What Star Wars Can Learn From Game of Thrones

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Oh yeah, you read that right. This is happening. I’ll be getting into The Force Awakens details below, incidentally, but nothing that hasn’t been officially revealed.

A lot of the news and speculation lately has been about alignments: Kylo Ren is a big fan of Darth Vader, but he’s not a Sith. He’s part of a group called the Knights of Ren, but what are they, exactly? Are they actually Imperials in some respect, or just a cult that he went rogue from?

And then there’s the First Order—recently explained, kind of, by JJ Abrams as follows:

“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire?”

Abrams seems to be talking about two different things, here—actual ex-Imperials seeking to get things moving again, and perhaps also a younger generation who “admired” the Empire but weren’t actually a part of it. Just going by ages, it seems logical that Phasma, General Hux, and presumably even Kylo represent the latter, because they would have been toddlers when Palpatine died—if that. Maybe they’re acting completely of their own volition, but if so, who are the retired Nazis in this analogy? » Read more..

Looking to the Future

Disclaimer: I will not give you spoilers for new Star Wars content, especially with the amount we’ve been getting lately.

twin sunsetWe are on the cusp of an awakening. Okay, fine, that was a shameless ripoff from the teasers, but the point stands. We are about to have a large amount of Star Wars content released rapidly in the lead up to The Force Awakens. I’m excited, of course; as a post-ROTJ fan in my heart and soul, we’re finally getting into my favorite content. The things a lot of us have been waiting for. Even for the casual fans or those who aren’t especially familiar with Star Wars, suddenly it’s everywhere around us.

Therefore, we’re about to learn a lot. Maybe it won’t seem like a lot; honestly the amount of information we’re getting has been strictly controlled. We won’t have a detailed state of the political galaxy available immediately, nor do I expect it any time soon. We have what, thirty years of history to cover? That took nearly twenty years of publishing previously, and I for one am glad for the empty space.

I’ve previously written in praise of the unknown and hidden, the concept that we don’t have to have all the facts. There is a good deal to be said about letting a story be told slowly. What do we really know about TFA’s plot at this point? Not very much, really. We know we’re seeing our heroes from the OT, we know of a few we aren’t seeing, and we know the character names of the newcomers. But for major plot details, there still is very little. There are some sources out there that have been decently reliable in the past, but we still have no idea what we’re walking into on December 18th. That itself makes me all the more excited; it’s been ages since I’ve gone into something Star Wars-related and not really known what I was going to get. It’s a completely new experience and that feels amazing. » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn From A Whole New World by Liz Braswell

24397040[1]If asked about an “alternate universe Star Wars story,” most people might immediately bring the Star Wars Tales comics to mind. Others might bring to mind the old Infinities comics exploring different takes on the Original Trilogy. A few might think of alternate universe scenarios in video games, such as the dark side endings to various games or The Force Unleashed franchise allowing its pet character Starkiller to kill all of our beloved heroes. A really cheeky person might ask if we meant the Legends Expanded Universe. Alternate universe stories might be common in other franchises – especially comic books – but Star Wars rarely draws from that well, except in fan-created works. Even most Star Wars video games would fall into whatever was the canon continuity at the time. Though the obsession of Star Wars with fitting everything into continuity could be the subject of its own article, it’s still strikingly odd that Star Wars almost never consciously creates alternate universe stories. Taking aside the alternate endings for video games, only Dark Horse committed to alternate universe content in any consistent way. The novels conspicuously never touched it, except for early works of dubious continuity value. (Before anybody asks, no, this is not a “Bring Back Legends” article)

Disney Book Group is doing something rather interesting – they’re publishing a series called A Twisted Tale, which takes their extremely well-known animated features and shooting their stories off in an alternate direction by changing a key fact of the story. It’s a little like Back to the Future II, and if we have to explain that reference to anybody we’re going to be very distressed. Now, this idea is pretty cool not just conceptually, but because Disney is pretty strict about the use of its animated brands on a level fairly comparable to Lucasfilm. So if they’re willing, why not Star Wars?

