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How Star Wars: The Epic Continues Tried (and Failed) to Reboot the Series

In 1985, two years after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, toymaker Kenner pitched Star Wars: The Epic Continues to Lucasfilm. It was a continuation of the Star Wars franchise that could be used to continue selling toys, long before the Expanded Universe (now Legends) became a thing. While the toy line ultimately never happened -- instead the company went with Ewoks and Droids cartoons and toys -- it's still a fascinating look at one of the stories in the Star Wars universe that could have been.

Kenner had noticed a drop in Star Wars toy sales in the two years since Return of the Jedi came out. Despite the relative success of the Star Wars cartoons Droids and Ewoks, the franchise's target market was now reached through a new business model in which toys (like Transformers) were introduced to children with 30 second TV ads that weren't built around a specific narrative. In fact, it was the opposite: the stories that eventually appeared on TV or in comic books were built around the toys.

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With this idea in mind, Kenner pitched the continuation of the Star Wars movies to Lucasfilm. It weaved a very loose narrative set a few years after the heroes were last seen and assembled a catalog of potential products.

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According to Kenner’s narrative, the death of Emperor Palpatine prompted the absolute collapse of the Empire and a return to the same Clone Wars that allowed Palpatine to ascend in the first place. From the ashes rose Atha Prime (based on rejected designs for the Emperor's guards), a genetics master and ruler of dark worlds that had been banished by Palpatine. His objective was to take over the Galaxy with his Clone Warriors, destroying any planet that opposed him.

Prime's main asset was the Annihilator (part of Kenner's luxury toyline), a city-sized command ship that also contained Atha Prime’s fighter, the Apex Invader (part of the budget toy line), piloted by the droid Blue-Four, his only aide and confidant.

In the same period, Grand Moff Tarkin, having surprisingly survived the destruction of the Death Star, would try to lead the reconstruction of the Empire. To accomplish his goal, he operated from an Imperial Outpost and employed new Imperial attack droids and new AT-AT and AT-IC vehicles.

Star Wars: The Epic Continues would have featured a more mature, redesigned Han Solo wearing a princely frilly shirt worthy of his station, and a strange-looking turtle-armored Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. There were also new vehicles, like the Apex Invader, Luke’s new XP-38 landspeeder and the Imperial Outpost. A new alien called the Mongo Beefhead Tribesman was also planned as well as the release of Bantha figurines.

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Many of the vehicles and new droids that Kenner pitched to Lucasfilm were kitbashed, which means they were built using the pieces and molds of previously released toys. Although this technique might sound lazy, when it’s properly done, it kills three birds with one stone: it keeps the in-universe aesthetics, reduces production time, and cuts down on design costs. Kenner later used this same technique to repurpose the Ewoks treehouse.

As Toy Galaxy explains, this 1986 Star Wars concept would not be based around a movie or TV narrative (like the strategy Lucasfilm was implementing with toys for their cartoon series Droids and Ewoks). Instead, the narrative was created by each figurine and toy collector, like Transformers figures.

Lucasfilm rejected the proposal and the plotline became non-canon. However, although this How the Epic Continues line was never released, the concepts appeared in later Star Wars stories. Tarkin got his own action figure in 1997, and modern characters like Phasma and Cardinal from the new sequel trilogy bear more than a passing resemblance to the Atha Prime Clone Troopers' design.

Some of Kenner's plot-points were used in the Expanded Universe. In the 1990s, several of the vehicles were canonized in Bill Smith’s short story The Battle of Cadinth. And in the early 2000s, Abel G. Peña, a Star Wars author and writer, tried to canonize Atha Prime and, later, to consolidate him with the character Shadowspawn. Although he didn’t succeed, the genetic terrorist Zeta Magnus that appears in Peña’s novella SkyeWalkers: A Clone Wars Story was inspired by Atha Prime.

Unfortunately for fans, Mongo Beefhead never appeared in Star Wars in any way, shape, or form.

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