Ed Op: Attack On The Death Troopers

r1I haven’t seen Rogue One as of this writing, but I’ve seen the trailers.

Can we talk about Death Troopers?

These are a variant on the black-clad ‘elite’ stormtroopers or Shadow Troopers that sprang from the EU in its Legends days and gradually grew in popularity among the 501st cosplayers at conventions, and are now about to charge full blown into Star Wars canon onscreen.

Yeah, they look really cool.

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I’ll buy the toy for my son ’cause he likes ’em, but even Death Troopers play with the classics.

But I’m not a fan….AND I’LL TELL YA WHY!

stormswarmStormtroopers are about shock and awe. They wear this pristine white armor not because it’s practical, but because there’s something incongruous to their appearance when they kick in your door or come hut hut hutting out of a dropship.

I remember the first time I saw them blasting their way onto the Tantive IV in A New Hope. Their appearance made my brain misfire. In my kid’s mind, bad guys wore black (Zorro notwithstanding, but he was sort of pretending to be a bad guy). Soldiers are gruff, down and dirty, but stormtroopers are spotless, unblemished, and regimental. There’s something in that that gives the mind pause (and in that pause is where Stormtroopers shine).

Stormtroopers represent the Imperial notion of Order with a capital O. They’re not interested in practicality, they’re there to overwhelm you, both mentally and physically. All jokes about them not being able to hit a thing (yes yes, they don’t hit waddling 3PO and R2 in the hallway when they wander through that firefight…very amusing. But on the other side of them, a whole lot of Rebel troopers are shown getting dropped. The plain truth is…they weren’t AIMING for the droids.), it takes something to go marching into a combat zone in bright white armor. Stupidity, you may say, but I say thee nay! Discipline and fanaticism -two things you want to foment in a stormtrooper recruit.
10-tie-pilotIt’s the same assurance that puts the TIE fighter pilots (the ONLY front liners who deserve to wear the black) into the cockpits of unshielded ships. Survivability is not a concern of stormtroopers. They’re a cog in a really big, really nasty machine and they know they can be replaced. That’s why the Emperor did away with all those pretty primary colored unit designations and emblems from the Clone Wars. The New Order isn’t about unit distinction, it’s about raw power.

scoutsLook at the Scout Troopers on Endor. No camouflage seems silly, right? When the Scouts hit the ground, the Empire is sending a message. That message is, we don’t give a laughin’ fuzzball about your planet. Not about your flora, not your fauna. We’ll stomp your trees with our AT-AT’s (rhymes with Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-a-tat-like that. And I never hesitate to put a Rebel on his back). Our Scouts don’t hide. They fly by on their speeder bikes and leave you smoking.

But what about Snowtroopers (my faves), you might say? They’re all white, they buy into the appeal of camo. Nope. Snowtroopers wear what Snowtroopers wear to keep warm. Hoth just happens to compliment Snowtroopers. It’s not the other way around. That’s why they run the joint. Snowtroopers weren’t made for Hoth. Hoth was made for Snowtroopers.

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Only one pair of black boots on the ground.

So yeah, black-clad stormtroopers. They just go against the whole notion of crushing faceless uniformity I’ve come to love in the Empire. You wanna be a special snowflake, go be a Royal Guard. The job is cushier and you get a pointy movealong and a flashy red dress.

On top of all that….when I’m playing Battlefront I can never see the little buggers.

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I see you in the back, you jerk!

May The Force Be Witcha.

What’s Coming In 2016

Happy New Year All. Just a swift post to let you know what to expect from me this year writing-wise.

First off, I’m experimenting with Patreon, so head over to here and check that out. Five bucks a month gets you a brand new never before (or very little) seen short story from me. This month it’s a little story called The Mound Of The Night Panther about the secret history of the mound city of Cahokia and how it was brought down by weird happenings.

Next up will likely be my short novel Perennial, appearing in Emergence, the first of Ragnarok Publications’ new shared world superhero universe, Humanity 2.0. It’s about a man who gains incredible abilities but also has his physical aging process halted at age fourteen. That’s him on the cover, Pan. It features a scenario that is basically Die Hard with a skyscraper full of supervillains.  You can read more about that here. 

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At some point early this year I’ll be sharing novel space again with author Willie Meikle in Canadian publisher April Moon Books’ new James Bond pastiche series, Bond: Unknown. Entitled Mindbreaker, this one’s a 1960’s era Lovecraftian mashup with Bond being seconded to an ultra secret branch of the service to chase down the abducted Princess Royal and stop an obscure Corsican cult’s plot to activate a prehistoric weapon. I’m an immense Bond fan, so this is one I’m looking forward to you all reading, as despite the Cthulhu stuff, it’s very much written with Fleming in mind. Were you aware the 16th century mystic philosopher and mathematician John Dee signed his letters to Queen Elizabeth 0-0-7? Ian Fleming was. You will be too…

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I’ll have a few short story appearances scattered throughout the year, in books from Golden Goblin Press and possibly Chaosium, and, if things work out, a new Star Wars story (keep your lightsabers crossed for that).

