Monday, December 31, 2012

32 BBY: Battle for Naboo

These video game posts are severely slowing down my progress.  The Battle for Naboo is a video game I’m glad to have behind me.  This game was a pain in the butt to get a hold of.  Over the last two months, whatever time I did have to spend on the Star Wars Chronology Project was spent entirely on acquiring the game and then playing the game.
The story of my interaction with Battle for Naboo is a tedious one.  I’ll not get in to the boring minutia but I’ll hit the highlights.

Essentially my awesome gaming laptop (ASUS G74S) couldn’t run the game because of a conflict between Windows 7 and the game’s 16 bit installer.  I searched the internet for a solution and came across this website, which I thought provided a fairly in-depth analysis and solution to what I was experiencing, but its detailed steps didn’t help my predicament and nothing came of it.  I got the game going for a while on my old Dell, but that laptop crashed and I was left scratching my head.  I finally headed to and bought an old N64 system for 30 bucks along with the original game from eBay.  After about a month of piddling about I had an old N64 in my bedroom and for a few minutes a night I’d play my way through the game before bed.
Battle for Naboo was much more fun that Starfighter, but like that game, it gave me motion sickness something awful.  My motion sickness is so bad I still have yet to see the end of The Blair Witch Project.  I made it to the at 15 minutes of that film, right before they went to the cabin in the woods, when I ran out of the theatre about to puke my guts up.  The constant camera movement of that film was so bad I could only watch it looking up from the floor.  Anyway, I digress.

Like my comment about Starfighter, what I most enjoyed about this game was the feeling of depth it provided, giving us lovers of Star Wars lore another angle on the occupation of Naboo by the Trade Federation.  It seems the Naboo security force put up a heck of a fight out in the countryside; armed with speeders and Heavy STAPs they did well routing the light STAP armed battle droids at the beginning of the game.
The game itself was fairly easy to master – there wasn’t much too it, a simple first person shooter where you line up your target and fire.

Besides depth of lore, another aspect of the game I enjoyed were a few of the ship designs I’d never come across before.  The first one I thought cool was the N-X police cruiser.  It’s a simple variation of the N-1 but it was neat enough.  What I really enjoyed though was the Ostracoda-class gunboat.  The mission where I had to commandeer a boat and head up the Andrevea river to rescue the prisoners in the labour camps made me feel a little like Marlow from Heart of Darkness, travelling up the Congo river in search of Kurtz.  This mission meshed well with the larger narrative of the occupation of Naboo because saving the Naboo from the labour camps gelled well with the earlier video game source I looked at, Galactic Battlegrounds.  In that game you had to attack a labour camp and rescue the Naboo, and if I remember correctly, in that game you had to traverse up a river to get to the camps.
The other two ships I thought neat were Borvo the Hutt’s large cruiser (who knew a Hutt had a base on Naboo and helped the Naboo security Force with the resistance? – albeit he did eventually betray Gavyn Sykes) and the NB-1S Royal Bomber.  

This brings me to the last point I want to make about this game.  The idea that the entire premise of the game is based around Gavyn Sykes is pretty cool.  He’s on screen for a couple of seconds in The Phantom Menace, and is one of the pilots Kenobi frees in the beginning of the film.  The fact that The Battle for Naboo tracks his story and the story of the Naboo resistance is another nod to the depth of this universe, in that, as soon as Kenobi released Sykes, he was hours later flying a Heavy STAP and shooting down battle droids outside of Theed.  Most of his Wookieepedia page basically tells the story of The Battle for Naboo in its entirety.   
Although the video games are time consuming, and in this particular case difficult to get my hands on, I’m glad I went throughout the trouble because the more I play them the more I appreciate how important the video games are to the story of Star Wars.  Without a working knowledge of Star Wars video games I feel my PhD in Star Warsology would be lacking.  Again, like I said in my post on Starfighter, I have a greater sense of accomplishment when I finish a video game because they are so time consuming.

For my next post I’m going to look at the RPG source “Battle in the Streets”.  Until next time, Happy New Year and May the Force be with you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

32 BBY: Starfighter

The story of my experience with Star Wars: Starfighter began with a trip to my basement.  It took me nearly an hour, but I managed to find my old joystick – a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro I purchased back in 2004.  The reason I bought it was so that I could play Jump to Light Speed, the latest expansion of Star Wars Galaxies.  I had delusions of grandeur.  I was going to be the best star pilot in the galaxy, and hunt-down and destroy the Jedi Knights in my VT-49 Decimator (which I still think is one of the coolest ships in the Star Wars universe).  In those days I played Iscariot Salsarian – an evil bounty hunter and killer of the Jedi. 
After digging up my joystick I sat down at my computer and headed to, where I purchased the game.  5 bucks through PayPal later, I was running missions with Essara on Naboo.

15 minutes later I was lying on my couch with a gravol in my stomach.  I felt sick.  The motion of the flight simulator threw off my equilibrium.  Motion sickness has always been a weakness of mine.
What was worse, I felt old.

I didn’t return to the game for another two days.  I didn’t want to repeat my initial experience.  I eventually sucked it up and tried again, this time with more success.  I got through the first mission without getting motion sickness and called it an evening there.  From there on I was ok.
As I played through the game what surprised me the most was the amount of story present; though, with that being said, at the start I found the shift in story sometimes confusing.  Moving from a starfighter pilot, to Vana Sage, to Nym discombobulated me, and I found myself asking the question ‘Why am I now Nym fighting the Trade Federation?’  I eventually clued in as to why: The Trade Federation was producing droids on Lok, Nym’s planet hideout (at least that’s what I think was going on), and the pirate was none-to-happy.

