader to navigate the story Ė and sets the mood.
And our editors, from Randy to Dave Marshall and Freddye Lins to
Jeremy Barlow, were right there along the way, making everything
happen. We had great people to work with every step of the way.
the Knights of the Old Republic comics are perhaps your largest
contribution to the Star Wars universe, you have also written
two short stories to accompany Knights of the Old Republic, Labor
Pains and Interference, and are currently involved in
writing a series of e-Book novellas, Lost Tribe of the Sith,
to accompany the ongoing Fate of the Jedi series of novels, and your
first full Star Wars novel, Knight Errant; of the two
prose formats, comic and novel, which do you prefer, and why?
Theyíre just different. There are moments writing prose where Iíll
say, ďthis is a comics moment,Ē and vice versa. I like having
the two formats to work in, because I can really put the ideas and
concepts into the medium theyíre best suited for.
I love Asimovís Foundation Trilogy, for example, but I canít
imagine how Iíd put the complex ideas that are in it into comics.
I think there are strengths to each medium, and itís good to be
able to play to them.
have also contributed to the Indiana Jones franchise and are
currently involved in writing Mass Effect: Redemption. How
would you compare writing for these three franchises?
Mass Effect is interesting because itís a whole science-fiction
milieu with a lot of unexplored frontiers. Itís a universe with
its own rules, and that plays into how we tell the stories.
Storytelling solutions you might use in one universe wonít work
for the other, and thatís a nice challenge. So thatís been a lot
of fun, working on that with Biowareís Mac Walters and our artist,
Indy was a great experience, as that was my first brush with
adapting a screenplay into comics form. Iíd love to do some more
writing in the Indy world sometime.
that you are to continue writing for Star Wars with your Knight
Errant comic book and novel series, a true multi-format project that
will begin later this year. Star Wars comics have a smaller
audience than Star Wars novels, so enticing Star Wars
fans to read comics is important. How do you see Knight Errant
appealing to both comic and novel fans alike?
Iím not sure how the relative audience sizes work out, but I
think our real aim is to come up with stories that complement each
other. If you want to follow more of Kerra Holtís adventures after
reading the first comics storyline Ė well, hereís another
chance, in prose form. And if you want to see what the novel
settings look line in more original adventures, well, the comics
will be there. Iím trying to keep a uniform feel to the world weíre
developing in both media, so youíll have that lifeline between
that you may not be allowed to comment on your Knight Errant
project, any more that the recent Press Announcement and the
confirmation that Knight Errant is indeed the "Lone.
Female. Jedi." project that Randy Stradley teased
but could you perhaps give us a one sentence trailer to whet the
"One Jedi's odyssey into chaos."
if you could meet face-to-face with any fictional person and could
only ask them one question, who would that person be and what would
you ask them?
I'd ask Scrooge McDuck for his PIN number!
you John for your time, it has been a pleasure and wish you every
success in the future. Our thanks go to John Jackson Miller for
participating in this interview and to Jim Gibbons at Dark Horse
Comics for arranging it.
last Knights of the
Old Republic graphic novel, Volume
9: Demon (collating the last four comic book issues), is due to
be released in July, while
Wars: Knight Errant begins this Autumn with the release of issue
#1 of the comic book series, followed in February 2011 with the
release of the first novel. However, John will return sooner with
the release of his fourth
Tribe of the Sith e-book novella, Saviour, in April/May.
You can follow John via Twitter,
or his own writings on his blog at http://blog.farawaypress.com,
and on his website at www.farawaypress.com.
© 2010 swbooks.co.uk