The stories behind the stories

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral #1

“You want to see true power? Find me someone who’s broken the chains of time!” — Varner Hilts

“Spiral” Part 1

On a planet ruled by a tribe of Sith, the old order is about to be challenged by a power-hungry Sith rebel from the slums . . . and a thwarted royal Sith princess!
Published by Dark Horse • August 8, 2012
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Andrea Mutti

Lettered by Michael Heisler

Colored by Michael Atiyeh

Cover by Paul Renaud

Edited by David Marshall and Freddye Lins

The Lost Tribe of the Sith project began as a promotional tool for Random House’s Fate of the Jedi novels, a series of nine books set long after the final Star Wars movie. The villains of those novels are members of an offshoot group of Sith who’d been stranded for 5,000 years on the remote planet Kesh, a world with no technology where the natives revered the Sith as gods. In 2009, I was given the opportunity to write a series of short stories telling the history of Tribe — which would appear over the course of three years as free promotional e-books. Interest in the stories was high enough that we decided to do a print edition with a new novella. Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories was released in July 2012.

I had already completed the new novella, Pandemonium, for the book when the opportunity arose to write a companion comic series for Dark Horse set after its end. I’d already done the Knight Errant comic series and the Knight Errant novel with production taking place simultaneously, but this was a slightly different model. Here, the prose draft was already complete and would appear first.

But even so, while writing the short stories I had always envisioned that there was room for much more to be told in the Tribe’s history. I had placed a number of story hooks along the way for later use. Chief among them was the undiscovered area of Kesh. We learned in the earlier tales that the Sith had only really visited a small portion of their planetary prison, and that much of the globe was unexplored. This allowed for some tantalizing possibilities, including telling a story that tied in to the natives’ original creation myth.

The Keshiri had often spoken of a battle between Protectors and Destructors before their recorded history. It seemed to me it would be delightfully ironic if the Tribe was not the first group of visitors to Kesh, nor even the first group of Sith force users to arrive. When told, the story would make clearer how it was that the natives were so easily taken in by the castaways.

While I did write the story for Spiral after I had turned in the final novella for The Collected Stories, there were some opportunities to go back and plant a few elements that would integrate with the comics even further. While I was writing the scripts for the comics series, I was simultaneously getting the proofreading done for all the stories that would appear in the collected edition. So, in a sense, this is the opposite of what happened with Knight Errant.

By setting the story of Spiral one year or less after the ending of Pandemonium, I was able to employ characters that we had already seen in prose. This allowed me to focus on the family of Hilts, the improbable historian Grand Lord, and his very odd (yet strangely functional) marriage. As Hilts had been fearful of the dangers past dynastic struggles had wrought upon the planet, he would’ve been very mindful of the impact of his own actions. It occurred to me that having moved essentially 25 years into the future after the initial meeting between Hilts and his wife Iliana, I could tell the story of their daughter, someone who, by virtue of Hilts’s newly imposed rules, would have been barred from leadership. Now we had thwarted ambition in the figure of an unlikely person: a Sith Princess.

I had also wanted to delve further into the lives of the members of the slave caste on Kesh. We’d met a human slave, or rather someone posing to be a slave, in two of the stories in the Collected Stories: Purgatory and Sentinel. But those tales had not really delved into how the slave caste came to exist. It had occurred to me that it was unlikely for the Sith to automatically kill all of their rivals for power, given that there was a limited supply of humans on the planet; it had been established that the natives’ blood was not compatible with that of the occupiers. A complete wipeout was always a danger. And so by sending some humans into exile — into generational slavery — the system could achieve stability while not decimating the gene pool.

The character of Spinner I had envisioned as one of these slaves, and a cross between a vandal and a revolutionary. He certainly imagined himself to be a master criminal, and as we see in this first issue, a would-be assassin. But, as the text at the end of the second issue describes, his reach had never been very far. By pairing Spinner and Takara on an unlikely journey, the story was in a way able to provide a look at a Knights of the Old Republic-style Zayne-and-Gryph relationship from a different angle. Takara was much more effective peace officer then Zayne was, while Spinner was Gryph’s match for ambition.

The production design was something that we spent a lot of time on. There was little metal on Kesh, so artist Andrea Mutti worked to create weapons that were glass and outfits that were mostly leather. I envisioned a medieval southeastern Asia look for Kesh itself, with a bit of feudal Japan thrown in for the Tribe. Andrea turned in a great effort.

“I’m Sith. I already have a plan…” — Takara Hilts

Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral #1 was chosen to receive a exclusive edition Tates comic book variant for Star Wars Celebration VI, held just a few weeks after the book’s release.

The story title followed the initial convention used with the earlier stories, which had alternated P-S-P-S-P-S-P-S-P. This one had both the S (and the next P). It was just a cute nod to the fact that the Tribe’s most important document was a postscript, as we saw in Secrets. Always more to tell with these people!

For the narrator, I put the words in the mouth of a Keshiri — someone who would be able right away to suggest to us the deception that the Sith were running, and that the locals had bought wholly into it. They are all that is great — “because they told us so!”

Spinner wouldn’t have grown up with lightsabers, so I made all his weapons glass darts and knives of one kind or another.

The urns in the library hold the remains of past Grand Lords — at least, urns that survived the sack of the palace years earlier.

It struck me that the glass-working Keshiri would have many fine magnifying glasses and optical devices.

We can’t see it for the word balloons, but Takara and Spinner pass a statue of Hilts looking far more formidable than he really is!

The uvak are actually more svelte than I imagined, but we had to keep closest to the original description of them in Omen. The first uvak I wrote about was fat and lazy Nink, in Skyborn.

The realm of Eshkrene fits on the map beneath Keshtah and Alanciar. The continents were both in the southern hemisphere — which is one reason that the Mischance was able to partially circumnavigate the globe so quickly.

Chegg is Alanciari, and so isn’t as fearful or indoctrinated as the other Keshiri. It occurred to me that the Tribe would have to use Alanciari captains, at least in the beginning — and those mariners would be Keshiri.

What the skeletons are from, we would see later in #3.

We first saw a Sky’tri in Chris Claremont‘s story in the first Star Wars Annual from Marvel. He’d later give that hairdo to Storm of the X-Men.

One of the fun things that we got to do with the first issue was include a text piece in the back detailing the history of the Tribe as seen through the eyes of its leader. What readers are seeing here is, in actuality, the speech that Hilts was preparing to give for the convocation that was upcoming in the Pandemonium novella. And a fact of interest beyond that: initially, parts of this speech relating to the earliest days of the Sith Empire were written for a prologue for the Collected Stories that we ultimately decided against including. Instead, we conveyed the history and background of the Sith before they arrived on Kesh through the stories themselves. But understanding this history through the point of view of the Tribe, and particularly grand Lord Hilts, was valuable enough that we figured that it would be a good thing to include in the first comic book. I do not know whether or not the text piece will be reprinted in the trade paperback, so people might have a collectible here.