The Star Wars Expanded Universe, that is, the expansive collection of comics, books, and video games that have explored the Star Wars universe for more than 30 years, has long been the exclusive sandbox for fans desperate for more Force related content. And then, in April 2014, it was announced that one of the causalities of the new life breathed into the franchise by Disney would be the Expanded Universe. While it was never explicitly stated that you can probably just take all that stuff and throw it in a trash fire, you can probably take most of it and throw it in a trash fire. And then replace it with new stuff!
In addition to the new Star Wars movie being announced, we were going to get new novels, new Marvel published comics, and even Anthology style movies. As weird as it is to be told that things you love like children are no longer valid and that you should give these new children a try, now that we’re well into new Continuity Approved content like Star Wars: Rebels and the various new Marvel series, I was curious how Star Wars nerds felt about their new children, and if they missed anything about the old ones. This is a very macabre metaphor.
So I lit the bat signal (bossk signal?) and found a few wonderful nerds on Facebook: Los Angeles comedian and co-host of the Dateless Losers Podcast Greg Kashmanian, fellow Western Kentucky University alum/good friend/guy that used to rock a Padawan braid Chris Hendrix, actor and UCB regular Jason Wayne Christian, and new friend Dave McKew, who was recommended to me for this chat in all capital letters and several exclamation points. I asked these four gentlemen if they’d be interested in talking about Star Wars.
Surprisingly enough, they were.
What was your gut reaction when they announced the EU was no longer canon?
Chris: Upset relief. Most of the EU was so bloated and awful, it was unreadable. I lament the loss of the Timothy Zahn material—Mara, Thrawn, et al—but on average? I was okay with it. It erased The Crystal Star by Vonda McIntyre and Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly. Those books are both hate crimes.
Dave: I am not of the camp of people who thought that the EU should be saved and fed and watered every day. It was never canon to me, and not really even part of my ‘personal canon.’
Greg: At first I was a little upset because I’ve literally spent thousands of dollars and countless time pursuing all my knowledge of it, but it’s understandable. There’s no way they could make these movies.
The EU picks up 5 minutes after the celebration on Endor and goes for centuries and centuries. They can’t realistically do all of it, there’s no room to be creative. Ideally, I’d want them to give a nod to the EU. Maybe see Grand Admiral Thrawn at some point.
Jason: I’m a massive former EU fan. One of the reasons I quit Star Wars was when it started to implode on itself. I was already betrayed by the new (prequel) trilogy and R.A. Salvatore’s god awful New Jedi Order.
What was your favorite part of the EU?
Chris: Mara Jade. She was such a rich, complex character and a great foil for Luke Skywalker. Their marriage was, for me, the ultimate capstone of the Star Wars saga. The idea of her being the Emperor’s Hand was a neat glimpse into ‘what if Luke had turned?’
She’s probably the most well known/successful EU character.
Chris: Her and Thrawn, yup. He was awesome too: an Imperial leader who wasn’t an asshole.
Jason: The “Tales” anthologies.
What all do those cover?
Jason: They’re a series of short stories set in areas with tons of background characters- Tales of Jabba’s Palace, Tales of The Bounty Hunters, Tales of The Mos Eisley Cantina. Basically they’d take all the awesome creatures, aliens and background people and give them full short stories explaining who they were and why they were there. Like the guy who pointed Obi Wan to Han Solo in the Cantina, or the story of a particular Gamorrean guard in Jabba’s Palace.
Greg: Jacen Solo’s story arc. I really thought it’s what they were gonna make the new movies about. He has such a great story. His twin sister Jaina, and brother Anakin all become Jedi. He ends up becoming Darth Caedus and killing Luke’s Wife, Mara Jade. Then Jaina ends up killing him. It’s such a great arc. It’s set up perfectly for a trilogy and since it focuses on the children, it would make sense with how old the original cast are. I don’t expect the cast to be in Ep 8 and 9- I expect at least one death.
Who eats it?
Greg: I want it to be Luke or Han, but my gut tells me Chewbacca. That’s what happens in the EU as part of the Jacen arc.
So if it happens you’re kind of like ‘way to cherry pick from the EU bones?’
Greg: Nah, it makes sense. Killing one of the main characters seems frivolous at this point. There’s a certain amount of detachment from Chewie because he doesn’t speak.
Any other death calls?
Chris: Han or Chewie. I’ve heard rumors of Han’s death at Kylo’s hand for a while. I’d give even odds for that. Maybe Chewie? But I doubt it. He’s too, y’know—he’s too cuddly. Luke and Leia will survive. I can see Luke dying in Episode 8. I hope not—but I can see it.