The first book in the series is called A Whole New World, and it’s an Aladdin alternate universe story by Liz Braswell. It’s a pretty fun story, and so we’ll illustrate what we mean about Star Wars by reviewing this book. It’s a darker and more realistic take on Aladdin, being geared towards young adults who might have grown up on Aladdin (though folks like us who saw it in theatre are decidedly past the young adult stage, at least “young adult” as it’s understood in publishing). The story follows along the movie at first, developing it the way a film novelization might, until the point at which Jafar sends Aladdin to recover the lamp: Jafar betrays Aladdin but manages to keep the lamp, and is able to institute his dark plans far earlier. He becomes a sultan and sorcerer, and Princess Jasmine has to escape and become a revolutionary leader… which is a version of Aladdin we never knew we needed until now. And that’s the beauty of an alternate universe story: it can be more than just a plot twist if it explores different sides of characters or a different type of story.

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Meet the Marvels: Greg Rucka

We are going to continue our look at representative comics penned by future writers of the Marvel Star Wars comics, trying to examine what makes them a bad or good choice to write Star Wars for the benefit of any readers that may be Star Wars fans but not comic book fans. In the past we’ve looked at Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Mark Waid and Charles Soule, and now it’s time to take a good look a Greg Rucka, the writer of Shattered Empire, the comic miniseries that’s coming out as part of the Journey to The Force Awakens. And this time, choosing the comic series we are going to spotlight couldn’t have been any easier.

Greg Rucka’s writing career started with his Atticus Kodiak novels, a series of seven crime books starring a New York bodyguard, and he started writing comics with the critically-acclaimed Whiteout, an absorbing story about a female sheriff having to solve a crime at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and finding what appears to be the work of a serial killer; he also published Queen & Country, a gritty espionage series about a British SIS agent and his world. Once his reputation as a good writer was consolidated, he went to work for DC Comics, writing Detective Comics (where he created many of the characters that would become part of the detective series Gotham Central, that he would co-write with Ed Brubaker) and Wonder Woman, and famously being part of writing team for the also-critically-acclaimed weekly series 52.

Leaving DC after being taken off the still-unpublished Wonder Woman: Earth One, Rucka came to Marvel to pencil one of the most interesting runs in The Punisher in recent history, perhaps only second to Garth Ennis’s long stint on the MAX title. If this series of accomplishments would lead you to think that Rucka is a crime writer first and foremost and has no business writing Star Wars, you couldn’t be more wrong: not only does he write the steampunk adventure comic Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, but he also wrote for Marvel the title whose first issue we are going to be talking about today: Cyclops.

» Read more..

Narratives of Failure – What Works and Why?

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In recent years the video game industry has sought to present their products in a more sophisticated light, to demonstrate as it were that they have ‘grown up’. The option gone for, in these cases, is the bleak ending, with the notion that, in the end, all your hero character can do is choose how to fail, not how to win. Mass Effect 3 is one well-known example, but the recently released Batman: Arkham Knight is an equally worthy, perhaps worthier, contender.

Say the words ‘narrative of failure’ to a Star Wars fan and two options spring to mind – The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith. Yet, though both tend to get lumped into the category of ‘bad guys win’ stories, do they really? ROTS ends on a hopeful note for the future and while they’ve been blasted by their experiences, no one is dead at the end of ESB.

It is important to recognize the importance of the medium used. There are notable differences between film and video games, particularly with regard to the user, that suggest that film can get away with certain narrative moves video games cannot. The principal difference being activity. While the audience may indeed become emotionally or intellectually hooked on a film’s plot, they are still essentially passive in the sense they are the audience and cannot impact the tale. In contrast, video games require a level of active involvement with, in the best games, an ability to affect the plot outcome. At its most basic, this is simply in continuing the game and not being killed, but has gone much further with games having multiple endings that are chosen by player choices. » Read more..

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