Sept. 7, 2022

GRUNGE PHASE: How DARK EMPIRE shaped Star Wars in the 90s

GRUNGE PHASE: How DARK EMPIRE shaped Star Wars in the 90s

Tom Vietch and Cam Kennedy's comic defined Star Wars for a new generation

in 1988, Star Wars was dead. It wasn't until a comics writer named Tom Vietch wrote a letter to Lucasfilm to propose a new Star Wars comic project on a whim, and to his surprise, both the company and George Lucas himself were game. For Vietch, there was only one artist who could do the story justice: Cam Kennedy. Despite being delayed years and moving from Marvel to Dark Horse Comics, the resulting DARK EMPIRE became one of the cornerstones of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe and permanently shaped how a certain generation of fans came to think of our beloved characters.

Talking DARK EMPIRE is comics writer/artist RUSS along with JAMES, host of THE SECRET ORIGINS OF MINT CONDITION podcast.






[00:00:00] JOSH:

[00:00:01] Welcome to Trash Compactor. I'm Josh. And today I'm joined by Russ

[00:00:06] RUSS: Howdy.

[00:00:06] JOSH: And host of our cousin podcast, Secret Origins of Mint Condition, James.

[00:00:11] JAMES: Hello

[00:00:13] JOSH: which is an appropriate, guest for this particular episode, we're gonna be talking about a Star Wars Comic, travel with us if you will, to the, the early mid nineties, we're gonna be talking about Dark Empire.

[00:00:23] written by Tom Veitch and illustrated by Cam Kennedy that was originally released by Dark Horse comics between December, 1991 to October, 1992, and two sequels Dark Empire two that was released in 94 95. And the two issue conclusion empires end at the end of 1995. this, I think. Is one of the two sort of cornerstones of the expanded Star Wars universe.

[00:00:48] I think in my mind, especially from the era that we all come from, it's sort of this and the th trilogy, the Heir to the Empire trilogy. I think like these are the two things that loom largest, in terms of Star Wars expanded, universe of that, of that era. I wanna start off by asking, how did you first encounter Dark Empire?

[00:01:10] What's your experience with it, Russ?

[00:01:13] RUSS: So I remember it could have been wizard magazine. I could have remember seeing ads for a Dark Empire, you know, either wizard magazine, or some sort of other, uh, like comic, uh, like trade, circular kind of thing. And I remember seeing the, uh, the cover and it's it's the Dave Doman cover. So he does the cover on each of, um, the six issues of Dark Empire, then Dark Empire II.

[00:01:37] And it's Luke Skywalker, uh, with, uh, a red light Saer wearing, uh, Darth Vader's, uh, outfit. And like that, that caught me. I was like, what. What is this, uh, because, uh, doorman's known for his, you know, photo realistic kind of work, um, doing movie posters and things. And I saw that I was like, this, this, I have to get a, get my hands on.

[00:01:58] And actually I think by the time I, I realized what it was and it got to the comic shop. Uh, I was in the back issued, been already, and it was just a few issues of Dark Empire, two were around. So I, I kind of read a piecemeal originally and I think maybe it was a library or later, or it was later until I got the, um, uh, trade paper back.

[00:02:15] Um, but yeah, I had seen it, uh, you know, advertised and I was like, I, this is Star Wars that I didn't know existed and I need this.

[00:02:24] JOSH: James. What about you?

[00:02:26] JAMES: Yeah. I mean, I didn't know this existed until, you know, to call it back to my own podcast. I went into the min condition, the comic book store and episode, I'm gonna episode issue five was already on the wall. It was a wall book already. so, and I think it was like going for 25 bucks. And the only issue I actually got in real time was issue six, which I think is, is Leia with her lightsaber is on the cover.

[00:02:47] I dunno if you remember that Russ with, uh, she was holding the lightsaber in the very night pose.

[00:02:51] RUSS: Uh, actually, uh, is his light Sayer red or green on the cover? I don't know. I'm color blind. I can't tell

[00:02:57] JOSH: I think it's green.

[00:02:59] JAMES: think it's green.

[00:03:00] JOSH: Yeah. So that's greens. So, um, so something, our viewers might not know, , guest rush happens to be red, green colorblind.

[00:03:07] Right.

[00:03:08] RUSS: Yeah. Correct.

[00:03:10] JAMES: is actually a

[00:03:10] JOSH: that's actually strangely appropriate. Yeah.

[00:03:12] JAMES: yeah. I, I was gonna say like, that's kind of cool, cuz I was like, maybe I missed a cover because like, I don't recall Luke having the red lightsaber in the story, but that's, that'd be cool. Cover art if that's like, you know what they, they chose to sell, sell the series on.

[00:03:24] RUSS: So this whole time I thought it was red. And so in the VA outfit with the red lightsaber, I thought, okay, so Luke is fully, uh, gone dark and that's what this book is. And I wanted it and I was like, this is, this is the best thing I've ever seen.

[00:03:37] JOSH: just hearing that makes me sad that that's not what it actually was. I feel like he should have a red light saver because, Spoilers are bound by the way, for everything that happens in this, the main story conceit, or one of them is that Luke Skywalker falls to the dark side or

[00:03:54] JAMES: Well,

[00:03:55] JOSH: the dark side.

[00:03:56] He doesn't fall. so the idea that he would have a red light Saer on the cover makes a lot of sense and I mean, I'm sure that would raise a lot of eyebrows. I'm surprised that they didn't go with that actually.

[00:04:05] JAMES: yeah. Actually in the story, I mean, I don't know if we wanna dive into the storytelling right away, but I, I am surprised they didn't go, he didn't go full turn with where the story went with having a red light saver or, you know, taking on Vader's lightsaber or something like that. Cuz that would've been a good aside from a great selling point.

[00:04:21] It would've also been, I think possibly a good story point. I mean, not that I don't like, I like do enjoy the, I do enjoy the Dark Empire story as it is, but I I'm surprised they didn't go that route.

[00:04:31] JOSH: So, for me, like the two of you, the first thing that I was attracted to was the cover art, the covers I think for, for all of the issues are really stunning. and in preparation for this, I was reading a bunch of interviews and some, some articles about the genesis of Dark Empire and, um, what's the artist's, , name who did the covers.

[00:04:53] RUSS: Dave Doman did the, the cover.

[00:04:55] JOSH: So Dave Doman said something where he was like, I wanted the covers to seem like they could be movie posters. you guys are obviously much more well versed in comics, than I am, but I recall at the time there was a level of the artwork that set it apart from what I remember, what other comics generally looked like at the time, in terms of the cover art? a sense that this was something special and I like you Russ. I never read the original Dark Empire series until I got the trade, paper back. And it's kind of a bummer, because , while the cover is amazing, You're missing five other awesome covers.

[00:05:34] I think that they, they, do print them within the trade itself.

[00:05:38] RUSS: Yeah. And there's a few versions. I mean, um, I think they exclude the covers in all of the versions. There's like a. Cover version that collects, uh, the first two books and empires end, um, trying to see when that was published. I don't, I don't know. Yeah.

[00:05:53] JOSH: end of 95. so I was actually surprised, , because I looked, I think on, , Wikipedia for the publication of all of these. And they're actually much closer together than my memory. Like I assumed, , the Dark Empire was like 96 and Empire's end was like 97 or 98. , but they were actually all pretty close.

