Envisioned as a trilogy, the series was followed by Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood in 1998, and then... nothing. Although Crimson Empire III was first announced for 2001, it never surfaced.
The series will finally see completion as the first of six issues of Star Wars: Crimson Empire III arrives on October 25, 2011. Working with collaborator/editor Randy Stradley on story, Mike Richardson writes, with art by Paul Gulacy, colors by Michael Bartolo, letters by Heisler, and cover art by Dave Dorman.
President and publisher Mike Richardson and Vice President of Publishing and Star Wars editor Randy Stradley talked to StarWars.com about Crimson Empire III.
I know you've been asked this before, but we should get it out there because it's the first question that comes to everyone's mind. It's been over 10 years since the last Crimson Empire series. Why is now the right time for Crimson Empire III? What are some of the things that made it take so long for it to come out?
MR: At the time Randy and I actually sat down to continue the series, we started the project during the release of Episodes I, II, and III. So many things had to be changed to our original plot because of conflicts with things that were happening in the movies, we just sort of pulled off of it for a while, it was just getting too hard to write.
RS: After Crimson Empire II, we kind of took a break and so much happened in the EU [expanded universe] in that time period immediately following it, we weren't sure where we could fit what we wanted to do.
MR: Our major villain, one we created and were slowly introducing, was going to play a huge part in what happened in the series, but got picked up in the prose novels.
So on all the Crimson Empire series, we've got you two and Paul Gulacy as an artist. Who was the one kicked off Crimson Empire III becoming a reality, and what was the reaction from the others?
RS: Mike kicked it off. And then I did a lot of groaning and moaning, but Paul's on board for it.
MR: I think it's always been sitting in the back of my head that we needed to put some sort of closure to the story. Our main characters are going to go through important changes in the series. And Randy has told me many times that he gets more requests for the third part of Crimson Empire than most any other series.
RS: Yes. I think a part of that is because we announced, years ago, that we were working on a third part. So that stuck in everybody's mind, and they were waiting for the third part. We probably would have been better off never saying anything about a third part until we were ready to do it. But we're finally getting to it! If everybody can just hold it for a little while longer..,
MR: And the good news is that even though 10 or so years have passed in our lives, the characters are the same age we left them in our outline.
RS: It's two years later.
MR: After the events of Crimson Empire II.
Given that the EU is a shared universe, and given the popularity of the first two Crimson Empire installments, was there any attempts at taking Kir Kanos and doing more with them in the absence of a Crimson Empire III in all the years that came in between?
MR: Well, Randy did a Dark Horse Extra story at one point, and there's been toys based on Crimson Empire. This picks up several years later, and we're going to try to tie up some loose ends. It seems like now's the time to do it. All of the events that happen in the story will intersect with the classic characters' lives, we made sure that everybody is exactly where they're supposed to be in this particular timeline.
Randy's stayed much more on top of it than I have as the Star Wars editor. When we first did Star Wars comics back in 1991, I considered myself a Star Wars master historian. Of course, now, 20 years later, they've done so much stuff that I can't keep track of it! So, we have to rely on those people who are the historians. We did the research up front. Those characters that are part of the Star Wars universe, we found exactly what they were doing and they're all in exactly the right place. So, it all fits nicely into the world.
Does Crimson Empire III end with an air of finality, or is there more to be said in this storyline?
MR: Let's just say it ends with characters having moved to a different place. It ends whatever story plots are hanging from the first two series. I don't want to tell you too much.
I think it's a good story, there's a new villain ... out of the past, if that makes any sense, and there are major things that happen to some of the characters from the previous Crimson Empire series. We're excited about, and Paul's excited about it. We're eager to get it out there. If it does well, who knows? We may start a new story cycle with the characters that emerge from this story.
Is there anything you want to add about Agent of the Empire, Dark Times: Out of the Wilderness and Knight Errant announcements that came out C2E2?
RS: Every couple of years I feel it's my job to re-invent what we're doing with Star Wars, either by changing the direction of the ongoing series drastically, or introduce new series. I'm excited about all of the series we have in the works. I think there are a lot of surprises in store for people. I'm already starting to think about two years down the road, of things to shake this batch up.
There's also one more big announcement coming later this year that will turn fans' heads upside-down. I think we're going to hold off announcing it until New York Comic-Con in October.