Over the past two years, Lucasfilm and its partners have been producing one of the most ambitious projects in Star Wars history: the collaborative line of the High Republic, a collection of interwoven stories between novels, audio dramas, and comics which all present a more civilized galaxy 200 years before The Phantom Menace. This month, the project enters its Phase II: one which brings us even further back into the past, by an additional 150 years.
The impact of just how massive this undertaking is was apparent at the High Republic Returns panel, with no less than nine different authors on stage. The panel moderator, director of Star Wars publishing Michael Siglain, introduces (deep breath) Charles Soule, Cavan Scott, Daniel Jose Older, George Mann, Lydia Kang, Justina Ireland, Claudia Gray, Tessa Gratton, and Zoraida Córdova, to share what they could about what’s in store for our trip even further into the past of the Star Wars universe. A record number for a Del Ray publishing event, we’re told (By the end of the panel there would be ten authors).
(As a personal fan of High Republic’s first phase, this was one of the panels I was most excited for at this year’s convention. Something I wasn’t excited for, however, was the daunting reality that many of the characters and places discussed here were being shared for the first time. And because this is Star Wars, it can only mean this: I am absolutely going to screw up how some of these names are spelled.
So, we’re going to play a little game here on Popverse. I’m going to transcribe these names the way I at least THINK they’re spelled. Wild guesses all. As Phase II rolls out, we’ll come back to this piece and see how many I got right, and how badly I got it wrong. If you like, you can play along at home, and see if you can score better.)
The moderator begins the panel by asking how Phase II differs from Phase I.
“It’s before it,” Soule says sardonically. But the major difference is that in this period, the Galaxy is in an era of exploration and expansion. There are still vast swaths of the Galaxy which remain uncharted, which the Republic is on a mission to discover.
“It’s wilder and less squared away,” Soule says, “Which means the stories can be wilder and less squared away."
In Justina Ireland’s upcoming Phase II novel Path of Deceit, we learn of a new (or rather, quite old) group called The of the Open Hand.
“It’s basically a cult,” Ireland says. “And like most cults, at first it seems really great.”
The main tenet of the Open Hand is that The Force should be free. It’s not something you’re supposed to mess with.
“And who messes with the force?” Ireland asks. Everyone’s on the same page: The Jedi.
“Who’s Kevmo?” Siglain asks Tessa Gratton. Or maybe he said “Kethmo.” I’m going to say Kethmo.
Tessa describes Kethmo as a padawan who’s excited to be a Jedi. He loves being on the frontier and meeting new peopl,e and developing relationships with them. He’s a super enthusiastic Jedi.
“Everything I love about Jedi, I’ve put into Kevmo.” (I mean Kethmo. Maybe.)
Siglain asks George Mann about the Pathfinders, another new group. Mann describes them as teams of Jedi and Republic who go on exploration missions to discover the unknown areas in the galaxy. In his novel Quest for the Hidden City, we go out to find another Pathfinder team that’s gone missing, their last transmission including some babble about monsters. So they’re going to find out what’s going on.
That team will be led by Sylandra (another guess), a Padawan who prioritizes protecting people. “Obviously that’s a tenant of the Jedi generally,” Mann admits, but she’s unique among the Jedi in that she carries a shield. She uses the force to push it around and protect herself while she’s fighting. “Her approach is that she’ll always rather be the shield than the sword.”
Córdova’s High Republic story, Convergence, is set during a ceasefire in a war. The Jedi and the Republic journey out to protect the peace and figure out if they can work together to uphold it. There’s Della (or Bella? I heard Della), our Jedi, Axxel Greylar (I know two exes is a big swing, but I’m going for it), who’s one of the sons of the chancellors of the Republic. He’s there to represent his mother. And there’s Pryncess Zyri (almost definitely wrong, but I’m committing), heir to a place called (but probably not spelled) Airem. Those events will have ripple effects throughout.
In the High Republic comics, Cavan Scott will be taking us back to Jedha, the setting for much of the second act of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. At this point, Jedha is a melting pot of Force religions, where the Jedi are definitely not welcome, for reasons we’ll discover. A group called the Complication comes together, an advisory body of various false religions.
“They’re planning a festival,” Scott says sardonically. “So it’s ten issues of people being very happy.” Everyone laughs. The world of the High Republic is never so simple.
Charles Soule, for his part, is revisiting a fan-favorite character from Phase I: the 600 year old, semi-retired Porter Engels, who first appeared in Soule’s High Republic novel Light of the Jedi. Phase II sees him as a spry 450. When we last saw him, he was enjoying a career as a cook, though we saw brief flashes of the fierce and powerful Jedi he used to be. We’ll meet him again in the comic book miniseries The High Republic: The Blade, in his previous incarnation – an allusion to his nickname, The Blade of Bardotta. At this point, Soule says, all Porter cares about is his lightsaber.
“I tried to think about a Jedi just focused on the saber exclusively,” Soule says. “So you’ll get to see lightsaber stuff that you haven’t seen before. The other aspect is he’s not traveling by himself. He needs someone else with him to handle the other stuff. He’s with his sister, Barash. If you follow my Star Wars stuff you know there’s a concept called the Barash Vow,” Soule says. It’s a concept he introduced early in his 2017 run on the Darth Vader comic series, which a Jedi can undertake to cut ties with the business and organization of The Order in a solitary mission to explore their connection with The Force. “That’s not a coincidence.”
