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Lamenting the Death of the STAR WARS Expanded Universe

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The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was highly anticipated, but many dedicated fans of the franchise were also somewhat shaken by the announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe would be rebranded as Star Wars Legends. It wasn’t the rebranding itself that caused a fuss, but rather the news that the former EU would no longer be considered canon.

If you’re the type of person who knows more about the biology of Ewoks than you do about the engine in your car, the loss of this canonicity was a big deal. And while I’ve never been quite that dedicated, it shook me to my core to learn that certain characters in the comics and novels were officially non-existent. I was able to seek relief in the fact that The Clone Wars television series and film would still be a part of the main continuity, but I still sensed a great disturbance in the Force.

This must have been a pretty big deal to Lucasfilm as well. A lot of effort was put forth to ensure that the EU remained coherent, to the extent that very little material explored the events of the galaxy prior to A New Hope until after the Prequel Trilogy was released. After this, creators were able to explore generations of relationships between beloved characters as well as some pretty cool newcomers. And while their works are still as entertaining as they always were, Disney essentially told them that the fruits of their labors were now meaningless in the grand scheme of Star Wars chronology.

That said, there are a couple of bright sides to the new continuity. First, many of the same creators who worked on the old EU are to be included in the new one. As such, they have been incorporating some elements of their old works into the new continuity. One of my favorite examples is probably that of Darth Plagueis.

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This novel, which tells the story of Emperor Palpatine’s mentor, was a part of the old EU. After the EU became irrelevant, author James Luceno penned the novel Tarkin. While this particular novel focuses on the adventures of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin as he aids the Sith in fighting the Rebel Alliance, Luceno went out of his way to mention Plagueis in this novel, bringing elements of the older novel back into the new canon.

The other bright side to the new continuity is that we no longer have to contend with certain characters. The original run of Marvel’s Star Wars comics featured a character named Jaxxon who looked suspiciously like the hero of the old Bucky O’Hare comics and cartoons. It’s hard to appreciate a canon that includes a total rip-off of another franchise. Besides, Jaxxon was never quite as cool as Bucky. Marvel seems to understand this, since their new run of comics included a variant cover in which they directly drew attention to Jaxxon’s omission from the new continuity.

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There’s actually a third bright side, but I’m going to hold off on that for right now. First, I’d like to talk a bit about some of my favorite elements of the old EU. I know that there are certain toys and radio dramas considered to be a part of it, but I won’t be covering those. I frankly don’t know much about them. Instead, I’ll be briefly talking about literature, film and TV, comic books, games, and…well, I’ll let the last one be a surprise.

Literature

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To be entirely honest, I’m beginning with the books because I know the least about them. In fact, I pretty much told you everything I know above. The only other novels I’ve read were the ones in a trilogy known as The Black Fleet Crisis, a trilogy which takes place after the original films. Leia has again fallen prisoner and Luke fights a new threat while attempting to discover the identity of his mother. Han and Chewbacca are basically stay-at-home dads, which thankfully changes as the story gets going. It was not the best thing I’ve ever read, but it did have a lot of cool information on how military formations are organized in the Star Wars universe. If you’re the kind of person who prefers Luke the pilot over Luke the Jedi, it’s a pretty good read.

The only other book I’ve read was not a novel, but rather an anthology of short stories called Tales of the Bounty Hunters. To be honest, I only read it because I had heard that Boba Fett’s death was reversed in the books, and I thought that this might be the one to do it. His story actually focuses more on his history with Han Solo (which is still pretty cool), but it wasn’t what I wanted. Still, it’s a pretty good read for anyone who’s dying to understand the inner workings and emotional depths of IG-88.

Other novels are supposed to be good for those who want to explore the Star Wars universe in a bit more depth. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was the first Expanded Universe material ever created, and the X-Wing series is supposed to be pretty decent. For those who want to know more about the Force, it might be worth checking out Jedi Academy or the New Jedi Order series. The latter is also supposed to include a lot of military formations, much as I discussed with Black Fleet Crisis. I’ve also heard that Legacy of the Force is one of the better series to incorporate characters from both the EU and the original franchise.

