A&A The Official John Ostrander Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Literature' started by The Gatherer, Feb 26, 2002.

  1. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    I'm curious.

    Did you know Jan before you two started working together? Was the involvment of one what got the other involved ?[face_plain]

    Oh and also think you could let us in on who is doing the art for H&D [face_mischief]
  2. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>Did you know Jan before you two started working together? Was the involvment of one what got the other involved

    Oh and also think you could let us in on who is doing the art for H&D<<

    Hey Weezer. The aretist for H&D is C.P. Smith who is new to me.

    I've known Jan (and her husband, Tom Mandrake) for what seems like lightyears. They live about 10 minutes away and, when I was first hired to do an arc (which turned out to be TWILIGHT), I recommended Jan. She and I have done work elsewhere before, notably on HAWKWORLD at DC and a few specials. Great lady and a wonderful artist -- but you already knew that last part<g..

    John Ostrander
  3. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>Who did I like? Well, right now Aayla is my favorite EU character, bar none. She is just such a strong character with something about her that makes her endearing. Personally, I'd like to see her bump into Senator Orn Free Taa. Be an interesting meeting. T'ra Saa from Darkness is also interesting. Reminds me a lot of the Jedi who became a tree in Tales of the Jedi. Interesting connection between her and Thome. I thought love was forbidden by the Jedi! But then again, with Anakin and Qui-Gon, that rule seems to get fudged a LOT.

    >>Seriously, there has NEVER been a character since John started writing the book I DIDN'T like. I have preferences and favorites, but I love them all. Speaks well of his writing.

    >>Speaking of which, a big disappointment is finding out that Heart of Fire will not be included with the Darkness TPB. I REALLY wanted this story, mainly for the bridge between Tim Truman and John. John using the Jedi Padawan who recently saw her master slaughtered by Aurra Sing to tie into Quinlan and his story. <<

    Thanks, Matt! T'raa Saa WAS inspired by the other Jedi that you mentioned. Speaking on the "no love" rule, I saw George Lucas quoted on Ananova as saying that the Jedi are NOT celibate. They don't form "attachments" (he said) but ther aren't celibate. So who knows? Definitely seems to be a spark between them, doesn't there?

    I'm also surprised to hear that "Heart of Fire" WON'T be in the Darkness tpb. I'll have to check that out if I can. First I heard of it. I'll try and let you know what I find out.

    All the best

    John
  4. MattPeriolat Jedi Knight

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    Aug 16, 2001
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    Thanks John!

    What an interesting reply re: Saa and Thome. I noticed a panel, I think in Darkness #3 that seemed similar in pose to some of the still shots of Anakin and Padme. Very anxious to see how this plays out.

    Re: no Heart of Fire in Darkness. That comes from a message from Jan in the Lit forum. There apparently wasn't enough space for it. Now, I've never wanted to be wrong so much in my life on this one! So if I am wrong, someone correct me please!

    Oh and BTW, I noticed you had a filler shot on DC's Spectre coming up! Really looking forward to that!
  5. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    John,

    my TFAW order with Dev. Version 2 and Rite of Passage 1 finally came (and they threw in the the FCD comic). I must admit that I wasn't too impressed with DV1, but #2 was simply side-splitting! It was great! :D Rite of Passage was good, too.
  6. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    John, I was wondering about your writting style.

    I know that some comic authors plan everything when they write. Including bubble placement and panel shape, size, and positioning.

    Others like Bendis, set it up more like a movie script. They tell what the action might look like but leave most of it up to the artist.

    Another format I've heard of is the Marvel style, pioneered by Stan Lee. He would write a basic plot, then give that to an artist then write dialog and other stuff based on the artist's work.

    So how do you write. If its possible do you think you could show us some samples of past work?
  7. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>John, I was wondering about your writting style.
    >>I know that some comic authors plan everything when they write. Including bubble placement and panel shape, size, and positioning.
    >>Others like Bendis, set it up more like a movie script. They tell what the action might look like but leave most of it up to the artist.
    >>Another format I've heard of is the Marvel style, pioneered by Stan Lee. He would write a basic plot, then give that to an artist then write dialog and other stuff based on the artist's work.
    >>So how do you write. If its possible do you think you could show us some samples of past work?

    Wow. Really interesting question. Let's see if I can manage a relatively coherent answer<g> that is ALSO relatively brief AND middling interesting itself.