Daniel Jose Older is also returning to a Phase I favorite: Sav Malagan, a Kyuzo Jedi associate of Maz Kanata from the first volume of the High Republic Adventures comic series.
“We go back in time to when she’s a 15 year old who hates the Jedi… except she’s a Padawan,” Older teases. “Every night she sneaks out from the Jedi Temple and go hangs out with the cool kids at Maz Kanata’s castle. She thinks Maz is the greatest person in the world, and she’s right.”
Older drops a lot of names here that have me guessing again. The pirate Alak, who took over an entire cruise ship. Wyat Chan – “If you ever hear her speak, you’re dead." Corman Mont Vizzle, who always has the law on his back. And a few unlikely familiar faces, too: Obi-Wan’s old pal and war veteran, four-armed restaurateur Dexter Jettster; and Solo: A Star Wars Story’s humanoid lobster, Therm Scissorpunch.
Claudia Gray’s project is a book called Quest of the Jedi. The cover features Barnabas Vim, one of the mystics of the Jedi Order. He relies on intuition and meditation, and thinks through symbols. We also have Bix Varnak, Barnabas’ Padawan.
“He has told her many times that it is important to think before you speak,” Gray says. “That lesson has not always been absorbed.
Lydia Kang teases another fan favorite who will be appearing in her book, Cataclysm – which will also feature Convergence’s Axxel Greylar (having second thoughts now, but I’m pot committed).
“There is a short green Jedi in this book whose name starts with a Y…” Kang teases, pausing for dramatic effect. “And it’s not Yoda.”
Everyone present whoops and cheers for this. Yaddle is back, baby.
Tessa Gratton describes her middle grade book, The Quest for Planet X, as a joyride where our young heroes race to a mysterious polanet.
Cavan Scott’s High Republic novel, Path of Vengeance, follows a Padawan named Mati. It also features the terrifying monsters from Scott’s High Republic Phase I novel, The Nameless.
Daniel Jose Older also teases a new High Republic manga on the way, Edge of Balance: Precedent. He can’t say much about it. “There’s a Wookiee. It’s not Burryaga,” he says, referring to one of Phase I’s most popular Jedi, Burryaga Agaburry. The manga will be set during Phase II, but will cover a large span of time.
The moderator gives me one more chance to get some names wrong as he asks the panel about the characters that our authors are most excited for us to meet.
“You’ve met Porter, I’m excited for you to meet Porter’s previous incarnation. But Barash is great,” Soule says.
“There is a bar called the Enlightenment that’s run by a gentleman called Kradon, who will not allow violence or theological debate in his establishment… him and his bodyguards, the Twinkle Sisters. If you need something, you go to Kradon. And then you are in Kradon’s debt forever.”
(Mercifully, the slideshow accompanying the presentation actually showed us a picture of Kradon with his name spelled out. That one’s a freebie.)
“Corman Mont Vizzle has hundreds of songs written about him,” Older teases, “Because he wrote all of them.”
For Mann, it has to be Cylandra, and the cool stuff she gets into with that shield. Lydia is excited to introduce us to the Chancellor of this era. Gray loves the dynamic between Barnabas and Vix. “You would think they couldn’t get along, but they do get along famously.”
For Tessa Gratton, it’s Marta Ro, “whose relationship to The Force is very different.” (I can’t help but wonder if there’s any relation to Phase I antagonist Marchion Ro. But maybe the spelling is completely different. Maybe it’s just one word, like “Martarro.”)
Córdova goes with Gella, because she’s a Jedi who wants to be a perfectionist. For her, this is going to be a journey about how she’s wrong.
(Yes, I know I said Della earlier, then Bella, but this time I swear I heard Gella. Final answer.)
“I like Lethal Weapon, and I wanted to do that in Star Wars with someone who is not a Jedi. That is Tay Cerrick,” Cavan Scott says.
Charles tells us a little bit more about The High Republic: The Blade.
“There’s a concept in Phase II, ‘The Office of the Frontier.’ Some of them are scattered around where people can go to get Republic services. And they can present petitions for Jedi aid.”
To me, they sound like prototypes for Starlight Beacon, the main Republic project during Phase I of The High Republic.
“The mission that Porter and Barash go on is one they got from an Office of the Frontier. City under siege, very volatile environment on a very important planet. They’re basically cut off and just the two of them have to solve a delicate problem they have to understand very quickly.”
Charles also announces another High Republic project that’s very important to him. For the first time, he’s co-writing a children’s book with his daughter, Rosemary. Rosemary Soule takes the stage next to her father.
“I’m definitely a little bit intimidated,” the younger Soule says. “But this is also obviously so cool, and I feel really lucky to have this opportunity.”
“We’re working on a Star Wars kids book that’s set in the High Republic. It comes out next year, and it’s super cute.”
The children’s book, Yoda and the Younglings, is set during The High Republic’s Phase I, and features both Yoda and another fan-favorite – the aforementioned Burryaga. Fall 2023. (Personally, I’m just delighted not to have any new names to spell for this one.)
The panel wraps with one more announcement, a YA short story anthology with stories by nearly everyone on the panel coming next summer. Details are scarce, but the stories will be set all throughout the High Republic project – Phase I, Phase II, the forthcoming Phase III, and all the time in between.
Star Wars authors and publicity: if you’re reading this, please tell me how bad I mucked this up. Just keep in mind that this is all in the spirit of Phase II itself – we’re all in a largely uncharted galaxy together, stumbling through the dark pursuing the ideals of discovery and exploration.
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