There was a lot of good voice acting in this game.  The most enjoyable work was done by Charles Rocket who played Nym.  There was also a great sub-plot between Vana Sage and Nym – a sub-plot that is mentioned in Single Cell from Star Wars Tales volume 2. On that note, it was nice to come across Nym again.  As I said in my write-up on Single Cell, Nym has always been a character I’ve been interested in ever since coming across him in my old Star Wars Galaxies days. 
Digressing for just a second so I can harp on an idea I’ve already talked a lot about in this blog, here is yet another example if intertexuality, in this case Single Cell, a comic short written in March of 2001 making reference to the Starfighter video game which was released in February of 2001.  Recalling the Star Wars EU of the early 2000’s Nym was a character that was more active and present on the periphery of Star Wars mythology than he is now circa 2012.  He was a character who frequently appeared across mediums.  He seems to have been forgotten by most enthusiasts.  I guess Hondo Ohnaka is our pirate of choice these days.     

Moving on, the game itself was fun to play, and I always get a greater sense of accomplishment when I finish a video game than when I finish a book.  I guess because I finish video games so rarely I still find it a novelty.  As it is, I’m not really a big fan of flight simulators in that I won’t go out of my way to play one, but this is the second flight simulator I’ve played.  This game took me some time to get used to.  The controls were hyper sensitive and the game I downloaded from steam didn’t allow me to adjust the flight controls. There was no ability to adjust the game, so I just had to make-do.
As for the game itself, there were 15 levels of fun, my favorite mission being level 11, where Rhys, Nym, Vana, and Reti enter Naboo space to drop off supplies and begin to take on the Trade Federation.  It reminded me of Hylo Viz and the coming together of hired mercenaries to destroy the Mandalorian blockade circa 3600 BBY.

But what I enjoyed most about this game was not the game itself; rather, the feeling of depth I felt when playing it.  As is a hallmark of the Star Wars mythos, in any given story there are always many other tales occurring “off-stage” from the main action.  The main action in this case was the events of The Phantom Menace, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s rescue of the Queen and their return to fight the Trade Federation.  What I love about the Star Wars EU is knowing that when this was occurring, there was also a space battle raging up overhead lead by a motley crew of ace pilots, along with another group of heroes fighting the Trade Federation on the ground outside the city limits of Theed.  Here I’m referring to the RPG sources Battle for Theed and Signal Interruption.   In The Battle of Theed Deel, Arani, Sia-Lan, and Rorworr fight some battle droids in the city’s limits while in Signal Interruption some other un-named heroes were battling the Trade Federation on the grassy plains.
Notably, we’ve come full circle to one of the most boring sources I’ve read so far in the Star Wars Chronology Project: The Starfighter Trap.  It seems that Steve Miller’s story was the precursor to the events found in this game, and brought back in to the Star Wars EU the character of Essara Till – a truly forgettable protagonist. 

I hope to post at least once a week until the end of the year.  I’ve been up to my eyeballs in marking since mid-September, and there does not to be any cessation of work on the horizon.  I keep assigning things and the students keep handing them in.  I’m in the middle of The Merchant of Venice right now, and there is plenty of work attached to it.  To keep me honest I’ve posted the following on my desk, where it’ll stare at me every morning:
“No matter how busy you are, one day a week you must work on the SWCP.  Remember your goal!”

Let’s see if it works.
For my next post I’ll be offering up my reactions to The Battle for Naboo video game.  Let me tell you, it was a pain-in-the-ass to get up and running on my laptop.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

32 BBY: Galactic Battlegrounds Mission #2 & #3.4-3.7

Galactic Battlegrounds Mission 2 and Missions 3.4-3.7 I now affectionately call “The Epic Adventures of OOM-9” and “The Revenge of Boss Nass”.

Galactic Battlegrounds is a game I’ve enjoyed going back to.  Although I’m not very good at RTS games, it is still a game that is fun to play.  One my favorite posts in the Star Wars Chronology Project was my first write-up on this game, where I argued that what was actually occurring fit the definition of an Epic.  You can read what I mean by this here.  This is the third time I’ve engaged with this game and I have yet to get tired of it.
However, I have to admit, this time around I found the game more challenging.  I’m not sure why, but mission 2.6 (I think) where I had to take Theed and build the monument I failed twice.  It also took a lot longer for me to get through these missions.  Again, I’m not sure why; but it took me three weeks to play through them.

As it is, in mission 2, “The Epic Adventures of OOM-9”, continuity was twisted in mission 5 with Maul being present at the invasion of Theed.  Still, it was neat controlling Maul and watching his double-bladed lightsaber cut down some Gungans.
The most interesting aspect of Mission 2 was mission 2.7 – a simulation of what might have happened if Anakin had not destroyed the droid control ship.  Interestingly, in this scenario, Maul has killed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and has been sent by Sidious into the field of battle to assist the droids.

Most of mission 3, “The Revenge of Boss Nass” works as an undoing of what you completed in mission 2 as the Trade Federation.
Mission 3.4 takes place after Theed has been subdued by the Trade Federation and the Gungans have been run out of their homes.  I liked the way Boss Nass opened the narration of this vignette: “Three thousand rolls of the globe” he says, picking up his narrative after the War of the Gungan Tribes. 

In this scenario the Gungans are fighting their way to the “sacred place”, as it’s mostly a story about the Gungans offering resistance to the Trade Federation’s occupation.  It’s the start of their preparations for the large counter attack heralded by the Queen’s arrival. The voice acting of the Queen, Qui-Gon, and Anakin was neat as well.
Mission 3.5 is neat in that as the Gungans you work to take down the monument you spent so much time building as the Trade Federation.

Finally, mission 3.7 contained a great echoing of the earlier battle droid mission.  In mission 2 when the droid army  enters Theed there is a voice-over saying something like “The Trade Federation has entered Theed!”.  In mission 3.7, when the Gungans enter Theed there is a battle droid voice-over exclaiming “The Gungan army has entered Theed”.  It reminded me of when something similar is echoed in the original trilogy.  In The Empire Strikes Back, when the Imperials enter Echo Station there is a voice exclaiming over the PA “Imperial troops have entered the base”. This refrain is later repeated in Return of the Jedi when the Imperials on Endor declare “Rebel troops have entered the base!”.
Amusing stuff indeed.