[00:06:11] the first issue of. Dark Empire was October 94 and into most of 95 and Dark Empire two, was also in 95 and Empire's end, I believe was also the very, very end of 1995. So, so I was actually surprised. I thought there was more of an in between, period in between them.

[00:06:33] JAMES: Well, I think they knew Dark Horse, that they had a winner, even if they didn't know they had a winner and they planned this out because I mean, this, this, I mean, I, I, again, I, I haven't read them together in a while. I mean, I read Dark Empire and preparation for this, but this also doesn't step on the tones of what happened in the th throne series.

[00:06:48] In fact, it references things that happened in the Thon series. And this was like the start of, we, you're not gonna get any cinematic Star Wars as far as we know, but this is, this is gonna be in the new cinematic universe of the new Star Wars universe. So I think Dark Horse, and, um, I forgot who was publishing the books at the time, but they were like, let's go let's, let's, let's re reboot the universe.

[00:07:07] RUSS: Yeah. Yeah. So before we get too far, um, and, and I kind of wanna talk about the genesis of the book. Um, so it was, it was Tom Veitch who was working with Cam Kennedy. And I wanna say this was originally published, um, by DC comics. I have to check, but it's, um, the light and darkness war, which is like a Vietnam, um, kind of era.

[00:07:27] Or yeah, Vietnam, like post Vietnam era thing where you have, um, um, some veteran, uh, soldiers, uh, who are actually, um, kind of getting transported into another world. And there's very much like this kind of dark and light side mythology going on in the book and there's. High technology and old technology and portals and Nicola Tesla, like it's, it's wild.

[00:07:50] Like it's, I, I didn't finish it, but I, I started reading it and it's, uh, really wild. And you can see, like they shopped this book. I think they sent it directly to George Lucas, um, to get 'em excited. Uh, and that's, I think what started that conversation. And from there, uh, they started to talk about the book, um, with Archie Goodwin at epic comics, which was a subdivision of Marvel at the time, um, who were, they were doing kind of not necessarily more adult books, but, um, you know, outside of the superhero genre, uh, and from there it went to Dark Horse.

[00:08:19] Um, but based on, uh, uh, Tom Veitch's writing and, uh, Cam Kennedy's art and the, the kind of the tech art that he was kind of known for doing like highly detailed, uh, ships and craft. I think that's what I guess ultimately got them, um, the deal, but they had, they had, uh, scripted and drafted a Dark Empire before, um, Lucas film reached out to, uh, was it Balantine books, um, who put out, uh, Heir to the Empire?

[00:08:46] JOSH: right, right, right. Bantam books. so in preparation for this, actually the Star Wars insider, they did a three part series about the, the genesis of the Dark Empire comics. And I actually, um, found those issues and I read them. And, uh, basically in a nutshell, uh, what you, uh, what you said is right, uh, uh, Tom Veitch, um, he got it in his mind.

[00:09:15] He really wanted, uh, uh, to do a Star Wars comic. He wrote a letter to Lucasfilm, and he heard, uh, you know, sort of on a whim and three days later he got a phone call and basically they were interested. And then. Um, he sent George Lucas, the, um, what is it called? The light and darkness war.

[00:09:40] RUSS: Yeah.

[00:09:40] JOSH: and basically after George Lucas saw that, like on the strength of that, he was like, yeah, sounds great.

[00:09:45] and then there was a changeover at Marvel that, put the breaks on the whole thing. So that was in 1988. And then, I think Tom Veitch had written the first three issues and Cam Kennedy had done all of the, the artwork for the first issue and, their champion at Marvel, , whose name is escaping me.

[00:10:06] he went to DC and the new regime at Marvel. Wasn't really interested in Star Wars. So, so that, delayed everything until eventually, Dark Horse saw it and they thought it was amazing and they wanted to put it out. And they were also interested in getting the license to produce more Star Wars comics in general.

[00:10:25] And that was sort of what resurrected it. But in the interim, Lucasfilm was also, working with Timothy Zahn about this idea of relaunching Star Wars as a series of novels. And there was initially some concern among, the two very separate, creative, minds at work because they were essentially covering the same territory, the aftermath of Return to the Jedi and what happened after the battle of Endor but, uh, Tom Veitch said that the solution was very simple.

[00:10:55] He was just like, okay, I'll just set this a year after the Zahn trilogy. And I'll just have an opening crawl that sort of recaps what happened in that. it was really no problem.

[00:11:03] JAMES: Yeah, that's the hence the birth of the expanded universe, right?

[00:11:06] JOSH: That's that's the birth of the expanded universe. Yeah.

[00:11:10] JAMES: all.

[00:11:10] RUSS: Is they had, Tom Veitch give notes to Zahn and Zahn notes to Veitch about their stories. And in interviews with Tom Veitch, uh, you find out that there was, uh, I don't know, some, uh, some ruffled feathers, um, in the process cuz they, they were critical of each other's takes on Star Wars and each of their own, philosophies of how they viewed Star Wars that came through in their work.

[00:11:32] So, um, those articles are, are easily, uh, Googleable out there, but definitely, uh, worth checking out.

[00:11:38] JOSH: No for sure. What's really interesting was that, you know, like Zahn, he was really more in like that, like military sci-fi mode. And I didn't know this, until I was reading this interview with, , Tom Veitch in the Star Wars insider. but he's really like more of a, um, he's more of like a mystic, like he was a monk for a while. He dropped a lot of acid, in the sixties so much so that he had to leave school and kind of take a year off and recover from, all the psychedelics that he did.

[00:12:07] And then he became a monk so it is interesting, because the two approaches, both of them fit within the Star Wars universe, like the, the very military sci-fi stuff. And then also the more spiritual, , kind of mystic side of like, you know, the force and, journeys of self discovery inward and outward and all of that, which I think is more where Veitch was coming from.

[00:12:32] Um, and that I found super interesting, um, because I have to confess like, both Dark Empire and the Heir to the Empire Zahn trilogy... they're not, they're not my favorite, pieces of Star Wars media. They are obviously very formative because they were the beginning and they were the, the things that loomed the largest in.

[00:12:52] the era of fandom that we, came up in, in the early nineties. But, um, that, that was really interesting, to me and made me appreciate them a lot more, just hearing about, the different philosophies between the two writers.

[00:13:07] JAMES: I mean, I guess I would like say for our generation, these are sort of our movies. I guess we were there for these things. Premiering, you know, we, we were the original trilogy's VHS or had already come out. The next generation gets the prequels. The current generation gets the sequels. So we got the expanded universe.

[00:13:26] that? That's and we were there at

[00:13:27] RUSS: ours.

[00:13:28] JAMES: Yeah. It's ours. Yeah.

[00:13:29] RUSS: it's ours. It's our thing.

[00:13:31] JOSH: so what's really interesting though, that you say that because, Russ, like when you said that you saw, The cover art and you were like, oh, like there's new Star Wars that I don't know about. Like, that was actually my experience as well. And I think that's what was so exciting to me about it. because, you know, we call this, moment in the early nineties, like the dark times, because there was just no new Star Wars.

