The stories behind the stories

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #18

“This is the worst dinner I’ve ever had.” — Jarael

“Nights of Anger” Part 3

The galaxy-shaking secret Camper kept hidden within his addled mind for decades is revealed in this conclusion to the “Nights of Anger” story arc!
Published by Dark Horse • July 25, 2007
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Harvey Tollbao

Lettered by Michael Heisler

Colored by Michael Atiyeh

Cover by Colin Wilson

Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall

Right in my initial pitch for this series back in 2005, I wrote that the centerpiece for Year Two would be the revelation of what Camper was hiding, and the implications it had for the widening war. I also wrote that the thing Camper had designed was something biological, spaceborne, and BIG — something that would have an impact on an astrophysical scale, something that would be a departure from another big gun. Something that would evoke the ancient, off-the-map “here there be dragons” mystery that a series set in the Old Republic could take advantage of.

But as I neared the story arc, I grew cautious about introducing into Star Wars anything that would violate the ground rules of the universe. Large interstellar life had long been the province of other franchises (Star Trek, Farscape, etc.), but it hadn’t always worked in Star Wars. The first such entity, the living starship from Michael Golden’s Star Wars #38 for Marvel, never really seemed like it fit in (though the issue was great to look at).

That was when I caught yet another repeat of The Empire Strikes Back —and it all fell into place. The space slug was right there — and, as it turned out, very, very little had been done with it in the Expanded Universe. It didn’t even have a proper name. Much of what had been written on them had come from games – and almost everything painted them as an incredibly rare leftover from the ancient world. Well, KOTOR was the ancient world!

It proved that their biology, as previously described, was perfect for what I intended to use them for – but it was not without trepidation that I first broached the idea with Dark Horse: Here was one of the few remaining mysterious things from the films – and we were going to dig very deeply into what made them tick. Randy Stradley has often said that “when you define, you confine,” and that’s a good rule to use. But it turned out everyone up and down the line liked the idea – the only challenge, we all saw, was depicting them correctly. We only saw the slug briefly on camera. Would they all look like that? It was easy to imagine some drawn versions looking anything but threatening.

Enter Brian Ching, who, at the same time he designed the Arkanian Legacy,  created a visual look for the Exogorths that really would seem demonic and Lovecraftian (as the name itself suggests). Scaly. Jagged. Mineral and flesh, intermingled. And then based on that design, Harvey Tolibao gave us our nest of them – stellar sea serpents, stranded and waiting in our ancient Sargasso. But waiting no longer, as we will see!

(And before you ask: One question not being answered right now is exactly how direct the connection is between the Exogorths shown here and the slug from Empire. There’s a lot of time between now and then – and, as later covers have shown, we haven’t seen the last of them. There’s more on how they function, as well.)

This was also intended to be Lord Adasca’s issue, in a number of ways. In him, I wanted to create someone who would come around for Jarael at exactly the wrong time. I envisioned Jarael as having lived several years on emotional defense, so to speak, trusting no one as she protected Camper in the Lower City. But then we have three gentlemen in sequence who treat her as well as Camper did – Zayne, Alek, and Rohlan – and so she lets her guard down … just in time for the smooth-talking Adasca to show up. At the wrong time! We’ll see in the coming issues how she deals with that.

Going in the opposite direction, Jarael gave me a chance to explore another dimension of Adasca’s persona – his unexpected attraction to something he otherwise professes to hate. Is it a sign of a character struggling with internal moral conflict – or just another macabre expression of hatred, basically a chance to show that he’s so powerful, he can ignore his own rules? (A good example of the latter is Ralph Fiennes’ commander in Schindler’s List.) I find that an interesting question in drama when I see it, and here was a place where it fit.

I also wanted to give a sense this issue both of Lord Adasca’s larger agenda and of how safe he presumes his position to be. With Camper’s success, he’s more than willing to allow Jarael limited freedom and knowledge of what’s going on (with the truth right outside the window, it was hard to do otherwise). We also tour of the ship with him, visiting the various parties involved – which again was inspired partially by the Goodwin/Infantino “Wheel” stories, where Greyshade was fencing with Leia on one part of the ship even as his forces were dealing with Han and Chewie in another – and then you had the droids running around. Or on Cloud City, where Chewie and Threepio are doing their thing while Lando is running a double game. It made for more work in the plotting process (and it took time to get the script down to fighting weight, believe me) – but given the action to come, it’s worth it.

Issue #18 – the nominal end of “Nights of Anger” – also illustrates the challenge in setting traditional storyline titles for what is, really, a longer series of interconnected events. The events involving Lord Adasca reach into “Daze of Hate” – but also they go back to the beginning of “Days of Fear” (and, frankly, back to #3). Labeling it all “Zayne Carrick and the Sargasso of Death” or something might have worked, but then really only about a third of “Days of Fear” was about the hunt for Camper. So, yes, “Nights” does end on a cliffhanger – but as part of “Days/Knights,” it’s really the midpoint.

This was never a problem in the days before trade paperbacks; each issue would have its own title!