The big news of course is Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise.  I think ultimately this is a good thing – I hope.  It’s hard not to fear for the continuity of this universe however.  The Star Wars universe is a different creature than the Marvel universe, or the Bond universe, or the Conan the Barbarian universe, or the Indiana Jones universe where continuity can be pushed aside to make a good comic cross-over series, or make a good movie.  In the Marvel universe I get the sense (and I could very well be wrong) that making sure there is an overarching mythology that makes sense and follows a unified chronological procession is secondary to whatever story is being told at the moment.  With the Bond universe and the Conan universe and the Indiana Jones universe we have less of a mythology, and something more akin to Legend.  When we watch Bond, or Conan, or Indy, their movie adventures can take place almost  whenever because their adventures are so self-contained – the idea of a larger fictional narrative existing outside of what we’re watching is almost non-existent.   Admittedly, when it comes to Star Wars there is NIMBYism a-plenty.  But I fear that approaching the Star Wars universe with the same brush of these other universes may undermine what fans have come to love, and alienate not just the older 40 plus crowd of the original trilogies (again), but the 20 under crowd who have grown reading all the books and comics.
Everything remains to be seen.  But I believe that Disney can not only make a better Star Wars film than George Lucas himself, but can and will be sensitive to the continuity of the Star Wars mythology that has been woven over these last 3 decades.

For my next post I’m going to offer my reactions to the video game Starfighter.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.                                                                                                                               

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

32 BBY: Podracing Tales

As taken from Wookieepedia:

“Podracing Tales was an online comic published on on December 19, 2000, as "a special holiday treat" for fans, courtesy of the Official Star Wars Website and Dark Horse Comics. It consists of eight vignettes featuring the Boonta Eve Classic podracers from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

Written by Ryder Windham, Podracing Tales did well weaving itself into the peripheral threads of the Episode 1 comics.  Though I didn’t enjoy the art of this piece, the eight fragments were mildly enjoyable simply as bits of text supporting and referencing a larger and earlier text.  Its two major points of familiar subplot from the Episode 1 comics were its reference to the Sebulba assassination plot, and the fact that Sebulba bought Anakin’s old podracer.
In Podracing Tales the scene between Aldar Beedo and Wan Sandage elucidates a little more on the original scene of the two found in Anakin Skywalker’s Episode 1 comic.  Its purpose supports the idea that Wan Sandage is indeed a killer, and references his previous job killing Borzu Nale, a minor crime lord.  There is a disparity between the price the two negotiated to kill Sebulba.  In the Episode 1 Comic the two racers agree to a sum of 50,000 “wupiupi”; whereas in Podracing Tales the two agree to a sum of 200,000. 

Also, at the end of Podracing Tales we see Sebulba with his new podracer and his pledge to head to Malastare.  This scene links with Qui-Gon’s Episode 1 comic, where he sells Anakin’s racer to raise money for the boy’s mother.

Beyond these two aspects of intertextuality, I thought it neat that the racers of the Boonta Eve Classic were all out with each other the night before boozing it up. 

Texts influencing and referencing other texts; one of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars expanded universe. 
For my next post I’m going to take a look at Galactic Battlegrounds missions 2 and 3, thus starting a three-post video game run.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

32 BBY: Episode I storybooks: Watch out Jar Jar!/ I Am a Jedi / I Am a Droid/ I Am a Pilot/ I Am a Queen

Like a lot of the children’s material I’m looking at for my PhD in Star Wars-ology, the pre-school books Watch out Jar Jar, I Am a Jedi, I Am a Droid, I Am a Pilot, and I Am a Queen are fairly insignificant bits of text in the grand scheme of my plan.
Beyond a neat cross section of a lightsaber, and a photo of Darth Sidious where you can actually see his eyes in I am a Jedi, and  a picture of Queen Amidala’s Royal Advisory Council  in I am a Queen, where we are presented with the  names and titles of her advisors, like Graf Zapalo, Master of Sciences, these books are forgettable.

There was a lovable looking droid in I am A droid named Rolo that reminded me of WALL-E (I wonder if Rolo played some inspiration in the creation of that Disney character?), but otherwise the other two books held nothing of importance.

As it is, I’m moving on to Podracing Tales next, then on to a few video games which I’m looking forward to.  I’m still here, just bogged down in teacher stuff.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

32 BBY: Episode I: Anakin’s Fate/ Dangers of the Core/ Jar Jar’s Mistake/ Anakin’s Pit Droid/ Darth Maul's Revenge/ Anakin to the Rescue/ Anakin's Race for Freedom

The Star Wars Episode 1 children’s books featuring the titles: Anakin’s Fate, Dangers of the Core, Jar Jar’s Mistake, Anakin’s Pit Droid, Darth Maul’s revenge, Anakin to the Rescue, and Anakin’s Race for Freedom were no more interesting than the last series of children’s books I looked at.  Of the seven I’ve just mentioned, the most interesting were Darth Maul’s Revenge, Anakin to the Rescue, and Anakin’s Fate.
The other four titles generally stayed inside the narrative of The Phantom Menace with the exception being Dangers in the Core.  It included within its pages the cut-scene of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar Jar’s escape from the bongo before it fell over the Theed waterfall. Anakin’s Pit Driod contained a cute narrative of DUM-4, and Anakin’s Race to Freedom featured some good art by Jose Miralles, but that is really about it.

The only thing really interesting about Darth Maul’s Revenge was that its narrative contained the story of Maul being attacked by the Tusken Raiders found in the Journal of Darth Maul. Tommy Lee Edward’s illustrations of Maul facing off with the Tuskens was good. 

