With the purchase of Lucasfilm several years ago and the announcement of what became The Force Awakens, Disney became the new guardians of Star Wars canon. In the 30-plus years since the release of Star Wars, writers in comics, television, and novels had created a complex web of continuity featuring all our favorite heroes from the movies, as well as newer introductions like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. All of those stories are now officially designated “Legends” by Disney and Lucasfilm, with new canon being rewritten through Marvel’s Star Wars comics, new novels, and of course, the new films.
But sidelining the Legends line doesn’t mean forgetting about the masterful storytelling that happened there, as well as some of the more ignominious stories. The Expanded Universe provided a way to tell stories that filled in the color and shape of the Star Wars galaxy far, far away. With these stories swept into the category of the apocryphal, some characters have been resurrected, others have been erased, and the whole universe sits neatly encapsulated, waiting for you to dive in. Here are fifteen of our favorite (not necessarily the best) moments from a 30-plus year labor of love.
15. LUUKE SKYWALKER
The Star Wars Expanded Universe as we remember it owes its existence to Timothy Zahn and his trilogy centered around Grand Admiral Thrawn. In the final installment, The Last Command, Luke has to face off against Thrawn and his minion Joruus C’baoth, a clone of Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth who is obsessed with Luke, the last remaining Jedi Knight. When Luke finally faces off with C’baoth, he is faced with a clone of himself (Luuke Skywalker), cloned from his lost hand, discovered on the surface of Bespin.
The fact that they were able to find his hand in good enough condition to identify it five years after he lost it is a minor miracle in and of itself, but the real insult here is that Zahn tried to justify the two “u”s in clone names by saying they were imperfect and struggled with the “u” sound. Sure. Or rather, suure.
14. SKIPPY, THE FORCE-SENSITIVE DROID
Remember the droids that Luke and his Uncle Owen buy from the Jawas at the beginning of A New Hope? No, not C-3P0 and R2-D2 — C-3P0 and R5-D4, the red astromech droid with a busted motivator. Apparently, R5, who refers to himself as “Skippy” for some reason, began his life as a Force-sensitive droid on Jabba’s pleasure barge before removing his own restraining bolt and “suggesting” to his Gamorran guards that he be set free.
After wandering the desert, he was picked up by Jawas and was elated to be selected by Luke, as he sensed the Force in Luke as well; however, he is beset by a vision of the ruin that would befall the galaxy if R2-D2 didn’t get his Death Star plans to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Falling on his metaphorical sword, Skippy creates a mild explosion internally to allow Luke to choose R2 and save the galaxy.
13. THE TRUCE AT BAKURA
What’s the easiest way to let all the air out of the Rebellion’s victory over the Empire end of Return of the Jedi? If you answered “have them immediately team up with the Empire to take down a third enemy,” you answered correctly and your prizes can be claimed at the door.
In The Truce at Bakura, an Imperial fleet at the edge of the galaxy is facing an invasion at the planet Bakura by reptilian Ssi-Ruuk’s from the Outer Rim — lacking the leadership of the Emperor, the Imperial fleets in the rest of the galaxy won’t be able to respond, so Luke and the gang take a force to help the Imperial fleet repel the Ssi-Ruuk. While it makes sense that the Rebels would have to fight greater evils with lesser evils by their side occasionally, placing it literally hours after the end of Jedi is a weak storytelling move.
12. DARTH VADER FIGHTS DARTH MAUL
While scouring the galaxy for the stolen plans to the Death Star, Darth Vader arrived on a remote moon with an enclave of Prophets of the Dark Side who deem him unfit to rule beside the Emperor. They produce their greatest weapon to defeat him: a copy of Darth Maul, killed decades earlier on Naboo by Anakin’s master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Vader and the Maul copy have a pretty great fight over the course of the 48-page comic, “Resurrection,” but most impressive are the storytelling gymnastics that writer Ron Marz was forced to jump through in order to make a plausible scenario for Vader and Maul to face each other. Vader is eventually able to kill the copy of Maul by stabbing himself through the stomach while Maul was standing behind him, proving once and for all that Vader is still the ultimate self-hater in the universe.