    There's two primary styles of scripting in comics -- PLOT FIRST (what you call Marvel style) and full script, which basically has everything in it when it goes to the artist. I've worked both. It depends both on the artist and, sometimes, my familiarity with the artist. For example, with Jan Duursema it is always plot first. In fact, Jan and I will sit together and hammer out the overall plot together. Jan likes a LOT on input and I'm happy to oblige with her (I wouldn't with every other artist). OTOH, both STARK HYPERSPACE WAR and THE DEVARONIAN WAY were done full script.

    When I'm working plot first, I usually break it down to page and panel. Some writers just like to break it down by page but I like page/panel because that makes sure that I don't OVERPACK the plot. Pages with a lot of action have fewer panels -- 3 or less. More talky pages can have more panels but I try not to do more than six although there IS the classic 9 panel grid which i sometimes use. In general, I try to average about five panels per page. I describe the action in each panel, keeping to ONE primary action per panel and using ACTIVE verbs. "He runs" is a LOT easier to draw than "he is happy".

    I don't mandate panel size or placement, usually, although if I have an effect in mind, I say so. Some very talented writers, like the the late great Archie Goodwin, not only did do that but would draw little thumbnails to illustrate what they meant.

    If the artist wants to add a panel or even condense the action a little, I'm okay with that IF they know what they're doing and it doesn't screw up a plot point that's important. i also try to give an idea of the emotional states of the characters and maybe some idea of what is being said. That helps the artist with the "acting" of the character. If there is going to be a fair amount of dialogue in the panel, I try to warn the artist so I don't get a postage stamp sized panel for the explanation of the plot (which HAS happened). But I try to leave room for the artist and their vision as well.

    Some very talented artist (including many of the Brit artists I've worked with) prefer a full script. In that form, I tell what happens in the panel and give all the dialogue and sound effects. Once it's left my computer, I may not even see the art until its published.

    There are plusses and minuses with both approaches. Full script gives me more control over the pacing but takes longer to do. OTOH, once it's done, I'm done. Plot first CAN allow for a greater interaction between the artist and writer; I've had occassions where the artist will take the plot and up it a notch and then I get to bounce off their work when I script it. Easier to make the dialogue "fit" the art as well and it usually is quicker.

    Balloon placement often comes back to me when I'm doing plot first but, when it's full script, I feel it's the artist's job as it becomes part of the design element.

    I once saw an Alan Moore full script, by the way. I think it was 24 pages for an eight page backup. It had everything including the titles to the books in the library in one panel and what Allan had for breakfast that morning when he sat down to write it. Just amazing. I don't know if he still works that way.

    There's no ONE BEST way to write comics. There's only wha
  8. Mavrick889 Jedi Master

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    That's very interesting. I had been wondering how one goes about scripting a comic book for a while.

    John, you obviously outline, but what happens if you start to realize you're running out of room in an issue, or if you realize there's not enough story for an issue? Do you do a rewrite? Do you just keep going, keeping that in mind?
  9. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    May 16, 2001
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    Thanks John verrry interesting.
  10. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>John, you obviously outline, but what happens if you start to realize you're running out of room in an issue, or if you realize there's not enough story for an issue? Do you do a rewrite? Do you just keep going, keeping that in mind?

    Actually, I don't really outline per se. I generally have an overall plot synopsis before I begin on the individual issues. LFL wants approval at that stage. That gives me a fair idea of what I have to achieve in a given issue. Beyond that is what i call "word surfing" -- i throw myself into it and just write and see what happens. I discover things as I go; often the characters will surprise me. i sometimes learn about them AS I write them. That's when it's real fun for me.

    This approach has been facilitated by computers which allows me to try an alternate version or to cut and paste if I want. If I have too little story (NOT what usually happens), i can usually open up a fight scene by using fewer panels on those pages. If I'm running short (more often the case), then I go back and prune. See what i can condense here, snip there, and save a page or two. I don't usually need more than that. I've been about 20 years in the business so I have a fair idea of how to pace things. Sometimes it gets cramped anyway.

    Working with page and panel breakdowns for a plot, I know a few things. For example, I'm probably going to average four panels a page. Some pages a little more, some a little less. Four to five panels per page. I have twenty two pages per issue. Minus a splash page if I'm using one. That gives me 85 to 109 or 110 panels per issue, roughly with each panel having ONE action per panel. Not a lot. You can try it at home. Each panel should have a declarative sentence with an active verb. Each action should lead to the next. For example:

    Quin enters the hall,
    He stops to chat with Aayla.
    Yoda enters on his flying chair.
    Yoda instructs the two Jedi about their mission.
    Quin and Aayla race from the hall.