Then in the last part of the year you’ll see my Arthurian fantasy debut The Knight With Two Swords again from Ragnarok, which is a high fantasy retelling of the story of Balin Le Savage from Mallory and a slew of other sources.

I’ve also dipped my toes back into the screenwriting waters this year, with the hopes of putting out a short film at some point. We’ll see how that goes.

Hasta pronto!

Remembering Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars

titleWith the release of The Force Awakens imminent, Star Wars saturation has reached critical levels, with BB-8 appearing on bunches of oranges at the grocery store and Princess Leia having her own line of cosmetics or something. I don’t know. I haven’t had broadcast television or cable in over 15 years so I’m not quite as inundated as my friends on Facebook seem to be.

But it’s inevitable that my own thoughts turn to a Galaxy far far away.

Like a lot of people I’ve had my heart lifted to soaring heights and dropped to shatter like an Adegan crystal by George Lucas’ much imitated and revered saga. I’ve even enjoyed adding to the EU juggernaut in the days before the House of Mouse took over. Actually, I think the check for my last effort, the short story Hammer, which briefly introduced the franchise’s first racially Black Dark Jedi (would’ve been a Sith had the story developed later) in the pages of Star Wars Insider might’ve come via Disney. I’m not sure.  I managed to work portmanteaus of my wife and all my children into my beloved Star Wars before all of it was officially regulated to Legendary status.

I don’t know if the new Star Wars will be good or not. I’ve got to wait till Christmas Day to form that opinion.

But I’ll always love the original Star Wars, whether it is or it isn’t.  And in 2003, something came about that brought that warm, exciting feeling back for a while, something that seems to have gotten a bad rap over the years in certain corners of fandom, which isn’t deserved at all.

tumblr_noay9njdSW1te20ggo1_1280.pngFrom 2003-2005 the very talented Genndy Tartakovsky of Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack fame was given carte blanche by George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. to fill in the mysteriously absent events of the much anticipated Clone Wars between Episodes II and III via a series of 20 three minute, (mostly) traditionally animated mini-episodes on Cartoon Network.

I didn’t expect a whole lot from these vignettes. I barely remember Nelvana’s 2D animated forays into the Star Wars universe. How much story and feeling could you possibly pack into a bunch of three minute, action-oriented cartoons?

It turns out, a whole lot. More than has been in Star Wars for a long time.

I had forgotten the Nelvana cartoons. Tartakovsky had not. He incorporated some of those old designs into the look of the droid characters in his series. He hadn’t forgotten much of anything. Certainly not the most important thing about Star Wars.

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Star Wars is itself an homage to 30’s space pulp and adventure movies. Star Wars is a new coat of paint on old ideas. Star Wars does not work when Star Wars homages itself.  That’s like a third generation dub, or a movie based on a video game which was itself a barely disguised homage to another movie. The quality of the story begins to degrade as the generations copy themselves.

For Star Wars to be interesting, it has to be familiar, and yet, show you something you haven’t quite seen before.

suitingupIt’s also not for kids. It’s a family series, yeah. But that means adults can find it entertaining as well.

Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars got that.

Clone Wars isn’t just a continuation of the prequels, it isn’t just a nostalgia trip in a Galaxy Far Far Away. It’s the old magic Lucas infused in ’77 with the adventure serials of his own youth. It’s Top Gun, Lawrence of Arabia, classic pirate movies, Bruce Lee kung fu flicks, anime, wuxia, and probably a thousand other things I’m sure I recognize but can’t call to mind, all filtered through the rose-colored macrobinoculars of Star Wars.

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Tartakovksy, like Lucas, is steeped in film lore. He tells his story cinematically, with little dialogue. Action informs character, not plot.  Clone Wars is full of wild action, imaginative sequences, and it’s easy to dismiss it as superficial. It’s not. Not at all. There are amazing character moments peppered throughout the series which say more in milliseconds of screen time about the characters than has been said previously with minutes of film and pages of dialogue in Attack of The Clones and The Phantom Menace.

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As a kid I watched not only Star Wars, but the old making of documentary, From Star Wars To Jedi, and one bit from Mark Hamill’s narration I have always retained. Spoken against the backdrop of the gathered Rebel Alliance fleet in Return of the Jedi as the Millenium Falcon banks gracefully back and forth, it goes;

“The Star Wars style is based on two things. The editing pace of sequences…and the speed of movement through the frame. Of course we sometimes slow down to catch our breath, and to reflect on the often astonishing beauty of our imaginary world. But not for long.”

I think in the prequels, there was a lot of lingering on the masterful work of the FX crew, the beautiful alien backdrops, the smooth lines of the ships, even the graceful physicality in the lightsaber fights. In the opening of Revenge of The Sith, Obi Wan and Anakin’s fighters take us on a drifting tour of an immense ship to ship battle in high orbit, weaving dreamily in and out of exploding hulls and swarms of automated fighters, spinning through hails of green and red laser bolts.