Anakin to the Rescue was the most original of all the stories.  Surprisingly, this was a touching little tale about Anakin helping a lost boy named Finn on Corusacant. Finn, a boy of about 5 or six years old, became lost because his nanny droid went haywire.  Anakin agreed to help the boy, and the droid lead Anakin, Jar Jar, and Finn on a wild chase through the streets of Coruscant.  They finally caught up with the droid wherein Anakin fixes it.  Anakin and Jar Jar make it back to the temple before the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan depart for Naboo.  Anakin then explained to Qui-Gon where was and what he was up too.  Qui-Gon nods and gives Anakin some fatherly approval.  Chris Trevas was the artist in this story, and I always enjoy his work.
Anakin’s Fate was the most enjoyable of the seven books I looked at.  Interestingly, is that Quinlan Vos in the background on page 9?  I’ve often wondered about this.  What was Quinlan Vos doing on Tatooine when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were there?  Someone please tell me if that backstory was eventually filled in.  Qui-Gon was steps away from Quinlan, but there was no interaction.  We know why this is; because the Quinlan Vos we see in the Phantom Menaced is not yet known to be the Quinlan Vos from the EU. The naming of the “man at the cafe with the yellow stripe across is face” came later.  But again I ask: is this narrative later addressed?

The art was great in this book.  My favorite scene was from pages 18-19, where Anakin and C-3P0 are speeding across the dessert carrying scrap to trade with the Jawas.  In the background are the scraggly cliffs of Tatooine framed by the two suns in the sky.  There are some banthas over the horizon and Tusken raiders raising their arms in protest.  In the foreground is the skeleton of a kryat dragon.   It’s a shame Marc Cerasini left out the part about Anakin helping the wounded Tusken Raider on his way back from trading with the Jawas.  In the novelization of The Phantom Menace I thought this whole scene was the best part.
Also included in this story was Anakin’s conversation with the old spacer (though in this book he didn’t look very old and he was presented differently than the “old spacer” from the Episode 1 comics) and the bit about the kids getting fruit drinks. However, there is a bit of a continuity error in this story.  As found on Wookieepedia: “This story goes over the race that Watto refers to in Episode I where he says, "He smashed up my pod in the last race!" It also contains a major continuity error. Anakin flies Watto's pod, which looks exactly like his own pod that he flies in Episode I despite the fact that his racer was unfinished and under construction at the time”. 

I’ll be glad when I can put these children’s books behind.  As I’ve said before, being a completionist is mildly insane.
Sorry for the long period between posts.  As you’re well aware of by now, when September rolls around and the new school year begins all my free time goes out the window.  What free time I do have after the children go to bed is wasted in front of the TV where I get to shut off my brain.  My ability to concentrate in the evenings is horrendous.  This post took forever to write.

As it is, I’m one step further out of 32 BBY.
For my next post I’m going to take a look at more Episode 1 storybooks.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

*** Is anyone else seeing random words highligted in my post with an add?  This is not my doing and how do I make it stop?

Monday, September 17, 2012

32 BBY: Star Wars Junior: Droids Everywhere / Jedi Escape/ Obi-Wan’s Bongo Adventure/ Catch that Pit Droid!/ Podrace/ C3PO’s Big Adventure/ Sith Attack/ Meet the Jedi High Council/ Droids to the Rescue/ General Jar Jar/ Gungan Trouble/ Save Naboo

Before I start with my reactions to the Star Wars Junior series I want to thank Plaristes.  Without him I would’ve had a much more difficult time getting a hold of these books. So, thank you sir.  Your record keeping has made my trek through Star Wars chronology much easier.
Though there are twelve books in the series, I already dealt with Droids Everywhere back in February so my post today will focus on the other eleven.  And really, there isn’t much to say about them. They are adaptations of the film that rarely travel outside the already established narrative of The Phantom Menace.  The books that did were the most enjoyable, namely Catch that Pit Droid, and Gungan Trouble. 

In Catch that Pit Droid Watto and Anakin chase a runaway pit droid through the streets of Mos Espa, while in Gungan Trouble we are privy to the Gungans packing up their belongings and heading to the “sacred place” where Jar Jar later finds them.  This scene raised an interesting question for me, and something that has bothered me about the background scenery of Naboo for some time.  Why does the “sacred place” contain human looking heads, if the Gungans view the Naboo (humans) suspiciously?  A little investigating on wookieepedia answered this question for me.  It seems as though the large stone heads on Naboo are carvings of The Elders, an ancient race who colonized Naboo many millennia before.  Apparently the Gungans consider them their “guds”.  If I didn’t know any better at first glance I’d say the Gungans were Buddhist, what with all their old statues of Buddha lying about.

As it is, of all the books I examined the one I enjoyed the most was Meet the Jedi High Council.  I’m glad the writer Laura Dower didn’t feel the need to make every bit of Yoda’s speech backwards talk. Also, who knew Ki-Adi Mundi had two hearts to work his large brain and Yarael Poof smelled with his hands?  However, what most stood out to me most in this book was Depa Billaba, a member of the Jedi High Council we almost never hear about.  So far she’s only appeared few times in Star Wars chronology: in the comic short Children of the Force with her master Mace Windu, and in Jedi Council: Acts of War.  In both stories she was a forgettable, which I think is unfortunate because she seems like a really interesting character.  I hope she’s flushed out a bit later on in Star Wars history.  It’d be nice to know a little more about her.
The best part of all these books was the art, and the artist I enjoyed the most was Jerry Vanderstelts.  His work was the most detailed and rich.

For my next post I’m going to look at more Star Wars children’s books.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

32 BBY: Episode 1 Journals: Queen Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, Darth Maul

When I began reading the Episode 1 Journals I decided to engage with them in a specific order.  I started with the Queen’s journal, followed by Anakin’s, then ended with Maul’s.  I read them in this order because I anticipated I’d enjoy the Queen’s journal the least and appreciate Maul’s journal the most. My instincts were correct.
The Queen’s journal was the dullest of them all.  Both the Queen’s Journal and Anakin’s journal followed as a first person narration of the events of The Phantom Menace.  But Maul’s journal contained some unique elements not found in the film.

Though I found the Queen’s journal the dullest there were some small aspects of the story that were interesting.  For instance, we discover that the fate of King Veruna is farming rocks in the Naboo Wasteland (pg 8), that Padme wonders if Sabe enjoys ordering her around (28), and that Padme recalls some sage advice from her grandmother Winama (43).  There was also a great little bit about her amulet:

“Then I slipped off the amulet I always wear around my neck.  My parents gave it to me when I left to take the Governorship of Theed.  It’s a stone my father found on out land.  My mother fashioned the clasp” (17).
I love it when two sources intersect.  In this case, Julianne Balman’s The Queen’s Amulet with Watson’s adaptation. This is but another example of texts influencing texts.