    Not exciting but it is an example. Those would be five panels and about one page. You add in camera angles and a sense as to whether the shot is an establishing shot (long shot), a medium shot, or a CU as though it were a movie script. Then you also add in what is being discussed and the character's reactions to it. Do they frown? laugh? Rub their chin thoughtfully? And you ant to know what their motivations are, what are their needs, desires, and goals. What do they reveal? What do they conceal? What are we telling the readers here and what do we save for later?

    And you want to do it in such a way that the reader doesn't SEE you working -- that it all flows naturally and clearly and cleanly. if the reader gets confused, you've lost them. If its too unbelievable, you've lost them. If it's boring, you have most definitely lost them.

    What you have going FOR you is that -- the reader WANTS to be told a story. They want something they can get lost in, with characters they care about or at least find compelling. They WANT it to be wonderful; most readers are rooting for you when they start reading. That's why they feel so disappointed when it's not good enough.

    Me? i LOVE stories -- I love telling them, I love being told them. And that's what i try to put into my work.

    Sorry. Another VERY long post but it is a topic that means a lot to me.

    All the best

    John
  11. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

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    Aug 2, 1999
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    John, we LOVE the long posts. We love to get into the minds of authors! :)
  12. Ana Vitorrian Jedi Knight

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    Mar 2, 1999
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    We'll see you at the San Diego Comic-Con this summer, right???

    I hope so . . . my most recent SDCC update also seems to indicate another SW Literature Panel . . . so I hope to see you on it!!!

    Keep up the outstanding work and I dug your last post . . . it's always nice to see the different aspects in bring the comics together to finished product!!!

    Best,

    Ana V
  13. MattPeriolat Jedi Knight

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    Aug 16, 2001
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    I agree! A.) I hope both Jan and John can make San Diego this year and b.) I've found the posts on his writing very insightful. John has a way of writing that tells a lot of story in a very compact way. Something not easy to do, I assure you. I've been READING comics about as long as John has been writing and I love stories that, while moving along a major plot, also have enough room to tell their own stories. I've particularly enjoyed Darkness and Stark Hyperspace for this reason: we got the stories on Quin fighting the vampire Dark Jedi and Aalya returning from the Dark Side and then we have a WONDERFUL story told totally in flashback. Add to that we had about six or seven new characters added to the stories and adding new subplots. And best of all, I could keep track of everything without the use of a flowchart!

    John did it right and to a T. It's also part of the reason why I kind of hate having the stories broken up into 22 page segments. So much more satisfying to be able to have them all in one sitting.

    The only problem is I already want Rite of Passage and Honor and Duty over with so we can get to more goodies! Not that I don't like the stories, I love them. Just... this Jedi lacks patience!
  14. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    May 16, 2001
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    Thanks for more great insight John. :D

    Here is another behind the scenes thing I've been wondering about. What is it like to work with LFL ?[face_plain]

    If you could can you explain how the checking phase that you've spoken of. Maybe some examples of what they have said you couldn't use. Does LFL "check up" on you from time to time or do you just get the story checked then its off to the races?

    Also having worked for another company that is very protective of their characters (Marvel) how do they compare? Did one give more leway than the other?
  15. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>We'll see you at the San Diego Comic-Con this summer, right???

    I hope so . . . my most recent SDCC update also seems to indicate another SW Literature Panel . . . so I hope to see you on it!!!

    Keep up the outstanding work and I dug your last post . . . it's always nice to see the different aspects in bring the comics together to finished product!!!

    Best,

    Ana V <<

    Thanks, Ana. I'm sorry to have to say that it's UNLIKELY that i will be able to go to SD this year. Time and finances simply do not permit. (I'm not ruling it out ENTIRELY but it does seem extremely unlikely at this point.) I'll keep telling little stories here of how i work and such if you and the others seem interested.