This is quite lovely, but it’s not the Star Wars style. Neither is the thick blocks of dialogue.

spacebattleTartakovsky’s Clone Wars takes its cast and setting from the prequels, but its style is informed by the original trilogy. Spaceship battles are cluttered affairs, so blindingly fast you have to freeze frame to take it in at times, like the climactic fight at the end of Return of the Jedi, still, for my money, the best filmed space fight of the series. Tartakovsky’s version of the battle over Coruscant seen in the beginning of Revenge of The Sith, like his establishing shots of the awesome Mace Windu sequence on the plains of Dantooine is like the depiction of the Battle of The Five Armies in Rankin and Bass’ Hobbit cartoon. It’s a swarm of angry termites, just raging fleas circling frenetically each other until the camera zooms in to the crowded space, focusing on a bit of the combat, capital ships zipping in out of hyperspace to collide and explode against others already there. It’s a logistical nightmare and it’s awesome.

lancingWitness the speeder bike/swoop gang battle between the IG-86 droids (a nice throwback design to the IG-88 bounty hunter from Empire) and Obi Wan and his mounted clones.  The mounted fighters clash into each other like the knights in Brannagh’s Henry V or Gibson’s Braveheart, or the horse charge in Kurosawa’s Ran or Gunga Din, or a John Ford cavalry scene. Just blurs of motion and one bit of nastiness in the foreground (in this case, a droid pierced by a broken lance head, shattering to fragments and bouncing along the ground as the combatants whiz by unconcerned in the background).

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And has the imagined balance between medieval knight or samurai and quasi-mystical David Carradine Taoist monk ever been depicted so spot on as here? Putting Obi Wan in partial trooper armor and having him lead a mounted charge of lancers against the hulking Durge and his droids is just perfection.  Tartakovsky looks not only to his own influences, but those Lucas has cited in interviews. The foot battle between Kenobi and Durge is out of a Kurosawa samurai movie.

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During his clash with Kenobi, Obi Wan slides his speeder bike sideways, mimicking the classic Kaneda bike shot featured on so many posters and t-shirts in the early 90’s. This isn’t just a pointless shout out, it’s a clever visual hint to the true nature of Durge, who, when revealed as an amorphous, regenerating flesh monster out of his armor later, is right out of the end of the groundbreaking anime Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, clearly an inspiration to Tartakovsky’s unique animation style.

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Clone Wars opens with a squad of ARC troopers attacking the droid army’s artillery installation high on a building in an advanced cityscape. Stormtroopers have never appeared more fearsome onscreen anywhere before or since. They execute their attack in precision commando fashion, knocking out tanks and droids. We’re in the middle of an old school military movie. Tartakovsky masters the small scale action sequence without having to resort to lightsabers. Again, as was the philosophy of the old West End Games RPG, Star Wars works best when familiar things from the real world are translated into Star Wars-ese. Instead of calling for a UAV to give them a birds eye view of the terrain, one of the clones throws up a little beacon sphere like the one Luke trained with in on the Falcon in the first movie. Then he produces a handheld device which projects a neat little 360 degree hologram of the city. In these few seconds, Tartakovsky has masterfully married the old (beacon) to the new (little holo-projector as established in the prequel movies) and the real world (military UAV/drone).  This is part of the brilliance of Clone Wars. It does a lot in very little time.

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Most surprisingly, the episodes accomplish some brilliant character moments in the span of seconds. A look, like the one Amidala gives to Anakin through the window of her apartment as he departs with the army. She puts her hand to the glass and says more than a two dozen stilted platitudes.  Thirty seconds or so are devoted to Obi Wan just trying to find a dry space to sleep in his command tent on a rain soaked world. Yoda mind controls one of Amidala’s subordinates to divert their ship to aide a pair of besieged Jedi, and the guy repeats his command Obi Wan fashion (These aren’t the droids you’re looking for) but in Yoda’s reversed syntax.  How great is the knighting ceremony of Anakin, when he comes into the council chamber expecting another dressing down and finds himself surrounded by lit lightsabers? His pride is palpable, even on a deceptively simple 2D face, when Yoda, King Arthur fashion, strikes off his padawan braid with his lightsaber and declares him a full-fledged Jedi.

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One of my favorite depictions of the master manipulator Palpatine is in Clone Wars, in the scene where General Grievous attacks his office guards, intent on kidnapping him. Palpatine backs away, his face a mask of fear as Grievous slaughters his clones. As soon as he enters the shadows of the corner, his mock fear falls away to an expression of aloof disinterest, as he’s planned all of this, of course.

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The climactic lightsaber battle at the end of the first season between fallen Jedi Asaaj Ventriss (wonderfully voiced by Grey Deslisle) and Anakin atop the familiar Mesoamerican style pyramids of Yavin IV is a great example of characterization through action. Anakin’s ever-increasing anger begins to overcome him, the emotional volatility of the sequence starting with the sizzling of rain on the lightsabers and reaching a crescendo as the light of the red and blue weapons contrast in the utter darkness of the temple, casting the characters in aligned shades (and remember, this is the location of the celebration at the end of A New Hope).

