One of the many consequences of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm was an across-the-board consolidation of the various multimedia elements of the Star Wars franchise. LucasArts got shut down. The Clone Wars was canceled to make way for Rebels. And the Disney-owned Marvel snatched the Star Wars comics license away from Dark Horse, who had been publishing Star Wars comics for over two decades at that point. Marvel announced details about the first three new Star Wars comics this past July: a core series called simply Star Wars, another ongoing focused on Darth Vader, and a five-issue Princess Leia mini-series. All three of those are set during the events of the original trilogy, leaving many fans wondering how long it would be before the relaunched Star Wars comics universe ventured beyond the days of Luke, Leia, and Han. Well, Marvel will definitely be telling stories of other eras in the Star Wars timeline…just not yet.
The Coffee With Kenobi podcast recently interviewed Marvel Comics Editor Jordan D. White, who explained why Marvel and Lucasfilm decided to set all their initial Star Wars series in the years between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
It’s all the iconic characters at their peaks. Luke is a new hero still finding his way. Han has just turned from scoundreldom to the rebellion. Leia has just lost her planet and is coming into her own. Vader is the biggest bad guy out there and on their trail.
Indeed, Marvel’s new Star Wars comics are set in the exact same period as Dark Horse’s excellent Star Wars ongoing series, launched last January by writer Brian Wood and artist Carlos D’Anda. It also told new Star Wars tales set shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star…but those stories have all been rendered non-canon, swept aside into the “Star Wars Legends” label along with the rest of what used to constitute to so-called “Expanded Universe.” Wood’s comic was a lot of fun, so the Marvel guys have their work cut out for them to top it.
White also explained that exploring the post-New Hope era felt strangely appropriate, since it hearkens back to a previous creative partnership between Star Wars and Marvel. The comics company actually published Star Wars comics for nearly a decade, from 1977 – 1986. “That’s where Marvel started with Star Wars back in the ’70s,” said White, “and as we’re helping kick off a new era of Star Wars continuity — with the change from ‘extended universe’ to a new official canon — it seemed like the best place to launch.”
However, it was really during the Dark Horse era that the Expanded Universe began, well, expanding. Timothy Zahn’s acclaimed Heir to the Empire novels lit the fuse, and then Dark Horse’s Dark Empire miniseries tossed a crate of gunpowder onto the flames. Over the next two decades, Dark Horse published Star Wars stories that spanned thousands of years, helping shift the borders of the fictional universe well beyond the comparatively claustrophobic borders of the six Episode films.
Will Marvel follow suit? When asked, White did a bit of evasive tap-dancing, saying:
As for other eras, yeah, that is one of the great parts about Star Wars, there are so many terrific points in their history we can explore. With these first series, we wanted to stick all in the same era in order to create the sort of inter-connected universe feel we get between Marvel books. But I am certain we’re going to be turning to those other eras in future series. Heck — I know for a fact we’re working on at least one of those … but we’re not ready to announce it just yet.
So there you have it: the Marvel Star Wars comics will be expanding their scope…eventually. And honestly, it’s not surprising that they’re launching with titles closely related to the most beloved segment of the Star Wars fiction: the original trilogy. By all accounts J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII is striving to evoke the look and feel of those three films that started it all, and getting to see further adventures of Han, Luke, Leia, and the rest on the big screen is bound to inspire fans to want to see even more of those characters. Especially since the new canon leaves huge swathes of their respective timelines open for new stories to be told. The comics and announced novels are mostly focusing on the years within the original trilogy, but I have no doubt as the years roll on we’ll get more stories exploring what those characters were up to in the years between Episodes VI and VII.
The first Star Wars novel of the streamlined canon — the recently released A New Dawn — serves as a prequel and direct tie-in to Rebels. I expect it won’t be too long before we hear announcements about more comics set during the Clone Wars or Rebels eras, or in the years between.