Saturday, July 30, 2016

Adventurous


Star Wars Adventure Journal, Volume 1, #3 (WEG, August 1994). The least inspiring one so far, in my opinion. A cool article about cartoonist Al Williamson who drew a syndicated newspaper strip from 1981 to 1984. Apparently Dark Horse Comics collected these into a collected, edited, and colored comic book in 1993.

Another good tidbit was entitled "The Business of Bacta". It seemed like less adventures and more "wall of text" background stuff and/or short stories in this issue. Onward to #4!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rogue Leader

    

Issues 1-3 "X-Wing Rogue Leader"
Released in August, September, October, November 2005.
Set immediately after Battle of Endor, ~4 ABY
Written by Haden Blackman
Penciller Tomas Giorello
Letterer Michael David Thomas
Cover Art Gary Erskine

The Rogues Return, sort of. Dark Horse Comics released this three issue 'Rogue Squadron Origin Story' in 2005, seven years after the end of the great Rogue Squadron run.

The tale opens with the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor; the Rogues are split up and helping out with clean-up and salvage operations. The squadron is still led by Commander Luke Skywalker (Rogue Leader). Wedge is also a Commander, but his call-sign is Rogue Two. Captains Ten Numb and Tycho Celchu are there, as is Lt. Wes Janson ("Nice shot, Janson!").

Ackbar gives them a mission. Go to Corellia (still held by the Imps) and scout out the situation. Assess the current Imperial presence and report back. Of course it all goes awry! Imps attack! Ten Numb is captured, and over the course of the short series is tortured to death by a ruthless General Weir. The other Rogues work with the Selonians to find Weir's secret base and kick some.

At the end, Luke steps aside, handing the reins of Rogue Squadron to Wedge. Ackbar leads Wedge to a briefing room filled with volunteer pilots. Wedge is tasked with hand-picking his new squadron...and the rest is history!

A pretty good story. Nice art. Good action. Glossy pages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rogue Squadron Wrap-Up


Issue "Handbook: Volume One"
Released in July 1998.
Written by Peet Janes
Penciller various
Letterer various
Cover Art John Nadeau

The last of the Dark Horse Comics X-Wing: Rogue Squadron comic books. This issue includes a bunch of information on the making of the comic series and specific details about different characters and ships and whatnot.

A nice read. A couple of things struck me as very interesting. 

One: Michael Stackpole was approached to write the X-Wing novels first. In an off-hand comment when meeting with a Lucasfilm exec, he mentioned he'd like to do comics one day. That comment led directly to this memorable run from Dark Horse. Stackpole envisioned the comics as a prequel for the novel series.

Two: Peet Janes, the writer for this Handbook, suggests in his closing comments that Stackpole was "...the original builder of the squadron..." Interesting. The confusing history of "Red Squadron", "Rogue Flight", "Red Group", "Rogue Group" and whatnot, from Yavin, through Hoth to Endor is not really clear. Somewhere along the way Rogue Flight or Rogue Group, a couple of T-47 snowspeeders led by Luke Skywalker became the basis for the iconic "Blue Angels" of Star Wars; perhaps the best addition of any from the offerings of the now-Legends Expanded Universe. Credit goes to, who else, Zahn:
"And then in 1995, out of the blue, I picked up the phone and there was Mike. It seemed he'd just been contracted to write a series of Star Wars X-Wing books for Bantam and wanted to discuss the Rogue Squadron group I'd created for my own Star Wars books."―Timothy Zahn.

Three: Stackpole spoke to Zahn and Ann Crispin about Baron Soontir Fel, just as he was being created as an "Imperial Red Baron" for the "In the Empire's Service" story arc. The initial Red Baron idea was Dark Horse editor Peet Jane's. Both Crispin and Zahn decided to include Fel in their current projects: The Hutt Gambit (1997) and Vision of the Future (1998).


The timeline looks something like this:

Heir to the Empire novel (creates Rogue Squadron as they exist in 9 ABY): June 1991
Stackpole meets at Skywalker Ranch to discuss books (and comics): July 1994
Dark Horse X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics: first issue on July, 1995
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron (the first novel by Stackpole): released January, 1996


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rogue Squadron Oddballs


   

Issue "1/2"
Released in February 1997.
Set in the Galactic Civil War Era, 0 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Gary Erskine
Letterer Annie Parkhouse
Cover Art Christopher Moeller

Issue "Special"
Released in August 1995.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Ryder Windham
Penciller John Nadeau
Letterer Steve Dutro
Cover Art Mark Harrison

These two are technically a part of the Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic legacy from Dark Horse. They are both oddballs, however.