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Anakin loses his blue saber, takes up one of Asaaj’s red ones, and ultimately drives her to her apparent death under the light of the looming red moon. Anakin is bathed entirely in red, the traditional color of the Dark Side in Star Wars, having given himself over to the Dark Side to defeat her.  This on the surface simple duel does more to explain Anakin’s fall than the entire prequel trilogy, but not content with that, on a primitive world in a later episode, Anakin undergoes his Jedi trial and hallucinates his own eventual destiny in the flickering cave paintings on a wall as he inhales hallucinogenic volcanic gases.

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I’ve read a good deal of negativity leveled against the power levels of the Jedi in this series. The Mace Windu episode is always held up as evidence of the unbelievability of Clone Wars. It’s really one of the most memorable action scenes in any animated work of the last ten years. I don’t understand how anybody can watch it and not thrill to the artistry at work. Mace Windu and his clones face an army of super battle droids on a grassy field when an immense seismic tank arrives and proceeds to stomp on the troops, flinging the survivors in every direction on tides of disturbed earth. This is a great bizarre superweapon, well in the Star Wars wheelhouse. Mace loses his lightsaber and has to take on the droids with his bare hands, pummeling metal and shredding steel, using the Force to disassemble automatons and then ripping their fellows to pieces with the makeshift shrapnel. There’s a great overhead shot of Mace turning and dispatching oncoming droids one at a time that’s right out of Fists of Fury.

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Lucas has in the past cited, I think, the wuxia knights of Hong Kong cinema as inspiration for the Jedi. Chang Cheh’s Venom Mob and the warrior monks of the Shaw Brothers classics come immediately to mind when watching the thrilling Jedi battles in this series. In those old movies, long haired mystic warriors leapt from rooftop to rooftop, up and down stalks of bamboo, and took on dozens of enemies, driving them back in awe with their martial prowess. If you like that kinda stuff, you’ll love it here. It’s an obvious inspiration. The battle between Shaak Ti and the Magnaguards reminded me of Michelle Yeoh staving off hordes of bandits in Wing Chun.

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That’s not to say that Clone Wars is nothing but a slew of familiar homages. It’s thrillingly fresh and imaginative. There’s a great underwater battle sequence early on, the aforementioned speeder bike lancers, and my favorite, a spaceborne boarding action between a failing capital ship and a droid vessel. Jedi Saessi Tiin dons a somewhat familiar looking exposure suit and leads his deep space clones in leaping across space to the other ship. As half the troopers charge along the hull destroying turret emplacements, the Jedi cuts his way in and leads his boarders to the bridge, cutting down droids till he grabs the ships’ wheel controls Errol Flynn style and jerks it starboard.

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The character of General Grievous was introduced to great effect here, so great, in fact, that his comparatively lackluster depiction in Revenge of The Sith disappointed both my son and I at the time.

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There was an explanation I sort of liked that Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars existed in the Star Wars universe as a kind of underground animated media presentation made by the young boy who witnessed Mace Windu’s battle on Dantooine and gave him the jug of water at the end (that being a reference to an old commercial where a boy passes a refreshment to football star Mean Joe Green after a game), sort of an underground cartoon made as protest against the oppression of the Empire. I suppose this was meant to pacify the fans who didn’t care for the series and to explain its existence once the new, more realistically grounded 3D Clone Wars series began.

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Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars was an exciting show that perfectly captured the look and feel of classic Star Wars more than anything since the original trilogy, and still managed to update it for a modern family audience. Although it’s been mostly forgotten and I suppose shelved with the rest of the Legends brand for good or ill, in my mind, it’s still the iteration to top. If The Force Awakens can at the very least match its heart, imagination, and cinematic savvy, it’ll be worth a watch.

Here’s hoping.

The Day Darth Vader Came To My House

I shared this story once a lonnnng time ago on my old Official Star Wars Blog, but as all that content was given the superlaser treatment ages agone, I figured I’d rewrite it here for May The Fourth, International Star Wars Day.

It was probably my fourth or fifth birthday, as I remember it. My buddy Dave was over for the occasion an we were playing my room, probably either GI Joe or Star Wars figures, when my mom came in and said;

“Hey kiddo. Somebody’s here to see you for your birthday.”

I figured it was some relative or something bearing gifts, but when I idly asked “who?”

She answered, “It’s a surprise.”

So I knew it wasn’t.

That got my disengaged from my toys and present company, and Dave and I skedaddled out into the kitchen to the door that led to the front hallway.

The door opened just as I got there, and I ran smack into the stomach of whoever was coming in.

vaderhelmWhen I looked up, I think I felt all the blood drain out of my head.

Darth Vader was towering over me.

Now these were the 70’s, the days before widespread costuming and fan culture so far as I know. When a ‘character’ came to your birthday it was probably gonna be a magician or a clown…maybe a guy in a Superman outfit. To have a character from a popular franchise appear in your house was unheard of.

Reality collapsed in that terrible instant. Even then, though I was a pretty imaginative kid, I mostly understood the concrete difference between fact and fiction and watched things with a hopeful disconnect; hopeful for the things in movies and books that were wonderful, and securely disconnected from the things that were dark.