    All the best

    John
  16. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >> I've found the posts on his writing very insightful. John has a way of writing that tells a lot of story in a very compact way. Something not easy to do, I assure you. I've been READING comics about as long as John has been writing and I love stories that, while moving along a major plot, also have enough room to tell their own stories. I've particularly enjoyed Darkness and Stark Hyperspace for this reason: we got the stories on Quin fighting the vampire Dark Jedi and Aalya returning from the Dark Side and then we have a WONDERFUL story told totally in flashback. Add to that we had about six or seven new characters added to the stories and adding new subplots. And best of all, I could keep track of everything without the use of a flowchart!<<

    Thanks very kindly, Matt! One of the things I strive to go for IS clarity which does NOT mean simplistic. Let me give another example. Take a look at the opening sequence in the first issue of RITE OF PASSAGE, the current issue. This is the sequence with how Aayla was first discovered by a very young Quin. We actually use a very sophisticated narrative device. First of all, this whole sequence is set some 15-20 years in the past of "current" continuity (the time setting of the rest of the arc). Secondly, WITHIN that, we start you in the middle and then flashback a little, DURING the fight, to show you how Quin got INTO that situation. WHY did we do it that way? First of all, we wanted to throw the reader into the middle of some action BUT there was a backstory to that action that also needed to be told. Also, by cutting between the two scenes, we created a sort of narrative tension as well. IF we did that correctly (and I think everyone seems to accept it), you didn't get lost or confused. Finally, we use close-ups of aayla's face -- the first as a real little twi'lek and then the second as her adult self -- to bridge VISUALLY between then and the "now" in which the rest of the story is being told. This is actually a VERY complex narrative technique and i think we pulled it off. Comics are NOT for dummies!<g>

    >>John did it right and to a T. It's also part of the reason why I kind of hate having the stories broken up into 22 page segments. So much more satisfying to be able to have them all in one sitting.<<

    It's also part of the structural challenge -- cna I make it work as 22 page installments AND, at the same time, work so that when it is gathered into a TPB, it reads more or less seamlessly? I'd also note that part of the FUN of the 22 page segments IS having to wait between segments; the delicious anticipation that CAN add to the enjoyment. Or did when I first started reading. -- back in the stone ages.<g>

    >>The only problem is I already want Rite of Passage and Honor and Duty over with so we can get to more goodies! Not that I don't like the stories, I love them. Just... this Jedi lacks patience!<<

    I once wrote a character who said, "Patience is a virtue. . .and I am not a virtuous person!"<g>

    All the best

    John
  17. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>Here is another behind the scenes thing I've been wondering about. What is it like to work with LFL
    >>If you could can you explain how the checking phase that you've spoken of. Maybe some examples of what they have said you couldn't use. Does LFL "check up" on you from time to time or do you just get the story checked then its off to the races?

    The story is checked at every level. We start with a plot overview for the arc or the storyline. Here I indicate who the characters are (including the new ones, if any) and summarize the overall plot. This can be about 5-10 pages. LFL reviews this and we find out whether the general notion flies. If i'm doing full script, i write that and this is also reviewed. If plot, then I do a page/panel breakdown as I indicated above. This would be reviewed when I script the art as well.

    Pencils and inks are also reviewed, as is the coloring, I believe. The reviews may be blanket approval or diapproval or a condioned approval -- approved but with notes for changes. Generally, I've found them not to be terrible, some times very helpful and, in some cases, if I have a solid argument, I can make it. For example, LFL also mentioned that the Morgukai calling the Jedi "Jeedai" might make people think they were Vong. I pointed out that, in the Galactic Phrasebook, it appears under the Hutts language, which was why we used it. LFL then okayed it. In all cases, LFL has approval and, if they don't approve, it doesn't happen.

    >>Also having worked for another company that is very protective of their characters (Marvel) how do they compare? Did one give more leway than the other?<<

    It depends on what I'm working on at the other company and, sometimes, the editor. DH and LFL have been very supportive of the work I've done, especially in connection with Jan. We were surprised, frankly, that we got to use Count Dooku in the current story. Jan and I were amazed that we were allowed to use Darth Sidious briefly at the end of TWILIGHT. And there were scenes in THE DEVARONIAN WAY that I NEVER thought they would let me do (although it helps in that Villie is so obviously lying and the characters are so WAY out of character; I had particular fun messing with Yoda!<g>).

    Working elsewhere, it depends on the character(s). A lot of my career (and my rep) has been based on doing something with secondary characters or characters that never quite worked (Spectre, Suicide Squad, Mr. Terrific) and, for the most part, I've preferred it because of the freedom you get, although I always have fun when I work with Batman.