The "1/2" issue takes place right before the Battle of Yavin. Short story, older art. Good, but odd. The Rogues (before they were Rogues, I guess) start out in a bar on Commenor. A smuggler named Nera Dantels (who has a thing for Biggs Darklighter, and who would later go on to pilot a B-wing in the FFG Rebel Aces expansion set) delivers a load of astromech droids. Imperial entanglements ensue en route to the hyperspace jump point (the squadron wants to return to Yavin). One of the X-wings selflessly takes one for the team, allowing the others to make good their escape.

The "Special" issue was released as a part of a Kellogg's Apple Jacks promotion. It's a very short story with old art, odd and inconsistent material, and overall underwhelming. The action takes place on the planet Tandankin, and all the Rogues are using "Red Squadron" call signs. Wedge is a Commander. Luke is there. Eh.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A-Wing Issues

I love the RZ-1 A-wing interceptor. A very small, very fast craft hand-built for speed. Some of these awesome starfighters incorporated actual wood furnishings. Very cramped cockpits assured that the tallest pilots in the Rebellion couldn't fly them.

This is a brief study to set the record straight, as I see it. Somebody at Lucasfilms made a mistake, back in the day, and we are now paying the price. The mistake? An incorrect quoted length for the A-wing of 9.6 meters. The price? Star Wars Rebels actually scaled their version of the A-wing to those dimensions (as did FFG) and it looks silly! Just look at the cartoon pilot swimming in his luxurious cockpit. You could fit three people in there, plus a Wookiee! That's just one of the latest attacks on Star Wars perpetrated by the Rebels people. More on that, later.


Many have tackled this subject before, some incorporating screen captures and relative size comparisons, etc. Here is one such discussion from FFG discussion boards, and one from BoardGameGeek (and another, for fun).

My argument relies on simply two variables. Observed cockpit width (inferred from some movie stills) and the ratio of that width to the overall length of the craft.

First, cockpit width. Here are some legitimate, actual A-wing pilots for you, taken from the original source: Return of the Jedi. Behind the scenes, they are probably being filmed in the same A-wing "set", I'd imagine. Arvel Crynyd, Jake Farrell, and Sila Kott.




I submit to you that these three are fairly cramped in the small A-wing cockpit. Measuring myself across the shoulders, I took a guess that this is something like 2 feet across. Modern jetfighters (more on that in a minute) agree very closely with this "shoulder width" measurement guess.

Here is a drawing of the A-wing where we can get the ratio between the shoulder width and the overall craft length. I drew a orange highlighter line across the area of the cockpit where I suspect the pilot's shoulders are located (halfway back in the "rear section" of the canopy). On this particular printout, that shoulder width measurement was 18mm. The overall craft length was found to be 185mm, for a craft length of ~10 times the shoulder room measurement. Ten times two feet is twenty feet, or ~6.1 meters.

Working backwards, if we actually think 9.6m is the correct ship length, we need to assume that the shoulder width allowed for the pilot is 3 feet. That is a very roomy cockpit, much like what Star Wars: Rebels illustrates incorrectly.


Just for a proof of this "shoulder width to length" concept, I applied the same technique to a real world aircraft: the F 16 Falcon.

The Falcon pilot is very cramped, too. The cockpit is barely wider than their shoulders, at something like the 2 feet I guessed for the A-wing.


Applying the same logic to another scale drawing suggests that, in the case of the F 16, the shoulder width to overall length multiplier is something like 23 times.


This suggests the overall length of an F 16, just based on the apparent shoulder room for the cramped pilot, is something like 46 feet (14.0m). The actual length of the plane is 49.4 feet (15.06m). Very close, especially for such a rough method of guessing, based simply on how cramped the pilot is while flying.

Long story short: the A-wing seen in Return of the Jedi is not 9.6m long. Rebels and FFG have incorrectly repeated this mistake, and made the vessel much different from its origins. In the case of the FFG miniature, it is a faithful 1/165 scale reproduction of the A-wing (not 1/270 they were shooting for). The A-wing made by WotC for their Star Wars miniatures game is much closer to being correctly scaled, and with the advent of the FFG spare bases and pegs accessories, I have made the switch to the more correctly sized craft. I will keep the beautiful, wrong scale FFG ships somewhere safe, off to the side.


The FFG models look better, but the size was really starting to bug me.

I can't resist a few more pictures to drive the point home. Note the size of the pilot in relation to the overall craft. This is not the annoying Rebels version of the A-wing. This is the original item (with a British Royal Family shot tucked in for good measure).





