Despite the Prequel Era being off-limits during the heyday of the Expanded Universe, a few details did sneak through here and there that served to color in the pre-Republic period we would eventually see on screen, and while most of them were intentionally vague, for every outright error, there was a lucky guess. One of the best examples of this comes in the form of Winter, a character introduced alongside Thrawn and Mara all the way back in Heir to the Empire.
Winter was a close childhood friend of Princess Leia’s while growing up on Alderaan, who had also functioned as her attendant and decoy during state (and Rebellion) business. In the parlance of the prequels? She was Leia’s handmaiden.
In addition to her convenient physical resemblance to Leia (though her natural hair color was a stark white), Winter had a photographic memory, which led to her also becoming a highly effective, and notorious, intelligence agent for the Rebellion under the code name Targeter. Many an Imperial upper-cruster would recall sharing a delightful conversation with the beautiful young Alderaanian princess at a gala or banquet or what have you, when in reality they were being picked clean of intelligence and added to the flawless holocron that was Winter’s mind—all while the real Leia was likely off getting into trouble herself somewhere else. In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that Winter’s role as “backup Leia” played no small part in the princess’ status as a Rebel agent staying under wraps for as long as it did.
Eventually, the prequels themselves played into this backstory in the form of Sheltay Retrac, an attendant of Bail Organa’s who would be retconned as Winter’s mother (giving Winter a sorely-needed last name in the process) and promptly killed off shortly after her appearance in Revenge of the Sith—effectively giving Bail Organa another adopted daughter.
Of course, all that is Legends now. But in Marvel’s newly-announced Princess Leia miniseries, a new hope emerges for the character of Winter to earn her place in the new canon. While the plot takes place in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin, the series is said to “focus on how Leia charted her path from princess on Alderaan to the Imperial Senate and, ultimately, to rebel leader and inspiration”. That particular wording appears to originate from Making Star Wars’ story on the announcement rather than any official summary, so it’s unclear to what extent the story will actually detail Leia’s life before A New Hope, but the official word does suggest there will be flashbacks, and that she will be tracking down and attempting to reunite her fellow survivors from Alderaan, so this remains easily the best opportunity for Mark Waid, the miniseries’ writer and longtime comics heavyweight, to introduce Ultimate Winter, if you will.
Not only would the inclusion of Winter be a major step toward tying the new canon in with the beloved Legends universe (not to mention the thematic connection Winter has with the handmaidens of the prequels), but she would be a valuable storytelling asset in and of herself, as intelligence agents are often underutilized in Star Wars stories. Her memory would be of vital use to Leia’s mission—hell, someone who could probably recite dozens of Alderaanians who’d been conveniently offworld should be Leia’s first step—and filling out the Rebel ranks with compelling, multipurpose field agents should be a high priority for Marvel itself as they attempt (again) to tell the definitive bridge story between Episodes IV and V.
In addition, Winter’s relationship with Rogue Squadron pilot Tycho Celchu could provide further connective tissue for Marvel. Scuttlebutt is that Leia will be the first of a series of miniseries running alongside their two ongoings, and while nothing concrete is known about what might come later, if they remain true to their apparent desire to stick to this time period, it’s possible we could be seeing a Rogue Squadron mini before too long. Tycho, another survivor of Alderaan who defected from the Empire after its destruction, could show up first in the Leia mini before joining a newly-formed Rogue Squadron in their own series, or could be introduced in the story via Winter herself. More Alderaanians is always a good thing, is what I’m saying—and it looks like we’ll be getting that much for sure.
Last but not least, Winter is important to the franchise purely as a strong secondary female character. Like so much of the EU, she functions best as the glue that binds disparate pieces together—in this case Leia’s youth on Alderaan and her adulthood in service to the Rebellion—but she also works wonderfully as both a humanizing element in Leia’s life and a foil for her irascible personality. For all Leia’s training in the behavior of royalty, Winter was presented as far more comfortable with the family’s elegance and opulence, while Leia, much like her real parents, always preferred to grab a rifle and get her hands dirty.
Of course, when Winter first appeared in HttE, the Rebellion was effectively over. She spent the aforementioned “heyday” of the EU as a glorified babysitter for the Solo children, and much of what I detailed above was filled in later on by the X-Wing comics and post-prequel material. So as much as I’m going to miss Winter as EU fans have come to know her, there’s also a certain do-over potential here that excites me. If Mark Waid were to make Winter a prominent character in the Rebellion era, it becomes that much more likely that she’ll show up further in the timeline as well, in a role better suited to her talents—and maybe even in a film.
Just as long as she’s not babysitting.
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