VaderstrikeSo here I was looking up at Darth Vader, the Dark Lord Of The Sith (according to his byline in my well-worn Star Wars Storybook). The guy who killed Ben Kenobi and Luke’s parents, and could choke you out without even laying a finger on you. I’m pretty sure he was even doing the breathing, possibly with a tape recorder disguised as his life support regulator on his chest. The top of that shining black helmet brushed the top of the door frame so he had to duck to come in, and with those blinking chest lights and that voluminous black cape, it looked like he was stepping right out space itself.

vaderchokeSomewhere 8mm film of this encounter exists, though I don’t even remember my Aunt Barb being there with her camera.

I guess my family thought I’d be thrilled.

If it had been Han Solo, or Luke, or Chewbacca, I probably would have been. Jesus, even Hammerhead (yes yes, Momaw Nadon) would have been a treat.

But Darth Vader, he was evil.

I have never since that day screamed in fear, but I know it’s possible, because that’s what I did. I just lost it, and started shrieking and crying all at once, totally uncontrolled, just heaving, vomiting abject horror. I turned tail and ran out of that kitchen in less than twelve parsecs (yes, I know it’s a unit of measurement), and literally dove like a baseball player sliding into home plate under my bed and I stayed there for the rest of the party.

Nobody could coax me out, not even my grandfather, who once brought me home from the neighbors after I ran into their house and took similar cover in the face of my father’s terrible rage the day he came outside from lunch to find me painting the side of his 1931 Model A stark white with paint from the can that had been left next to the drying garage door.

My buddy Dave was a braver soul than I. He went out there and orbited Vader for a while (they gave him a chair in the living room) grinning sheepishly, till the Dark Lord reached out to him and tried to pick him up. I know this happened because I saw the film later.

He started whimpering in Vader’s grip, and when he was released, he scurried off and joined me under the bed.

I’m not really sure what happened next, but apparently Darth Vader went outside and walked around the block a bit (I guess just taking in the sights). I think he passed by Hegewisch Records, because when I looked out my window, I saw him returning with an army of kids of every age following him. Even teenagers.

After a bit, my mom came into my room and asked Dave and I if I wanted to come out, as Darth Vader had taken off his mask.

NO! I think I shrieked. Of course not! Was she crazy? God only knew what horrors dwelt behind those fathomless black lenses. In my mind, he looked like The Orb from Ghost Rider, that evil motorcyclist who had ditched his bike and went skidding along the pavement on his face and was no horribly disfigured behind his big eyeball helmet (see HERE).

starwars1But Dave, again, the braver of our dynamic duo, slipped out and left.

A few minutes later he came back and said;

“It’s OK, Ed. He’s just a regular guy.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah. He’s answering questions about Star Wars.”

So I went out there, and found all these kids sitting on the sofa and on the floor and leaning against the wall of our front room (even teenagers!). It looked surreal in there. In my mind’s eye I can see this guy with dark curly hair (my blurry memory has retroactively cast him as Eric Begosian) sitting in a folding chair, totally Darth Vader from the waist down. He was passing his helmet around to the curious kids and talking, like a strange Sermon On The Mount being related to the scruffy, long haired and bell-bottomed cast of The Bad News Bears.

The kids were asking him Star Wars questions, like what was going to happen in the next movie (there’s a next movie? How’d they know that??), what was it like on Chewbacca’s planet (I’m sure he got his answers from the Holiday Special, which I clearly remember watching, even though for years nobody believed me when I swore it existed), etc. My buddy Dave asked him how they made the Millenium Falcon fly.

To us, this guy was the first ambassador of Star Wars. He might’ve been the actor from the movie as far as we knew, and we all treated him like a visiting dignitary. He graciously answered every question, and if we ever stumped the guy, I don’t remember it. He sure sounded to me like he knew what he was talking about.

Later that week, I can remember my mother showing me an article in the local newspaper about the guy who had played Darth Vader at my party, how he went around to other kid’s parties, and movie openings, etc. I wish I still had the clipping, but I’m pretty sure it’s long gone.  I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that worthy fan. He was my earliest encounter with the extended Star Wars community, something my writing has brought me into contact with more in the last few years.

From one guy doing the rounds of kids’ birthdays, Star Wars costuming has branched out immensely, perhaps culminating in the illustrious 501st Legion, an organization which itself has evolved from a simple themed costuming club to a worldwide organization that uses its public appearances, and diverse volunteer and fundraising resources to contribute to a number of worthy charity events (check ’em out HERE).

501st-LegionI’ve seen them in action around the various Cons and parades. They’re level of quality is unparalleled (and they’re not nearly as terrifying as my first experience).

May The Fourth Be With You

 

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A little update. A friend who grew up in the same area as me (Calumet City, Illinois was where my house was) read this post and sent me this …..