***

To be complete and as fair as possible to the Star Wars Rebels depiction, here is the prototype (?) design by the great Ralph McQuarrie. I suppose it is among the first views of the fictitious craft, and it looks & feels larger than the ship that eventually appears in Return of the Jedi. I admire how Rebels often goes back to the old McQuarrie stuff for inspiration (it is the best part of the cartoon, in my mind), but don't do such a thing if it opens up a discrepancy with the OT films.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

I think there are too many colons in the title of this post, but such is life.



Just now I finished reading Aftermath: Life Debt. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It builds upon the story of Aftermath, but takes the story in different directions. Here are some observations:

1. The present-tense writing style bugged me a little bit in the first novel; in this one, I hardly noticed it. For me, first-person point of view is much more distracting.

2. I like the new characters, and it was fun to see them develop even more in this book. Even so, it was good to see more of familiar characters, especially Wedge, Leia, Chewie and Han.

3. It pleased me that the scale of this novel was bigger. While the focus of the first one was largely the events taking place on Akiva, this one focuses on Kashyyyk--a story that's been waiting to be told, and this one doesn't disappoint. While it took almost half the book to introduce the Han-and-Chewie shenanigans for which I was waiting, said shenanigans were worth the wait.

4. There are more of the Interludes that show what's happening around the galaxy. With the first novel, those were a big part of the drive to read it quickly, since they provided the first (newly) official details about what happens after Return of the Jedi. This time around, while I was intrigued by these glimpses and the hints that they might provide to other stories, I also felt impatient; I wanted to go back to the main story to see how it developed.

5. Rae Sloane is my favorite character to come out of the new canon. She's tough and smart, and makes a much better villain than many in the old books.

6. This book ties a lot more into Episode 7. I don't want to spoil things, but there are some details that I'm eager to discuss with others once they've read it.

7. It's no surprise that the novel to finish this trilogy, Empire's End, will tie into the Battle of Jakku. That means, I think, more connections and an explosive finish. I wish I didn't have to wait half a year for it. What is more, it's interesting to see how the novels in a more regulated Star Wars universe connect to each other. A character (Sloane) who appeared in A New Dawn has risen to importance, and events first introduced in Lost Stars are going to provide a climax. This feels much more orderly than the old Expanded Universe, where a lot of the character development happened retroactively. (For example, Prince Xizor became a lot more believable in the stories released after Shadows of the Empire, even though he was killed in that debut novel.)

8. Finally, I'm intrigued to see how much of this hints at developments that we'll see in Episode 8. While Lost Stars and other books in the Journey to The Force Awakens had some clues, it feels like this has many more. Time will tell, I guess.

Rogue Squadron 9

    
   

Issues 1-6 "Crimson Empire"
Released in December 1997, January, February, March, April, May 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~5 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Steve Crespo, John Nadeau
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

All good things...

The art inside this, the last miniseries within the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic run, was different yet again. Clean, simple, almost anime-like. Regular lettering.

Sate Pestage is on the run; Isard has made her move. Both the New Republic and the Imperials want Pestage. The action focuses on the planet Ciutric, where, just as the good guys break Pestage out of lockup and head for orbit, a Star Destroyer and Interdictor cruiser arrive. Rogues and ground strike team hightail it back planetside to wait for a better time to leave.

Lost the Mon Calamari pilot Ibtisam in this one. Fiery explosion and crash. Her Quarren almost-lover does not take it so well.

The loser Pestage decides to try to rejoin the Imps. They kill him.

The Rogues go for it, fight-wise, trying to damage the Interdictor enough to let them through the blockade. Horton Salm and a full wing of Y-wings appear to assist. Blockade lifted.

A great run of comics, considered to be a precursor to the X-Wing novels, also written by Michael Stackpole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rogue Squadron 8

    
   

Issues 28-31 "Masquerade"
Released in March, April, May, July 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Drew Johnson
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

Cover art is great--wait a second...is that the Falcon!? Yes, my friend, it is. Gloss pages again. Interior art is an older, less modern style. A bit simpler, or cleaner, to my eye. The lettering is the regular style.

Rogues include: Captain Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, Lt. Tycho Celchu, Derek "Hobbie" Klivian, Nrin Vakil, Ibtisam, Feylis Ardele, Avan Beruss, Plourr Ilo, Soontir Fel, Xarcess Huwla. Also seen are Han! Leia! Chewie! The Falcon! Woo hoo!

Isard is plotting an overthrow back on Imperial Center. Sate Pestage, the interim Emperor, is eager to scratch gravel, and decides to offer the Alliance a deal it  can't refuse. He'll leave Coruscant essentially undefended in exchange for safety and a handful of safe worlds to do with as he sees fit.

