EXCLUSIVE: ‘Star Wars: Knight Errant’ Comic Preview And Q&A with Writer John Jackson Miller

The folks behind “Star Wars” fiction in print get free reign to explore different time periods in the science-fiction universe first created by George Lucas decades ago. We’ve seen what life in the Old Republic was like, when the Sith were a force as large and as powerful as the Empire. We’ve followed our favorite heroes from the movie trilogies, through the Clone Wars, the dark times of Emperor Palpatine, and the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. We’ve even seen the distant future, a bleak moment when Palpatine’s vision of a Galactic Sith ruling party is realized by one Darth Krayt.

Now, Dark Horse Comics and Del Rey Books are preparing to wind things back to the age before the Sith Order collapsed beneath the tyranny of Darth Bane’s Rule of Two.

“Star Wars: Knight Errant” follows Kerra Holt, a lone Jedi Knight operating in Sith territory, far beyond the reach or aid of her Jedi Masters. The ongoing series kicks off in October with a Dark Horse comic written by John Jackson Miller and a tie-in novel (also authored by Miller) to be released next year. Interior art for the comic is provided by Federico Dallocchio.

MTV News has your exclusive first look at two covers from “Knight Errant” featuring the work of artists Joe Quinones and Dave Ross. We also have some details from Miller himself about what fans can look forward to in this new era for the “Star Wars” universe.

MTV NEWS: Can you talk a little bit about Kerra Holt and her place within this new era in Star Wars fiction?

JOHN JACKSON MILLER: We’re doing something unusual with Kerra Holt and “Star Wars: Knight Errant” in that I’m writing both a comics series and a novel, due out February 22 from Random House/Del Rey, so Kerra leads a dual life right from the start. Because Kerra’s adventures were crafted with both media in mind, it’s allowed me, as the writer of both, to develop a world around her that’s more layered and textured.

While you don’t have to read the novel to enjoy the comics series or vice versa, our hope is that readers will be interested in finding out more about Kerra and her world. Having a novel continuing her adventures releasing immediately after the completion of the initial comics story arc really serves as immediate gratification in a lot of ways — and it provides some real momentum to Kerra’s story.

And she’s an ideal character to focus on, in many ways. A refugee from a sector conquered years before by the Sith, Kerra fled to the Republic with one goal in mind: to become a living weapon and return to Sith space. She’s young, but she’s driven. Efficient, deadly, and determined, her drive takes her to some places no one should visit without a Star Destroyer for backup. Too bad for her, they haven’t been invented yet!

MTV: What is the state of galactic politics 1,000 years before Luke Skywalker’s days? Who runs the show for the Republic?

MILLER: Set a millennium before “Episode I,” “Knight Errant” finds the Republic in one of its darkest hours — centuries, is more like it. In the outer regions of the galaxy, an alarming number of warlords have risen. Followers of ancient Sith teachings, many declare themselves Sith Lords and set up their own despotic mini-empires, all vying against each other for the right to finish the Republic off. Ravaged by warfare and plague, the Republic is forced into a wide range of unprecedented emergency actions, from selecting Jedi for Chancellors to deactivating the communications systems that connect the outer regions of the galaxy with the core.

But not all Jedi Knights are willing to accept a role limited to defending the Republic. Kerra well knows that if the Sith stop fighting amongst themselves, the Republic could well find all its enemies united against it. So the state of galactic politics is chaotic, indeed. And if you’re unfortunate enough to live underfoot while these titans battle, it’s sheer misery.

Ultimately, Kerra is faced with a number of choices about what she really ought to be doing, and what her role really is. What does it mean to be a Jedi Knight, alone, without the Jedi Order behind her? How do you keep peace and order in a place where none has existed for decades? Staying alive is Job #1, and will be difficult enough — but then, she’s got to figure out what else she should be doing.

MTV: Will we be seeing any familiar characters? Yoda? Darth Plagueis? Others referenced in the various Star Wars movies, books, comics, games, etc.? Any ancestors of familiar characters?

MILLER: Since we’re a millennium before the movies, we’re breaking new ground with entirely new characters — and we don’t deal with family connections to the movies at all, because across such a long span of time they wouldn’t mean much. We’re closer to Joan of Arc than anyone in the movies is to Kerra Holt.

