It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Tales of the Jedi comics, both to me and the expanded universe. It opened up a whole new era of storytelling in a galaxy far far away. The characters for the first time were not our old familiar heroes of the original trilogy. The lived in feel was an older lived in feel, a different era of technology, ships, clothing, architecture with new alien species and planets to visit. For me, it was also a whole new medium. It was also my first introduction to a truly interconnected universe.
I’d sampled comic books as a kid in the form of the classic Marvel ones, but couldn’t get into them. I had no regular access, no relatives willing to buy them for me. Also the Marvel method was to just throw out the story with no reference to where you were in it. They had no reference number of how many stories were in the particular arc, nor a real synopsis of how you got there.
Then Dark Empire (and Dark Horse comics) came along. I had to seriously work to find this one. I started on the second issue but it made it easy to catch up and figure out what happened before. But still, I thought it was a one time deal. I did enjoy the extra story hints within but thought that was the end of it.
Discovering Tales of the Jedi
Then I found Tales of the Jedi: The Collection in a Barnes and Noble bookstore. The graphic novel had Uliq Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon and The Saga of Nomi Sunrider. Suddenly I had new heroes, whose names I had heard in Dark Empire. It was much easier to collect these graphic novels (I was a bit late to this party!) and I soon had the set. My only challenge was the Freedon Nadd Uprising since it wasn’t included in Dark Lords of the Sith. Finally it was rereleased.
New adventures, new heroes to cheer. New tragedies and victories as we recover from the disaster. These were characters I could care about. Nomi, with her hesitation to use a lightsaber after a tragic incident. Uliq, so brash and courageous, whose very loyalty misleads him to disaster but also hope for redemption. Exar Kun who fell, out of all things, out of curiosity and impatience to learn things he wasn’t prepared for. Tott and his ability to speak to animals. Master Thon, a four legged Jedi. Odan Urr, the Jedi who would rather be reading a book than in combat. Even the background characters drew me in!
I didn’t catch up on them all until Tales of the Jedi: Fall of the Sith Empire. I couldn’t wait for a graphic novel. So, no longer being a child of limited access, I bought the individual comics. I love the covers. You line them up and they form a mosaic. There was even a Star Wars Galaxy Magazine with Leia on the cover in the same style you could add to them. It was rather appropriate, given Leia was the one who first found the holocron that introduced us.
An Interconnected Universe
These stories truly introduced me to an interconnected Expanded Universe. Suddenly the comics tied into each other. When Jedi Academy novels came out they directly referenced not only Dark Empire, but Tales of the Jedi. From then on, connections popped up everywhere. Years later my enjoyment increased even more when I finally had a computer and console to play video games. Even there, the references abound!
One of the greatest thrills I got was when the prequels were released and I finally saw what Tales of the Jedi had introduced me to. They had revealed a galaxy where Jedi were at their strength, working and fighting together to save the galaxy from the Sith. Those full scale battles I’d seen on page suddenly leaped to the screen with this later evolution of the Jedi Order. Yet the links to the ancient eras was there, revealed in the form of the Sith, with Exar Kun’s double bladed lightsaber inspiring Darth Maul’s, and the ancient Solar Sail ships clearly being the ancestors of Dooku’s ship.
I highly recommend this comic book series and I’m sorry it’s now so very hard to find. At one point, the original Tales of the Jedi Collection got renamed Knights of the Old Republic. Quite confusing given there was a game of the name (that does connect) and we actually got a comic series by that name later on. Also I understand Marvel released an omnibus of the old Dark Empire stories called Tales of the Jedi that didn’t actually have the Tales of the Jedi! Still I do highly recommend looking.
The Audio Dramas
The full cast audio dramas are also excellent. Unfortunately, only the first ones were released. That would be Tales of the Jedi and Dark Lords of the Sith (the latter includes the Freedon Nadd uprising.) Great to listen to with the lights out. It might be a bit overacted but it transports you right there. Sadly, you are left without an ending, right smack in the war between Jedi and Sith!
To get a great look at the vast continuity affected, check my Tales of the Jedi Influence page. You may find some minor spoilers, so beware! But here are some samples.
In the movies, Darth Maul’s lightsaber and Dooku’s ship are inspired by these. That creepy echoing voice of Palpatine after Mace’s attempt on his life is also similar to the Dark Side voice in these audio dramas. Check out the part where the Battle Meditation is used on Onderon if you can get it.
Of some sadness is the fact that we did get checked a bit in the form of the name “Sunrider.” Nomi Sunrider is an inspiring name for a Jedi, much like Skywalker. Unfortunately it ran into legal issues. Thereafter she was just called “Nomi.” This affected the Knights of the Old Republic project, which Vima Sunrider was to be in. She got changed to Bastila. Nomi Sunrider’s full name is mentioned by Jolee though if you talk to him enough.
“The Force is strong in you, Nomi.” ~ Andur
“You know I’m too timid to be a Jedi. But our daughter will be a great Jedi someday…” NomiTales of the Jedi: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider
“The Force runs strong in your family.”Yoda, in Return of the Jedi
The idea the Force runs strong in families (as mentioned by Yoda) is very present in these comics. When Luke was trained, his being an adult was an exception to the rules of the Jedi Order that was almost wiped out. In this is an ancient era, leaving plenty of time for the Jedi to evolve into what we see in the prequels. At this time Master still take several apprentices and they might be any age. Uliq and his brother Cay are both Force strong. Nomi married a Jedi. Her daughter Vima will be a Jedi as well.
Jedi Serra Keto is in Clone Wars Adventures 4, mini digest Graphic novels based on the Clone Wars microseries. She’s also in the Revenge of the Sith video game. She is a descendant of Empress Teta and of the same bloodline as Satal and Aleema Keto.
The Diath family line is mentioned in Republic comics, they are among the Jedi fighting in the Clone Wars alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan.
The Sith War is the macguffin for the Clone Wars for XBox, when Dooku finds an ancient Sith weapon to use against the Jedi and Republic. The spirit of Uliq Qel-Droma appears to aid Skywalker in it’s destruction.
Exar Kun’s spirit is a protagonist in the Jedi Academy novels. The spirit of Marka Ragnos, a Sith Lord from the Golden Age of the Sith, is one in the video game of Jedi Academy (sequel to the Dark Forces series).