“For light and life!” “We are all the Republic!” Those are the words moderator Krystina Arielle opened the Star Wars: The High Republic panel with at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022. The High Republic dials back the clock to centuries before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and the height of the Jedi Order; High Republic authors Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Daniel José Older, Cavan Scott, and Charles Soule were joined by Lucasfilm Publishing creative director Michael Siglain and Lucasfilm’s SVP, franchise and content strategy, James Waugh (and later on, special guests Kristin Baver and Marc Thompson) to talk about the epic new period of Star Wars storytelling. Here are 10 things we learned.
1. Phase II is the Age of Exploration…and communication sounds like it’s going to be key. Phase II goes back 150 years before the start of Phase I and will be the perfect jumping on point for any new fans. It’s an age of exploration for the galaxy and much of the technology we know and love isn’t the same. “This is a point in time where this area of space is very much unknown to the Republic and not everything is necessarily tied together as closely,” said Claudia Gray. The team thought a lot about how the tech would be different. Gray said, “Tech is not good without infrastructure.” Communication in this era is like the pony express but with droids. “We’ve broken the entire galactic communication system,” Cavan Scott said. “And those droids are really important.”
Each of the authors got the chance to debut concept art of characters ranging from the Chancellors Greylark and Mollo to the Pathfinder teams which are comprised of the Jedi and the Republic working together. We even got to see some unconventional concept artwork of the “Dank Graks” by Daniel José Older himself. We’ll meet them in the upcoming Dark Horse comics and, as Older puts it, “They look funny but they’re really mean.”
2. Lucasfilm has Phase II covered. Literally. It was covers galore at the end of the panel! We got a sneak peek at the not-yet final cover for Convergence by Zoriada Cordova, as well as the cover for Quest of the Hidden Cityby George Mann. Additionally, comic fans also got a first look at upcoming titles including the Dark Horse miniseries The Nameless Terror by George Mann, with art by Eduardo Mello and Ornella Savarese, as well as the first issue of the new run of Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic by Cavan Scott, with art by Ario Anindito.
3. More novels are on the way for your eyes and ears. Get excited for the adult novel Cataclysm by Lydia Kang, the middle grade novel Quest for Planet X by Tessa Gratton, and the young adult novel Path of Vengeance by Cavan Scott. We’re also getting another audio original, The Battle of Jedha by George Mann, coming January 2023 with the script version releasing a month later.
4. The Porter Engle backstory is coming. Nothing got an “oooo” from the crowd quite like the reveal of the cover of The High Republic: The Blade, which will be written by Charles Soule with art by Marco Castiello. Phase I fans will recall Porter Engle as the legendary Jedi who’s happy and cooks…but that’s not always who he was. “This story is the most epic thing I’ve ever written,” said Soule. “it’s a tragedy but a really cool one.” This Marvel comic dives into Porter’s backstory and explores why he is the way he is when we meet him in Phase I. Comic fans can also expect to see a fascinating link between one of Soule’s previous Star Wars comics, Darth Vader, in the form of the origin of the Barash Vow.
5. Get excited for Path of Deceit. We’ve already seen the cover for the forthcoming novel by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland, but it’s hard not to get even more excited for the lead off novel for Phase II when Michael Siglain declared it “one of the best novels we have ever made.”
6. The High Republic was just as important to its creators over the last few years as it was to the fans. It’s been a rough time, and many of us have found solace in the stories we love. The same was true for those creating those very stories. “I know for myself, this really saved me,” said Older as he talked about the process of creating The High Republic over the last few years. The five authors reckon they likely spent more time together virtually than they would have during normal times, and not a day went by without some sort of Zoom or Slack conversation or coordination amongst them.
7. The High Republic is especially “for everybody.” The series gave the authors a chance to craft a broad story from a lot of different perspectives, and readers the opportunity to see galaxy-changing events from specific points of view. “For me, I think it just boils down to Star Wars is for everybody,” said Justina Ireland. “And if you’re not reflecting the people you see in the real world in your fantasy worlds, there’s a problem.” The High Republic has been a chance for people from all walks of life to see themselves reflected within the galaxy; something that has certainly resonated with many fans.
8. The upcoming The Art of the High Republic also delves into the making of the entire project. Special guest Kristin Baver joined the stage to debut not only the cover of her forthcoming The Art of the High Republic book, but also several pieces of concept art from within its pages. “The process was interviewing everyone on this stage…and really trying to get the behind-the-scenes story of how this initiative came to be,” said Baver. The concept art shown included Yoda, Marchion Ro, and everyone’s favorite charhound, Ember! The cover also let us all in on a little secret: the book has a foreword written by Kathleen Kennedy herself.
9. Marc Thompson found inspiration for Marchion Ro’s voice from a line from Light of the Jedi. Like so many others on the stage noted, concept art played a key role in helping better flesh out the characters and the world. Audiobook narrator Marc Thompson cited a line from Light of the Jedi: “His voice was quiet; a breath, not a scream” as his primary inspiration. “There is something about the quietness and the breathiness,” Thompson said as he slid into the Marchion voice. He also compared the villain to predators like sharks. “I was thinking about how calm and still sharks are, until they strike, and then they’re like ferocious. But before that, it’s like this eerie stillness that almost makes you more uncomfortable.”
10. The High Republic is more than just publishing. The creators behind the initiative were charged with being bold. “We’ve really helped develop a whole new era of the Star Wars galaxy with a vast timeline that is going to be a place for amazing Star Wars storytelling for years to come,” said James Waugh at the start of the panel. So far, the future has spanned the breadth of publishing, from the novels to the comics to concept art books, and even dipped into ILMxLAB. And there’s more to come. “There are other things and one day… one day I’ll be able to talk a bit more about that,” Waugh promised us.
Bria LaVorgna is a writer who doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t love Star Wars. She also really loves Alderaan, Doctor Aphra, and Inferno Squad. You can follow her on Twitter @chaosbria.
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