[00:13:52] So the idea that there was some piece of Star Wars that was new, that I didn't know inside and out was, was incredible, whatever it was. and again, just seeing the, the really beautiful cover art, really got me excited. Um, I do wanna talk about, the art, within the book itself, the camp Kennedy artwork, because you know, again, I should say I'm not a comics guy. , you two very much are, and that's why I would only be willing to have a discussion about a Star Wars, comic with either one of you and the fact that it's, the two of you, together. I think your combined knowledge of the medium is, um, I'm, I'm humble to be in your presence.

[00:14:32] RUSS: Stop.

[00:14:33] JOSH: no, I really am, but, uh, one of the things about the artwork of Dark Empire, by Cam Kennedy, like, like even to me, it's very clear that, that this is something very special and very unique. so if you could, talk a little about the style of the art.

[00:14:50] RUSS: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, uh, when I was younger, uh, and I first picked it up, you know, having only seen the doorman cover, I opened up and I was like, what is, what is this, what, what kind of comic book is this? Most of my familiarity with comics at that point had been, you know, Marvel in DC. And my, one of my earliest comic experiences was the, uh, return, the Jedi adaptation comic, um, which almost looks like a rotoscope comic, um, is the great Al Williamson.

[00:15:16] But like, it has very distinct, like these are translated, movie stills. And then I, and so when I first saw Dark Empire, I was like, I don't, I don't think I loved it. Um, and the colors were wild and I was just like, what I had not seen. Uh, what I now know is like the 2000 ad, like UK style. Um, so Cam Kennedy, uh, Scottish artist, uh, got his start really, uh, or is best known for some of his work on judge dread, um, which I've since checked out.

[00:15:47] Uh, so just really like a detailed, uh, quick kind of draftsman. Um, and I think what's interesting too, in Dark Empire is that, uh, he is doing all of the art himself. Uh, the lettering duties are, uh, Todd Klein is doing the letters. Um, that's done later, but he's drawing, painting, I suppose. Inking, maybe sometimes it's pencil, but yeah, uh, he's doing all those.

[00:16:12] So he's choosing the color palette, um, which nowadays, you know, most, uh, colors at the majority colors done digitally, but, uh, he's, he's essentially doing. All three, the pencilling the inking, the coloring all three major, uh, aspects of comic making that traditionally in the big two Marvel in DC would potentially be done by, you know, each job, a different person.

[00:16:37] So the fact that he has this kind of authorship over, uh, all of the elements, completely controlling the look of the style, he's breaking down the script that Tom vees wrote, deciding the camera angles. Um, I, you know, over time, I've, I've fallen in love with his work. And I now consider him probably one of my favorite comic artists and I've kind of se sought out, uh, and have been seeking all of his work wherever I can find it, uh, very much.

[00:17:02] Um, I would say as you flip through Dark Empire, every single panel. Um, maybe say for like, you know, a talking head panel, uh, the body posing, everything has action. All of the characters are articulated in a way that's really specifically, uh, there's an action. There's a motion. Uh, there's one panel, uh, in Dark Empire when they're, um, I think there're are now Huta and they're going through that shoot and, uh, there's explosion on a craft and a figure of the pilot is flung out of the craft.

[00:17:30] And like, I heard a Wilhelm scream in my head when I saw that panel, I was like, this is the most like, detailed, like you see the action, you kind of feel it. And to the point where like, yeah, this is really cinematic storytelling. Um, and we can contrast it later with Empire's end, which cam county did not illustrate.

[00:17:48] Um, because I believe he, at the time he was actually, uh, doing, uh, death lies in treachery. I could be wrong on the timeline cause he had worked for some other companies, but because his art takes so long to do, uh, So time consuming, um, to illustrate these pages, that he would be locked into a next project far, far ahead of finishing the one he is currently on.

[00:18:07] So I think that's what happened. He got scheduled. Um, there was a possibly a declining return on Dark Empire two. And so there, he got pulled onto another book, um, with, I believe it was John Wagner who he'd worked previously with on a judge dread, uh, for 2000 ad.

[00:18:22] JOSH: So, what is interesting about that though? Because as you look at Empire's End you do get the sense that the artist is trying to,

[00:18:30] JAMES: Yeah.

[00:18:30] JOSH: trying to mimic the style, sort of consistency, which I think says a lot that, um, you know, for me, I don't think you can separate the style of the artwork from, these comics and have it work in the same way. So, so, you know, like, for a layman, the thing that's most striking, to me about the artwork is the use of color. It's not, naturalistic, it's like a few, primary colors that are used to, render the whole scene, like sort of, uh, create a mood.

[00:19:03] So you might have everything or reds and purples, or greens and blues and yellows and stuff that, that, creates a mood. It's not, very naturalistic, it's very stylized. and the other thing that I think is very interesting, and again, I don't know how common or uncommon this is.

[00:19:19] It, it seems to me that it is, more uncommon, but the use of, watercolor.

[00:19:24] JAMES: Yeah, no, it was not used a lot. I mean, to my knowledge at that time. And, um, it definitely like. Colors the tone and the style of the art is it's, it's creating a tone. It's creating an emotional tone through how he chooses depict the characters, the colors he's he's doing also being a one man show is, is, takes so much time, like as, as Russ was saying, like, comics are usually there's the pencil, the anchor, the colorist, the letter, like the fact that, you know, being a one man show doing your pencils, your inks and your colors, it takes forever.

[00:19:55] It's amazing that, that he did it. Um, and the choices that he made were, you know, you talked about in the past, Josh, about having this, um, this grittiness being lost in Star Wars recently. I mean, the comic has that hands on sort of made by people look that the film, the original trilogy had to it. So, yeah, I think, I mean, he was achieving a lot of stuff through the artwork and.

[00:20:17] It, I would say, well for Russ, you know what Russ said is also true for me when I first saw the book, the cover got me, but the inside artwork didn't quite jive with me yet. Um, you know, or connect with me. It took a little bit of time, but now when going back, especially rereading it, now, it definitely connects with me.

[00:20:32] Uh, he, he reminds a very much in different ways to it Time Sale or David Mack, who are people who are very stylized, but their style is to convey emotion and action and not realism. You know, cuz we, we already have the realism. I think of these characters in our head. So you can do a lot more on the page now cuz the, the, I mean, Luke Skywalker is Mark Hamill.

[00:20:52] I mean you can draw him any way you want, you was mark Hamel, but what you do with the colors and how you, you know, pose, pose him and, and what expression you give him, it gives more impact to whatever's going on in that particular panel.

[00:21:05] RUSS: And on that, about the, um, kinda the likenesses there, there was an interview, uh, that I was reading where, uh, you know, Pete, some people had complained early on about the likenesses. Like this doesn't look like Mark Hamill and Cam Kennedy was like, you know, I'm, I'm gonna take some license here.

[00:21:18] Like, this is a visual medium comics of their own medium. That's the movie, you know, the character I'm going to interpret this character in a way that I can repeat, because otherwise you're almost, you know, you're drawing a frame for a movie, but a way that I can repeat and I can give it kind of a second life, a different life that you know, is mine to control.

[00:21:36] So as a creative artist, um, I feel like, you know, he had a kind of get some authorship over that character, uh, that he was creating.

[00:21:44] JAMES: I mean, yeah, because also who knows if there was gonna be any more Star Wars with Luke Skywalker. So it's sort of like, this is like the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker and mark ham will always be a Luke Skywalker, but now we're taking him new places and. We're gonna go places that, that Luke Skywalker never went before, so he can be his own thing.

