Don't Be Intimidated - It's Time To Embrace The New Star Wars Expanded Universe
Let's face it, the Star Wars Expanded Universe can be intimidating for even the most ardent of fans. For years many of us had experienced that horrifying moment when, in a discussion about Star Wars, someone drops a name that you've never heard of. I know this to be the case, because it's happened to me and I've spoken to many fans at different cons who have had it happen to them. It doesn't make you any less of a fan, it's merely a by product of the complex web that was weaved by years of Expanded Universe literature. But that's all changing now....
...When Disney purchased LucasFilm, the decision was made to do away with years of artfully crafted EU story arcs and create a new Star Wars canon. This was the closest thing to hitting the Star Wars reset button we will ever witness and while many fans were upset to see decades of effort effectively sent down the drain, for the fans who had struggled against a never-ending tide of releases this is an opportunity to go all in on Star Wars canon. So, if you don't know your Grand Admiral Thrawn's from your Tenel Ka's, it's time to start boning up on a new wave of Star Wars expansion.
Here are a few of the many, many reasons that 2015 is the best time to turn yourself into a Star Wars Superfan and embrace the new Star Wars Expanded Universe....
Star Wars Returns to Marvel
I was a huge fan of what Dark Horse Comics did with their Star Wars properties. For more than 20 years Dark Horse produced some incredible series, such as Knights of the Old Republic, Invasion, and of course, Dark Empire. But as great as the Dark Horse years were, it's also nice to see Star Wars comics return to their original home. Last week saw the release of Star Wars #1, the first Marvel Star Wars comic to be published since the 80's and it it's on track to sell almost 1 million copies. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, this is a great way to start diving into the new Star Wars canon because Marvel's Star Wars will explore the time period directly after the Rebel's victory at the Battle of Yavin. This same timeline will be further explored in Star Wars: Darth Vader (first issue scheduled for release in February) and Star Wars: Princess Leia (released in March), giving fans a chance to get multiple perspectives on a critical moment in the Star Wars timeline.
With original trilogy characters appearing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there are plenty of opportunities for movie easter eggs to pop up in these comic series, just like the one below:
Star Wars Books
(Credit: Del Rey)
If comics aren't your thing, then the new wave of Star Wars fiction books should help you get up to speed on Star Wars canon 2.0. The first in the initial series of four books is John Jackson Miller's 'A New Dawn', which attempts to bridge the gap between Episode III and Episode IV, following Jedi Padawan, Kanan and the rebellious Hera as their unique circumstances lead them to their first meeting with each other. I wasn't the biggest fan of this book, but it's impossible to argue that it isn't the perfect starting point for your immersion in the new Star Wars canon, not least because it has direct links to Star Wars Rebels, which I will get to later.
The second entry, James Luceno's Tarkin, was far more compelling, and I cannot recommend it enough. It's one of those rare stories that manages to take a villainous protagonist and make him relatable to the reader. Tarkin was one of the original trilogy's most interesting characters, quite simply because he was a normal man who had absolutely no fear of Darth Vader and his terrifying power. Luceno's book explores how Tarkin's character was forged and after reading it, you'll never look at him the same way again.
With 'Heir to the Jedi' scheduled for release in March and 'Lords of the Sith' in April, there's plenty of time to catch up on the first two books before the adventures continue.
Star Wars Rebels
Ok, since Star Wars Rebels premiered towards the back end of last year, it's been somewhat up and down. The hour-long premiere was brilliant, but the subsequent episodes were packed full of frustratingly childish squabbling, and only a few episodes have even attempted to peer into the backstories of this eclectic group. But regardless of its pitfalls, you should still be watching Star Wars Rebels. Not only is it the first on screen product to exist within the original trilogy universe since those awful 80's spin-offs, but it also has so much potential. In recent episodes, such as Gathering Forces and Path of the Jedi, the show has started to explore some more complex themes like the Master/Padawan bond between Kanan and Ezra, and the motives behind this groups desire to rebel against the Empire. It's unclear how Rebels will feed into future Star Wars products, but you can bet your house on the fact that LucasFilm will find a way to somehow tie this show into its movieverse.
Even in the old Expanded Universe, video games was always an area that struggled to capitalize on the brilliance of the Star Wars franchise. That being said, there were so many great titles produced by LucasArts over the year; Knights of the Old Republic, it's sequel and the Battlefront series were up there with the best, and fans have been waiting for a long time for a new entry into the latter. Thankfully, 2015 will see that wait come to an end when Star Wars Battlefront 3 hits the shelves. Games like this won't necessarily evolve your knowledge of canon storylines, but the insight they give into the universe's weapons and vehicles is invaluable. Rumor has it that a Holiday 2015 release date is close to being announced, but no matter when this comes out, this game is going to cause a serious amount of buzz.
A New Era of Movies
If books, videogames and comics aren't enough to convince you to immerse yourself in the new Star Wars EU, then surely the new era of Star Wars movies will be. When it's released on December 18th this year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will undoubtedly be the biggest movie event the 21st century has seen so far. All of this rebuilding and resetting of canon, all of this immersing yourself in a new expanded universe, it's all because of your love for Star Wars movies, and The Force Awakens will, for many, be the culmination of years of theories, rumors and general expectation. If you've done your reading in the months leading up to December you will no doubt be rewarded by various easter eggs linking The Force Awakens to the new wave of comics and novels.
Once the dust has settled from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there's the equally tantalizing prospect of Gareth Edwards' (Godzilla, Monsters), standalone Star Wars movie, followed by Episode VIII, followed by another standalone Star Wars movie followed by, well you get the point. Put simply, the next few years will pay witness to the biggest expansion in Star Wars storytelling ever seen, and now is your chance to stay ahead of the curve.