Anakin’s journal was much the same as the Queen’s, but there were some small jewels of interest to be found in the monotony of the narrative.  Interestingly, Watson makes reference to extra-galactic visitors to Tatooine, which I think is something that is inconsistent with the over-arching mythos of the Star Wars universe:

“A bunch of hyperspace trading routes meet here on Tatooine.  This means we get visitors not only from our galaxy, but other galaxies as well” (10).
This could be the case, but it was my understanding that the Yuzzhan Vong were the first extra-galactic visitors to Anakin’s galaxy. Someone correct my understanding here.

Also, in Anakin’s journal it is the first time there is any hint that his dreams end badly:

“But I had another secret as well.  A dark secret.  It was about the way my dreams always ended.  It was a secret that frightened me, one I could never tell” (21).
In The Phantom Menace and other adaptations we are only told Anakin’s dreams consists of either him becoming a Jedi and freeing the slaves, or Padme leading a large army into battle, but there is never any hint of anything ominous about them. I wonder what exactly Anakin sees?  Is it the near murder of his wife by his own hands, or perhaps his slaughter of the innocents in the temple?  Curious.

There was a humorous echoing of Return of the Jedi in Anakin’s journal, one which forces us to imagine Padme in a slave-Leia costume:

“I knew if I lost the race, Qui-Gon, Padme, and the others might be stuck on Tatooine for a long time. And when you were young and pretty on Tatooine, it wasn’t long before you belonged to Jabba.  To imagine Padme chained like a slave made my blood boil” (29).
It’s probably not a terrible image for the slave-Leia costumes lovers out there.

The most interesting aspect of Anakin’s journal was his mention of an ancient war-droid and the story of the first time he heard the word “Sith”:

“I was looking for something in Watto’s junk heap when I came across an old war droid.  This unit was really ancient…I was in the middle of testing the projector when the holograph burst on.  It showed some kind of ancient battle… I could hear screams and grunts and panicked shouts.  Something about the Sith this and the Sith that” (72-73).
There is a lot going on in this passage.  Firstly, I’m curious to know what sort of war droid Anakin has in front of him.  Was it a Mark 1 or Mark 2 war droid from the time of the Sith Empire in 3600 BBY, or was it something else, maybe something along the lines of Xim’s Guardian Corpsdroids?  Here lies the kernel of yet another short story: how did this ancient droid come to be in Watto’s junk heap?  Secondly, which battle is going off here?  Is it the sacking of Coruscant, or maybe something more ancient, perhaps the razing of Korriban at the hands of the Republic in 5000 BBY?  Maybe it was from one of the many battles of Ruusan circa 1000 BBY?  As it is, I found this to be the highlight of Anakin’s journal.

Like I said in my introduction, Maul’s journal was the most entertaining.  At least half of Maul’s journal contained events not found in The Phantom Menace.  His journal starts off well:

               “You may think I am evil.  I am not.  I am efficient” (1).
It is almost a universal trait that evil people don’t believe themselves to be evil, and Maul is no exception.  Actual evil people see themselves as “practical”, “pragmatic” or “reasonable”.  They see themselves as problem solvers.  Take Hitler for example: from his point of view he was simply trying to solve the problem of Germany’s troubled economy.  His “pragmatic” response was to kill Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and a myriad of other people he felt were part of the problem and not part of the solution. In his mind he was being “pragmatic”.  Though I haven’t read Mein Kampf, I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere within its pages one could find a line like: “What I am proposing is not evil, but simple efficiency”.  Evil people never consider themselves to be evil because to consider such a thing would mean to deeply question their worldview and strongly held convictions.  Maul would never do such a thing.

Though I enjoyed Maul’s journal, I thought the idea of Maul keeping a journal rather silly.  I can believe the Queen and Anakin doing it.  Perhaps it would have been more immersive had Maul’s first-person narrative been in the form of a Sith holocron, following in the ancient tradition of his precursor Darth Bane.  On that note, I thought it neat that Maul made some oblique references to Darth Bane:

“But the last Sith was the smartest of all.  It was he who devised the brilliant strategy that has kept us secret for a thousand years and allowed us to grow in the shadow of the dark side” (18-19).
The holocron of Darth Maul would be neat to examine, but I’m sure the construction of such a delicate device would be a skill that is unreachable for him (considering how difficult it was for Bane).  Sidious was only interested in training Maul for combat, not in furthering his knowledge of the dark side of the Force.  It’s apparent that Sidious really did not want an apprentice, despite what he says.  Though Sidious may claim Maul was his apprentice, he really wasn’t.  Maul was simply his abused and fanatic child, which brings me to the topic of his childhood.

Maul’s upbringing was abusive and cruel, and makes me feel sympathy for him (which in turn makes him a more interesting character).  The story of the dinkos was particularly malicious, but the worst story of all was his mention of learning to cry no longer:

“A child cries when his belly is empty, when he hears a food cart rattle by his door, smells his dinner, and yet the food cart rolls on.  He does not understand that this pain makes him stronger…I soon learned not to cry” (19).
Of all the stories of Maul’s upbringing, this one made me feel the saddest for him.

Along with Maul’s recognition that crying would do him no good, he also conjectures that perhaps his parents, after losing him, may have gone searching for him:

“I was found by my Master and taken as a baby.  My parents might have looked for me” (17).
Though this scene may no longer be canonical, knowing what we known from the Nightsister trilogy from The Clone Wars (that Maul was residing on Dathomir with his brother Savage), it’s still a depressing picture to imagine.  Here we have two Iridonian parents searching for their kidnapped newborn – a beautiful child full of force potential, ripped from his parents’ loving arms.  Both of these stories broke my heart.  Was Darth Bane ever this cruel to Zannah? Truly the dark side is disgusting and profane.

