STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL - Ron Marz & Jan Duursema - Mania.com



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STAR WARS: DARTH MAUL - Ron Marz & Jan Duursema

The creators discuss the new mini-series spotlighting the popular Sith lord.

By Matthew F. Saunders     September 28, 2000

It's a no-brainer. Ask anyone what made Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace cool and they'll invariably repeat two words: Darth Maul. Switch gears to their biggest disappointment, and the answer is equally predictable: Not enough Darth Maul. Without a doubt, the Sith warrior is the coolest thing to hit the Star Wars universe since, well, Darth Vader. He's super powerful, incredibly menacing and the aura of mystery still surrounding him has helped Maul develop a strong, loyal following. All this, despite minimal screen time.

But Dark Horse Comics knows a good thing when it sees it. The official Star Wars comics publisher is giving Maul his due with Star Wars: Darth Maul, a four-issue mini-series spotlighting everyone's favorite Sith lord. Issue #1 hit the stores on Sept. 6, setting up Maul's deadly battle against the Black Sun criminal syndicate in a story set six months before the events in Episode I. As the action prepares to heat up next week with issue #2, Fandom sat down with writer Ron Marz and penciler Jan Duursema to discuss the series, and the coolness that is Darth Maul.

QUESTION: HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE PROJECT? DID YOU PITCH IT OR DID DARK HORSE AND LUCAS LICENSING APPROACH YOU?

Ron Marz: I was asked by Dark Horse to contribute a story to the first issue of the anthology title Star Wars Tales, featuring a character of my choosing. I didn't even have to think about it before I said, 'Darth Vader!' On the strength of the Vader story I was offered the Darth Maul mini-series. I guess I'm a Sith kinda guy.

Jan Duursema: I was working on the Star Wars ongoing book, penciling a story called 'Twilight'. I had been pestering [editor] Dave Land to see if he had any other Star Wars projects coming up and one day he e-mailed offering me the Darth Maul project. After I remembered how to breathe, I had to call him on the phone because I couldn't figure out a way to write 'YES!' large enough in an e-mail to express my excitement about the project!

THE FIRST ISSUE SET UP THE STORY, THAT DARTH MAUL IS SUPPOSED TO TAKE DOWN BLACK SUN. ANY TEASES ABOUT WHAT'S COMING UP IN THE REMAINING ISSUES?

Marz: The story is pretty straightforward--Maul versus Black Sun. Maul's objective is to throw Black Sun into disarray so it can't interfere with Darth Sidious' plans, including the blockade of Naboo, which of course is seen in Episode I. So we get a chance to see Maul doing his thing, which I think everybody wanted more of in Episode I.

YOU MENTION THE NABOO BLOCKADE. DO THE EVENTS HERE TIE DIRECTLY INTO THAT?

Marz: Darth Sidious makes prominent mention of getting ready to implement his plan, an initial stage of which is the blockade of Naboo. Everything Maul does in the mini-series is to help protect Sidious' plan. Sidious plays a fairly large role, and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon made cameos in the first issue. No Yoda, though. Sorry.

WHAT DO READERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BLACK SUN WHO MIGHT NO BE FAMILIAR WITH THEM?

Marz: Black Sun is the vast criminal organization that played a key role in the Shadows of the Empire projects a few years ago. What we present is Black Sun as it existed four decades or so prior to the Shadows of the Empire events. It's essentially the Mafia or Yakuza of the Star Wars universe.

Duursema: They are up to no good as usual. Apparently, Sidious does not appreciate any competition.

IN WHAT WAYS DO THEY INTERFERE WITH HIS AGENDA? HOW ARE THEY 'MORE BAD' THEN DARTH MAUL, SO TO SPEAK?

Marz: I don't know if anybody's 'more bad' than Maul, which I think is one of the things so attractive about him. Black Sun is definitely stocked with a bunch of bad guys, though, and has a huge power base, which is why it could prove to be an obstacle in the Sith's plans.

Duursema: They interfere with Sidious' plans just by their nature, existence and agenda. When Darth Maul was pitted against Jedi, Maul was clearly evil. But when you play one of the largest criminal organizations against a lone warrior, the picture changes.

SO HOW DO YOU CAST HIM AS THE PROTAGONIST IN THIS STORY? ARE READERS ACTUALLY ABLE TO ROOT FOR HIM?

Marz: I hope readers root for Maul, but are a little conflicted about it. He's a very compelling character, but obviously not a heroic one. I want readers to be on Maul's side, but every once in a while I remind them what a truly evil, merciless guy he is.

Duursema: Maul is a bad guy--a nightmare image that looks into the window in the middle of the night. He is our reptilian brain. Words did not need to be exchanged between Maul and the Jedi--or between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. When they saw Maul, they knew he was the reason the Force had brought them to this place at this time. So in this series are we re-defining evil to make Maul the protagonist? Is a protagonist necessarily a force of good?

Maybe Maul's appeal is again that lone warrior idea--the dark samurai image that thrills us about Maul. It's what makes him so interesting as a character. I felt devastated when Darth Maul killed Qui-Gon Jinn, because I knew that Qui-Gon represented all that was good and noble in a Jedi. But to have Maul fighting against other bad guys gives us a chance to root for Maul and appreciate his consummate skill as a warrior. We have to admire his dedication to his master and his single-mindedness of purpose.

DARTH MAUL HAD LITTLE DIALOGUE IN THE MOVIE. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP HIS CHARACTER?

Duursema: Darth Maul is an incredibly powerful visual. In Episode I, Maul says very little, yet Ray Park projected Maul's intensity by the way he stood or by the slightest change of expression on his face. I once read he played Maul as remorseless, relentless evil. Even without dialogue, you understood who and what Maul was--a chilling, dark warrior whose dedication to the dark side was complete. I've tried to capture the same intensity in the visuals of this series--tried to get inside Maul's head and understand how he moves and feels to get the right expressions and moves for the character.

