Thursday, May 26, 2011

Luminous Beings Are We...

"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you."
Master Yoda teaching Luke on Degobah in The Empire Strikes Back

This is one of the great teachings in the Star Wars universe. At our essence, we are all spiritual beings within physical bodies. And as spiritual beings, we must nourish our spirit and in a sense "feel the force" around us. One of the best ways to do this is through creative outlets we make for ourselves.

Star Wars fans, in my opinion, are so creative! We paint, draw, write, create and enjoy putting our own signature in the universe that George Lucas gave us some thirty-five years ago. Today, more then ever, we all need to take time to exercise our imaginations in creative ways. We spend so much time getting through the rat race of a work or school week, that we sometimes forget to get our hands and minds involved with something totally creative.

My good friend Heather has been bit by the baking bug. And recently she incorporated some of our favorite Star Wars characters into her baking projects. The Dark Lord of the Sith as well as our favorite Mandalorian bounty hunter made an appearance on two birthday cakes she baked and decorated. Talk about a work of art! You have to give it to cake decorators. They work hard making beautiful cakes with the knowledge that they are going to be eaten within minutes of their presentation.

With the unofficial start of summer this coming long weekend, find time to be creative! And as fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, we have a TON of material to work with. Find a character, story or idea and make it your own through a creative project.

Do you think Yoda decorated cakes or was he more likely to compose poetry? :)

All the best,
Mark - Co-host of TJW Podcast

PS - Stay tuned for episode 5 of the TJW Podcast! Coming soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Welcome Kerra and the Legacy of Mara

As I mentioned in episode 4 of the TJW Podcast, Dan and I are keeping up with the new comic book series Knight Errant. Our heroine, Kerra Holt, is a breath of fresh air in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I am not trying to take away from the other female Jedi Knights such as Asohka Tanno, Bariss Offee, Aayla Secura or Shak-Ti who in their own right are powerful characters in the Star Wars universe. But there is something different about Kerra Holt. As my co-host said in our discussion in the last podcast "she is an exactor of justice". She seems to be following the path similar to Qui-Gon Jinn...a path in which one takes direction from the "living force."

Another Jedi who I think also followed in a similar path was Mara Jade Skywalker. Mara is my favorite expanded universe character. Like Kerra Holt, she listened to the living force as she turned away from the dark side. And I would say that it could even be argued that she began listening to the living force back when she was still the Emperors Hand. With the upcoming re-release of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn later this summer in which we first meet Mara Jade, I thought it would be fun to mention some of my other favorite EU stories staring our favorite red headed Jedi gal pal of Luke Skywalker.

Allegiance - Timothy Zahn's novel set in the original trilogy era between A New Hope and Empire. We get to see Mara as the Emperors Hand. She has interactions with the Emperor and Darth Vader in this story. I am close to finishing it and cannot wait for the second part of this story to hit bookstores this summer. The title for this upcoming release is Choices of One.

Union - The comic trade paperback about the marriage of Luke to Mara. The cover for this comic trade paperback is really beautiful! The juxtaposition of our Jedi couple in their wedding attire and below in their more classic Jedi clothes. A fun story and a very important one well. With Luke's marriage to Mara, the Jedi stopped the practice of not having "attachments". Luke, in his wisdom, saw that the Jedi could not survive without having families to support them.

The Emperors Hand - Another comic trade paperback that shows us Mara in her role as Palpatines assassin. Great art in this comic!

Heir to the Empire Comic Trade Paperback - Don't have enough time to read the entire novel? Then pick up the comic trade paperback. We get to see Mara in her assassins gear and her first interaction with Luke.

Legacy of the Jedi: Sacrifice - A sad moment for Mara fans who read this volume in the Legacy of the Jedi series. Mara fails to defeat her nephew Jacen Solo aka Darth Caedus in an exciting yet heartbreaking duel to the death. In this duel Mara is fighting for her son and the moral good that would come with Jacen's defeat. One of the saddest moments in the novel is when she touches Luke through the force and he realizes that Mara has become one with the force. Interestingly, she makes a cameo appearance later on in the Fate of the Jedi series while Luke and Ben are mindwalking.

The Essential Guide to the Force - This guide to the history of the force is a great book to own! Lots of information on the Jedi and Sith! But even better is the outstanding art! One of the pictures is of Mara's funeral at the Jedi Temple. Mara's body begins to disappear on the alter while all the Jedi stand to honor her. The most interesting part of the picture is seeing Jacen Solo with a scowl on his face standing next to his Uncle Luke.