Moving on in my reactions, it was Jude Watson who penned this narrative and I always enjoy Watson’s work.  Written in 2000 Watson came eerily close to describing the destruction of the Jedi temple found in Revenge of the Sith, a narrative not created until 2005:

“I strain my eyes, but the Jedi Temple is not visible from this viewpoint.  I imagine it instead.  I see a smoking ruin, a blasted shell.  The bodies of fallen Knights and Masters are littered around it.  I stand on the rubble before my Master” (11).
The only difference between Maul’s vision (Watson’s description) and the event from Revenge of the Sith is the person standing over the bodies.  How strange that it was the boy from the dessert of Tatooine that Maul ignored, not him, who was standing over the bodies of the Jedi.

Two other enjoyable scenes were the Torgorian space pirate incident, and Maul’s lightsaber duel with Sidious.  These were narratives which made the book worthwhile to read. There is also this great accidental reference to Loran Pavan (at least I think it’s an accidental reference):

“I focus on the darkness within.  I start to imagine a battle fought on a mission for my Master.  I don’t remember my opponent’s face, but I remember how he fought.  I remember how he tried to elude me in the end, and how I ran him down” (58).
It’s conceivable Maul is making reference to something else here, but it’s also possible he is making reference to the Lorn Pavan incident from Shadow Hunter.

Finally, my last bit of commentary centres upon Sidious’ comment on Maul’s demise:

“My worthy apprentice failed me in the end.  He fell into the melting pit.  I am glad, at least, that his body was consumed.  If there must be an end, it is a fitting one” (95).
The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be un-natural.  The more I reflect on the return of Maul, the more I appreciate what Filoni has done.  I also have Wallace’s Book of the Sith sitting on my bookshelf, and I can’t wait to get to it because I think it comments on how Maul survived his fall, and how, contrary to what Sidious believes, was not “consumed”. Apparently Maul was more versed in the dark side than we thought.  Maybe he was even studying things he should not have been behind his Master’s back.  Maybe, somewhere down the line, he was planning to kill his Master, and become the true Dark Lord of Sith.  Maybe Maul deserves a second chance.

For my next post I’m going to take a look at the Star Wars Junior series.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

32 BBY: Battle for Theed

The Battle for Theed is the first of its kind: a comic based on a Star Wars RPG.  Though it’s only three pages in length I found the concept neat enough.  You can find the comic at the bottom of the page here (thanks Plaristes).
I can see the Darkhorse publication now: Star Wars RPG Adventures. Each adventure is played by guest RPG’ers like Stackpole, Anderson,  Zahn, and Karpyshyn.  At each session there is a secretary recording the events and an artist sketching out the adventure as it unfolds.  Bill Slavicsek is, naturally, the GM.  What an RPG lover’s dream!

The Battle for Theed is a source with minimal story, but the creation of an in-depth narrative wasn’t its purpose.  Its purpose was to excite new role-players to the re-booted Wizards of the Coast RPG product.  This little comic was totally awesome and a total gem.  Daniel Veesenneyer’s art was fantastic.  I truly love the art found in RPG materials of any kind. 

Interestingly, this story is written my Michael Stackpole who is mostly known for his work on the X-Wing series (to me anyway).  Who knew he also worked on Dungeons and Dragons back in the late 70’s?  I certainly didn’t.  It defiantly increases my opinion of him.  I love that he’s a Star Wars author who’s also a gamer. 
As it is, I’m excitd to find out what happens to Deel, Arani, Sia-Lan, and Rorworr as they passed the security door and into the room of the unknown.  I suppose the end of this story will come in the Invasion of Theed RPG package.  Unfortunately it’ll be a while before I get there.  There is still lots to look at in the year 32 BBY.

For my next post I’m going to look at the Journals of Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, and Darth Maul.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

32 BBY: Secrets of Naboo Sourcebook

Reading Star Wars RPG sourcebooks is a guilty pleasure of mine.  What I love most about the Star Wars Chronology Project is that it affords me the excuse to sit down and read an RPG sourcebook cover-to-cover.  If I wasn’t on this quest there is no way I’d simply sit down to read a sourcebook.  I’m not sure I could justify to myself such an expenditure of time.
As I’ve mentioned before in my other posts on RPG sourcebooks, what I love about them is that they offer the nitty-gritty details of the Star Wars universe.  They contain information that would otherwise be difficult to inject into a regular narrative like a novel or comic.  From this particular source as an example, there is this great explanation from the Trade Federation Technology section on the cost benefits of having a droid-controlled ship over having droid brains that operate independently.  Essentially the Trade Federation was saving millions of credits using the droid controlled ship because they never believed the ship’s defences could be breached.  But the most important thing I walk away with from this source is that this narrative even exists.  In what manner can an author effectively introduce dialogue between Nemodians as they decide how to set up their droid army?  I think a sourcebook is the best way to do this. 

I walked away from this source respecting the Trade Federation a little more, and basically having an overall higher opinion of battle droids.  The obvious benefit of a droid army is strength in numbers.   If they don’t come into contact with Jedi and are facing a regular standing army of beings they should be able to overwhelm their opponents into defeat.  What I never knew before is that battle droids are designed to be salvageable in order to re-deploy into the theatre of operations. 

“After a battle, cleanup droids gather the spent parts from the field.  Workers in properly equipped shops can then reassemble the undamaged modules into working droids.  In this way the Trade Federation can recover a majority of the droids who fell in combat, thus maximizing its investment in the manufacturing process” (11).
Here the Nemodians have taken a page from American military history.  Utility is the key to victory. Tank parts should be able to work in Jeep parts, and vice versa.  Any good military should be able to recover equipment from the battle field and reprocess into the theatre once more.  It’s simply a combination of good economics and military strategy if you ask me.  Like I said, my opinion of battle droids, and the Nemodians, increased a little. A wounded soldier takes precious resources to rehabilitate.  A droid requires only some welding and re-wiring.

