The countdown to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” officially began on Black Friday as the first teaser trailer for the J.J. Abrams-directed film sent a seismic wave through fandom and pop culture at large. An unmasked Stormtrooper, an droid soccer ball, a new female character with a penchant for speeders, new look Stormtroopers, X-Wings, a dark Jedi with a strange new lightsaber and the Millennium Falcon all featured prominently in the trailer that gave fans some delicious teases into the future of the franchise as it prepares to start a brand new trilogy.
But for those who need more tales from a galaxy far, far away right now, December 18, 2015 seems like an awfully long wait. While a trio of new “Star Wars” titles are coming from Marvel Comics beginning in January, the “Star Wars: Rebels” cartoon on Disney XD is airing now and more “Force Awakens” hype will be on the way in the new year, that 88-second trailer certainly reignited a rarely dormant passion for “Star Wars.” To scratch that “Star Wars” itch, CBR is happy to provide a list of comics, novels and other media projects that you can consume to get your “Star Wars” fix. We realize that Disney has started over as far as the Expanded Universe is concerned and none of the stuff we mention here is considered cannon but that doesn’t make any of these entries on our list of “Star Wars” goodness any less awesome. So watch that trailer 17,000 more times, we know we will, and pick up some of these amazing “Star Wars” projects from years past to feed that internal Rancor inside of every fan hungry for more “Star Wars.”
“The Thrawn Trilogy” (novels) Heir to the Empire,” “Dark Force Rising,” “The Last Command”
Without Timothy Zahn and “The Thrawn Trilogy,” Disney would not have had an Expanded Universe to shoot out of the airlock; in fact, if not for Zahn’s hugely influential and much beloved series of novels, “Star Wars” could have very well ended with “Return of the Jedi” in 1983. In the pages of Zahn’s initial prose trilogy, fans were introduced to a number of Expanded Universe characters that grew to define the narrative extension of George Lucas’ greatest work: the brilliant, military minded despot Grand Admiral Thrawn; Luke’s future love interest Mara Jade; the smuggler and rapscallion Talon Karrde; and the mad Jedi Joruus C’baoth. These characters were the first of hundreds to make up the Expanded Universe, and more importantly, these novels showed there was still an interest in “Star Wars.” Countless more novels followed, along with the “Star Wars” Special Editions and prequels, but there will always be something special about the time when fans had to crack open a new book containing the adventures of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, the droids and Chewbacca in the days following the last Battle of Endor. These books also introduced Han and Leia’s children and set the groundwork for everything that was to come. Zahn’s books, along with”Dark Empire,” the first “Star Wars” comic series from Dark Horse, really set the stage for the “Star Wars” renaissance of the post-“Jedi” era. For fans who never experienced the thrill of these novels, there’s plenty of time in the next 12 months read some of the novels that reignited the “Star Wars” spark.
Alan Moore’s “Star Wars”
Did you know Alan Moore wrote “Star Wars?” Originally printed in “The Empire Strikes Back Monthly” published by Marvel UK, this handful of stories is about as wonderfully weird as you might imagine from the mind of the man who wrote “Watchmen” and reimagined “Swamp Thing.” These stories went uncollected for many years, but can currently be found in Dark Horse’s “Star Wars Omnibus: Wild Space,” Vol. 1. The stories were originally published right after “The Empire Strikes Back” hit theaters and exemplified an era of anything goes creativity for the Expanded Universe. While Moore only worked on a handful of stories, they nevertheless stand as a testament to the creative potential of the “Star Wars” universe. Readers will find Luke facing down an ancient enemy of the Jedi inside of a realm of pure Lovecraftian evil (seriously, only Moore); Han and Lea taking on a satanic foe who can mentally torture his enemies; Darth Vader taking on a religious cult (see a trend here?); and C-3P0 and R2-D2 trapped on a world where droids worship a mythical deity. This is the Expanded Universe filtered through one of the greatest imaginations in comics and could be a great way to feed the “Star Wars” beast as you await the Force to Awaken.
The Boba Fett Cartoon (“Star Wars Christmas Special”)
You may think you want to watch the “Star Wars Christmas Special” from 1978, but you really don’t. It’s bad — not extended Pod Racing sequence bad, but slowly being digested by the Sarlaac Pit over a thousand years bad. It’s not even kitschy. This ill conceived special is just minute after minute of ponderous torture. The whole first quarter of the thing is just made up of Wookies talking followed by cringe worthy cameos by all the major “Star Wars” players (bless Harrison Ford, he tries). It’s all awful except for the animated debut of Boba Fett. While hastily written and haphazardly animated, the short offers an intriguing glimpse into the bounty hunter that, despite his truncated screen time, would become an iconic figure in the “Star Wars” saga. It’s all here in a cartoon that also featured the droids and Luke Skywalker. It may not be “Clone Wars” quality animation, but it was a fun look into the “Star Wars” that was to come in the pre-“Empire Strikes Back” days of the original trilogy. There will be many minutes between now and the debut of “The Force Awakens,” why not fill about seven of them with the media debut of Boba Fett, a character that has been linked to rumors regarding Disney’s planned “Star Wars” spinoff films.
