The stories behind the stories

Star Wars: Empire #35

“Your excuses have become tiresome — and your usefulness is at an end.” — Darth Vader

“Model Officer”

Darth Vader’s hunt for the Rebel Fleet takes a mysterious turn as someone within his own organization keeps killing rebels before he can question them…
Published by Dark Horse • September 15, 2005
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Brian Ching

Lettered by Michael David Thomas

Colored by Michael Atiyeh

Cover by Michael Sutlin

Edited by Randy Stradley, Jeremy Barlow, and Dave Marshall

Having taken some time off following the end of my Iron Man run to get Comics Buyer’s Guide changed over from a weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine, I returned to comics writing in late 2004.

On vacation in Oregon that summer before San Diego Comic-Con, I had paid a visit to Dark Horse Comics, where I learned that Star Wars: Empire, the Dark Horse series set between Episodes IV and V, needed material. Later that year I pitched several stories, including one which I characterized as a “detective story — with Darth Vader as a detective.”

Editor Randy Stradley figured this would make a perfect interlude to the ongoing Jabiim story in the title, and slated it for what would wind up being #35. (Another of the stories, in somewhat different fashion, would wind up in Star Wars Adventures Annual 2018 many years later.)

Brian Ching, who had drawn Star Wars: Obsession, drew the story, which led directly to my being asked to pitch for the 2006 Knights of the Old Republic series. When I got the go-ahead to write the new title, Brian would join me on that as well. So, for a story that’s actually an interlude, it turned out to be pretty important for both of us!

While we had finished the issue much earlier, it didn’t ship until early October — so seeing the issue was a bit like reading the story for the first time for me. There are storytelling elements curious to Star Wars, and the issue taught me a lot about how to stage certain things. Without thought balloons, for example, it’s tough to depict someone “feeling something in The Force” — especially when the someone is in a mask, like Darth Vader. I worked in Knights of the Old Republic to stage such things with more clarity.

With Star Wars: Empire ending in late 2005, this was my one and only issue of the title.

“You’ve helped remove a traitor — and saved the Empire the trouble of dealing with the colony… forever.” — Darth Vader

I actually thought for a moment that I might have put Darth Vader on the wrong ship. But the flagship Super Star Destroyer hadn’t been commissioned by this point in the storyline.

Some have asked why I used female Rebel scouts in the scene with the Blockade Runner. Honestly, I figured we simply hadn’t seen many before, and with only a page to get to know these characters before they died, it provided a little variety. I never understood why the “red shirts” on Star Trek were almost always male humans…

Did you notice that this issue was just 28 pages, plus the cover — when comics have long been 32 pages plus the cover? The reason is that there isn’t any cover — it’s 32 pages of cover stock! I’m usually a traditionalist, but trading four ads for glossy stock throughout makes a certain amount of sense…