[00:22:03] And, and then he can be many things to many other artists who obviously are gonna draw him, you know, and still draw him. But in the expanded universe, he's gonna become a different person than we saw on.

[00:22:13] RUSS: And James, back to your point on the, kind of the kind of grime, uh, I think for me, that's kind of the thing that I love now, um, because Star Wars in a way seems like it's clean, dirty, um, like, you know, the new Star Wars we're getting, it's like it's made to look dirty, but it feels like clean, dirty. Like I kind of need it to actually be grimy.

[00:22:30] Like it needs to be messy. And, and Kim Kennedy was drawing judge dread, which takes place in mega city in, in a future time. Uh, and. At time it's it can be grungy. It can be grimy. And the, he draws tech in a certain way. And I feel like the representation of his tech in Dark Empire to me feels like an evolution for Star Wars.

[00:22:50] It's possibly dirtier. Um, it's possibly grungier. And also at the time you're, you're coming right on the heels or at the same time is like cyber punk. Um, and I feel like Star Wars always kind of was cyber punk, but not quite. And Jedi is getting closer to it in my mind. And I feel like this is the next evolution of a visual style where I feel like this is way more cyber punk, way more techy.

[00:23:15] There's like a big blade runner kind of advertising view screen. At one point. Um, and it could be the colors too, like a little bit of that neon color, but I feel like a lot of that, um, that thought process, I'm like, oh, this is Star Wars. This is pushing Star Wars further than it was like, it's doing what Star Wars always did in every movie.

[00:23:31] It evolved visually cinematically, you know, in the effects department. And I feel like for comics, this is doing, uh, for Star Wars and comics, what the movies had done every time and kind of evolve and kind of create a new visual look. So I felt like that was in the spirit of Star Wars. It was trying to innovate on top of telling a story.

[00:23:49] So that's kind of this, this underlying aspect that I love about it.

[00:23:53] JOSH: That's actually a really good, point the cyber punk aspect, I think is something you're right on the money with that hadn't occurred to me, because sort of cyber punk in terms of cinema really was like, I mean, arguably, really started with Blade Runner in 82.

[00:24:08] So sort of, too late to really have an effect on Star Wars. but this is the first, new Star Wars in a visual medium that is really existing and being created in a world where cyberpunk is omnipresent. Right. so that is, a really good observation actually. um, the other thing that I realized, like, so when I was rereading it for this, I didn't remember a lot of the actual story, from when I was a kid, but I remembered some of the set pieces, and the opening set piece of ground, combat, on Coruscant with the walkers and, the urban warfare of it all.

[00:24:47] Like, that's you know, this is still the early nineties. Like this is still not something you could really ever see on screen. So these huge, battlefields in like in urban landscape with these walkers and wrecks and explosions and fire and troops, this is not something that we could have seen in a movie, this is still five, six years away from the prequels where they could even render a clean version of this environment on screen.

[00:25:13] so it was really showing us something that we had only ever imagined. And we, we had never actually seen anywhere.

[00:25:21] JAMES: There's like a level of like brutality and horror of war that you never saw in any Star Wars movie have not seen. I don't think any Star Wars movie then for that first flash page right there.

[00:25:32] RUSS: and that's the great thing about comics. You can get away with a level of violence because it's comic book violence, even

[00:25:37] JOSH: Yeah, because it is so cuz it's inherently stylized.

[00:25:40] RUSS: on that page. Um, I think it's just a few pages in it's the two page kind of splash, uh, showing this battle. There's such minute detail of soldiers in the background tie fighter ex like on fire, like crashing in the back. There's so many, it's almost like instead of breaking down into panels, there are panels within the actual imagery.

[00:26:01] Um, and as comics can do, they can stop time. Uh, you can look at things at different moments and there really is a narrative on this page that you could not film. And so, in a way, you're looking at it, uh, it is really, it is cinematic, but it is also like comic book, time cinematic, and really, uh, Star Wars benefits from the medium of comics.

[00:26:22] Whereas if you translate Dark Empire, it would just look like a movie. Uh, but in its form as a comic, it's like, it's, it's unparalleled.

[00:26:31] JOSH: Yeah, well, that's an interesting point as well. Uh, because like something I often hear. From certain segments of fandom, is that, they just should have made Dark Empire as a movie, or they should have made Heir to the Empire as a movie. but like for me, especially with Dark Empire, I don't think like you would have to figure out some cinematic equivalent

[00:26:50] RUSS: Animation.

[00:26:51] JOSH: well, sure.

[00:26:51] Yeah, sure. but like point of what I'm trying to say is that, I don't think it's as straightforward as just make this into a live action movie. because again, like I think, , you know, and I say this all the time, I've said this on another podcast, I've said this on your podcast, James, I don't think you can separate the cinema from Star Wars.

[00:27:10] Right. And this is an example where I don't think you can separate the comic medium From what this is. I think it all adds up into a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.

[00:27:22] JAMES: No, that makes sense. I mean, it's kind of in, in retrospect now, the kind of thinking you have back then, or you like, oh, they should have just filmed Dark Empire, Dark Empire would make a great movie. The expand, like since this, this Dark Empire and the th trilogy created the cornerstone, the expanded universe, and then the expanded yours just kept evolving and became what it is.

[00:27:41] It, these are like, these are all epic stories and they all have stakes, but you they're also stakes within a larger universe. And how would you even make a universe or movies around this like Dark Empire being its own movie. It's it's great. But is it, is it the stakes that we saw in the original trilogy and, and to continue to follow that up with turn every book and every story into a movie would be impossible.

[00:28:04] You just couldn't do it. You'd have to make cuts somewhere. You'd have to change the story somehow. So I, it is just not

[00:28:09] realistic.

[00:28:09] JOSH: Well, so one of the things that they do in this comic, besides having Luke turn to the dark side is they resurrect the emperor, , which I think they do in an interesting way. because again, like this is before the prequels, this is before we knew anything about the clone wars. , so something that I think we take for granted is the way that the emperor is resurrected.

[00:28:31] And as a clone using clone technology, I think is actually kind of enhancing the mystique of the clone wars, right? Like, like without knowing what the clone wars were, the idea that it's like, oh, it's this rather than, you know, something that's kind of unimaginative or something that doesn't make sense actually in this context at this time, I think it actually makes a lot of sense.

[00:28:56] I think it actually works pretty well.

[00:28:59] RUSS: Yeah, I think, I think that's actually something that really drew me to this. And I feel like this, uh, this series is actually, and we can, we can go into further to talk about like sequel comparisons, but, uh, the more Star Wars we got, the more Dark Empire gets better. Like it gets better for me because of these additional ideas and what happened in the prequel trilogy, uh, especially with the idea of the clone wars and it's, and which is really kind of.

[00:29:26] A pre like a cyber punk idea as well. Um, kind of cloning body modification, those kind of things that we see in Star Wars, but it's never kind of the focus like a cyber punk, like the medium is the message. Like the focus is a lot of that technology, um, which I could segue right into, uh, one of the big things in Star Wars, always like, well, what is the big weapon?

[00:29:44] What is the big battle? What is, what are we fighting against? Uh, I think Dark Empire starts to touch that. Like you're always fighting. Like they didn't like there, there is no true winner and we see it with air the empire there's there's legions of troops out, out Y like out far in like, you know, the far side of the galaxy.