Han Solo and Lando Calrissian Adventures
“The Han Solo Trilogy” by A.C. Crispin (“The Paradise Snare”, “The Hutt Gambit”,” Rebel Dawn”); “The Han Solo Adventures” by Brian Daley (“Han Solo at Star’s End,” “Han Solo’s Revenge,” “Han Solo and the Lost Legacy”); “The Lando Calrissian Adventures” by L. Neill Smith (“Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu,” “Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon,” “Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of Thonboka”)
Arguably the greatest moment of the new trailer was seeing Millennium Falcon back in action. People love Han Solo, and while waiting for him and Chewie to fly again fans can experience the adventures of Solo and friends in book form. “The Han Solo Adventures” and “The Lando Calrissian Adventures” are both masterfully told trilogies that will give modern day fans awaiting more “Star Wars” a look into what the franchise was like during its earliest days. These Han Solo books, penned by the late Brian Daley, are like reading great sci-fi westerns, perfectly capturing the spirit of everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder. The “Solo” books are “Star Wars” at its finest, and they are nicely complimented by L. Neill Smith’s wonderfully surreal Lando Calrissian novels set in some of the oddest backdrops this side of Tatooine. All these early books are framed by the contemporary novels that make up “The Han Solo Trilogy.” In these books, author A.C. Crispin weaves the Daley and Smith novels into the modern day Expanded Universe and tells a story that feeds the need of any Han Solo fan until the captain of the Millennium Falcon returns in Episode VII. The Daley and Smith books, along with “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” by Alan Dean Foster, showed the world “Star Wars” was a story that could not be contained by films alone and can be experienced again as everyone waits for “Star Wars” to make history again.
“Star Wars” by Marvel Comics
The beauty of Marvel’s “Star Wars” comics output is the sheer volume of stories. If you need a deep “Star Wars” fix while waiting for the newest film, Marvel is your Tosche Station. You can collect the back issues or start getting the trades, hardcovers and omnibuses that will be pouring out of the House of Ideas in the months leading up to December 2015. Marvel Comics was the only place to find “Star Wars” merchandise after the original “Star Wars” hit theaters in May of 1977. In fact, it has been postulated by many that the vast popularity of “Star Wars” saved Marvel during a major economic downturn. Some of comics’ biggest names worked on Marvel’s “Star Wars” included the inaugural “Star Wars” creative team of Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, who were then followed by David Michelinie, Chris Claremont, Jo Duffy, Tom Palmer, Ann Nocenti, Cynthia Martin, Terry Austin, Jan Duursema, Al Williamson and Walt Simonson. Some of the original Expanded Universe characters were even introduced by Marvel including a very different looking bipedal Jabba the Hutt; Crimson Jack; Baron Orman Tagge; the dark Jedi Lady Lumiya (complete with lightsaber whip); the scoundrel Rik Duel; Tippett the Ewok; and let us not forget the most infamous Marvel “Star Wars” character of them all, Jaxxon the space rabbit. Dark Horse followed in Marvel’s footsteps, expanding and perfecting “Star Wars” comics for the modern era, so you can also look to the Horse for a satisfying “Star Wars” fix in the long months ahead (and there certainly are tons to choose from). Unlike today’s audiences, Marvel’s “Star Wars” comics were basically all fans had in the years between “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and readers can still benefit from them today as they wait for more stories big screen adventures.
“Tales from Mos Eisley,” “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” and “Tales from Jabba’s Palace” Anthologies
What child of the early ’80s didn’t line up their Kenner Star Wars bounty hunters up in the same order they appeared in during that iconic scene from “The Empire Strikes Back?” Many fans have loved the fringe background aliens and colorful side characters from across the “Star Wars” saga — from the denizens of that wretched hive of scum and villainy, the Mos Eisley Cantina, to the under dwellers of Jabba’s Palace. “Star Wars” has always goes far beyond its core characters. These anthologies feature some of the top authors in science fiction who used their considerable talents to finally gave voices and back stories to many of these background characters. From Ree-Yees in Jabba’s palace, to the Hammerhead alien Momaw Nadow, to the ever popular Bossk, to the bully that accosted Luke in the Cantina, Dr. Evazan, to Jabba’s major domo, Bib Fortuna, to every bug eyed freak show in between — they all get in on the action here. “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” should be of particular interest to fans as it features the story of Boba Fett’s dramatic escape from the maw of the Sarlaac. Of course, all these stories are null and void thanks to Disney’s purging of the Expanded Universe, but that doesn’t make these stories any less compelling.
“Star Wars Legacy” (Comics)
With a tagline of “All new Sith Order! All new Empire! All new Skywalker!”, the expansive “Star Wars Legacy” saga from Dark Horse Comics was one of the most fascinating explorations into the post-“Return of the Jedi” world. Guided by legendary writer John Ostrander and primarily drawn by perennial “Star Wars” artist Jan Duursema, “Legacy” dealt with the inheritor of the Skywalker name, Cade Skywalker, and his adventures in a world where everything was new, from a very new Empire to new members of the Sith. Ostrander and company took the “Star Wars” galaxy into many unexpected places and along the way introduced such fan-favorite characters as the beautiful Sith (and cosplay favorite) Darth Talon; the Sith Lord Darth Krayt; the crew of the starship Mynock Jariah Syn and Deliah Blue, and so many more characters that fit in seamlessly in the universe Lucas created. “The Force Awakens” will deal with the future “Star Wars” universe, but Dark Horse and John Ostrander already crafted a version of their own, and one worthy of your attention as you await the canonical “Star Wars” of tomorrow.
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