Let us know your favorite Mara moments!

Stay tuned for episode 5 of the TJW podcast!
All the best,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talking Tarkin

Over the past couple weeks, Star Wars fans have been reintroduced to one of the most infamous villains in the Star Wars universe...Grand Moff Tarkin. Most notably in the final three episodes from this seasons Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. I found it very interesting to see the interaction between Anakin and Tarkin at this point in the story. It has started to raise questions about their relationship. Does Tarkin know that Anakin and Vader are one in the same? Does he have a similar relationship with Emperor Palpatine?

After watching the Clone Wars episodes with Tarkin, I went back to Episodes 3 and 4 and reviewed the scenes that Grand Moff Tarkin appeared. In Episode 3 we have that very short yet powerful scene on the Star Destroyer with the Emperor, Vader and Tarkin staring out the window at the construction of the Death Star. I began to think that perhaps it was not just the Emperor and Vader wiedling the power of the Empire. While Tarkin certainly did not think highly of the Jedi (or perhaps any force user), I think he must have had a certain amount of influence and power in his own right which lead to his promotion as the administrator of the Death Star.

In Episode 4, he (and Admiral Motti) have no problem standing up to Vader. But unlike Admiral Motti who experiences a force choke at the hands of the Dark Lord, Tarkin is never intimidated by Vader or suffers any physical consequences from Vader. All of this leads me to ask what was it about Tarkin that made him such a powerful figure?

There are many places to look in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that might be able to give us some insight into everyones favorite Moff. Here are some of them:

Star Wars Radio Dramas - The National Public Radio presentation of Episode 4 does a really good job of expanding on the story of Tarkin as the Death Star administrator. He is power hungry and sees the Death Star as his ticket to ruling the universe. There is even a small backstory in which Admiral Motti approaches Tarkin to suggest that they might be able to use the Death Star to overthrow the Emperor and Vader.

Death Star - This novel by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry came out a couple years ago. I still have to read this novel myself but I have been told that it does a good job of giving us a backstory behind the construction of the battle station as well as exploring the characters of Tarkin, Vader and some of the other Imperial officers.

Darth Vader and the Lost Command comic series - The fourth issue of this comic book series came out recently. I still have to read the fourth issue but I can say that the first three issues have been excellent! Vader is sent on a mission to locate Tarkin's son who is missing. The story is by Hayden Blackman who also wrote the story for The Force Unleashed video games. I do not want to spoil the story for those who have not had a chance to pick up these issues, but I will say that this story begins to explore the twisted relationship between Vader and Tarkin.

By the way, I just received in the mail my free autographs from Stephen Stanton who is the voice actor for Captain Tarkin in the Clone Wars animated series. Check out his website for details on how to receive your free photo and autograph:

With the recent revival of Tarkin in the Star Wars universe, I am hopeful that Hasbro will also produce a Vintage Collection Grand Moff Tarkin figure.

We will chat more about Tarkin and Vader in the next episode of the podcast as well. Be sure to send us your thoughts and let us know what you think of the podcast and any topics in the Star Wars Expanded Universe!

All the best,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sketch Cards and a Great New Book!

I just got in the mail my copy of Sketch Card Mania by Randy Martinez and Denise Vasquez. What a great book! I can't wait to get out my sketching pencils and try my hand at some sketch cards! Plus, they autographed my copy and included some original hand drawn Star Wars art on the cover page! I'll have more to say about this book on the next episode of the TJW Podcast.
All the best,

A Star Wars Birthday Celebration

Today was my birthday! My wonderful wife, kids, parents and in-laws all sent me wonderful birthday wishes as well as some very nice presents. The nicest surprise came with my birthday cake. My wife treated me to a great Star Wars cake complete with Luke and Vader engaged in their final duel on the Death Star high above Endor. Here are some pics of the cake! Great job on the cake hon! :)
Love, Mark

TJW Podcast - Episode 4

We're once again traveling the Jundland Wastes! It has been a while since we did our last podcast. But we're back in the studio and getting back into the groove. This week we chat about the latest in Star Wars comics including Knight Errant and Darth Vader and the Lost Command. We touch upon some ideas concerning the original trilogy and the Star Wars EU. And we both discuss some not-so-recent EU titles that have caught our interest.