[00:30:02] Um, and you're, you're never really winning, but there's this, uh, real kind. Look, and it happens more in Dark Empire II, but there's a look of like, uh, the weapons of war, the kind of, uh, galaxy military industrial complex. And so the, one of the major threats the empire brings out in this book is, um, the world devastates, which visually are very imposing, um, weapon, uh, basically a machine that kind of hovers over the surface of the planet.

[00:30:28] Um, sucking up raw materials, sucking up, also craft, mineral, whatever, and basically creating onboard, um, new, uh, new craft to send out, to fly and fight,

[00:30:40] JOSH: New weapons of war.

[00:30:42] RUSS: Yeah. And I think one of the, I don't know if it's in, in the, the preface or somewhere is referenced that, uh, these World Devastators were more deadly than the Death Star.

[00:30:49] I think it's actually in, in the actual text of the comic and my first thought was no, that's, that's actually not a great, uh, description of the World Devastators. I think they realized when you have a death star in, in, you know, in the first, uh, first and third, uh, if you blow up a planet, uh, your weapon is fear.

[00:31:06] Uh, because if you blow up a planet, you've destroyed the resources and the people. Um, so you've actually lost. Um, and all of you, you gained is fear. So the death star, they tried twice did not work the World Devastators instead of destroying the world and the people you can take from it and create more weapons.

[00:31:23] So you BA you do create fear. Um, but you're basically just eating, eating the resources, eating the planet. It's like a different way to, uh, wage war. It's almost like scaling it down, like, uh, from nuclear back to like a land battle, uh, or, or era or sky battle. Um, it's, it's a different take and I think it's more effective because they realize the, the value of controlling the galaxy is not to destroy it planet by planet or to impose fear, but to take the resources.

[00:31:50] Um, so I think, I think it's kind of a, a weapons improvement as far as a threat, um, kind of slow moving kind of hulking things that you can attack. And so there's definitely more drama, more cinematic moments. Um, but they look, they look cool and it's, it's, it's a threat and it's just building out, uh, the Empire's, strength.

[00:32:10] JOSH: No, I would agree with that.

[00:32:12] JAMES: yeah. I mean, it's also an idea that, um, has, has pervaded through depictions of the empire when we saw it, you know, in Clone Wars and Rebels and RO like the idea that the empire strips, anything at overseas, even Obi-wan. So this, you know, whether or not it started in Dark Empire is it's the take take on the empire that we really didn't think about in the original trilogy about what the empire actually does to all the planets that are underneath its, you know, its, you know, rule or whatever.

[00:32:39] JOSH: The other super weapon, I think, I forget what they call it, but it's sort of that hyperspace missile

[00:32:45] RUSS: The galaxy gun.

[00:32:46] JOSH: yeah, the Galaxy Gun. Yeah. The, um, when I've reread these, I read it in, the trade format. so it all sort of blurs together for me. So, but is that something confined to.

[00:32:56] The Empire's end storyline. Is that, is that where that shows up or does that show up in Dark Empire II? I don't really recall.

[00:33:03] RUSS: I have it in front of me. I'm pretty sure the galaxy gun gets loaded up and fired in,

[00:33:11] uh, yeah. In Dark Empire II.

[00:33:13] JOSH: Yeah. Because the end of Dark Empire II, they basically blow up the New Republic. Right,

[00:33:18] RUSS: Yeah. Uh, no, uh, they blow up their base, uh, that

[00:33:22] JOSH: So, so

[00:33:22] RUSS: everyone thinks they're on the, yeah, I guess it is. Yeah. The majority of the New Republic is are is on that.

[00:33:27] JOSH: Yeah. , cuz the implication is that, they killed Mon Mothma, they killed Ackbar and they killed like all the rebel forces. I think there are a lot of interesting ideas. , story-wise in Dark Empire, but I have to be honest. And I don't know if this is, just because of my difficulty engaging with the comics medium.

[00:33:46] But, how would you summarize the story of Dark Empire? Like sort of what happens

[00:33:56] RUSS: Uh, someone else wanna take this?

[00:33:58] JAMES: Well, I mean, there's a lot of stories going on. I mean, uh, I mean, I guess the, the character pull story is that Luke Skywalker willingly gives himself to the dark side because he wants to figure out why his father fell to the dark side. And he does this in a way in which he doesn't involve his sister or anyone else or tell him that he's tell them that he's doing this.

[00:34:17] And when they try to pull him out of it, he pushes them away. And he does it so well that the emperor doesn't detect that. Um, he is pulling a ruse on the emperor, aside from filling around like why his father fell to the dark side. And what's the lure of the dark side. He's also working as a double agent within the empire cuz the emperor, once he gets Luke Skywalker, I guess he's so happy.

[00:34:37] He finally achieved his goal from Jedi gives Luke like command status. And so Luke can feed things to the rebels and hint on them of what the Empire's doing. Um, at, at the same time you have, um, Han and Leia are trying to get to Luke who is in the empire and they find themselves, um, on a, on where they go to Han's friends.

[00:34:58] Right. Russ, they go to, um,

[00:35:00] RUSS: they're they're on Nal Hutta. Um, I guess, which is not like, I guess the true home world of the huHutts,ut like a later adopted home world, they took over and has like a Carilion sector.

[00:35:10] JAMES: Yeah. So they, so they're on Nal Hutta they're trying to figure out a way to infiltrate the empire. Um, they're meeting up with Han Solo's old contacts there during that time, their Boba Fett reemerges and they're running from Boba Fett at that time. Um, Boba Fett doesn't have like a big part of this story, but he sort of just is, it's just more, I think it's the audience saying Boba Fett lived.

[00:35:28] He escaped. We don't know how, but he's causing more problems.

[00:35:31] RUSS: he's a, he facilitates the antagonist role. It's like, ah, everything's good. Except until Boba Fett shows up. And actually his entrance is kind of really fun. Cause it's like a, you know, the robot's like broken, it's like a Mr. Fe to see you. Or like you turn the page and you get like, you know, a nice like full body panel Boba Fett and you're like, yeah, that's, that's how you do it.

[00:35:49] Uh that's so in my mind, like this is, this is the Boba Fett that I, that I know and love, uh, because like I know him more from the Dark Empire series than, you know, than the movies he has more to do here. Um, but yeah, and he's just really that, that returning intent it's like every time you think he got rid of him, look who shows that Boba and it's like, it's great.

[00:36:09] Cause that's kind of the best version of him. Little bits, little snippets. And he is always a pain in the ass. Like that's Boba Fett.

[00:36:16] JAMES: I agree. And so he's a great, it's like I would say in this, this issue, he's like sort of a cameo, not like fully used, but he's, like I said, he helps the thrust star, you know, antagonist forward and then in rust, correct me if I'm wrong, Luke, I'm sorry. Han and Le eventually reached Luke and, but Luke is, um, ends up pushing them away and telling him to leave without him.

[00:36:37] You don't know what I'm doing here. And then we evolve into finding out that the emperor has clones, that he's been doing this all along. This is how he's survived for a long time. And Leia comes back into the story and then the emperor realizes he could set his sight on not just Luke Skywalker, but Leia and Leia's unborn child can also be one of his sight because, uh, he can have all of them as an apprentice.