Weapon stats are another feature of sourcebooks I enjoy.  Though I’m still unfamiliar with the inter-workings of the D20 system, figuring out which weapon is the most powerful is pretty simple.  In this sourcebook that honor goes to the Naboo S-5 Heavy Blaster Pistol with a damage output of 3d8 plus a 1d2 paralytic poison – Captain Panaka’s weapon of choice, naturally.  The artwork for the guns was pretty neat as well.
As far as story goes, the most important aspect of this text is the RPG scenario Peril on Naboo, but before I get to that I want to mention a tiny piece of narrative which, had I been lack in my reading, I might have missed.  In the section on Green Glie there is this strange little tidbit of narrative about the poisonous nature of the algae.  It starts with an advisory note at the end of the explanation of Green Glie:

“Advisory Note: All Jedi who visit Naboo should be extremely careful when accepting hospitality from even the most trustworthy individuals.  The Council is still investigating the death of young Jedi Knight Keiran Valn on Alderaan last month.  Preliminary reports indicate that he died by ingesting a glie-derived compound at a banquet held by his own family” (52-53).
When I first read this I thought it was a reference to another story somewhere else in the EU, but this is not the case. After looking through wookieepedia it’s apparent that this story is only found in the Secrets of Naboo sourcebook.  This narrative is curious because it raises some fascinating questions.  Firstly, why is this Jedi visiting his family?  Is there a Xanatos element going on here, where he has been called to his home planet on a mission and faced with his family to test his dedication to the Jedi Order?  What has this Jedi done to warrant an assassination?  Why would his family kill him, if indeed they are responsible?  For you short story writers out there, here is a great hook to explore the demise of Keiran Valn.  This story has yet to be explored and is opened to anyone creative enough to fill in the blanks of Valn’s murder.  Maybe the protagonist could be a Jedi investigator and the story could have a CSI type ‘whodunit’ element.

My last point of discussion centres upon the RPG adventure Peril on Naboo.  Taking up almost half of the sourcebook this RPG scenario is one of the largest I’ve read.  The adventure is separated into three parts with three scenarios per part.  It starts with a group of level 1 to 2 heroes stranded on Naboo as the Trade Federation invades.  The heroes come together to save the daughter of a tramp freighter by trying to smuggle out of Theed some medical supplies.  Needless to say events transpire against them, and the heroes are forced to fight battle droids and join the Naboo resistance movement.  The adventure ends with the heroes assisting Queen Amidala’s in her plans at the end of the film, with all the major players of the Phantom Menace making an appearance.  It was truly an epic adventure.
Star Wars RPG sourcebooks makes the Star Wars universe better.

For my next post I’m going to take a look at the 3-page RPG comic, Battle for Theed, from Wizards of the Coast.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

32 BBY: Episode 1 Comics: Anakin Skywalker / Qui-Gon Jinn / Queen Amidala / Obi-Wan Kenobi / The Phantom Menace #½

The four comic series titled Episode 1: Anakin Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (and The Phantom Menace #½), was a mild breath of fresh air.  Granted, I’m still treading in the middle of The Phantom Menace material, but not having to engage with a direct adaptation of the film was a relief.
Firstly, the art in all four comics was fantastic.  All four artists: Steve Crespo, Galen Showman, Robert Teranishi, and Martin Egeland did outstanding jobs with their respective stories.

What I loved about these four comics were the tangential paths they traveled from the familiar Phantom Menace storyline.
In Anakin’s story I appreciated how Truman brought to life some of the episodes from Brooks’ novelization that weren’t in the film.  I especially liked the inclusion of the spacer that Anakin and his friends encountered in the streets of Mos Espa.  Crespo did well with his visualization.  The dream sequence, the bar fight between Gasgano and Mawhonic, and the assassination narrative on Sebulba were all great sub-plots.

Queen Amidala’s story was the least remarkable of the four, but was still interesting enough. 
Qui-Gon’s story included the cut scene of Anakin and Greedo’s fight, but like I said in my write-up on The Phantom Menace novel, it didn’t capture the real motivation for Anakin’s anger.  I also never realized that Qui-Gon sold Anakin’s racer to Sebulba.

Obi-Wan’s storyline confirmed something I always thought: in his fight with Maul he did give in to his anger.  He later confesses this to Yoda.  I also thought it tremendously neat we were offered an outside perspective of Qui-Gon’s funeral pyre.  There were hundreds of Jedi there all mourning alongside Yoda, Mace, Obi-Wan and Anakin.
However, what most stood out to me in all four of these comics was the discussion of slavery Qui-Gon and Anakin had at the end of Qui-Gon’s storyline.  In my post on Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter I spoke of my disappointment with the Jedi, and how I find their focus on martial prowess over a real desire for the common good unacceptable.  The Jedi seem to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.  In Shadow Hunter Darsha felt out of place with the poor, homeless, and disenfranchised of Coruscant because she was not properly trained to do so.  Her training, of course, focused on combat. 

In Brook’s novelization of The Phantom Menace he understands the essence of what it means to be a Jedi:

“The Jedi Knights were peacemakers; that was the nature of their order and the dictate of their creed.  For thousands of years they had served the Republic, a constant source of stability and order in a changing universe.  Founded as a theological and philosophical study group so far back that its origins were the stuff of myth, the Jedi had only gradually become aware of the presence of the Force.  Years had been spent in its study, in contemplation of its meaning, in mastery of its power.  Slowly the order had evolved, abandoning its practice of belief in a life of isolated mediation in favor of a more outward-looking commitment to social responsibility.  Understanding the Force sufficiently to master its power required more than private study.  It required service to the greater community and implementation of a system of laws that would guarantee equal justice for all. (27)
The Jedi are supposed to root out evil in all its forms and utterly destroy it.  In Qui-Gon’s story he uses a Jedi mind trick to help some slaves, but does not go so far as to free them.  Anakin, rightly, calls him out on this:

“Anakin: Well…if you could make a slaver be more kind, couldn’t you make him free his slaves? Qui-Gon: And what would become of the slaves then?  How far would they get on Tatooine?”
I find this line of thinking absolutely shocking.  What a low opinion Qui-Gon has of the slaves, or rather, maybe Qui-Gon feels that keeping them enslaved is the most “humane” thing to do.  This reminds me of how slavery was defended and justified in America in the 1850s.  This is how Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, defended the idea of not freeing his slaves.  In the book, The Constitutional Principles of Thomas Jefferson, Caleb Patterson writes that:

"It was Jefferson's “humane feeling” for his slaves that kept him from freeing them. To free the ordinary slave was not very different from starting him on the road to starvation. Or as Jefferson put it... like abandoning children."
Jefferson couldn’t believe his slaves were intelligent enough to survive on their own in the same manner Qui-Gon doesn’t believe the salves he helped would survive.  In both cases the vice of slavery is perverted into some kind of virtue – that maybe the slaves are better off where they are. 

