John Jackson Miller is one of the most versatile writers in the Star Wars universe. He’s written games and comics (including the fondly received “Knights of the Old Republic” series), and will soon launch a comic book series and publish a prose novel that both star a new Jedi character a thousand years before The Phantom Menace. He’s also a comics historian, and blogs at his own Faraway Press site. We talked to him about his early experiences with Star Wars, as well as his plans for the forthcoming “Knight Errant” series.
TECHLAND: What was your first exposure to Star Wars?
JOHN JACKSON MILLER: 1977–that’s when the movie came out. I was one of the rare kids who discovered Star Wars through the comics before I saw the movie. I read the Marvel Comics adaptation before I actually saw the movie. That was before the multiplexes, so we had theaters that only had one print of the film, and even in a reasonably big city, I was living in Memphis, it wasn’t until much later in the summer that I actually got to see it. At that point, I had read the entire adaptation! The comics adaptation came out two months before the movie did–it was a real leap of faith on Marvel’s part, and one that was really taken because Roy Thomas had faith in the project and was able to convince higher-ups to go in for it. It was actually possible to get the entire adaptation by the end of the summer. That’s what I saw first–they were doing reprints of all those issues in plastic bag that they were selling at Walgreens, and places like that. I was talking this spring to Jim Shooter, who was the editor-in-chief of Marvel, and he said that Star Wars actually saved Marvel Comics in the 1970s, because it was such a hit.
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Later on–I think it was in ’78–the first new novel based on Star Wars, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, came out. That was the first grown-up novel I had ever read. At the time, word of mouth was that “this is the next Star Wars movie”–and of course it turned out to be nothing like that! But I got all the Star Wars comics and all the Star Wars novels after that. So the fact that I get to write not just Star Wars comics but a novel as well–that’s really cool.
As someone who’s written Star Wars comics, prose fiction and role-playing games, which elements of Star Wars do you think work particularly well in each of those media?
There are different strengths to each medium. In comics, I can pretty much make every scene a cantina scene! I can put as many aliens as possible anywhere I can find a place for them, because the artist is going to be there to populate that scene and put in as many ships as we please, or whatever. In a novel, I’m the director, I’m the cinematographer, and I have to be very careful. My inclination might be to make the cab driver over here an Ithorian–one of the hammerhead guys from the cantina. Unless I’m willing to explain who he is and everything, I need to stick to using the richness of the cast of aliens that are out there by picking and choosing my moments. Comics allow you to fill in a lot more background on the canvas when it comes to things like that. On the other hand, what prose allows me to do is get a little bit more into what the characters are thinking, historical perspective, discuss the philosophies of the characters a bit more.
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