Sure, we all know what happened to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn at the end of The Phantom Menace: he went to that great, glowing Ewok party in the sky. But how did he get there? That’s just one of the things that Dark Horse Editor – and writer – Scott Allie will be exploring in the new series Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side. The five issue comic book series will show a younger Qui-Gon, long before he met a young Padawan named Anakin, and perhaps long before he knew to stay away from that pesky dark side.
To find out more, we chatted with Allie – who also edits Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more – about what makes Qui-Gon the perfect focus for a new series, and also, what makes him go to the dark side:
MTV Geek: Talk a little about the book… We’re going to see a younger – but still experienced – Qui-Gon Jinn, right?
Scott Allie: Yeah. He's already a master, but this is a long time before Episode I.
Geek: There’s not a lot about him in The Phantom Menace… What did you draw on for his character? Is there a big book all about him somewhere at Skywalker Ranch that you’re only allowed to read once? Or did you have the chance to bring your own nuance to his character?
SA: I read some of the YA novels with my son, but mostly I extrapolated backward from the movie. I'm not doing anything that's not implied somewhere, in the first film or the expanded universe stuff, but there's never been a look at the character like this. The novels he appears in are YA novels, for the most part, and focused on Obi Wan. This story takes place a while before that, and is targeted at a slightly older audience, the standard comics audience. So we get to deal with his weaknesses in a different way, his, shall we say, imperfect judgment, and the book really is all about him. This man will be one of the most revered Masters, with a special bond with the Force, and he's the guy who insists on training the kid who will grow up to be the mass murdering Darth Vader. So I want to know who THAT GUY was when he was younger, when he was still determining his future, and when his emotions were not entirely in check.
Geek: Similarly, the movies are, of course, the ultimate “canon” – but how much has been laid out in non-filmic back-story? How much leeway do you get to create planets, races, etc, in the Star Wars Universe?
SA: One of the reasons Randy, my editor, and I chose to use Qui-Gon for this is that his back story was a bit wide open. This part of his history hasn't been mined the way a lot of Star Wars histories have been. This first story, the first five issues, has been referred to in flashback in the YA novels, but it's never been full dramatized, and some details recorded on the websites differ, which I felt gave me added latitude. There's room there for me to write these events as I see them, as I want them to be, in order to set up the series that Randy and I wanted to see—a powerful Jedi out on the rim of the galaxy, angry and alone, like a hero from the Clint Eastwood western.
Geek: Talk a little bit about the setting for the book – Star Wars planets are notoriously “one thing.” What one thing is the planet this takes place on?
SA: This first arc takes place on Telos IV, a planet established in the novels and stuff. I believe it first turned up in a Marvel comic, but it's featured in other stories. I view it as being Utah, with Metropolis in place of Salt Lake City. So there's more variety than Hoth, which I like, but it's a place of great natural beauty, with one main city.
Geek: When you’re writing a book like this, how do you avoid “Prequelitis?” Meaning, since we know what will happen to the character, making the story work on its own, rather than a lot of portents about someday fighting a guy named Darth Maul? Or is there a place for that?
SA: It's a long time before Episode I—it's not remotely about the lead-in to that story. You just have to make sure you have a story you want to tell. There's an independent story here that doesn't rely on his future. I want to show how Qui-Gon was as a younger man, and how events shaped him into the man he'll be—but that doesn't mean that the story is preoccupied with Qui-Gon's destiny. When you read Star Wars: Jedi - The Dark Side, you'll see that there's PLENTY going on in the book, without having to think too much about the subtext of what's to come. There's one line that really makes you think about where Qui-Gon's heading, but that's not what the book is about. It's about what he's facing right now, as he tries to learn to be a great Jedi Master.
Geek: You’ve said in the past there’s no Sith in the book, but it is called Star Wars: Jedi - The Dark Side – how does one come into play without the other?
SA: Basically, a Jedi can go bad without being led there specifically by a Sith. That's what we see. Yoda has that line about anger leading to fear and suffering, and to the dark side. That's what we see here.
Geek: Are we going to see Qui-Gon tempted by the dark side himself?
SA: That'd be telling, no ...?
Geek: What brings out your dark side? (Please don’t say stupid questions, please don’t say stupid questions…)
SA: Almost anything. Got it mostly under control these days.
Geek: When you’re writing Qui-Gon, are you channeling Liam Neeson from Taken, or Liam Neeson from Clash of the Titans? This is a very important distinction.
SA: You know, I gave a lot of thought to that, seriously, but realized that wasn't the route to go. It's not Liam Neeson. That'd be like saying that in Buffy Season 8, Joss Whedon should think about at Sarah in The Grudge. But like I said, I gave it a lot of thought, and ultimately decided that the guy I imagine Qui-Gon being at this time is someone else altogether. I have to look at who Qui-Gon is in Episode 1, and take him back to an earlier day.
Geek: When you’re writing a Star Wars project, do you just have John Williams’ scores on loop? Because I feel like I would. Another crackerjack question!
SA: No, but that's a good idea.
Geek: Okay, more seriously, how much give and take do you and artist Mahmud Asrar have on the project?
SA: We talked a little bit at the beginning about what he wanted to draw, and I've tried to write toward that. And I've given some feedback on character designs and layouts, but not too much. I am genuinely grateful to be working with Mahmud on this. He's making this the book I want it to be. He really draws this stuff in a beautiful, fun comic-book kind of way, which you sometimes don't get in a licensed book, especially one in which likenesses are important. So in that way, he delivers like Georges delivers in Buffy. It's a comic first and foremost, and a licensed, likeness book secondly. So I don't wanna mess with him, and I think I'm giving him the stuff he wants to draw. So we communicate a bit, we've met at cons a few times—the project came together when I met him at C2E2 last year. I really like him, but we haven't taken the opportunity to really get in there together, the way I've done with my collaborators on my creator-owned books. When we have gotten together, at cons, we weren't actively working on the book yet. So I imagine that'll be different next time I see him, when we're both knee-deep in it.
Geek: Other than Qui-Gon, is there an area of the Star Wars galaxy you think is left to explore?
SA: Oh, yeah, a lot. I love that galaxy. I'd love to write more Vader. I think Lucas did a remarkable job of creating iconic, archetypal characters that bear deep exploration. I'd love to write a long story about Luke, because there are aspects of the hero that he offers insights into like no other character in popular fiction. I love Luke. I love Han. There'd be no one more fun to write about than Han. I'd love to write something set between Episodes II & III exploring Anakin's shift to the dark side. There's an incremental slip, as he succumbs to his own weaknesses, that would be great to explore.
Geek: Tease us: what's one moment that's going to make Star Wars fans squeal when they read the book?
SA: I think people will be happy to see Qui-Gon showing some emotion, and letting loose in some fights. I don't know, man, it would be preposterous for me to suggest I can make someone squeal ... but I think I give the long time Star Wars readers some stuff they needed to see for this character, and I think as a comic it tells a fun, action-packed, character-driven, self-contained story, that doesn't require a subscription to Wookiee Times in order to understand. And I don't think there's enough of that sort of comics out there. So, you know, Squeee.
Star Wars: Jedi – The Dark Side #1 hits stands May 18th!