When Star Wars started with The High Republic with Charles Soule’s novel Light of the Jedi, one of its many characters quickly grabbed readers’ attention despite a relatively minor role: Porter Engle. Introduced as a lowly cook on a nondescript Jedi outpost, it is soon implied that Porter was once one of the most feared Jedi in the galaxy, known as “The Blade”. Though he hadn’t drawn his lightsaber in years and hoped he never would, Porter sprang into action when the Nihil attack caused the Great Disaster, demonstrating that his skills were as sharp as ever.
Readers wanted to know more, and now they have more. Soul writes Star Wars: The High Republic – The Blade, a Marvel Comics miniseries part of Phase II of the High Republic. Along with Marco Castiello and Jethro Morales, Soule sues the miniseries to reveal Porter Engle’s origins and show him at his peak as an active Jedi. Soule is also teasing that the series will introduce a new character who will have a significant impact on The High Republic’s future as it moves into Phase III. ComicBook.com had the opportunity to send Soule some questions about the series. This is what he had to say.
Can you tell me about the founding of Porter Engle?
Something great about the era of the High Republic Star Wars: it gives many of its creators the chance to do something the most Star Wars fans have thought for as long as they’ve been part of the galaxy far, far away… creating their own Jedi. The High Republic is set several hundred years before Episode I, in a golden age for the Republic when the Jedi Order was at its peak. So you have a lot of Jedi of many kinds running around and having adventures. Porter Engle was a character I created for the very first High Republic story, my novel Light of the Jedi. I wanted him to be older, wiser, very experienced, semi-retired, but absolutely legendary. The kind of Jedi that other Jedi talk about in hushed tones. When we first meet him, Porter works primarily as a cook at a Jedi Outpost on the far-off Outer Rim. He hasn’t drawn his lightsaber in a long time. But events spiral out of control, as they so often do Star Wars stories, and he is called back into action. That’s when we see what he’s really capable of – he’s essentially a lightsaber “gunslinger”, capable of extraordinary feats with the Jedi’s ancestral weapon. However, he has a long, deep history and wasn’t particularly happy about having to fight again. He thought he had left it all behind. I made it primarily because I like that kind of archetype – the ancient warrior calling for one last fight – and thought it could work well within a Jedi context. And so it is!
Was giving his history always part of the plan for the High Republic or is this comic something that came in response to fan reactions to the first batch of High Republic stories?
I’ve always hoped to get the chance to do more with Porter, and while I wouldn’t say it was something we planned from the start, the opportunity presented by Phase II of the massive High Republic initiative ( set 150 years before Stage I), where Porter was introduced) seemed like a great opportunity to explore him in his prime. That said, if people didn’t connect with Porter and his story the way they have, I doubt I’d be writing more of his story. As with many things related to the High Republic, it’s been great to see how fans have reacted – not just to Porter Engle, but really to everything we’ve created here.
What can you tell me about the premise of The sword and what sets it apart from the other High Republic stories we’ve seen so far?
The sword is a four issue miniseries that begins to tell the story of how Porter Engle became the Jedi we met in Phase I. A legend to all other Jedi, but deeply conflicted with himself about the things that built that legend. Here he is much younger, stubborn and cool (at least as stubborn as Jedi can be – let’s just say he’s extremely confident in his own abilities). He travels with a woman named Barash, his sister, and a fellow Jedi, and they’ve developed a sort of symbiotic approach to the way they handle Jedi affairs. Porter wields the saber, while Barash is very empathetic and helps determine where to use that saber. They travel the galaxy during the rough, troubled era that is Phase II, helping to bring light wherever they can. They are called to try to help a besieged city on a very remote planet, when things go off the rails. It very much has its own tone – it’s a Jedi story, but it’s also a war story, and a bit of a Western, and a tragedy. The closest I would compare it to is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’m very proud of it and the work that Marco Castiello and Jethro Morales are doing with the art is amazing.
What can you say about how The sword fits into the general tapestry of The High Republic initiative? Is this strictly an origin story for Engle, or are their other things revealed or set up?
It certainly gives a lot of backstory for Porter (and Barash), but it also sets up a really important element of Phase III. In particular, a character is introduced at the end of issue #2, General Viess, who you should pay attention to. She is very cool (and terrible too).
Why did you end up writing this story? What draws you to Engle as a character and makes you want to tell his story?
Part of it is simple: when you create a new one Star Wars Jedi, you want to spend as much time with them as possible. Porter Engle is one of my all-time favorite creations (which is saying a lot), and I have tons of stories to tell about this amazing conflicted lightsaber superstar. He is a very real person going on a very intense journey, almost losing himself and finding a new equilibrium that is both tragic and beautiful. It’s great stuff, and I’m thrilled to be able to expand on how readers see it.
What can you tell me about the collaboration with Marco Castiello? What atmosphere are you trying to create with your collaboration? What strengths of his can be highlighted in your script?
This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with Marco – we’ve done two issues of the feature film Marvel Star Wars running together (#19-20). He did a great job with tricky scripts, especially in #20, and I hate to say it, but I’ve given him plenty of tricky things to do in The sword also. Besides Jethro Morales, who comes on board in the second issue, he has to (may?) draw some absolutely insane lightsaber battle scenes. I wanted this story to show readers things they’ve never seen before as far as how sabers can be used, and Marco and Jethro did a fantastic job of that. It’s a beautiful book, that’s for sure.
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Blade #1 is now for sale. Star Wars: The High Republic – The Blade #2 goes on sale January 25.