11. HAN KIDNAPS LEIA SO SHE WILL MARRY HIM
The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton from 1994 answered the question that fans had been asking for a decade and a half since the release of Return of the Jedi: Will Han and Leia get married? The answer is obviously yes, but the how of it all is the real humdinger here. Han wins the planet Dathomir in a Sabacc game, and worried that Leia will cave to the advances of handsome Prince Isolder, he kidnaps her and takes her there.
When they arrive, they discover a massive, hidden fleet of Imperial remnants, and are able to get the information back to the New Republic. So, ignoring the fact that he literally kidnapped her, Leia chooses Han to marry, as pretty much everyone knew she would anyway.
10. ANAKIN SOLO BECOMES ONE WITH THE FORCE
The children of Han Solo and Leia Organa lived what we might call cursed lives, from Anakin’s early death in the fight against the Yuuzhan Vong to Jacen’s Sith journey afterwards. The Yuuzhan Vong took the entire galaxy to the breaking point, taking the Republic capital planet of Coruscant and installing their World Brain in what used to be the Senate Rotunda.
On a mission to destroy the queen of a genetically-engineered race called the Voxyn, who were specifically designed to kill Jedi and Force-sensitives, Anakin volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Yuuzhan Vong so the strike team could kill the queen. In the battle, he began using so much of the Force that pure white Force energy began streaming from his fingers, killing the Yuuzhan Vong and overwhelming his wounded body. He died a hero, and a symbol to the entire galaxy.
9. SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE
Before the release of Star Wars, before it became clear that it was a new paradigm in blockbuster films, George Lucas wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to do more Star Wars stories. So he created the storyline for Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, written by Alan Dean Foster and released in 1978, that was intended to function as the basis for a low-budget sequel to Star Wars, should the opportunity arise.
It’s the first ever Expanded Universe novel, and it features no less than Luke engaging in a lightsaber battle with Darth Vader, before he would have received any more formal training from Yoda. Luke manages to win by cutting off Vader’s arm and knocking him into a pit while they duel around the Force-focusing Kaiburr crystal (the titular Mind’s Eye), but he senses he will have to face him again.
8. THE DEATH OF CHEWBACCA
In 1999’s The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime, one of the last major shake-ups of the Expanded Universe began. The galaxy was in peace before being attacked by the Yuuzhan Vong, aliens from outside the galaxy who do not exist as part of the Force. One of their first moves wass to install a creature on Sernpidal who pulled the moon towards the planet.
Han, his son Anakin, and Chewie arrived with seven hours until the moon would destroy the planet. Seeing no better course of action, they tried to get as many refugees into the Falcon as they could. After saving a group of children and throwing Anakin up to the Falcon, Chewie was thrown away; the planet was too unstable for the Falcon and Anakin was forced to leave. Chewie went to his death, roaring in defiance at the moon that finally killed him where no blaster or lightsaber could.
7. JACEN SOLO/DARTH CAEDUS
Jacen Solo, twin to Jaina, and son of Han and Leia, truly walked in the footsteps of his grandfather Anakin, much more so than his younger brother (and Anakin’s namesake). Force-sensitive from a young age, Jacen was an adept fighter and was strong in the Force, quickly becoming a military leader during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion of the galaxy.
After his heroism in the war, his grief over the loss of his brother and his post-traumatic stress from being involved in battles from the time he was a toddler caught up to him, and, abusing his post as the head of the Galactic Alliance Guard, he went on to become Darth Caedus. He reestablished the Sith for the first time in almost 40 years, decimated the Jedi, and brought the Galaxy into a second Civil War. He was only eventually brought down when his sister Jaina was forced to kill him.
6. THE SUN CRUSHER
Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy established the beginnings of the new Jedi Order under Luke Skywalker’s tutelage on Yavin IV, but it also introduced one of the most obscenely overpowered weapons in the galaxy: The Sun Crusher. While it may sound like a wrestling finisher, it was a single-person craft that was capable of literally destroying an entire solar system by causing it’s sun to go supernova.
Discovered by Han Solo and Kyp Durron on their escape from Kessel through the Maw , it was eventually put to darker use; Durron was Force-sensitive and influenced by an ancient Sith lord into exacting his revenge on the Empire by destroying not one, but two solar systems before realizing what he’d done. The only way to destroy the Sun Crusher was to send it into one of the Maw’s black holes, but its legacy of destruction lived on for decades.