[00:37:05] And then I think Leia tries to fight him with the broken lightsaber. She got from an old Jedi Knight who, oh, God was her name. Her name is, uh

[00:37:15] JOSH: Yeah.

[00:37:16] RUSS: Yeah.

[00:37:17] JAMES: So Vema we don't know her story really, but she left the Jedi order was thrown out of it or something. And she, they meet on Nal Hutta and she gives Leia lightsaber that Leia then uses to try to fight the emperor.

[00:37:29] JOSH: Right. Something that I thought was pretty cool was, um, the idea that the Jedi, I mean, once again, we really don't know anything about the Jedi. At this point, we haven't seen the prequels, so they're still kind of very mysterious. And I thought the way that they're discussed and referred to, throughout Dark Empire manages to maintain a lot of that mystique, even while we're learning more about them.

[00:37:54] , because again, I think in Dark Empire II, sort of Luke's main preoccupation is going around the galaxy, trying to, uh, recover knowledge and relics and find, Force sensitive people to train, to rebuild the Jedi that that's in Dark Empire II, I believe.

[00:38:12] JAMES: Yeah, cuz Mon Mon Mothma sends him, says that we need the Jedi order back to defeat the empire. So that's his, his top priority is to do that.

[00:38:22] RUSS: Luke wants to take a slow approach, but everyone else really wants to attack head on. So he kind of gets sidelined, which, you know, like he was leading, you know, the fleet before that, you know, in our experience watching the films and now he's kinda getting sidelines.

[00:38:33] It's like, no, it's better. You go restart the Jedi. So it kind of kind of gets, gets put on the back burner a little

[00:38:39] JOSH: well, that kinda happens. No. Well, that actually kind of happens though, in the movies, like, after the battle of Hoth

[00:38:45] RUSS: he takes a different role for sure.

[00:38:47] JOSH: yeah. Yeah. Like, I mean, when he shows up, they still let him in when he rings the doorbell, but like, the briefing room scene in Return to the Jedi, like he's not there.

[00:38:55] And then all of a sudden he's just like, yeah, no, I'm with you too. And it's like, where the hell did you come from?

[00:39:00] JAMES: I mean, I think, uh, Luke's Luke. Or at that point, he is like, oh, there's a Jedi back. We don't really know what that is, but it's very important. So he can do whatever he wants. Like he's, he's, you know, he's like if the master master Scott Walker says something, we're gonna do it.

[00:39:12] JOSH: I do believe this is the first appearance of the Jedi holocron is that a creation of Dark Empire?

[00:39:18] JAMES: Yes.

[00:39:19] RUSS: I, I believe so specifically. Yeah.

[00:39:21] JOSH: like, that still exists, to this day. I mean, like if you go, to Galaxy's edge, the theme park, like they have, they have holocrons there.

[00:39:28] so I mean, like, this is something, that's a part of Star Wars lore, , that has, survived all of the regime changes and everything in the expanded universe.

[00:39:38] JAMES: I mean, I think there's a lot in this book that carried on to. Aside the expanded universe, but into canon now, I mean, you know, I mean, not to, I don't wanna ruffle that, but you know, the, The Rise of Skywalker's ending with the return of the emperor comes from this book, whether or not they wanna admit it.

[00:39:55] And he comes back the same way in, in that last movie that he comes back in this, in this, in this book. So,

[00:40:01] JOSH: his whole end game in Rise of Skywalker of basically transferring his essence into Rey is sort of his plan here with the, um, what is his name in this Anakin Organa-Solo? Is that

[00:40:13] JAMES: ACA yeah,

[00:40:14] JOSH: of their third? Yeah,

[00:40:15] RUSS: There's a lot lifted from Dark Empire, not potentially lifted, but a lot of ideas that ma that do match.

[00:40:21] JOSH: for sure. I mean, those two in particular, and also this idea. Of exploring, Leia's force powers and her, relationship to Jedi and Jedi training, which obviously in the sequel trilogy was somewhat, complicated obviously, by the loss of, Carrie Fisher, but they still manage to go out of their way to show that she was at one point training as a Jedi.

[00:40:43] We get to see her holding a light saber, and fighting with a light saber in the movie. So, so that's certainly a part of this. And also, you know, just the very notion that the future of this story deals with the choices that Han and Leia's children will make as the next generation of Skywalkers. Like, Toward the end of, the Dark Empire saga or story or whatever you wanna call it.

[00:41:06] You know, there's a lot of emphasis about, uh, protecting Han and Leia's children and, in particular, the Anan child, the idea that if he falls to the dark side, or if he falls under the influence of the emperor, it's really bad news for the galaxy.

[00:41:22] Um, you know, which is something, I guess you could draw a parallel between that and what happens with, Ben Solo slash Kylo Ren in the sequels.

[00:41:30] RUSS: Which is a really good point that basically, uh, I think one of the major ideas of the Dark Empire story is that, uh, we're going to be fighting in endless war until we have Jedi to end this, like, is really kind of one of the, the major thoughts in this book. Um, and I think like Luke, uh, realizing like I need to learn the dark side in order to, I think he realizes, because he doesn't know what Jedi had come before.

[00:41:55] You know, they, we only know them kind of as warrior monks or maybe like Knight's Templar. Um, I think because he doesn't know what came before. He has no real history to draw from. Well, maybe now at the Horon, uh, he's going to learn everything he can by whatever means he can. And there's a point and that this is, um, one of my favorite parts where they're, they're talking to Luke, um, they've just rescued him, uh, from BIS and they're on the morning Falcon.

[00:42:23] And he's like, uh, what are you talking about? He's like, I need to continue fighting. And he is like, uh, it's very simple. You know, I'm still on BIS. Uh, so he is force projecting. Um,

[00:42:33] and like, it, it blew my mind because this comic was showing force powers that we hadn't seen in the films. And I was just like, that is why.

[00:42:42] And it's like, I'm using a dark side power to do this. Uh, and I was like, to me, that was both creative. And like, it kind of blew my mind at the time. And of course we see that in a major way, uh, spoilers in, um, uh, of the last Jedi, um, So it's, it's really cool because that, to me is some of like the best parts, like some really nuanced bits of, uh, Tom VES interpretation of what Jedi can be, where again, like Timothy za had kind of different take on that altogether.

[00:43:14] And I think Veitch is more curious about exploring it, exploring the, the history kind of what they mean. Um, and that's really a lot of, yeah, a lot of Luke's role in this book is, is kind of facilitating that story along with Leia who, you know, they, they team up together. Um, Ultimately to what I find is kind of a, a little bit of an underwhelming end.

[00:43:33] Like the, the actual clone lightsaber fight with Luke is pretty impressive in this, in this story, but the actual very kind of, um, I would say like secondary ending seems a little bit underwhelming to me in the first part. Um, I, I find the action in Dark Empire, two to be some people found it repetitive.

[00:43:52] Um, and some of the, like the older message boards I was reading through, um, I happened to like Dark Empire, two, a little bit more. Because you've already kind of, yeah, you've already kind of built the world. I see it as I see it as maybe diminishing returns. I think the sales of Dark Empire two did not do as well.