That said, it is familiar because of the setting itself: the Galaxy Far, Far Away and its trappings. The Jedi Order, the Sith, hyperspace, lightsabers, blasters: these are all part of the milieu we share, and as important in making it seem part of “Star Wars” as any cameo appearance would be. And beyond that, we have a lot of the same themes of duty and responsibility, of deciding between right and wrong, that have a definite “Star Wars” feel.

Across all fifty issues of the “Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic” comics series I wrote (now available collected in nine graphic novels) the movie characters appeared on exactly one page out of a thousand — and yet, readers said they thought we captured the spirit of the movies pretty well. “Knight Errant” stars a much different protagonist, but we have the same ultimate goal.

MTV: The synopsis says that Kerra Holt will be traveling “deep behind enemy lines”… who is the enemy in this era?

MILLER: It’s almost better to ask who isn’t an enemy. She’s venturing to a place on a map that looks like a crazy quilt of Sith statelets, led by men and women — human and otherwise — who all think they’ve got the perfect way to run an evil empire. It’s an important question, because the Sith code is all about the glorification of self and the subjugation of others: that’s fine in theory, until it comes to the logistics of running an interstellar realm. It’s hard to get people to cooperate without some kind of encouragement — or enforcement, especially when there are others out there with their own plans for galactic domination. Palpatine had a great solution, years later, subverting the Republic to run his galaxy for him; these guys have their own ideas, some of them quite diabolical in their own right.

Right at the outset, Kerra’s dealing with warring siblings — Lord Odion and Lord Daiman — who could hardly be more different in their approaches. Both have interpreted Sith teachings in completely different ways, and their schism has already left lot of worlds in flames. As we’ll see in the comics debut, they’re just getting started!

MTV: In SW, the Sith are really in hiding for the most part from the time of Darth Bane all the way up to the time of Emperor Palpatine’s rise and the overthrow of the Jedi. To me, this means that the Sith can be a behind-the-scenes threat, but they really won’t be showing themselves in a big way… and of course there will only be two. How will the Sith factor into this series?

MILLER: The “Rule of Two” for the Sith actually isn’t implemented until Darth Bane, around a thousand years before the Battle of Yavin, in response to the very chaos that we’ll be depicting. What we’re showing is more than a generation earlier, in the thick of the madness, when we’re up to our eyeballs in Sith Lords acting openly and battling for control of the galaxy.

Of course, they are still Sith — so you’ve got to expect there are also secret aims and ambitions all over the place, too. And that’s another difference with my last series, “Knights Of The Old Republic,” where our con-artist heroes used misdirection all the time. In “Knight Errant,” Kerra’s much more direct in her tactics — it’s the Sith whose aims she’s got to figure out!

MTV: Are there any plans to introduce Kerra and other characters into other aspects of the SW universe? Really, are you thinking along the lines of possible video game treatments? Movies and TV are pretty distant from this era, but the games continue to tell stories from all parts of the SW universe.

MILLER: Anything’s possible, I guess. I’ve been involved with several different licensed “Star Wars” lines so far, working characters and concepts I’ve introduced in the comics into role-playing games and electronic books. Since everything that appears in the comics and novel belong to the greater Expanded Universe, they’re there for other media to draw upon.

MTV: How much of the Expanded Universe will factor into this story? Hapans? Chiss? Ssi-ruuk?

MILLER: We’re taking a known section of the galaxy and really fleshing it out, drawing upon the species and corporations we already knew about and seeing how they might appear in this era. I’ve been working with the authors of the “Star Wars Atlas” to keep track of what’s already out there, and that’s suggested story opportunities on its own.

But I think the key thing with both the comics and the novel is that we’re really not here to connect the continuity dots. We do respect what’s gone before — and we mine it and elaborate upon it. But our primary goal is to tell satisfying stories about interesting characters. Provided you’ve done that, all the rest is just gravy.

Got all that? Now check out the first issue cover by Joe Quinones!

And here’s the first issue’s variant cover by Dave Ross!

“Star Wars: Knight Errant” kicks off October 13 with the first issue of the Dark Horse comic book. You can find out more about the project at DarkHorse.com or John Jackson Miller’s official website.