Ed, loved your story about Darth coming to your party. I remember wanting Darth Vader to come to my party when I was a kid, but I got the magician instead. Anyway… when I was living in Homewood before I moved to NY, I was at the local target right around Halloween and I was checking out the DVDs. I am a member of the 501st and had a midwest garrison patch with a stormtrooper on it on my jacket. This guy who had to be in his 50s or 60s was checking out the DVDs as well and he kept looking at my patch. Finally, he asked me about it and I told him what the 501st was. He said that he was a huuuuge Star Wars fan and that right after the film came out, he made this pretty close-to screen accurate Darth Vader costume. He said he’d wear it and go to birthday parties and local events. He was a really cool guy and we just stood there talking about Star Wars and Halloween for a good while. Finally we parted ways and left it with a “nice to meet ya. “I’m sure I’ll see ya around.” I wonder if that was the same guy. Hahah! I can’t imagine there were too many guys from the southwest suburbs doing that kind of thing back then. hahah!

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Awesome. Whether it really was the same guy or not, in my mind, that was him.

 

Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Part 2 of Slugthrowers: An Overview Of Popular Music and Musicians Up At Star Wars Dot Com

In the immediate wake of my story Hammer in Star Wars Insider #147, look want else got published today…more Star Wars! Part 2 of my article Slugthrowers: An Overview of Popular Music And Musicians In A Galaxy Far Far Away is up on Lucasfilm’s Star Wars (dot) com.

Click here for part 1.

And here’s part 2….

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/2014/01/21/slugthrowers-part-2/

ewokdrum (Medium)

Published in: on January 22, 2014 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hammer Time! Star Wars Insider #147

hammerMy first short story of 2014 premieres today in Star Wars Insider #147, marking my fictional return to the Star Wars Galaxy! Yep! Me! On actual, physical newsstands! Run out and grab it.

I’m always excited by the opportunity to add a bit of original fiction to a universe that’s been such a huge part of my childhood.

Hammer, which takes place in the final days of The Clone Wars, follows Telloti Cillmam’n, a troubled, envious Padawan washout regulated to the Jedi Explorer Corps who discovers an ancient Sith relic resting in a mysterious structure on the far-flung, ammonia-washed world of Nicht Ka. It also sees the birth of Malleus, an heir to the power of the glorious Sith dynasties of the past and the armor of a forgotten dark warrior called Warb Null.

Taking a page from some of my favorite fellow Star Wars contributors, Jason Fry and Dan Wallace, I thought I’d devote the old blog today to a couple of the in-universe Easter eggs and behind the scenes stuff for Hammer, and at the same time, showcase some of the awesome art Joe Corroney and Brian Miller did for the story.

nullFirstly, Warb Null was the corrupted persona of a Naddist cultist named Shas Dovos on the planet Onderon 4,000 years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.  He appeared in the Tales of The Jedi comic ‘The Freedon Nadd Uprising’ written by Tom Veitch for Dark Horse, and was further expanded in the West End Games RPG supplement for Tales of The Jedi. I always liked the design of the character as a sort of primeval proto-Vader in gleaming, almost Satanic black armor with a huge two handed lightsaber. Yeah he looks a bit like Sauron now, but remember, this was before the LOTOR movies so actually, Sauron looks like him. He gets taken out pretty quickly a la Darth Maul in the comic, but he stuck in my mind over the years, and I was always looking for an opportunity to do more with him.

George C_ Scott PattonPart of the inspiration for Telloti’s personality was, believe it or not, George C. Scott’s portrayal of George S. Patton in the titular movie, Patton.  There’s a quote in it that sums up Patton’s character – “There’s only one proper way for a professional soldier to die. That’s from the last bullet, of the last battle, of the last war.”  This mantra is fortified when, after a political faux pas causes Patton to be removed from his battle command, he reacts to news of the Allied D-Day invasion by storming at his stoic valet, “The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire WORLD at war, and I’m left out of it? God will not permit this to happen! I WILL be ALLOWED to fulfill my destiny!”  That last bit sort of became the springboard for the character for me. Telloti’s frustration at having failed to become a Jedi and being, in his mind, shuffled off to a harmless profession under the direction of a warrior who has lost the will to fight. Telloti wants glory, and all around him, his opportunities are passing him by. This mindset of course, combined with his temper, wind up making him fertile ground for the corruption of the Sith.

ekimAs a reader of wookieepedia, I’m a little obsessed with seeing unnamed background characters get an official moniker. The maimed Jedi master in the story, Ekim Ryelli, is meant to be the mulleted guy pictured in this still from Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.  On wookieepedia he’s been called ‘Unidentified Balding Human Male Jedi,’ since the movie’s release, which is really a bit of a mouthful and not a very impressive name for a Jedi. So I asked Joe Corroney if he could use the guy in the arena in Episode II as a character model, if Leland Chee was OK with it, which I guess he was, ‘cause that’s him.

lumas

Lumas Etima front and center

For Ekim’s padawan, I needed another combatant in the Petranaki arena on Geonosis from Ep II, in this case, one that hadn’t made it back. I found Lumas Etima in one of Leland Chee’s blogs on the Geonosis battle, and in Pablo Hidalgo’s Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia. He’s another guy with an on screen appearance, but he one-ups his master as Hasbro made a figure of him at some point (this and bounty hunter Bane Malar make two Star Wars figures I’ve written backgrounds for – coolness!).