[00:44:08] And they canceled, uh, potentially future, uh, mini series after that. Um, from what I, what I believe I, I read through. Um, and I think some people didn't necessarily like the kind of like, um, electro steam punk kind of thing that happens and part of it. But, uh, for me what's really exciting is, um, uh, the point in where, um, they're on a OSIS, um, the, uh, the old Jedi planet, um, and they, they actually find, uh, natives to the planet who might have been descendants of Jedi.

[00:44:38] And it kind of feels like a very kind of fantastic, great evolution of like a Star Wars, adventure story of like going out to find someone who you're looking for and then encountering them and then kind of, you know, we're putting the team together. Um, it's kind of a fun, uh, moment for me.

[00:44:52] JOSH: No. And you know, something you just made me think of is that, um, if you listen to Gary Kurtz, what he recounts from, what the plan was after The Empire Strikes Back for future Star Wars and for the sequel trilogy, the whole idea the other as Luke's sister, , was that was a character that was not supposed to be Leia, but that you would meet later on in the sequel trilogy, Luke would sort of be on a mission to find her. the idea was sort of that, Luke and his sister were, , separated at opposite ends of the galaxy to basically protect them, which, which, uh, you know, makes a lot of sense. So, but that's actually, that's actually an interesting, um, probably unintentional, parallel the idea that sort of Luke is on a mission, to recover Jedi and kind of find old Jedi and, their descendants.

[00:45:40] I think that's interesting. Um, just, going back to what you were saying, Russ, I think you're right. That the core idea here is that to end the war, you need to not just rebuild the Jedi, but find some kind of way to, integrate the dark side. Tom Veitch has a quote. In, one of the Star Wars Insider articles, one of the, documents he wrote, to Lucasfilm to sort of explain what he had in mind for this was, , and I'm quoting here. most importantly, he argued that Luke could learn about the dark side without being devoured, the secrets of the dark side must be assimilated in order for the dark side to finally, , be conquered.

[00:46:18] Otherwise there is only endless combat. And endless war here, we are working with the principle that's described in Jungian psychology as the integration of the shadow. See into your enemy and learn finally that he has an aspect of yourself. This simple idea is the key to what I'm trying to do. It's there in the films and the relationship of Luke and his father.

[00:46:38] And ultimately it must be shown to be true in Luke's to the emperor and to the dark side." so I think you're exactly right. Like the idea is Luke is essentially saying, okay, the, the only way to end this conflict is to not fear the dark side, but sort of figure out how to reintegrate it into yourself

[00:46:59] RUSS: It's that unification principle like to, to bring like the light and dark together and really that that's kind of where The Last Jedi was kind of going, but it really doesn't. I mean, the, the Jedi, the time of the Jedi over it, it kind of goes in a different direction than I think would be like,

[00:47:15] my preference would be this, but they're starting on that path.

[00:47:18] JOSH: yeah. Well, so, so the interesting thing that you, bring up is that in the movie, the last Jedi, it's dealing with a similar idea that, dark side has to be integrated somehow, but the one who realizes that at least initially is not Luke. He gets there.

[00:47:35] but it's sort of the, the experience that he goes through in the movie and the example of seeing Rey and also the discussion he has with Yoda, where he, gets there. you know, and I think for me like that, to me is a little more interesting and a little more satisfying than like as much as I think that there are a lot of great ideas in Dark Empire.

[00:47:56] For me, I kind of miss the Luke Skywalker from the original trilogy, like, the Luke in this, the Luke in Dark Empire. he's a Jedi master. And to me, he's, he's very aloof. You know, he's not very relatable at all, you know, which is not helped, by the fact that, A lot of the story of, Dark Empire is like his motivations are intentionally opaque because he's sort of undercover for lack of a better term, you know, which makes sense.

[00:48:23] Uh, but that comes at the price of, at least for me, you sort of lose your connection with him as a character. I don't know how you guys feel about that.

[00:48:34] JAMES: Um, you know, I, I have to say like the, the depiction of Luke in this thing is sort of the depiction I've had in Luke, in my head for a long time. Like

[00:48:42] JOSH: Sure. Yeah,

[00:48:43] JAMES: this is, this is, the

[00:48:44] Luke. Like, this is my, like, you know, like, this is my version of Luke Skywalker that I lived with for a long time and the way they depicted him, like wearing his, a version of his father's sort of suit and cuz that's how he was after Dark Empire.

[00:48:58] That's how he was depicted a lot, even on other book covers and other comic books like that was his costume. So this is sort of like my version of Luke and um, I'm, I'm O okay with it. Um, you know, I, I get what you can say, like he's distant and aloof, but since in my head, a lot of the expanded universe merges, like I know in other books and other comics, he's not like this.

[00:49:20] So I, I know we're talking about specifically just Dark Empire and yes, I agree with you, but I didn't rub up against it I guess, because like, by the time I was reading Dark Empire, I was reading everything else that they were putting out for new Star Wars. So Luke isn't always like this in my mind, but I can tell, but I can see in the story he's he doesn't want a connection like with the audience or even the characters in the story, sometimes he's trying to be undercover.

[00:49:41] So.

[00:49:41] JOSH: Right, yeah, no totally.

[00:49:43] RUSS: Iwill say in Dark Empire II, when they find that the, the two younger, um, uh, natives to Ossus who are possibly Jedi descendants and to the, the brother and sister, uh, particularly gem who he has, that, that, um, that Jedi connection with, and is able to understand their language. Uh, and then he's quickly falling, uh, in love with her.

[00:50:03] And, and Luke actually gets to have this kind of, uh, he gets to have a romance. And I think there's a point where they say like, you know, I've been fighting wars and I haven't had time for myself or for love. And, um, it's, it's funny too, because in Luke's, uh, Jedi world, it seems like, uh, We know for the prequels that, you know, forbidden to have a, a lover, uh, and, and a Jedi.

[00:50:24] But this is before that. And, uh, Luke falls in love and it seems very natural and I'm like, ah, he really needs this good for him. Like, like I just, I just want him to have, I want him to have some like some emotional piece where it's like his much of his like adult life has just been battles, um, parental issues, uh, you know, he's, he's had like a real rough go of it.

[00:50:44] And to have him have the connection, which is, uh, you know, spoiler really heartbreaking, um, end for, for, is it gem? I think. Um, and just like that kinda broke my heart cause it's like, I want him to have it, but I get it for Star Wars to work in a serialized manner and to have other books and characters, you kind of have to, um, cartoon episode, this thing where, uh, the next episode, uh, is a reset and everyone's wearing the same clothes and, and there's no permanent damage to of the characters.

[00:51:10] So the next storyteller kind of take over and, and write that next piece of the story. Um, but I do feel like that was the only point, cause he is very dark. He's very Solom, he's withdrawn and he's hard to reach as, as a reader. Uh, and then I think in two he opens up and cam soar, uh, the other, um, I dunno if I said the name right?

[00:51:30] The other Jedi that he, uh, encounters, uh, between the two books, uh, I think also helps him kinda open up a little bit. He has someone to talk to, who's a fellow Jedi who he can actually communicate with. And I think that allows the audience in a little bit more to his mindset. So between, uh, uh, Um, that character and gem, um, is helpful for us as an audience to kind of, it makes up for a little bit of that, that, that

[00:51:53] distance in the first

[00:51:55] JOSH: No, I mean, that's a good point that, that I had forgotten about that. Um, just real quick, the other, Jedi character, I really liked, was the king of that, planet who sort of has no limbs. And like, he, he kind of is like, his like half man, half, like repulsor lift.