Also laying even numbers that when Kylo Ren reveals his true name, it will begin with ‘Sk-’ and end with ‘-ywalker’.
Jason: I figure the end game will have Luke and one other major player dying, with Han there to hand over the torch to our new heroes.
Dave, you didn’t have much of a reaction to having the continuity slate wiped clean. Are there pieces of the EU you think are worth salvaging?
Dave: Yes, definitely, I think there are pieces worth adding to canon - like the Darth Plaguis novel and the Kenobi novel - but I’m not concerned with that stuff being written over. I do like that they’ve already taken small bits and added them to the new “unified canon” - i think it’s very cool and I expect to see more. Like Admiral Screed from the old Droids cartoon appearing in the Tarkin novel.
I actually didn’t realize they were doing that. That’s a lot of fun- some respectful nods to the old sandbox.
Dave: Oh yeah, they’ve said - you can find it out there - that EU stories and elements - definitely names of characters and planets and races etc - may find themselves in the unified canon.
Basically they’re reserved the right to steal the great ideas from the past.
Which is a pretty great position to be in. Like a kid with a science project due that found the storage room with all the old science projects
Dave: Totally. Like the Marvel cinematic universe can draw, or not draw, on all those decades of comics.
Greg: The X-Wing Series, The Jedi Academy Series, and Tales of the Bounty Hunters would make a great multi movie serial movie series. And Revan. For fucks sake, Revan!
Can you imagine a Knights of the Old Republic movie? I’m a little hard just thinking about it.
I was actually surprised that the first Anthology announced wasn’t a KOTOR movie.
Greg: It makes a lot of sense, because it’s totally doable in a different time frame. And a movie based off of a video game isn’t taboo anymore. THANKS MARIO BROS.
Jason: The Thrawn Trilogy, right off the bat. The Courtship of Princess Leia. I was less a fan of the Jedi Academy series, but Admiral Daala would have been worth exploring.
Dave: I really think we are going to see Mara Jade and few other major players for the EU pop up in the new unified canon, although they may be changed a bit. I’m not a huge Marvel fan, but if Disney does with Star Wars what they are doing with Marvel, everyone wins.
Are there high points in the ‘new’ continuity that make up for the loss of the EU? Anything that speaks to you guys on the level of a Mara Jade or Thrawn?
Chris: I read the first issue of the new Marvel series and it just did not connect. I don’t know why. I haven’t seen Rebels, but only because it hasn’t hit Netflix yet. I want to, for sure. Clone Wars was a brilliant cartoon, and Asokha went from ‘mildly irritating comic relief’ to ‘holy shit, she is why I watch the show’. I heard she came back at the end of Rebels Season 1, so that will draw me in.
Greg: The Vader comic is awesome. Rebels is okay, but nothing as good as Jacen. Not at the same level.
Dave: I liked the Tarkin novel. It really bridged the prequels and the original trilogy, and I liked reading about his relationships with Palpatine, Dooku, and even Anakin. I also liked the Lord of the Sith novel, which is basically a Palpatine/Vader buddy novel. The two supporting imperial characters, including the canon’s first LGBT character, were very well done.
Jason: I skipped what I know have been some very well received games and cartoons and such out of spite. Literally three days ago a post of awesome wallpapers made me decide to give jumping back in a try.
And now you have some suggestions on where to start!
Dave: I’m enjoying the Darth Vader comic because it’s also bridging the Anakin we know from the prequels to the Vader we know from the originals. I also like the Kanan comic book, which takes place in the prequel era and is showing us that Disney is NOT interested in abandoning the era. I think we will start to see that seeds have been planted in comics and novels and on Rebels that will pay off in The Force Awakens and Rogue One. We’ll see. But I have a feeling it will be much clearer to us next year what the Lucasfilm Story Group is doing.
Also, a wish for the new unified canon: I hope it keeps this current pace - a novel every other month, and a no more than 4 comic series at one time - because my memory of the old EU was that it was cluttered and unfocused.
Jason: Like when they killed Chewbacca by punching him with a moon?
And I can’t think of a better stopping point for a Star Wars chat then finding out someone punched a Wookie to death with a moon. I don’t even want details or further explanation- I have a very specific image in my head of how it plays out and I’m very satisfied with it.
Were any of your fondest EU memories left out? Is Mara Jade overrated? How many times have you played through Dark Forces? Let’s take this to the comments. I want polite conversation- no disintegrations.