Marz: I don't know if 'develop' is quite the right word. I compare Maul to one of Clint Eastwood's typical Western characters--terse and mysterious, but absolutely the focal point of what's happening in the story.

WILL WE LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT DARTH MAUL'S PAST OR ORIGIN?

Marz: Most of his origin and past is shrouded in mystery, and it's going to stay that way, at least for the purposes of this mini-series and the Darth Maul hardcover novel that follows it in 2001. He's still an enigma, and I think it would somehow lessen him if too much were known.

WHAT ABOUT HIS DOUBLE-SIDED LIGHTSABER?

Marz: Maul had his lightsaber prior to this mini-series, so we won't be revealing where that came from.

HOW MUCH FREEDOM WERE YOU GIVEN WITH THE CHARACTER?

Marz: As much as I needed, truthfully. I've dealt with a number of licensed characters--Star Wars, Aliens, Tarzan--and it's really no different than dealing with, say, Batman or Superman. You just know there are certain things out of bounds or just plain wrong for the character, and you don't go there. Star Wars is actually easier to deal with than Marvel or DC continuity because it makes sense in real time. Batman has been around since 1939, but somehow he's still only in his mid-30s.

Duursema: Total freedom on the visuals. Maul is Maul. What more do you need? I wanted the visual image of him to seem like an extension of the movie so we can believe this is really part of Maul's history.

DID LUCAS LICENSING GIVE YOU A SPECIFIC OUTLINE OF THINGS YOU COULD OR COULDN'T DO?

Marz: Obviously everything goes through Dark Horse and then Lucas Licensing for approval. I'm essentially playing with somebody else's toys, and the safekeepers of the toys want to be sure they don't get broken in the process. I knew we weren't going to explore Maul's background or origin, so that wasn't an issue. I suggested showing Maul getting the Infiltrator in the first issue, and everybody liked the idea.

JAN, WHAT WAS YOUR ARTISTIC APPROACH TO THE CHARACTER?

Duursema: First I referenced the heck out of every photo I could find of Darth Maul and sketched like mad. Then I realized something was missing. It all felt surface level, like sculpting detail before defining the structure. I realized I needed to see under the tattoos. So I found reference photos of Ray Park without the Maul makeup to understand the structure of his face. Then I needed to see how he moved, stood, walked--[this was] basic, but so important to define the character. So I watched Episode I over and over--all my reference chores should be so pleasant!

Then--and I feel this is really important when drawing any character--I tried to figure out how to 'act' and 'direct' him in the story. I tried to understand how he'd react to a situation--how he'd move through a room in battle, when he would wear his robe with the hood up, how he would relate to Sidious. I think Maul's eyes convey a lot of what's going on in his mind. They are the most expressive part of his face.

HOW DID YOU TRY TO CONVEY HIS MARTIAL ARTS ABILITY AND PHYSICALITY?

Duursema: I tried to capture Maul's intensity and feral quality. On the reference I received for his body tattoos, I wrote down things like: economy of movement; savage; feral grace; absolute, remorseless, unending evil. He is the ultimate Sith weapon, trained beyond the needs of the physical self. He strikes without hesitation, or fear of harm or pain. Even in stillness, he exudes a sense of dark power. His moves are cool and calculated. And when he is in motion, he moves like a force of nature. Maul embodies the idea of the drawing of the sword to cut down an enemy in a single stroke.

THE DESIGNS FOR HIS FULL-BODY TATTOOS CAME FROM LUCAS LICENSING?

Duursema: Maul's full body tattoos were designed by Iain McCaig, under the direction of Prequel Design Director Doug Chiang at Lucas Licensing and [at] Dark Horse's specific request for this series. It was very exciting to see the reference they sent me for the series for the first time. The designs are truly beautiful--like skeletal runes or calligraphy. It's an extraordinary feeling to be working off of images conceived by artists I have admired for so long!

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE ARTISTICALLY YOU DID TO BRING MAUL TO LIFE IN THE COMICS?

Duursema: There is something else, but not something I did. I want to talk about the great art team I've been privileged to work with on this project. Rick Magyar's inks are graphic, illustrative and beautifully detailed. Dave McCaig's colors have a moody, painterly and realistic quality that suits Maul perfectly. A project like this thrives on a team whose styles complement one another. I'm so thrilled that Dave Land and Dark Horse brought us together to do this book!

IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS YOU'RE BOTH BIG DARTH MAUL FANS. WHAT MAKES HIM SO COOL, IN YOUR OPINION?

Marz: I actually have the life-size Darth Maul statue in my office at home, so I guess that qualifies me as a big fan. In a purely visual sense, I think he's the most intriguing character from any of the films. And that dual-bladed lightsaber doesn't hurt either.

Duursema: I'm a huge Darth Maul fan! Initially, I appreciated his martial arts ability and the savage power of his lightsaber skills. He's an incredible martial artist--he just moves so well! The more times I watched the final battle in Episode I, the more I realized what a superb tactician Maul's character was being portrayed as. I was trying to figure out Maul's attack moves with the double bladed saber and realized he spent the beginning of the battle retreating--or rather, luring the Jedi where he wanted them to go so he could separate them! That's part of what makes Maul so cool. The other part of his appeal for me is visual. He's part ghost-samurai, part nightmare. His costume design works so well in motion. And his tattoos are totally incredible!

IN CLOSING, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE SERIES READERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?

Marz: I think it's hands-down the best work of Jan Duursema's career. She's really taken Maul and made him her own.

Duursema: Every Darth Maul fan I have ever spoken to wishes that there was more of Maul--here's where you get your wish!

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