By Patrick Kevin Day and Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
George Lucas may not have much interest in expanding his “Star Wars” adventures beyond the Ewok-party ending of “Return of the Jedi,” but that hasn’t stopped others from doing the work for him. Since 1978, the so-called “Expanded Universe” has been expanding in fits and starts, filling in the gaps before, during and after the six films that are part of the official “Star Wars” canon.
The additional novels, video games, comic books and TV specials have become so complex in their expanded vision of Lucas’ initial vision that Lucasfilm has even subdivided them into varying levels of importance. (G-canon -- the movies -- takes precedence over C-canon -- most of the novels, except for those novels that are considered N-canon.) Got it?
To help further simplify the process for those with limited resources, we present a short summary of the essential books, specials and games that could be considered more essential than the rest. Or at least have had some effect on the primary movies. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)
One of the most successful offshoots of the Star Wars saga is the “Star Wars: The Clone War” animated series based off the 2002 film of the same name. In 2003, Cartoon Network and Lucasfilms partnered with animator and producer Genndy Tartakovsky, of “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samuari Jack” fame, to create an animated microseries based off of “Star Wars: Episode II.” Tartakovsky’s “Clone Wars” was released in 2003 and lasted for three season, garnering three Emmys in the process.
Five years later, Star Wars creator George Lucas went on the produce and create a computer animated television series expanding on “The Clone Wars,” which premiered in October 2008 after a theatrical release of the first few episodes was released in August. This second reboot of the “Clone Wars” series has proved successful for Lucasfilm and Cartoon Network, which recently premiered the fifth season of the show on Sept. 29, 2012.
Similar to “Shadows of the Empire,” “The Force Unleashed” is spread across a video game, a novel, a comic book, a reference book, action figures and a role-playing game supplement. The game will be released this September, roughly a month after the “Clone Wars” movie comes out. The story details are still shadowy, but they will involve an apprentice to Darth Vader in the time between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope” as he moves about the galaxy, rounding up the last of the Jedi Knights. ()
‘Knights of the Old Republic’
Set 4,000 years before “A New Hope,” this role-playing video game and its sequel, “Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords” expands on the ancient history of that galaxy that was already “a long time ago.” The story centers on a young Jedi knight fighting against the plots of an evil Sith Lord named Darth Malak. The action of the games spanned across most of the planets seen in the movies, allowing you to see Tatooine, Kashyyyk (the Wookiee planet) and others long before Anakin, Luke or Threepio ever set foot on them. ()
Of the multitudes of “Star Wars” titles Dark Horse Comics publishes (“Star Wars: Republic,” “Star Wars Tales” and “Star Wars: Legacy,” etc.) only a very few have broken through to make a distinguished contribution to the Expanded Universe. Probably the most noteworthy are the miniseries “Dark Empire” and “Dark Empire II,” in which Emperor Palpatine is reanimated into cloned bodies. Fans were outraged at the development and other “Star Wars” authors, including Timothy Zahn, sought to minimize the event’s impact in their own works. (Dark Horse Comics)
‘Shadows of the Empire’
The closest Lucas ever came to turning something from the expanded universe into a film of its own was with his multimedia “Shadows of the Empire” push in 1996. Set between “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” the “Shadows” line included a novel, a comic book series, a video game and even a soundtrack of original score music. Each element focused on a separate bit of the story, involving an evil Prince Xizor (that’s Shee-Zor) and his attempts to replace Darth Vader as the Empire’s No. 2 guy. Several ships from this storyline, including a swoop bike, made appearances in Lucas’s special editions of the original trilogy. (Pay close attention to the ships in Mos Eisley in “A New Hope”). (Lucasfilm)
‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’
Science fiction author Timothy Zahn revived interest in the long-dormant “Star Wars” universe in 1991 with publication of a trilogy of novels set five years after “Return of the Jedi.” Fans got to see Han and Leia as a married couple, the resurgence of the Empire under a forgotten Grand Admiral named Thrawn, and Luke’s attempts to revive the culture of the Jedi Knights. Elements from Zahn’s novels worked their way into Lucas’ prequel trilogy, most notably the name of Coruscant, the capital planet of the Republic. (Bantam Spectra)
‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’
Hustled onto network TV back in the days when Lucas wasn’t quite the master of his creations, the “Holiday Special” introduced viewers to the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk (later seen in “Revenge of the Sith”) as well as the rebel bounty hunter Boba Fett. Shot in the wake of “A New Hope’s” initial success, the special featured the original stars. But viewers don’t remember that. Instead, they remember the awful songs; comedy bits courtesy of Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman and Art Carney, and the dime-store animation. Lucas was unhappy with the results and the special has never been re-aired or officially released. A quick search of YouTube however, brings up some gems like this. (Lucasfilm)
‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’
Alan Dean Fosters novel created a sensation among fans when it was released in 1978. This was the very first full-length novel released after that first Star Wars film hit in 1977, and it was actually written by Foster to be the basis of a fall-back, low-cost sequel if that first movie didnt click with moviegoers. The story: Luke and Leia crash on a swampy, foggy planet and after a few scrapes with the locals, they end up on a quest there to find the crimson-colored Kaiburr crystal, which can focus the Forcebut Darth Vader is hunting for it as well.
Did Splinter have any reverse impact on the Star Wars films that followed it? Perhaps. The book presents Darth Vader leaping high in the air and shooting savage energy from his handsabilities that Sith showed in the film sequelsand that swampy planet sure felt like Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back. ()
The familiar story of Star Wars filled the first seven issues of a monthly Marvel Comic series, but then, well, the series went down the rabbit hole for a follow-up adventure. In the February 1978 issue, writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin began a new story with the infamous Eight Against a World issue, which presented Han Solo and Chewbacca leading a ragged and colorful group of hired guns (a la The Magnificent Seven) to protect an outpost city. One of the group was a robot on treads, another was a porcupine dude with a cape and flying quills. Oh, and there was Jaxxon, a tall, surly, pistachio-colored rabbit with a laser blaster and a starship called the Rabbits Foot. And you thought Jar Jar Binks was a joke. (Marvel)