It has been almost eight months since Lucasfilm first announced its next expansion for the Star Wars franchise with Star Wars: The High Republic. The Skywalker saga may have ended with its Rise, but new stories have yet to be told in that beloved galaxy far, far away. Today, at NYCC 2020, Polygon hosted a panel moderated by Susana Polo to showcase not only some of the most prominent writers for the upcoming High Republic era, but also some of the authors’ favorite characters, lightsabers and more!
As revealed in the official announcement, The High Republic will be a literary series of books and comic books with content for middle schoolers, adults and everyone in-between. The High Republic is set in roughly 232 BBY (that’s “Before the Battle of Yavin” on the Star Wars timeline). Though the Order of the Sith Lords have secretly survived their apparent extinction for over seven centuries, their Revenge is still a long way off. This is a time of peace and reform: a true golden age for the Jedi and the Republic.
The excitement of seeing a new era of exploration and heroic Jedi was echoed by today’s panel, which included The High Republic‘s writers (and fan-favorite authors of countless other Star Wars books): Charles Soule (Marvel’s Star Wars), Justina Ireland (Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance), Cavan Scott (Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost), Claudia Gray (Star Wars: Master & Apprentice) and Daniel José Older (Star Wars: Last Shot). Michael Siglain (Creative Director at Lucasfilm) was also a panelist.
Unfortunately, Jen Heddle (Executive Editor of Disney Publishing) was unable to attend today’s panel.
While nowhere near as violent and disruptive as the Clone Wars to come, the High Republic era has its own share of conflicts. The High Republic begins with Yoda and the Jedi Council answering a cry for help … a cry uttered after a galaxywide incident known as “The Great Disaster.”
At the start of The High Republic, a massive cargo ship known as the Legacy Run is carrying cargo, supplies and colonists looking to start a new life on the newly discovered frontiers of the Outer Rim. However, as the ship travels through hyperspace, alarms start to blare and the crew realizes too late that the Legacy Run is about to collide with something else traveling at lightspeed.
Remember that jaw-dropping lightspeed collision from Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi? Well, imagine that, but across multiple star systems! This is the Great Disaster: pieces of the Legacy Run, its cargo containers and even its passenger cars impacting unsuspecting planets at faster-than-light speeds.
It is against this backdrop that we are reintroduced to Yoda in the Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures comics series. A (young?) man of 664 years, spending time where he is happiest … among the Padawans of the Jedi Order. “A little bit after, when there are other fallouts from the Great Disaster happening,” Daniel José Older excitedly shared, “and [Yoda]’s traveling around with his Padawans and they need to jump into action! There are valuable lessons to be learned and there are lives at stake … and that’s when Yoda is at his best.”
Both Daniel and Claudia Gray are writing books/comics for younger readers, but Claudia clarified the differences between the experiences of these Padawans. Reath Silas, the main character of Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark, is on a ship headed out to a new region of space with some adult Jedi when they get caught in the Great Disaster. The ship is hurriedly “grounded” out of hyperspace to avoid colliding with chunks of the Legacy Run. “He is marooned in a place that has its own mysteries and dangers that he has to deal with far from his master,” Claudia explained.
The High Republic introduces readers to other new Jedi characters like Vernestra Rwoh in Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage. Despite her youth, Vernestra was promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight at just 15 years old. A year later, the Great Disaster struck. Having looked up to the Jedi Order her entire life, Vernestra has put a lot of expectations on herself to live up to the responsibilities and reputations of the Jedi Knights.
Justina Ireland made sure to emphasize that unlike the later Jedi, who became mired in the politics and corruption of the Republic in its final years, the Jedi of The High Republic are nobler individuals. Their praise is much more well-deserved. “These are not the Jedi of the prequels,” Justina explained. “These are the Jedi that everyone expects to be heroes, and everyone looks up to, and they have a great responsibility and kind of this really shining reputation.”
In addition to this more glowing public perception, the Jedi of The High Republic are also diverse in how they view the Force. Charles Soule edified on how one of the first Jedi we meet in The High Republic, Avar Kriss in Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, is not only instrumental in the Jedi’s response to the Great Disaster and coordination of Republic and Jedi personnel, but also “instrumental” in a unique way.
“She perceives the Force as music,” Charles announced, “She calls it the ‘Song of the Force.’ And so for her, all the different Jedi have their own ‘tones’ and ‘instruments’ and it all comes together in this great symphony of dissonance and assonance.”
Having a unique perspective on the Force appears quite common among The High Republic‘s Jedi. Most Star Wars fans know the Force as Yoda describes it, “Its energy surrounds us and binds us.” The writers choose to view that as just the perception of Yoda, rather than orthodox dogma. “We really have tried to lean into the idea that every Jedi has their own connection to the Force,” Charles continued, “And that allows them to experience it in their own way, which has really been great for the storytelling, I think.”
Michael Siglain agreed and explained how these unique perspectives are by design across The High Republic era. “You know, we’re talking about a story that begins with, quite literally, a Great Disaster,” Michael expounded, “And it’s a story of epic proportions, but at the same time, it becomes a very, very personal story for each one of these Jedi.”
One big factor in determining the feel for The High Republic was nailing down the characters’ designs. Not just their writing, but also their appearance. One look at the artwork of Keeve Trennis (main character for Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic comics), Cavan Scott knew they had her character way back during some of her earliest designs, when The High Republic was still code-named “Project Luminous.” “I sort of zeroed in on her, a lot on her,” Cavan revealed, “So in a way, she sort of … the character’s design was there first and helped me build her around how she looked.”
Susana Polo pointed out that the Star Wars galaxy is more than just Jedi: it is droids like R2-D2 and weird aliens like Chewbacca. Susana asked about the writers’ favorite side characters that they’ve created so far.
Michael did not hesitate to jump in. “Without giving away who or what the character is, Geod from Claudia’s Into the Dark is definitely one to watch,” Michael eagerly teased. “Well, it makes no sense now, but in a couple months from now, you’ll know why!”
Conversely, Claudia’s favorite from Into the Dark was Leox Jossie. Though he is a pilot and a bit of a scoundrel, Claudia made sure to stress that Leox is not Han Solo. “I basically thought, ‘What if someone had given early-days Matthew McConaughey a spaceship?'” Claudia confessed. “Where would we have ended up?”
The writers also teased some of their favorite lightsabers, from the Wookiee Padawan Burryaga’s giant single-bladed lightsaber (with a hilt that is more like a double-bladed in the hands of a human) to Keeve’s paired dual lightsabers that can be joined at the hilt to function as a double-bladed lightsaber (similar to the later designs of Komari Vosa and Asajj Ventress).
Unfortunately, Justina couldn’t say much about Vernestra’s lightsaber. “She has a purple lightsaber, because we all gotta pay mad respect to our boy Mace Windu,” Justina teased, “But there’s also something extra to her lightsaber … but you’ll have to read the books to find out what it is!”
Want to learn more about stories still to come from a galaxy far, far away? Check out more of GGA’s NYCC 2020 coverage here for all the news on Star Wars and all your favorite books, TV shows and more!
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