SDCC 2014: Star Wars: A New Dawn Panel – Liveblog

Star Wars: A New Dawn will be the starting point for a new era of Star Wars storyelling. New York Times bestselling author John Jackson Miller, Shelly Shapiro (editor, Del Rey), Jennifer Heddle (senior editor, Lucasfilm), Pablo Hidalgo (Lucasfilm Story Group), Vanessa Marshall (Hera in Star Wars Rebels), and Dave Filoni (executive producer, Star Wars Rebels) are all here for a special discussion on the historic title. And we’re here to liveblog it for you!

2:00: And we’re off! Hera herself, Vanessa Marshall, is moderating. Marshall has read A New Dawn, and says it has done a lot to explain who her character is.

2:01: John Jackson Miller: “It’s set several years…before Episode IV and several years after Episode III…It was really helpful to get [Dave and Lucasfilm’s] insights on the characters.”

2:03: How will it connect to the animated series? Dave Filoni says that A New Hope came about because it was a fraction of a larger story that George Lucas had conceived. “You always feel like there are great stories left untold.” With the new streamlined and collaborative storytelling across Lucasfilm, those stories can be told. Pablo Hidalgo: “We really sketched out some pretty detailed backstories…in Rebels, we don’t do flashbacks.” With novels and other avenues, they can tell these past stories.

2:06: Miller says that Kanan, unlike Obi-Wan, has no mission — it makes him unique and interesting, which he enjoyed in writing A New Dawn. The novel also gives him a chance to explore how the Empire became so strong.

2:08: Shelly Shapiro points out that the collaboration that helped bring about A New Dawn will be the blueprint going forward. All stories told will be “one of a piece.”

2:10: Marshall says A New Dawn has helped her understand her character and the Empire’s tyranny. “It was very emotional…If you haven’t read it, you will love it.”

2:12: How are the characters different in A New Dawn? A this point, Kanan doesn’t want to be a rebel or be involved with anything. Miller: “He’s got no Master, he’s got no future, it doesn’t matter to him. He’s not yet who he’s going to be.” Filoni: “He’s a guy that had an entire way of life taken away from him…[Being a Jedi] is a lost way.” The book shows how Kanan was influenced by Hera, and leads into how they act at the start of Star Wars Rebels.

2:15: How was it for Dave reading a book with characters he created? “It’s awesome…It was fun to read about Kanan and Hera because it’s almost more real to me…You can also go into so much more detail [in a book].” Miller: “And we’re able to get into Kanan’s head.”

2:17: What was it like writing a novel during the “dark times” era? Miller jokes it’s taken awhile for him to get to this era — his first stories were set thousands of years ago. “This is the flipside of what happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi…we’re taking this all very seriously.” The planet shown in A New Dawn is one of thousands that are suffering under the Empire. Hidalgo says that the Lucasfilm Story Group is using some exploration that George Lucas did in what the galaxy would have been like in that era.

2:20: Marshall asks about the new Legends branding for the EU. Shapiro: “We wanted to establish that we still feel those stories…have a significant influence…they’re still stories that mean something.”

2:22: Filoni says that he knew during Clone Wars that they would be “continuity bombing” — establishing canon that conflicts with the EU. But they still included things from the EU when they could. Miller holds up a copy of his book Kenobi, now part of Legends, and says that if you enjoyed it, that’s all that matters.

2:25: Are there any other new canonical novels coming?

2:26: Filoni says that he and Lucas had many stories planned. “We’re always looking for ways to exploit those ideas.” Filoni points out the new Darth Maul series from Dark Horse, based on the original Clone Wars scripts and Lucasfilm artwork.

2:28: Now showing upcoming books — all made in collaboration with Lucasfilm’s Story Group. Tarkin by James Luceno, which takes place soon after Revenge of the Sith. Hidalgo: “It really paints a picture of Coruscant [during that time].” He also adds that a lot of it is based on Lucas’ ideas prior to retiring.

2:31: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne — a first person Luke Skywalker novel! Will explore Luke post-A New Hope. Jennifer Heddle: “He does a great job of portraying Luke floundering a little bit…a really great character study.”

2:32: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp. Shapiro: “Let’s see [Vader and the Emperor] in action.” Heddle: “It’s kind of a Vader/Palpatine road trip novel.”

2:33: New reveal! An Asajj Ventress novel (featuring Quinlan Vos) by Christie Golden! Filoni: “Ventress had become one of the most interesting characters…we had all this material, we had all these designs…This is based on scripts we had written with George Lucas…I’m super excited about this book.” Check out the cover!


2:37: Heddle says that it will be more of a novel for adults, and Hidalgo notes that the novel will be able to go deeper in ways that the show could not.

2:38: Time for Q&A! Backstory of Sabine and Obi-Wan? Filoni: “Some of it is completely scandalous,” he jokes. “I’m all for it.”

2:39: Why start with Tarkin? Hidalgo says his interest in the story comes from his love of Peter Cushing and getting more of that presence. Heddle says they wanted to do another villain novel like Darth Palgueis, and this seemed like a good fit.

2:42: To Dave: Can you talk about the transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers? “The clones age so rapidly, their skills are depleted over time.” Like copies of copies of copies. The Empire can build their own army now or force people to join. “It’s a military built out of fear.” He notes that the clones were more “real” than stormtroopers — they had names, colorful armor, etc. Stormtroopers were uniform.

2:44: Will we see more gray characters? Like a stormtrooper who’s not evil and is just doing his job. Shapiro: “We love exploring real people.” The panel notes that the supporting cast of A New Dawn fill a role like that — ordinary people dragged into extraordinary situations.

2:46: How do you tell the origin of a character without there being too much exposition? Hidalgo: “Star Wars doesn’t really tell a single story that can be quantified as an origin story.”

2:47: Does Filoni mine Star Wars novels for story ideas? “Yeah, definitely…it works both ways, though. We had these great ideas for Asajj Ventress, and now they’ll be told in a book.”

And that’s it! Thanks for reading!