Winter, acting as Leia, goes to a high profile meeting on Eiattu with Tycho. They get captured, and the bad guys think they have Leia! (Hence the "Masquerade"). It seems underaged Moff Leonia Tavira (from "The Warrior Princess" story arc) is now a pirate, and wants to transfer her tortured captives to the Imps.

Meanwhile, the real Leia has slinked off to Axxila in secret to meet with Pestage in person to negotiate the terms of his surrender. 

Tycho and Winter escape the clutches of their pirate captors in a stolen Y-wing. They fly through the cityscape, trying desperately to buy some time for help to arrive. And arrive it does, in the form of their fellow Rogues.

DIE wings and other "uglies" make another appearance as the crappy scrap-built starfighters the pirates use (we saw them in "Family Ties" as well).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rogue Squadron 7

   

Issues 26-27 "Family Ties"
Released in January, February 1998.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller Jim Hall
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art John Nadeau

These two comics continue the Baron Soontir Fel storyline. The interior art is the older style. The pages are gloss. I'd consider the short storyline to be good.

Fel has become a Rogue, and now the others assist in trying to locate his missing wife, who happens to be Wedge's sister! Stang! (That wonderful expletive has made a triumphant return, here). The action takes place on Corellia, where Fel is from. We have a run-in with CorSec officer Corran Horn, who manages to take flight in a green striped X-wing at the end of the tale.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rogue Squadron 6

    
   

Issues 21-25 "In the Empire's Service & The Making of Baron Fel"
Released in August, September, October, November 1997.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole
Penciller John Nadeau
Letterer Vickie Williams
Cover Art Tim Bradstreet, John Nadeau

This is why I bought the X-Wing comics! Cover art is awesome, including two covers by one of my favorite RPG artists ever, Tim Bradstreet! Interior art is different from the previous story arc, and the lettering has that 'hand drawn' feel again. The story is great. The action is awesome. Really like this miniseries.

Rogues include: Captain Wedge Antilles, Lt. Wes Janson, Lt. Tycho Celchu, Lt. Plourr Ilo (promotion?), Hobbie Klivian, Feylis Ardele, Nrin Vakil. New recruits include Dar Keyis, Standro Jcir, Avan Beruss, Xarce Huwla. Colonel Horton Salm makes an appearance. Bad guys include Baron Soontir Fel and his 181st, including Major Turr Phennir. Ysanne Isard is the main bad guy back on Imperial Center. 

The action takes place on Brentaal IV, a rich world with ties to many in elite Imperial circles. Isard is using the world as a means to consolidate her own power.

By the end of the ride, rookies Jcir and Keyis are no longer with us and Horton Salm is promoted to General.

"The Making of Baron Fel" is different interior art yet again. It also has gloss pages. It is also great; telling the backstory of one of the coolest characters from Star Wars lore.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Demo Scenario: Imperial Crackdown

Here's a short scenario designed for use in running Age of Rebellion demos at events such as conventions and game days. It's also intended to take a party of characters from the galactic fringe and start them down the path toward fighting for the Rebellion.

-Nate

Age of Rebellion: Imperial Crackdown



Friday, July 1, 2016

Rogue Squadron 5

    
   

Issues 17-20 "Requiem for a Rogue"
Released in March, April, May, June 1997.
Set in the New Republic Era, ~4 ABY
Written by Micheal A. Stackpole and Jan Strnad
Penciller Gary Erskine
Letterer Annie Parkhouse
Cover Art Kevin Ryan, Stuart Hiner

Cover art is a bit different from the other issues. Pretty good. Interior art is good, notably nice colors inside, done by Dave Nestelle.  The story is good and features a lot of great action. 

Rogues include: Captain Wedge Antilles, Lt. Wes Janson, Lt. Tycho Celchu, Hobbie Klivian, Dllr Nep, Feylis Ardele, Ibtisam, Herian I'ngre, Nrin Vakil. 

The Rogues are tracking a lost passenger liner. They wind up on the forsaken planet of Malrev IV, where the liner has gone to ground. Something isn't right when the Rogues show up for the rescue. 

The planet begins to have a strange effect on people. Wes and Hobbie make out with some Bothan females, for instance. The good guys uncover an old Sith temple, and Dllr essentially becomes a Dark Jedi. He knows he has to 'take one for the team', however, so he works with the injured Herian, who's flying a heavily damaged X-wing, to destroy the temple...at the cost of two Rogues.

Requiem, indeed.