tellotivisionsAt one point in the story, Telloti’s mind is flooded with visions of the ancient past, in which he sees another armored Sith warrior, and hears his name chanted. This is King Adas, an ancient overlord of the Sith stronghold world Korriban. The spirit which inhabits the spellbook which Shas Dovos uses to craft the Warb Null armor is never named, and I don’t name him here, but I can’t help but see an aesthetic allusion to Adas in the design of Null’s ebony armor…

The last points are mainly trivia. Since my first contributions to Star Wars in the old Database and my story Fists of Ion, I’ve always played around with portmanteaus in my character naming, as a lot of authors I know do. I don’t feel a Star Wars piece is complete till I’ve included the name of a loved one, in particular, my children, who have become the main driving force between any ambitions I have as a writer since they’ve come into my life.

Wollwi Enan, the girl padawan who Telloti mentions as having defeated him during the Apprentice Trial, is named for my middle daughter, Willow Anne, and the Givin astrogator (Givin are my favorite Star Wars alien species) Staguu Itincoovar for my son, August Victoriano.

Welp, that’s all folks. Hope you enjoy the story.

May The Force Be With You!

Art imitates life

Art imitates life

Slugthrowers: A Look At Popular Music In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Part 1 of Slughtrowers – my article on popular in-universe music in a Galaxy Far Far Away is up over on Lucasfilm’s official Star Wars site, so go give it a look here…

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/2013/11/21/slugthrowers-an-overview-of-popular-music-and-musicians-in-a-galaxy-far-far-away-part-1/#more-25293

skawn

Published in: on November 22, 2013 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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So Uncivilized Part 2 Up At The Official Star Wars Website

Part two of my roundup of the fastest blasters in a Galaxy far far away is up at the official Star Wars website.

It features my personal favorite expanded universe character, Gallandro, the Corporate Sector assassin from Brian Daley’s excellent Han Solo Trilogy books from the early days of Star Wars pastiche.

If you want a good Star Wars read, I can’t recommend these books enough.

So check out this –

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/index.php/2013/10/03/so-uncivilized-great-gunslingers-in-star-wars-part-2/

And then DEFINITELY check out this –

 

SoloTrilogy

http://www.amazon.com/The-Han-Solo-Adventures-Revenge/dp/0345379802/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380828806&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+daley+han+solo

Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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‘Great Gunfighters Of The Star Wars Galaxy Part I’ Up At Star Wars Dot Com

I’ve got a new article up at Lucasfilm’s Star Wars website, about the top gunslingers in a galaxy far, far away.  Check it out here –

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/index.php/2013/09/19/so-uncivilized-great-gunslingers-in-star-wars-part-1/

solo

The one that’s still around is the one who shot first.

I remember as a kid going on vacation to Deadwood, South Dakota with my parents, and picking up an illustrated book called The Gunfighters by Lea Mcarty, which had these cool paintings of guys like Doc Holliday, Joaquin Murietta and Clay Allison, with about a page of text on their careers.

gunfighters

That book enamored me. I still have it. Great, flavorful text and awesome, mythic-quality paintings.

There’s always been an element of the Old West in Star Wars, and I wanted to point them out in the article, so I took McCarty’s book as inspiration and wrote up a brief colorful bio for ten Star Wars characters from the movies, comics, books, and video games who I thought were most obviously meant to be transplanted gunfighters.

So head over to Star Wars.com and take a look at part one. It was originally meant to be a top ten ranking, but the powers that be decided to eliminate the ranking system (but on the side, the first five up now were originally #’s 10-5.

So whether you’re a Star Wars geek or a western fan – or both, as I am – go give it a look. Tell me if you agree with my ranking, or go and read some fine books referenced within.

jessejames

Published in: on September 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Star Wars: Fists Of Ion Returns!

As part of the release of Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, Star Wars Books has reposted some of the long out of sight Hyperspace stories from Star Wars.com to suvudu, including my own Fists Of Ion, which is the quintessential story about boxing (known as shockboxing) in A Galaxy Far Far Away.

Set in the New Republic era (not long after Return Of The Jedi), Fists Of Ion is about how an up and coming shockboxer took down the oppressive Imperial-backed criminal government on a backwater industrial world with one punch.

You can read it abso-smurfly free here –

http://star-wars.suvudu.com/2012/10/star-wars-shorts-fists-of-ion.html

Art by Cat Staggs, logo mockup by my buddy Greg Mitchell

And for my fellow hardcore Star Wars fans, after you’ve read the story, here are the little easter eggs, which I originally posted on my now defunct Star Wars blog (taking a page from author Abel Pena).

Lobar’s race, the Calians of Shiva IV, their former enemies the T’syriel, their battle madness, and references to the destruction of K’avor (Lobar’s hometown, bombed out by Imperial General Bentilais san Sk’ar) originally appeared in Marvel Comics Star Wars issues 53-54.

