Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #39
"DUELING AMBITIONS, PART 1"
Combat sports and racing combine in the Old Republic as Zayne enters the Open!
In "Dueling Ambitions," we have a story that, at first glance, looks like simple, straightforward fun -- extreme sports meets big business in the Republic. But it also deals with some weighty arc issues at the same time, more than are initially apparent.
Dueling existed in the first video game -- as did swoop-bike racing. The game presented a bit of a strange situation regarding dueling -- saying that deathmatches were illegal under Sith rule (!) and that they had been illegalized many years before, back before the Sith were in charge. The I gave us a place to address that, to a degree -- the Sith reinstated the Republic ban (which went away on Taris after the Mandie invasion) in order to prevent alternate legends to their own from taking root, Gladiator-style. But we were still left with an earlier outlawing of deathmatches -- and "Dueling Ambitions," among other things, addresses why that happened. Naturally, as with many things corporate in the Republic, it wasn't entirely altruistic in purpose!
Dueling in Star Wars comics went back much further, to the original Archie Goodwin Marvel stories set on The Wheel. Our angle was to create someplace different, someplace that, while it had a healthy sportsbook operation, was also meant to be a mecca for the fans, spotlighting the players and the actions in multiple venues. I had seen some video of the Dallas Cowboys' new billion-dollar stadium; it's supposed to have plenty of video screens out in the atrium under the stands. The Hall of Champions serves sort of that same purpose in Jervo's World, ringing the Hub Arena.
As for the playing field, Jervo's World was imagined as a series of arenas connected by tubes. My initial idea had been for something icosahedral in nature (that's like a 20-sided die, folks) to provide for lots of connections, but that would have been difficult to render consistently -- especially if we wanted to play up the size of the center of the thing. But one thing that survived was that, since the fans couldn't always be where the players were, we would bring them to each other via holograms. We see in the issue how a cheering crowd is broadcast to surround Goethar in one of the satellite arenas; they're seeing him before them in the Hub Arena in the same way.
In Goethar Kleej, we got to see again that Zayne the padawan had made himself very much at home on Taris, taking an interest in the local sports and heroes. I always liked the notion that he was as typical a teen-ager as it was possible to be in the Jedi Order, interested in bikes and sports and other things. We also liked playing with what happens when reality collides with youthful hero worship.
This issue was released the day before the 2009 NCAA men's basketball tournament started, its "brackets" providing partial inspiration to the way the competition worked. That was a complete coincidence, but this was one occasion where the competition format -- something that might otherwise be just a colorful detail -- actually mattered to the plot. The eight-play, two-advance format allowed for a number of rounds without making the number of entered players too unwieldy -- and, more importantly, it provided Zayne with his dilemma. His problems were only starting...
- This is the first issue with a cover by Daryl Mandryk.
- My initial working title for the story, "Franchise Player," makes it in anyway -- a reference to those regular combatants that always appear on the circuit. "Dueling Ambitions" described the storyline better.
- As we can see, the presence of swoopbikes in the Aerial games does not mean everyone has to be riding one; others fly themselves or ride flying animals.
- I can't tell for sure but it looks like there are 12 satellite arenas, connected to the Hub and each other by 24 scream tubes. The arena pods themselves are quite large, suggesting the massive nature of the whole station. We might well imagine that the Franchise has the ability to reset the locations of environments from game to game.
- The Krish and their obsession with gaming is a long-established thread; there's a lot about it in (where else?) the role-playing game books.
- Gryph's presence here was set up by his absence in #38, and while he probably still could have been included in that issue, he really didn't serve any function to the story, and having him away made his set-up for #39 make a lot more sense.
- What? Having the arena weapons shut off doesn't do much good if you're being pummeled? Shocking! Shocking that The Franchise would allow such a thing!
- The sportsbook's taking of action on events just about to happen is a crazy extreme on Vegas sportsbooks I've seen, which take bets on all manner of minor eventualities.
- Gotals and their special powers are also long established, as is what happens to teen-age Gotals who don't have elders around. Aubin is regarded as being of age by the Franchise, though it's hard to tell when he's curled up into a ball!
- Rohlan's razor-shart shoulder-prongs, which have tended to grow more or less lethal depending on the depiction, get peace-bonded for your next convention costume here. They're not completely gone -- but you won't kill anyone by brushing up against them in the elevator now!
This issue has been reprinted in the following collections:
Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 3 (Dark Horse, 2014),
available from Amazon.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 7: Prophet Motive (Dark Horse, 2009),
available from Amazon.
The issue is also available digitally from Marvel.com.
Be sure to also check my shop for the availability of signed editions.