Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #40
"DUELING AMBITIONS" PART 2
As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.
I was in the process of figuring out the details of the arcs to follow "Vindication,"
I thought a lot about slavery in the Star Wars universe. In a milieu
where droids existed to do the work, I wasn't sure exactly where slaves
went. Droids were already depicted as second-class citizens, or not as
citizens at all; organic slaves added another level, but I wasn't sure
where that level went.
I was driving Maggie Thompson, longtime magazine editor and one of the founders of science fiction and comics fandom, to a convention when the discussion of living slaves in a universe with artificial beings came up. I asked the same question Elbee asks in this issue: Why would you need them? Her response was identical to what Jarael provides: "Entertainment value." And thinking about it, it fit with what we'd seen in Return of the Jedi. Why does Jabba keep slave girls? Because who wants to see See-Threepio dance?
There's more to it than that, of course, but it inspired the storyline in "Dueling Ambitions." We're used to seeing slave labor in grueling industrial or agrarian conditions. But in professional sports? That was another story -- and it tied neatly into some things in real-life sports history, in the days when some contracts were the equivalent of indentured servitude. A lot of the terminology that exists even now in sports labor relations evokes considerations of property and freedom: "Trades." "Restricted free agents." "Franchise players." (Even a certain trading-card game/cartoon/video game is about collecting and trading dueling creatures for sport. No one's saying they're mistreated — but they are stuck in a ball all day, and they're not often asked whether they're in the mood to fight!)
So the super-sized dueling league, as imagined here, might well have to rely on a network of talent it can absolutely control -- the duelists having no more say than a horse in a horserace. To control the duelists, they'd need leverage -- and control of the media surrounding them. That suggested the scam that Gryph attempts to run in #39 -- his own version of "past-posting," as seen in The Sting -- which accidentally uncovers the truth about what Goethar Kleej really intended to say about his situation.
Every so often, the Star Wars milieu presents a perfect situation, ready-made — and when I was trying to determine what Goethar's species would be, learning about Gotals and their sensory perception made them a perfect choice for his situation with Aubin. I don't know if we've seen a Gotal with prosthetic horns before, but we have now!
This issue also advanced Jarael's storyline with yet another return to the Jedi Tower on Taris, which we've now seen in dream sequences both in #16 and here, both depicted by Brian Ching -- and further develops the story of Zayne's absence. Fans often debate whether sequences are visions or revelatory dreams, but I'm not sure it makes much difference. We saw that both exist in Star Wars, in Episodes III and V.
There are a lot of clues in this storyline, and "Dueling Ambitions" will bear several rereadings as we go further along...
- Issue #40 was a fun personal milestone for me -- it's the number of issues Jim Starlin wrote of one of my favorite space opera comics, Dreadstar. Of course, his true count of stories in that series is much larger, when you include "Metamorphosis Odyssey" and "The Price."
- How many rounds were there between the qualifier
and what we
see at the opening here? We don't get into it here, but there would
have been at least one, and probably no more than two. The final
eight-player duel would come from four semifinal bouts with 32
duelists; these are what we see at the opening. (Remember, two players
advance from a field of eight.) A quarterfinal round would require 16
bouts involving 128 duelists; another round out would involve 64 bouts
and 512 duelists. That's a nice round number — and we've seen from the
NCAA that you can run several qualifiers simultaneously. So the Tandem
might have been a qualifier, a quarterfinal, and a semifinal; plugging
in another round is possible, taking us out to 256 bouts and 2048
duelists, but would require round-the-clock fights in different parts
of Jervo's World. Going north of that would involve multiple sites, I
would have to imagine.
- There are several jet-pack users in the games,
as we see
here. Under the rules we imagined for the aerials, it doesn't matter
what you use to get airborne, as long as you start the event with the
ability to fly (you couldn't get through the scream-tubes
- We don't really get a close look at the jet-pack
assailant in Goethar's arena, but the script had him as a Klatooinian.
He's not the same guy as in the other bout, as it was going on
elsewhere on Jervo's World. When they're running the big tournaments,
not all the events necessarily begin in the central Hub arena (or some
may start there, but the riders are expected to enter the satellite
arenas so another event can begin). Again, there's a miniatures
adventure in this for someone someplace...
- Regard the identical sound effect from issue #6
when the window of the tower breaks. I mean, literally, the SAME SOUND
EFFECT, plucked from the original lettering file! Mike Heisler saves
everything! Eagle-eyed readers may also find the shot from Rohlan's
face-mask in the dream-sequence somewhere else in the series...
- We begin to see the scale of Jervo's World when
we see that they have landing bays big enough to accommodate Hot
- Regard again the holographic nature of Goethar's
the arena; it's why the Krish let him talk, since they control who
- Aubin's problems seemed very amenable to
solutions; I don't know if that's been pursued elsewhere before in
stories with Gotals, but it was a natural here.
- This is our first non-holographic meeting with
Jervo since waaaay back in #1. He's
no prettier in person!
- The buildings we see with Jervo's office are
actually the spires that top the space station.
- Gryph's "tub of goo" line goes way back to
vintage David Letterman,
who on the old NBC show in 1985 harangued Atlanta Braves reliever Terry Forster
for days, calling him a "fat tub of goo." After being berated for days,
Forster came on the show for one of the more prickly guest appearances
in talk show memory. I just remember the expression as something one
did not want to be called, and something Gryph was more than likely to
apply to Jervo!