The Return of the Mon Calamari – An Interview with Ethan Sacks

The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker is underway and we’re excited to share an interview I recently conducted with Ethan Sacks, Marvel Comics author and longtime Star Wars fan, about his miniseries Star Wars: Allegiance, which debuts this week. Set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Allegiance shows the ongoing efforts of Leia Organa and the Resistance to light the spark of rebellion once more to face the First Order. In dire need of allies and with their numbers reduced, Leia reaches out to the world of Mon Cala, hoping they will join the fight once again.

First off, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ethan! For starters, could you walk us through how this opportunity popped up and how you went about crafting your initial story pitch?

My wonderful editors, Mark and Tom, came to me with the assignment right as we were wrapping up Galaxy’s Edge. I knew it would be a little bit of a tricky dance because this story had to fit neatly as a puzzle piece that lined up with J.J. Abrams’ vision for The Rise of Skywalker, so Lucasfilm was very involved in helping me hone the story so that it fills in some of the backstory that happens before the final installment starts. But I had some leeway as to how we got there.

When we last see the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi, it is basically down to a few dozen people and the Millennium Falcon. Can you give us a sense of how much time has passed when your story starts and what have our heroes been up to?

It’s a few months later and the Resistance is scrambling from planet to planet to find more ships and weapons to stand a fighting chance against the First Order. But Kylo Ren is still nursing his own outrage over being outwitted by his former teacher and being abandoned by the one person in the galaxy he thought would understand him. So, finding Rey and crushing the Resistance is very, very personal. Which means General Organa has little room to maneuver.

Since their introduction in Return of the Jedi, the Mon Calamari have been consistently portrayed as one of the species that step up when the galaxy is in crisis. However, as we see in The Last Jedi, Leia’s urgent call for allies went unanswered. What have our favorite fish been up to and have their past experiences as part of the Rebel Alliance and New Republic affected their current state of mind?

The Mon Calamari have also paid a heavy price – heavier than most – the last time they stepped up to fight. The shadow of the Imperial occupation looms over all and there are many in leadership positions that just don’t want to get involved again. It doesn’t help that their big war hero, Admiral Ackbar, is dead and unable to rally their morale.

Interesting! Does Ackbar’s death and/or legacy play a part in the story, directly or indirectly?

Ackbar’s legacy looms large over Mon Cala. The death of a war hero of that stature is a reminder of how much that planet and its people have already paid for the rest of the galaxy. 

The fantastic covers by Marco Checchetto show a mix of familiar and new characters. Can you give us any more info about the Mon Calamari and Quarren characters and what role they may play in the story?

I’m of the school of thought that as much as possible should be kept under wraps to preserve the experience of discovering these characters and the story organically. Or should I say Organa-ically. Let’s just say there has always been a slightly uneasy dynamic between the Mon Calamari and the Quarren, despite having shared the same planet and government, and it will be tested by the arrival of Leia and her group and the attention it could bring from the First Order.

This series promises to show us the heroes and villains we’ve come to know and love during the sequel trilogy. Did you find certain established characters easier or more difficult to write then others?

Rey is a special character to write because of all she means to my daughter and her generation, but I have to say I got a lot of joy writing Finn, Poe and Rose because they don’t have the ability to lean on the Force when they get into a jam. Chewbacca is a tough one because there are just so many ways with comic sound effects to convey the different ways he expresses emotion with his growling. 

With the passing of Carrie Fisher, the presence of Leia Organa gains even greater significance and poignancy in TROS, as well as in works like Allegiance. What was it like writing Leia? Did you feel any extra weight in writing a part of her story as the Skywalker saga wraps up? 

I had been honored to have interviewed her for the New York Daily News before the release of The Force Awakens, and I was able to reminisce to her about my first time seeing Star Wars as a four year old in a New York City theater in 1977. It’s my earliest memory, but it’s so vivid that when I close my eyes I can still hear my dad’s voice like he’s in the room with me right now, even though he passed away twenty-four years ago. That movie would always connect me to him. She was touched and a little emotional about my story. A year later I wrote a tribute to her for the front page of the newspaper. Now, I have another chance to pay tribute, and to do it in canon, so I really weighed every line of dialogue to make sure I was honoring both Carrie and the character’s legacy. We’ll be reminded why Leia commands such respect from everyone around her. 

What do you hope Allegiance will contribute thematically to the overall sequel trilogy story?

I prefer to keep the answer shrouded in secrecy…for now. Spoiling too many secrets leads to the dark side….

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about ships… Is it a safe assumption that we may see a Mon Calamari ship or two in the series

I’d tell you, but there are First Order spies everywhere! 

Thank you again for your time, Ethan! We’re super excited to read the first issue on Wednesday! Special thanks as well to Timothy Cheng and Anthony Blackwood at Marvel Comics as well.