"Star Wars: The High Republic," a crossover initiative from Lucasfilm Publishing consisting of an interconnected series of new novels, books, and comics launches this week.
Set hundreds of years prior to the events of 1999's "The Phantom Menace" when the legendary Jedi Knights existed in their prime, it's a fertile period of "Star Wars" lore left mostly untouched ... until now.
"The High Republic" strikes off into new territory beginning Jan. 5 with Charles Soule's "Light of the Jedi" novel, and Justina Ireland's middle-grade book, "A Test of Courage." Next, coming Jan. 6, is the debut issue of writer Cavan Scott and artist Ario Anindito's Marvel Comics series.
February, we'll see writer Daniel José Older and artist Harvey Tolibao's young adult (YA) comic series at IDW Publishing titled "Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures," and Claudia Gray's YA novel, "Into the Dark."
Lucasfilm Publishing Creative Director Michael Siglain, who is shepherding the interconnected project, knew this bold era of "The High Republic" required uniform designs for its complement of spaceships, fighters and vehicles.
For this project, worldbuilding consisted of looking back at existing "Star Wars" machines and recycled concept art from previous films, comics and video games and then turning the clock back some 200 years.
"We all found a lot of inspiration in how the prequels opened up a more refined era of the galaxy, but by virtue of those films' proximity to the originals, it had to start showing early signs of corruption," Lucasfilm Story Group's Pablo Hidalgo told StarWars.com. "By moving further in time, away from that downfall, we're able to see the Republic at its height in this storytelling. In the Core Worlds especially, that's reflected in fashion and technology. A lot of the visual exploration in the High Republic is taking what we know, but idealizing it.
"Even heading into Episode III, there were "Clone Wars' designs that had a foot in the past and a foot in the future, and from there we found a great contender for the Jedi Vector. It looks very insectile — slim and delicate but with a definite sting."
With the villainous marauders known as The Nihil, a more raw, robust design was in order.
"For the Nihil, their look derived from art developed specifically for "The High Republic" initiative," added Hidalgo. "There were some pieces from "The Force Awakens" and the current "Star Wars" movies that explored pirates, scavengers, and basically "Star Wars" survivalists. That pointed in the direction of a patchwork force that was uniform in its non-uniformity. The Nihil have a design language with a big vocabulary."
One of the coolest new creations are the elegant-but-imposing Republic Longbeam bombers.
"I love that an unused James Clyne ship design for the Resistance bombers from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is now our Republic Longbeam," Lucasfilm Art Director Phil Szostak also told StarWars.com. "James did a series of beautiful early concepts for that vessel, some of which you can see in "The Art of The Last Jedi," before he turned the whole idea of a bomber on its head with a vertical bomb clip."
"The High Republic's" modular freight transport, named the Legacy Run, was derived from an old design for Han Solo's freighter in "The Force Awakens."
"There's a blunt simplicity to it: a flying box of boxes. It tells a story that this isn't a luxury passenger liner, but it's all some people can afford," Hidalgo explained. "You can tell how it operates just by looking at it. And it isn't fancy. In this case, it didn't matter that it came from the Resistance/First Order era, because this design is likely hundreds of years old. "Star Wars" designs are shaped more by culture than they are by innovation, so this is more a working ship."
Hidalgo claims that the Starlight Beacon, the Outer Rim space station created specifically for the publishing enterprise, is a perfect example of a design telling a story.
"The top of the station is a deliberate echo of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and imagined to be this iridescent monument that shines in the dark," he added. "The underside of the station is the utility, the industrial foundation that keeps the station chugging along. It's the plumbing. Those who are allied to the ideals of the Republic can look at it as an inspiration example of balance, of working together. Those against the Republic can get riled by what they see as a statement of class and divisions. There's a lot going on there."
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Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.