5. BELDORION THE HUTT
In the times of the old Jedi Order, Beldorion was the only Hutt who rose to the rank of Jedi Knight, and perhaps the only one ever admitted to train with them. When he was dispatched to the planet Nam Chorios 400 years before the Battle of Yavin, he cast off his partner Jedi and established himself as “Beldorion the Splendid, of the Ruby Eyes,” ruler and enslaver of the planet.
Eight years after Return of the Jedi, Leia Organa Solo, in the hunt for a missing Jedi Knight, finds her way to Nam Chorios, where Beldorion has used the Force to retain a “muscular” body, but has let his powers and abilities drain away to the point where he cannot lift a tray of food with his Force powers. They have a brief lightsaber duel before Leia adds another notch to her belt for evil Hutts that she’s killed.
4. MOUNT SORROW
A lot of hate gets thrown around these days for the Ewoks, the diminutive bear-like residents of the forest moon of Endor, and a lot of that hate is a direct result of heinous cash-grabs like the Ewoks television show and comic book. One egregious example is Mount Sorrow, a clinically depressed mountain who cries healing tears; first appearing in the seventh issue of the Ewoks comic in 1986, the world at large was content to forget about Mt. Sorrow until it’s entry in 2008’s Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia.
Mount Sorrow’s tears were needed to heal Wicket W. Warick’s friend Teebo of a mysterious illness, but its standards were so high that it became an entire adventure just to prove their worth. That’s right — this mountain is so depressed and full of itself that it has no qualms sending an Ewok kid to its death. Dark stuff.
3. HAN SOLO “MEETS” INDIANA JONES
The storytelling tomfoolery going on in this story is truly legendary, requiring not only the melding of two universes featuring the same guy, but also the reconciliation of the fact that Star Wars takes place long, long ago, even relative to Indiana Jones. Created by an all-star team of W. Haden Blackman and Sean Gordon Murphy, “Into the Great Unknown” is only ten pages, but it features Han and Chewie flying blindly into hyperspace, crashing in what appears to be the Pacific Northwest.
Han gets killed by Native Americans; Indiana Jones appears 126 years later alongside Short Round, hunting for the Sasquatch (actually Chewbacca, still living in the forest, keeping an eye on the wreckage of the Falcon). Jones finds the skeleton of Solo with an arrow through his chest, and remarks that it seems familiar, before departing — saying somethings are best left as part of “the great unknown.”
2. WRAITH SQUADRON
While Rogue Squadron is undoubtedly the most famous unit of the New Republic military, its spiritual successor, Wraith Squadron, is far and away more impressive. Formed by Wedge Antilles from a hodgepodge of psychological misfits who nonetheless possessed incredible piloting skills alongside more basic ground skills like medics and hackers, Wraith Squadron was the black ops team of the New Republic. Their illustrious career played out like Rainbow Six meets Star Wars over the course of several novels and comics (most famously by Michael A. Stackpole, the creator of the modern iteration of Rogue Squadron).
The squad included fan favorites like “Piggy,” a hyper-intelligent Gamorran pilot who took his callsign in honor of Jek Porkins, the lost hero of the Battle of Yavin, and Tycho Celchu, an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot who defected in the wake of the destruction of Alderaan, and who was constantly under scrutiny as a possible Imperial spy.
1. DARTH PLAGUEIS
While he receives only a cursory mention in Attack of the Clones from Palpatine, Darth Plagueis is a driving force of the entire saga of the first six Star Wars movies. He is the Sith Master of Darth Sidious, Palpatine’s Sith alter ego, and his life is consumed by his quest for immortality. He is able to manipulate the midi-chlorians of others to influence their life and death, even succeeding in bringing Darth Venamis, a Sith trained behind his back by his former Master, back to life (though when Venamis died again, none of Plagueis’ efforts could bring him back).
Plagueis is responsible for countless machinations in the universe, from the election of Padmé Amidala as Queen of Naboo to the establishment of cloning facilities on Kamino; it’s even strongly implied that his mucking about with midi-chlorians incited the Force to “strike back” by creating Anakin Skywalker from nothing.
Which of these do you wish would become canon? Let us know in the comments!
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