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John Jackson Miller Chats With Us About Mass Effect & Star Wars

Mass Effect ComicsDark Horse Month is in full swing with an excellent interview with John Jackson Miller, writer of the Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knight Errant comics, as well as the Knight Errant novels!

We chatted with him about what’s it’s like to tackle his third Mass Effect miniseries, how Knight Errant‘s Kerra Holt has evolved since Aflame, and more. Plus, we’ve got previews of both Mass Effect: Invasion #2 and Star Wars: Knight Errant – Deluge #4, out November 16!

TFAW.com: I’m sure you get this question all the time, but–do you play Mass Effect? Were you a fan before you started writing the comics?

John Jackson Miller: I played the first game, and enjoyed it; there’s a lot of thought that went into the milieu. By the time the second game came along, I was in the middle of writing a novel, but I got to watch a playthrough, which was probably more efficient–I get killed a lot! But I got to see the sights, and that was the important thing.

TFAW.com: What’s it like working with the folks at Dark Horse?

JJM: It’s great! The people at Dark Horse know an awful lot about putting out quality comics, and I’ve learned an enormous amount.

TFAW.com: Mass Effect: Invasion in the third Mass Effect miniseries you’ve written. Looking back at Redemption, has anything changed in the way you approach the material?

JJM: With Redemption, we were really getting our feet wet and figuring out how to do Mass Effect in comics form. As each of the stories has come out, we’ve gotten a little more comfortable working in the Mass Effect universe. We probably don’t have to ask quite as many question as we used to.

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TFAW.com: What’s your working relationship like with Mac Walters?

JJM: Mac’s very helpful. Obviously, he knows what’s coming up in the games, and has been able to work a lot of that into the plots. But he’s also let us put more of our own stamp on things as we’ve gone along. On Invasion, for example, he provided the broad strokes of the plot and then I fleshed it out. It helps me in scripting to have a hand in the plotting, and I appreciate that we’ve had the chance to do that.

TFAW.com: The comics weave in and out of the game–for example, Invasion is the lead-in to Mass Effect 3. How do you keep track of all the details?

JJM: It really helps that we have Mac to explain to us the state of play in the galaxy at this exact moment. We know what other people in the galaxy know about or think about the events of Mass Effect 2, for example, and that is very helpful in crafting our comics world.

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TFAW.com: Mining station Omega has been hotly contested for years by various would-be conquerors–what makes it such a prize?

JJM: Location, location, location! It’s situated near the Omega-4 relay, which is the opening of the corridor to the center of the galaxy–a hard-to-reach place that’s both a very secure part of space, and also well-stocked with alien Reaper technology. Cerberus has been using Omega as a supply port for its operations, but things are about to change.

TFAW.com: It seems like Aria T’Loak and Cerebus’s General Petrovsky have a grudging respect for each other. How will their relationship develop during this series?

Star Wars: Knight Errant ComicsJJM: Through trial by fire, they’ll each see what the other is made of. Petrovsky was a lot of fun to write–my grad school degree was in Soviet Studies, and Petrovsky is a very old-school soldier with one foot in military history. He looks at the conflict in the galaxy as part of a larger tradition, and he’s able to apply some of what he knows from the past to the present. Aria doesn’t always appreciate that, but she does respect results.

TFAW.com: At the end of issue #1, it looks like Colonel Ashe, a Cerebus operative, is pulling a double cross. Is this on behalf of Cerebus, or some other organization?

JJM: He calls the Illusive Man, so Cerberus it is. But exactly what he has planned, we’ll soon see!

TFAW.com: You’re also in the midst of writing Star Wars: Knight Errant – Deluge, the second Kerra Holt miniseries. How has Kerra changed since Aflame?

JJM: Kerra has lived through the events of the Knight Errant prose novel, and has continued to find that things out in Sith space are pretty complicated. In Aflame, she arrived with a plan, a concrete goal, and allies. Since then, she’s had to make it up as she goes along, she’s had to limit her ambitions to what’s actually possible, and she’s had to rely mostly on herself. It’s frustrating to her–she wants to do so much. But she has a lot to learn about whom she can trust, and whom she can’t.

TFAW.com: With Mass Effect: Invasion and Star Wars: Knight Errant, you’ve got two strong, determined female leads: Pirate Queen Aria and Jedi Kerra. Do you think they would get along if they ever met?

JJM: I kind of doubt it–they’re both very strong-willed, and I don’t think Kerra would approve of how Aria runs her space station.

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TFAW.com: What are your biggest challenges writing for two beloved franchises such as Star Wars and Mass Effect?

JJM: It is necessary to keep an eye on what’s been established, so characters are acting consistently with the world that they’re living in. With Star Wars, for example, it’s a little easier to know to avoid Earth-isms when characters are speaking; with Mass Effect, it’s more a matter of whether people would still be using a certain turn of phrase in the future. Again, we get a lot of help on that from Bioware.

TFAW.com: In Deluge, Kerra has finally returned to her homeworld, Aquilaris, but found that it–and the people she left behind–are not at all what she was expecting. How will this experience change her?

JJM: Kerra doesn’t have a lot of patience for human (and alien) weakness, and it shows through in Deluge. She’s got to learn that not everyone is an iron tower of will, like she is. It is a hard lesson to learn.

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TFAW.com: Kerra’s continually been ripped away from the people she loves and depends on–her family, her Master, Vannar Treece–she’s always left to fend for herself. Is this going to change any time soon?

JJM: Deluge presents her with allies she thinks she can trust, in the form of Captain Jenn Devaad and her fighter squadron. But things are never that simple in Sith space!

TFAW.com: You’ve written a lot of wonderful science-fiction comics now–do you plan to continue in this vein? What would you like to do next?

JJM: I love science-fiction comics and hope to continue writing for a long time. We have Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – War coming out in January (pre-order now!) and it is a lot of fun. Zayne Carrick gets drafted into the Mandalorian Wars!

And what I’ve been writing in prose–including a short story for Baen Books’ 2012 anthology Armored, and a new novella for Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith, out next year from Del Rey–has been science fiction, too, so I’m getting to work a lot on what I enjoy!

TFAW.com: What comics are you reading?

JJM: My collection ranges from the Golden Age to present, and I find myself hopping from present to past and back again an awful lot. Just today I was reading some old Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge stories–they never go out of style!

Thanks again to John Jackson Miller for a delightful interview. Make sure to check out our Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knight Errant comics now and save 10-50%

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Written by Elisabeth@TFAW

Elisabeth has been reading comics since we was a wee girl. She's obsessed with John Byrne, Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and making the perfect scrambled eggs. Follow her on @Twitter to get bonus conversations with her cat!