Anakin was right that Qui-Gon didn’t go far enough.  Instead of simply convincing the slave owner to be kind to his slaves, he should have said “Your salves belong to me now”, and took the salves along with the boy aboard his star ship.  It wouldn’t be stealing, because one person (or being) cannot own another, regardless of what the law does or does not say.  If a law is unjust then the Jedi are under a moral obligation to disobey that unjust law.
The Jedi speak of concern for the common good, so why not start with the abolition of slavery? I’m sure 5,000 Jedi, half of the Jedi order, could dedicate themselves to such a noble cause.  Head into the slavers dens and use their ability to alter minds to free the salves.  Take on the Exchange.  Take on the Hutts.  If you want to combine your martial prowess with a worthy cause, this one is it.

Real courage is doing the right thing in the face of overwhelming opposition.  It’s time for the Jedi Order to find its courage.
For my next post I’m going to take a look at the Wizards of the Coast RPG source Secrets of Naboo.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

32 BBY: The Phantom Menace Photo Comic

The Phantom Menace Photo Comic was terrible.

For my next post I’m going to take a look at the four comic series titled Episode 1: Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and The Phantom Menace #½.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

32 BBY: The Phantom Menace Manga

I don’t get anime.  I’ve got nothing against it, but it’s just not my cup of tea.
Prior to 2006 my only interaction with anime came in the form of Astroboy (I can still sing the theme song).  I say prior to 2006 because that year I became the staff advisor for the anime club at the high school where I was teaching.  I remember well that fateful lunch when some students sheepishly came knocking on my office door.  They were given my name from another teacher saying that if anyone were to run the anime club it’d be me – seeing has how I walked around with a Darth Vader coffee mug.  We had a small discussion about Astroboy (which seemed to impress them – why I’m not sure), then I asked them what anime they intended to watch.  I reminded them that we were a Catholic school and had to keep things PG.  This seemed to deflate them a little.  I made the announcements and the following week I had well over 30 students show up and express their ideas on what we could watch.  The meeting was a little wild.  I took their ideas then did a little research.  Another week later the club began.  We started with Naruto, and over the following months watch Pokemon.  Eventually the club expanded to two rooms, with some students watching anime in one room and playing Yu-Gi-Oh in another. 

The next semester we had fewer students show up, and over the next few weeks we watch Death Note (which I was a little weary about but ultimately enjoyed).  Over time the anime we watched became progressively stranger. We watched one where this kid had a little china doll that came to life and they went to this other reality where the china dolls fought each other (I have no idea what it was called).  The next one we watched was about this girl at a high school who was some sort of deity. Basically the premise was that she created the reality around her but didn’t know it.  Then her reality began to break down and all hell broke loose.  Again, the name of it escapes me.  At the end of that semester I moved to a different school closer to home, and unfortunately the anime club folded as no staff members were interested in running it.

What I learned from that experience was that anime wasn’t for me.  I ended up saying no to more anime than I did saying yes.  There’s just so much weird anime out there.  At my new school I ran the science fiction and fantasy club, and we stuck to Lord of the Rings (we watched the old Rankin Bass animated versions along with the movies), Firefly, Star Trek and Star Wars.
Needless to say, the anime version of The Phantom Menace was ok, only because, like Plaristes said, it wasn’t stills from the film.

I wasn’t too impressed with the art.  What I found about this anime was that all the male characters had the same face, and similarly all the female characters had the same face.  Their distinguishing characteristics would be their hair or clothes, or maybe some wrinkles on their face.
What I do like about anime is the expressiveness of the character’s emotions. I laughed a little bit when Jar Jar kissed Qui-Gon, thanking him for saving his life, little hearts hovering about the Gungan and the Jedi Master.

I also noticed something I never detected before:  When we first met Watto in the film (and in this comic) he uses the pronoun “thee”.  But later in the comic, when he begins betting with Qui-Gon he goes back to using “you”.  This switch is also in the film.  Interesting. What’s up with that?
Lastly, who the hell is the dude on the front cover of this comic?  It’s easy to identify Anakin, Darth Sidious, Watto and Padme, along with some battle droids, so who the heck is the dude on the left hand side?  Someone fill me in please.

For my next post I’m going to take a look at The Phantom Menace Photo Comic.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

32 BBY: The Phantom Menace Trade Paperback

I remember getting all four issues of The Phantom Menace comic as a birthday gift from old girlfriend.  I also remember being completely underwhelmed with the gesture.  I think on the outside I was like “Oh, thanks, that’s awesome!”  But inside I was like “WTF?!?  Phantom Menace comics?!?”  I guess she was doing her best, but I threw them in my closet, and they stayed there for five years.  When my wife and I were married and moved in together I put them in the basement with all my other nerdy paraphernalia.  I dug them out today and read through them.
Story wise there is nothing to report.  Darth Maul has a little more dialogue like in Brook’s adaptation but that’s it.  The art by Rodolfo Damaggio was the best part. He did ok in capturing the likeness of the actors, but not as good as Robert Teranishi from Life, Death and the Living Force.

All I can say is that at least it wasn’t stills from the film.
As of right now I've not only watched The Phantom Menace more times than I’d like to admit, but I've now read it more times than I’d like to admit.

My next post will be more of the same with my reactions to the anime comic version of The Phantom Menace. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures #15: The Final Battle: Novel & Gamebook

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32 BBY: Episode 1 Adventures #14: Podrace to Freedom: Novel & Gamebook

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