    But, with SW, I am always mindful that I'm very much playing in someone else's sandbox and that all the sand belongs to George Lucas<g>.

    If you know that going in, you can deal with it, I think.

    All the best

    John
  18. MattPeriolat Jedi Knight

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    John, you're spoiling me! An amazing thing, this internet thing. Never expected this level of contact with a creator of something I do truly enjoy.

    You did say you hoped you pulled off the flasback within a flashback and back to the future in issue one of Rite of Passage. I assure you, you did. It was absolutely flawless and I'm sure Jan's art helped. I think I mentioned this in a previous post but Baby Aalya caught my eye as much as the adult. It's getting to the point where I'm not sure who I'd rather see the story focus on, Aalya or Quin.

    It comes down to something said about Episode II way back last summer. I can look at the current ongoing and just simply say "This is Star Wars." What more need be said?
  19. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >>You did say you hoped you pulled off the flasback within a flashback and back to the future in issue one of Rite of Passage. I assure you, you did. It was absolutely flawless and I'm sure Jan's art helped. I think I mentioned this in a previous post but Baby Aalya caught my eye as much as the adult. It's getting to the point where I'm not sure who I'd rather see the story focus on, Aalya or Quin.

    Thanks. I don't think i would've attempted it (the flashback within a flashback) without Jan. While CONCEPTUALLY it should work, you need an artist whose clarity of storytelling can pull it off and Jan has that in spades. Especially since, so often, the transition device is going to be visual. The CHARACTERIZATION that Jan puts into her art is also very special. The "acting" (by which i mean the expressions and how the character PHYSICALLY expresses themself) is always terrific. She also gives a WONDERFUL sense of SPACE. She really thinks things through. A good example are the "windows" in the caves in Ryloth; she gave a lot of thought as to what they were and how they would function. All these choices convey, on some level, INFORMATION to the reader. Even if you aren't specifically AWARE of each thing, the rightness and appropiateness of it DOES resonate and helps convey a world and a culture. I admit to being highly prejudiced but I think Jan is the the best SW artist in comics.

    And don't worry. You WILL be seeing more of Aayla.

    John
  20. MattPeriolat Jedi Knight

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    You nailed it when you said characterzation, John. It's why I like Aayla so much. In ROP, with Baby Aayla, Jan had me looking at her eyes the whole time, just like Quin. Both as a baby and an adult, Aayla comes off as very quiet, very gentle. But there is this sense of speed about her...

    She is NOT the only character I like, but she is my favorite, easily.
  21. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    May 16, 2001
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    This might be better suited for Jan, but I'm going to ask you anyways.

    Is there anything in AOTC that is going to change your approach to SW Republic. Specificaly I was wondering about saber colors but if there is anything else I would be interested in hearing about it.
  22. jfostrander Writer: -Legacy -Republic/Jedi/Purge

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    >> Is there anything in AOTC that is going to change your approach to SW Republic. Specificaly I was wondering about saber colors but if there is anything else I would be interested in hearing about it.<<

    Not so much lightsaber colors but everything else? Oh yeah. There's SOOO much new info. Also, there's a quote I read that George Lucas made over on Ananova that the Jedi were not celibate. They didn't form ATTACHMENTS, he siad, but they weren't celibate.


    Hmmmmmmm.<g>

    I'm also going to a meeting out in Oregon with DH and LFL. iI suspect THAT will REALLY form my thinking about SW Republic. I'll be gone about a week, in between going there and seeing family on the way back. i don't know how much I'll be able to talk about it but i think it's going to be pretty interesting.

    All the best

    John
  23. weezer Jedi Grand Master

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    Cool John.

    Have a safe trip and bring us back lots of goodies :D :p
  24. The Gatherer Jedi Youngling

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    So if the Jedi don't form attachments, yet are not celibate... does that mean the Jedi sleep around?!
  25. MattPeriolat Jedi Knight

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    Well, there have to be exceptions made to the rule anyway to allow for Ki Adi Mundi and for Nelya Halcyon (hope I spelled that right!). Plus, we have Qui-Gonn Jinn having an attraction to Tali and now Anakin with Padme.

    So this whole "Love is forbidden" thing has more holes it it than a slice of Swiss.

    As much as this, I'm also interested in how much the ability to tell stories about the Clone Wars and events between Episodes I and II is going to be relaxed.

    Useless question and probably the wrong forum: does anyone know how long Del Ray and Dark Horse have contracts to publish SW material?