Op/Ed: It's OK if STAR WARS Expanded Universe Gets Rebooted

As a Star Wars fan who has really only gotten into the Expanded Universe in the last 4 years or so, that was a hard headline to write. I dove in head-first, thanks mostly to the excellent Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game. If these two things could be so much fun, and bring so much depth to the Star Wars universe, then why not the comics and books?


Since then I've read at least 50 Star Wars novels and if I had to give a rough estimate, somewhere in the 400-500 range of comics. Yes, that is a lot of one property. I've also gone back and replayed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and have a high level (though not maxed) character in the current MMORPG Old Republic that keeps me coming back to that world. I've been to two Star Wars: Celebration conventions, I was at the final day of the old Star Tours ride and the opening day of the new Star Tours: The Adventure Continues, and yes, I've seen every possible destination and interstitial on that excellent Disney ride.

So yes, I absolutely love Star Wars, and more importantly for this piece, I love the Expanded Universe. The wealth of the Star Wars lore, and how well it fits into multiple genres, tells heartbreaking stories right along rip-roaring action, humor next to disturbing darkness, is astounding. Now, with Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, there is a lot of speculation and rumor about what will happen to the Expanded Universe. The ending of Clone Wars and closing of LucasArts, the company's game division, along with reduced staff at ILM and uncertainty about the future of Dark Horse Comics' license with Lucasfilm all leaves plenty of room for doubt. What happens to all these stories? What happens when Star Wars: Episode VII comes out and contradicts the excellent Thrawn trilogy and New Jedi Order novel series, or when the Han Solo and Boba Fett features hit and erase other stories from the comics?


And I've come to realize: it'll be okay. The easiest way to accept it for a science fiction fan (though, don't you ever forget, Star Wars is a fantasy first, despite its sci-fi trappings), is to simply embrace the concept of alternate realities. Sure, we saw how the story after Return of the Jedi progressed already. We've seen moments within the Great Jedi Purge between trilogies, and we've had characters' origin stories and backgrounds and even their family histories for thousands of years fleshed out. Heck, we now even know who the very first Jedi were, and how they chose to stop studying the Dark Side and move only into the Light. There've been Republic Commandos and a world made of the Force, there have been fierce Sith armies and lost distant relatives of heroes that are household names - there have been some absolutely amazing stories in the Expanded Universe. In all likelihood, when Star Wars Episode VII hits, it will have some similarities to some of those stories. It may have some similar or downright identical characters. It will carry similar themes - after all, Star Wars is Star Wars. But there is equal likelihood that it will functionally wipe out the Expanded Universe as we know it, and that's okay.


For one, like the stories of DC Comics before their September 2011 "New 52" reboot, these stories won't magically disappear. Them "not counting" or even just "counting less" to the overall official lore shouldn't take away anything from fans' enjoyment of them for what they are: great stories. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, "many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." And the silver lining to Disney/Lucasfilm doing something completely new for Episode VII and beyond? We get brand new Star Wars.

I hope the comics continue on, and specifically at Dark Horse. Frankly, these people know how to make Star Wars comics - they know how to tell contained and serialized stories in this universe, and have assembled some absolutely amazing creators over the course of their 20 years with the franchise (Seriously, just browse their digital comic store to see what they've done). Some of the best yet is just hitting us now, with the ongoing series by Brian Wood, the multiple mini-series featuring strong female lead characters, and outside-the-box things like Agent of the Empire and The Star Wars - these are risks that other comic book companies may not make, and I hope Disney keeps that in mind.


Likewise, the novels that continue from Del Rey should keep coming. They cover eras that film will likely never touch, and the idea of exploring a potential new continuity in prose is exciting. A second, new, or "official" continuity beyond that of the first six films (and most like The Clone Wars) doesn't limit what stories can be told - it opens up a whole new avenue, allowing for the birth of an Expanded Universe once again, this time more closely tied to the film franchise that allows us to take a different view of our old favorite characters, alongside the new ones we've yet to discover.

Now don't go writing eulogies for Jacen and Jaina Solo, Mara Jade, Cade Skywalker, Darth Revan, Darth Bane, Kerra Holt, the Yuuzhan Vong, Kir Kanos, or any of the other innumerable contributions to the Star Wars mythos made by the talented Expanded Universe creators. Just don't seal your heart and mind to the possible new characters and stories that are on their way. After all, only Sith deal in absolutes.

May the Force Be With You.

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