“Thanks to Gorman Vandrayk — the man you call Camper — the plague works for me!” — Lord Adasca

Poor Jarael – she’s chained up on another cover! It’s probably a more jarring disjoint here than in #10, where she was actually in prison; on the Arkanian Legacy, she’s got comfortable digs and her own wardrobe technician! I’m not so sure it’s a matter of dramatic license this time – I’d bet the artist received a shorter summary, which doesn’t characterize how she’s being held. And Jarael may not be living in comfort for long after this issue!

That’s GG-23 there on Telerath, as we saw her in #11. Now looking for work, presumably.

There is an Adascorp logo barely visible in the Telerath bank’s board room. Adascorp has the majority interest on the Telerath board.

It’s been exactly nine issues since we met Haazen, in #9.

Here, we establish for the first time that the Covenant is more than just Lucien’s circle. There’s even an Economic Study Circle, which evidently makes stock picks! Gryph would have liked these guys!

Yes, the Arkanian Legacy has a healthy-sized arboreum – in addition to its libraries, conservatory, and observatory. And a heated, Olympic-sized swimming pool, no doubt!

There are clearly different sections on the Arkanian Legacy, some more open to the public than others. It’s a fairly complicated map, if we ever do a cutaway.

No, I didn’t name Doctor Suprin after a patent medicine, but it sure sounds like it. “Try new Extra Strength Suprin – with Garlitol, for immediate relief!”

Yes, that’s a Nautolan in the medical lab, despite what Eejee said about no aliens being on the ship. There wasn’t time to address it, but the Nautolan is there as a specialist, making use of his special senses in the research Suprin is doing. So as with Eejee, he’s got a reason for being there – but in general, the population of the ship is almost exclusively Arkanian.

We seem to be doing some kind of Minority Report visual thing when it comes to hologram displaying facts and figures. Just figure that while we can’t see what they say, the characters can!

The actual status of the Courageous – seen either literally or figuratively left behind the Deadweight in flight – is more fully dealt with in upcoming issues.

Yes, the Observatory Dome is not exactly circular – it’s the oblong thing at the top of the ship, sitting on a stalk. I don’t know what a better word for it would be. The idea is that the ceiling is sometimes transparent, sometimes opaque – a planetarium sometimes, an observation area at others.

Jarael’s evening gown here is probably my favorite outfit for her, yet. It helps to have your own wardrobe technician. Note, also, the long-delayed explanation for why the Last Resort has its own costume department!

Imagining Young Camper inside the slug made me want to hum the Fantastic Voyage theme – but I never could remember what it was.

We don’t see much of Omonoth itself here – but then there’s not much to see. It’s a stellar wreck, basically. It occurred to me that given the lengthy times it would take slugs to naturally cross the distance between stars, sometime, they’d have to wind up at a dead-end, at a star that went pffft! before they got there. Hence, our stellar Sargasso…

This arc would be remembered in 2020 in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – From A Certain Point of View. Not only did the exogorth name get used repeatedly, but my story about the space slugs makes mention of the Vandrayk scale as a system for measuring whether asteroids might have slugs.

The Taris Holofeed this time out is inspired by Edward R. Murrow’s “This Is London” broadcasts from Britain during the blitz. Read it out loud, quickly, and you’ll get the idea. I guess my generation’s equivalent would have been listening to John Holliman, Bernard Shaw, and Peter Arnett report from the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad in 1991 (well dramatized in HBO’s Live from Baghdad).

Regard, even in the heat of battle, the sense of betrayal sounded by the reporter here with regard to the Republic. This follows the World War II examples previously cited, in which the Allies initially made promises to defend places that were really out of their effective reach.

Latest edition

Star Wars: Legends Epic Collection – The Old Republic Vol. 1

Star Wars: Legends Epic Collection – The Old Republic Vol. 1

Padawan Zayne Carrick is suddenly a fugitive framed for the murder of his fellow Jedi-in-training. Little does the galaxy know, Zayne's own Masters are behind the massacre and dead set on recovering him before he can reveal the truth.

Collects Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #0-18. Back in print in May 2023!

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Earlier editions

Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 1

Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 1

Padawan Zayne Carrick is suddenly a fugitive framed for the murder of his fellow Jedi-in-training. Little does the galaxy know, Zayne's own Masters are behind the massacre and dead set on recovering him before he can reveal the truth.

Collects Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #0-18.

More info →
Buy from Amazon
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 3:  Days of Fear, Nights of Anger

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 3: Days of Fear, Nights of Anger

Nearly four thousand years before the Death Star, fugitive Padawan Zayne Carrick's quest to clear his name runs afoul of forces beyond his control — forces he and his friends have helped to unleash!

Con artist Gryph sees the Mandalorian Wars as a chance to make a quick credit, but Zayne sees a terrible tragedy on the horizon—one where only an act of self-sacrifice can save the ungrateful Republic! But the real key to the future of the galaxy may lie with none other than Zayne's fellow fugitives, the genius Camper and the beautiful Jarael, who have just fallen prey to the forces they've spent a lifetime running from!

More info →
Buy from Amazon