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The new canon has few offerings at the moment, but there are some notable ones. Dark Disciple is adapted from a script that was planned to be part of a story arc on The Clone Wars series. Lords of the Sith is also supposed to be good for those who enjoy tales from the Dark Side. Battlefront: Twilight Company provides more military action, and Aftermath begins setting up the world of The Force Awakens. Any of these should be decent for new readers.

Film and TV

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There isn’t much to talk about in this department. Everyone knows that the new canon will include Rogue Squadron and the currently untitled Han Solo outing, as well as a rumored film starring Boba Fett. But Star Wars Legends was never big on spin-off films, with the exception of two terrible Ewok movies (which somehow included a ferret) and a holiday movie starring Chewbacca. Actually, The Star Wars Holiday Special was the first appearance of Boba Fett. So that one might be worth checking out.

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Aside from that, all we’ve lost is a few cartoons such as Star Wars: Ewoks, Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO, and Clone Wars (not to be confused with The Clone Wars). The first two were tacky, and aimed solely at kids. The final was a bit better, and was the first time we saw General Grievous before Revenge of the Sith. It was decent, but it isn’t much of a loss now that we have The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels to keep us satisfied.

Frankly, the visual entertainment department is one in which the new canon will probably excel greatly over Star Wars Legends.

Comic Books

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Here’s something I know a lot more about. I already talked about the terrible original Marvel run, and I’ll spare you further details. If you really want to ruin your childhood, adulthood, and everything that comes after, then feel free to check it out on your own time. Marvel also published lines of the Ewoks and Droids, the cartoons mentioned above. For my money, those were almost better than the main Star Wars line.

Dark Horse eventually took over, and that’s when the comics started to get really good. As a personal Sith fan, I loved their initial Dark Empire run. I also enjoyed Tales of the Jedi, which was the only EU material to explore the history of the Star Wars universe before the Prequel Trilogy was released (Lucasfilm didn’t have a problem with it, since it takes place millennia before the films). It’s fun to explore that time period, and they later went back even further with Dawn of the Jedi.

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The only other series I really followed extensively was Star Wars: Legacy, which is on the other side of the spectrum from Dawn of the Jedi in that it takes place in a future distant from the Original Trilogy. It follows Cade Skywalker as he explores both sides of the Force while constantly being heckled by the Force ghost of his descendant, Luke. There’s nothing particularly interesting about the time period itself, but both the heroes and villains are certainly intriguing. They’re also a lot more morally ambiguous than the film characters, which is nice to see.

It’s a shame to lose the continuity of Legacy, but I’m almost positive that certain aspects of Tales of the Jedi will make it into the new canon. For now, most of the new comics follow classic characters such as Luke, Leia, Lando and Vader. There’s also a comic book based on the Rebels TV series, and a current crossover event entitled Vader Down in which Vader continues to track down his son in an attempt to turn him to the Dark Side.

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The new comics are being hailed as some of the best Star Wars comics in history, so you should check them out. If you aren’t too sure about them, you can probably get a free copy of the Star Wars Movie Samplers comic, which includes snippets of the better lines they have running at the moment. If you can’t find it at your local comic shop, try looking online.

Video Games

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If you don’t count a plethora of mobile games and browser games that I couldn’t care less about, the only well-known game in the new canon is Star Wars Battlefront. There have been rumors that the game revives Boba Fett for the new trilogy, but that seems unlikely to me given its apparent placement in the timeline. I frankly haven’t had a chance to try it yet, so I really couldn’t tell you. But I’m pretty sure that Boba surviving the sarlaac pit will make it into the new canon either way.

There were numerous games in the old Expanded Universe, but the first one that ever really gripped me was Knights of the Old Republic. I remember working really hard to establish myself as a Dark Side character, only to undo my progress when I saved an underground city and became their messiah. I don’t know that KOTOR was actually responsible for the popularity of morality choices in RPGs, but it was certainly what made them popular with me. The number of options available kept most of the game from fitting any sort of canon, but there’s still a side of me that likes to think of those characters as having existed in the Star Wars universe. Hopefully, the new canon will bring some of them back.

I was also a big fan of Bounty Hunter, which almost made up for Jango Fett’s lameness in Attack of the Clones. I would’ve rather played as Boba, but I won’t be too picky. All I really care about is flying around on jetpacks and shooting some aliens. Bounty Hunter delivered in that department, and it was awesome.