[00:52:09] Um, I thought that that was a cool concept for a character that like on his planet, he's a king. but also he was a Jedi. And now that, the Jedi are around again, he's like, oh shit. Like I gotta go be a Jedi, like, you know, fuck this king shit.

[00:52:21] RUSS: it's the hierarchy, it's a king Jedi.

[00:52:25] JOSH: Yeah, I thought I thought that was, pretty cool, but,

[00:52:29] JAMES: mean, I think right now in the dark, if we were like looking at the Dark Empire as a lone or the Dark Empire II, like the Jedi were never cooler than they were right. Then in that moment where they were sort of just, they were, they were mage knights they were magical knights.

[00:52:44] JOSH: Yeah. so, and that's something that really comes across in this. they really do, like I said, they preserve the mystique of the Jedi. Like you don't, you still don't really know what they were like. You're still sort of getting like, drips and trickles of Jedi things and you still get the sense that the totality of them was sort of unknowable. Um, which in the prequels. the prequel movies, like seeing the 12 of them in that, you know, little, council and seeing how, bureaucratic they were and how sort of confined it felt like it made them feel very, you know, small and less exciting and less mythic, which I think may have been at least partially intentional, or at least certainly works the knowledge of, you know, what's going on in the galaxy and like how they're on the precipice of a fall.

[00:53:37] So, I mean, that like sort of makes sense. uh, but I don't think that that rendition of them is really as exciting or as fascinating as, it's sort of, even though we're learning more about them, they're still mysterious and can be sort of anything here.

[00:53:54] RUSS: A great point where it's like they become so bureaucratic that they've kind of maybe have lost sight. They become so, so strict in their, in their ways that they kind of lost sight about like what they, the great ancient Jedi civilization they've been so far removed from it, maybe due to like battles, loss of knowledge.

[00:54:10] And I think this is something that mirrors a lot of civilizations in history where you kind of lose a part of the past and it's just like forgotten knowledge. And you're just, it's almost like, um, like a cultural amnesia. Uh, and so that's kind of where the Jedi's are picking up from and have kind of lost a sense of their purpose, what they were.

[00:54:27] And that's why they were so easily tricked because they hadn't dealt with the, the dark side in, who knows how many years. And so they didn't see it coming because they didn't have the history of battling, um, the Sy and having the ability to understand or see it or know these kind of tricks. So I feel like, uh, that's, that's probably the best explanation.

[00:54:47] The prequels work really well with Dark Empire, because you see you have, you have people who don't know what the J were like, never met any of them. It's uh,

[00:54:55] JOSH: No. Well, that's certainly very true. Like, like I think that Dark Empire surprisingly still works very well with the prequel films. it's still more or less, works almost unchanged.

[00:55:07] RUSS: It's my Star Wars sequel. I mean, I, I consider this, um, the actual, uh, sequel to, uh, Return the Jeti. So it works for me. Everything is still good.

[00:55:17] JAMES: I mean, I've said I'm with you, Russ. I mean, I've said that, uh, my, my, I mean, my preferred universe is the Expanded Universe. If I have to. Live live in one, but you know, since we get to choose, I guess I, I can pick and choose what I like, but I like the expanded universe.

[00:55:33] RUSS: I'm with

[00:55:33] you. And, And, I'm a Veitch guy, I'm a Veitch guy. I'm not a, I'm not a Zahn guy. I mean, I. It's it's cool. They're good. I like, I like the Veitch uh, philosophy a little bit more.

[00:55:42] JOSH: I think I do as well. I haven't, um, been able to completely fully revisit the Zahn trilogy, but that's, something that's on my to-do list. um, any closing thoughts? What do you think is the legacy of Dark Empire?

[00:55:54] JAMES: you know, I mean, I think, you know, like we kind of discussed, I mean, I think it's, while it's not Canada anymore, lots of writers either directly or maybe just because it's been around for so long, the expanded universe have taken it and put it in the current day Star Wars property. So I think like Dark Empire established a lot of stuff that we don't see it in the form of what Dark Empire was, but we see it manifest in other ways as are this new Star Wars universe is, is unfolding.

[00:56:21] RUSS: Yeah. And I guess, I guess what I could say is about Empire's End, uh, as a wrap up, uh, we talked about not really kind of matching necessarily, it was kind of designed to mimic, um, and kind of conclude that the story, that Veitch had started, that he didn't get to finish. What I would say is, uh, to any listener watcher, um, to pick up, um, uh, the Star Wars - Boba Fett: Death, Lies and Treachery where, um, Cam Kennedy art

[00:56:43] uh, continues. And so it kind of feels like, um, kind of the spiritual, uh, successor to, um, the Dark Empire books. You can still kind of get the flavor and style and you're getting that kind of more of that universe, even though it's a different writer. Um, it still kind of keeps you in that head space. Um, they have the collected edition hardcover book.

[00:57:02] Um, but on eBay you can still kind of in some select, you know, used bookstores, you could find the full size, Dark Horse editions. And I would just say, you know, get the larger additions if you can. It's nice to be able to read comics at their close to the original size or larger, uh, just kind of, uh, better to engage with.

[00:57:18] And it just feels, uh, it's like a better, uh, better reading experience, bigger book in your hand.

[00:57:23] JOSH: Oh, I have those. Um, a box in my childhood bedroom somewhere that I'm now very interested because I never made the connection that, the Cam Kennedy art continued on in those, and now, having revisited Dark Empire and really having a new appreciation for his artwork, I'm now really interested in going to revisit those books.

[00:57:43] JAMES: I would say swipe 'em up if you find them. Because now that the rights went back to Marvel and Disney, some of the Dark Horse stuff may be out of print. It may never come back into print. You may have to wait for reprinting. So get your physical copies when you can.

[00:57:55] JOSH: yes. I think, in light of recent events, I think it's just, further evidence that stuff does not last forever, in digital form on the internet. so, uh, It's another reason to hold onto your physical media. Um, but, I really enjoyed this, discussion and, uh, Russ, it was your passion and enthusiasm for Dark Empire in particular that made me go back and reread it.

[00:58:18] And I'm really glad that I did because I had a lot of fun, spending time with it. And, it actually really brought back a lot of memories of, those halcyon days in Mint Condition, uh, James, the comic shop, which now lives on in virtual podcast form on The Secret Origins of Mint Condition, podcasts that, you do, which I, I occasionally stop by in and

[00:58:42] JAMES: Your

[00:58:42] JOSH: to the conversation every once in a while.

[00:58:43] JAMES: frequent customer and contributor.

[00:58:45] JOSH: yeah,

[00:58:47] JAMES: awesome.

[00:58:48] JOSH: um, so, I wanna thank Russ and James for a great discussion, and I hope we can revisit some of these, nineties era expanded universe, things together again in the future. If you like what you heard, please visit, where we have transcripts of this episode and all of our other episodes.

[00:59:05] And we are trashcompod across all social media, please, if you're so inclined, take the time to rate and review the show. It really does help us out. and we will see you on the next one.

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Artist/Wellness Expert/Podcaster

Host of THE SECRET ORIGINS OF MINT CONDITION podcast, featuring the kinds of discussions you used to have in your local comic shop.