The Rebel Alliance: Where everybody knows your name.

Major Bren (“Cliff from Cheers”) Derlin’s background details all come from West End Games’ The Star Wars Movie Trilogy Sourcebook, his entry in Alliance Intelligence Reports, and The Last Command Sourcebook.  I took the liberty of making his mission to Reuss VIII the one that earned him his promotion to Colonel. My big regret is not finding a way to work in the line “Who are three people who’ve never been in my kitchen?” Just couldn’t fit it in, though…

The plucky Alderaanian slicer Corporal Beezer is from the old Star Wars Customizable Card Game, and appears in the Endor Limited set where she’s described as part of Derlin’s commando strike force. Her first name, Dransa, is the author’s invention (my wife’s name tuckerized). The promotion to sergeant seemed like a logical progression after her work on Endor.

Torel Vorne

Torel Vorne, Deral Reiko, the Rust Rats, Moff Ammar, and Reussi VIII (as well as some of the details of Vorne’s organ donation trade and the Reuss Corporation’s hold on the populous) come from my favorite SWRPG book, West End Games’ Star Wars Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments From The Rim.Stitchy having once been court physician to Queen Apa-something, is a reference to Queen Apailana of Naboo, assassinated by Vader and the 501st for harboring Jedi in the Lucasarts video game Star Wars: Battlefront II.

“The Galaxy’s original talent free band” Boba Fett And The Assassin Droids, TriNebulon News, and Grada, an expensive brand of Cassandran Choholl are also from West End Games’ Star Wars Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments From The Rim.

Intelligence agents Resik, the Jillsarian bartender, Mygo Skinto, Ytavarg Aleema (the famous shockball player and secret Rebel sympathizer who lends his name to Lobar’s running shoes), and Colonial News Net reporter Fionna Flannis all appear in West End Games’ Cracken’s Rebel Operatives.

The Broken Tusk and the Dool Arena, including references to the vengeful Tolanese bounty hunter, the Jedi (Norrin Vaxx) beaten by Tull Raine, and the previous owners are all detailed in the last WEG supplement published, Wretched Hives Of Scum And Villainy.  The story behind that is The Broken Tusk was actually built out of the remains of the ship (The Tolan Tusk) of a bounty hunter named Var’rotha Fin’rotha, whose two Gamorrean slaves revolted on him, shoving him into an escape pod and inadvertently crash landing it on Reuss VIII.  The Gamorreans established The Broken Tusk and the Dool Arena, and operated a successful business for some years. One of the included adventure seeds was the return of Fin’rotha. I inferred its outcome, and that Torel Vorne would have jumped at the chance to take over the lion’s share of the Tusk’s profits and maybe legitimize the place (as far as somebody like Vorne could legitimize anything).

Zzip Product Concepts Ltd, makers of luxury speeders, are mentioned as one of the signing companies in the creation of the Corporate Sector Authority in The Han Solo And The Corporate Sector Sourcebook.

Micromite pate is listed as a Kubaz delicacy in the article “A Free Trader’s Guide To The Planets” from Star Wars Adventure Journal #10

The following terms and entities are my inventions –

bouncewire – Conductive, wire-wrapped syntherope strung around a shockboxing wedge.

Boz – The Calian creator deity.  Did the religion of the Calians somehow spread to or from Boz Pity?

Electrolast – Top of the line brand of shockboxing equipment.

glunked – A Chevin past tense version of ‘crapped,’ as in, ‘to crap out’ or fail in function.

GolanGear – Golan Arms’ floundering athletic equipment division and a brand of shockboxing equipment. You can bet their stocks went up after the Tull Raine fight.

gug – The Star Wars equivalent of a pug, or a broken down, past his prime shockboxer.

Kubindi mudbugs – A Kubaz delicacy consisting of succulent bottom feeders.

Qee-Zutton Booksellers – Purveyors of fine reading, the SW version of B. Dalton, of course. Possibly the Snivvian author and Chalmun’s Cantina patron had a bit of good fortune in later life…

ryastraad – The Calian word for their battle madness tradition. Actually derived from ríastrad, the ‘battle-distortion’ or berserker rage of the Irish folk hero Cú Chulainn.

Sha-nag! – A Chevin interjection equivalent to “bullsh_t!”

Tuffweave – A brand of pliant canvas material used in wedge flooring.

The idea of shockboxing was conceived by author Wayne Humfleet for the old West End Games RPG, I just expanded on it.

Star Wars esoterica aside, Fists Of Ion came about from my love of all things boxing.

Lobar Aybock is a tuckerization of ‘Rocky Balboa,’ and Lobar’s alien cornermen, Stitchy and Eedund Cus’ names come from Jacob ‘Stitch’ Doran, Muhammad Ali’s great cornerman Angelo Dundee, and Mike Tyson’s legendary trainer Cus D’amato, respectively.

You can read a little more about how I came to write Fists Of Ion here – https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/happy-star-wars-day-may-the-4th-be-with-youze/