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The only other game I can really discuss is The Force Unleashed. Between that game and its sequel, you got to see the rise of the Rebel Alliance as a young Sith apprentice named Starkiller (which was originally Luke’s name in the films) forsakes Darth Vader and joins with Princess Leia. The game suffered from numerous glitches, but it was fun to play both sides of the Force. You start by running around and killing Jedi who survived Order 66, which you must do in secret because the Emperor doesn’t know of your existence. By the end of the sequel, you have completely switched sides and gone on the run from Boba Fett. These games also featured DLC in which you fight Obi-Wan’s ghost, successfully turn Luke to the Dark Side, and get to see Leia become a Jedi. These storylines may not have been canon, but they were greatly enjoyable.

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I have limited experience with games such as Rogue Squadron, Star Wars Episode I Racer, and Star Wars Trilogy Arcade. These offered some nice vehicular play, although the new Star Wars Battle Pod is supposed to outdo pretty much anything that’s come before it. Battle Pod sounds similar to Trilogy Arcade, but it’s supposed to be a much more immersive experience. You can only play it in arcades, unless you decide to shell out anywhere from $35,000 to $98,000 USD for your own pod. The more expensive version gives you a carpeted pod floor and real leather seats, as well as one of two unique designs. So if carpeting is important to you in a video game and you have an extra $63,000 lying around, opt for the premium version.

And Finally…

The last entry on this list stands alone, and there isn’t much to say about it. Originally part of the Star Wars Legends continuity, its place in any canon has now been made impossible by the addition of sequences starring The Force Awaken’s Finn and BB-8 in a story that’s supposed to take place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Some of you might already know what I’m talking about.

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I’m talking, of course, about Disney’s Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. This 3D simulator ride is not the first of its kind, but it’s a blast for anyone who is able to hit the theme parks and wait in the impossibly long line that takes you into it. The ride features a number of sequences, but you don’t get to experience them all in one go. They’re randomized, so you have to ride it a few times to really get the full experience. In fact, you’d have to ride it at least 54 times to experience every possible combination of sequences that exists. As much as I’m not a fan of C-3PO, it’s fun to have him as your pilot (with R2-D2 at his side) as you blast into space on what was supposed to be a tourist adventure but eventually becomes a mission to rescue a Rebel spy from the Empire’s grip.

Frankly, it’s probably good that this isn’t canon anymore. It’s ridiculous that it ever was, especially since the line includes references to Disney characters such as Chip and Dale. Still, it’s fun to think that at one point during the Rebel insurgency, the Alliance was aided by a group of unwitting tourists. I could easily see them closing this down at some point to make way for a new ride based solely on locations and events from the new films.

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I’d like to conclude with a point that I intentionally left out earlier. I mentioned that there was an additional bright side to the death of the old Expanded Universe, and that point is this:

It isn’t necessarily dead.

The rebranding of Star Wars Legends has essentially created a banner under which new content might easily be created. If some author, Marvel writer, or video game developer wants to create content that doesn’t quite fit the new continuity, Disney just might allow them to do it under the Legends banner. This isn’t a certainty, but it’s fun to think about. Either way, we now have two continuities to follow in a franchise that we all know and love. That’s never a bad thing.

Sure, it hurts a bit to think that our fandom was wasted on a canon which Disney brushed away with a single wave of their mousey, white-gloved hands. But in doing so, they’ve opened the door to endless new possibilities. We should enjoy that. And we can still enjoy the old stuff, too. Yoda once told a young Anakin Skywalker that he should never mourn those who have become one with the Force. The EU has not truly died, but has become a part of something greater. We don’t know what that “something” will be, but we should look forward to it. We should see it as—for lack of a better term—a new hope.

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May the Force be with you, fanboys and girls. Be mindful of your thoughts, and remember that no good things come to an end. They remain alive in our thoughts, our hearts, our passions. And in the case of the EU, they remain alive in the form of merchandise on which we can blow our hard-earned cash. If you want the Star Wars Legends banner to thrive, then that’s exactly what you’ll do. I sure will.

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