The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. XI – The Bounty Hunters of Ord Mantell

scoundrels-luck

After a nice long break to recover from the insanity of the Death Star plans (which I recently adapted into a short video for Star Wars Minute), we now return to our regularly-scheduled program, wherein I explicate the handful of offhand references in the original trilogy that the Expanded Universe couldn’t help but explain multiple times over. This time around:

22. What happened with the bounty hunter Han “ran into” on Ord Mantell?

By my count (and one thing I learned from the Death Star piece is that there’s a fair chance I’m missing someone), there are seven different encounters on Ord Mantell between Han and at least one bounty hunter between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In researching this piece, one interesting thing I noticed is that, counterintuitively, about half of these weren’t even directly the result of Jabba’s bounty, but were instead brought on by Han’s position in the Rebellion. This is neat because it sort of contradicts the context of Han’s line in Empire but at the same time reinforces the idea that he’s ready to move on. Like lots of stuff in this period, some of the dating is fuzzy, but I’m going to attempt to run through them all chronologically, starting with…

Suspect #1: Skorr

Unlike a lot of the planet-hopping bounty hunters we’ve met, Skorr operated primarily on the populous, not-quite-reputable Ord Mantell—at least until the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin led to heightened security in the region (Ord Mantell and Yavin aren’t especially close together, but don’t worry your pretty little head about that). He and his li’l buddy Gribbet are about to take their leave of the place when the Millennium Falcon sets down for repairs with the usual suspects in tow. Attracted by Jabba’s bounty and resentful of the rebels to boot, Skorr decides to make his play.

skorrUnlike certain others we’ll be discussing (I’m looking at you, IG-88), Skorr is smart enough not to confront the Star Warriors head on, so he keeps tabs on them until Luke and Leia split up from Han and Chewbacca, and manages to take them hostage after a brief struggle. He brings them to his hideout over Ten Mile Plateau, which is a cool name even if miles aren’t supposed to be a thing here, and suspends them over a great drop into a canyon. Gribbet drops Luke’s lightsaber off back at the Falcon with a message—come alone and turn yourself in or else.

In addition to hiding a tracking device on the lightsaber, Skorr keeps an eye on the Falcon and its idling engines, wary of Chewbacca following Han to the hideout. In reality, Han flies out in a Skyhopper and Chewie trails him from inside the canyon where he can’t be detected. When Han attempts to rescue Luke and Leia from their precarious position, Skorr goes for the killshot and the Big Three plummet into the canyon—and into the waiting arms of Chewie’s tractor beam.

The Falcon flees the planet and is followed to one of Ord Mantell’s moons thanks to that tracking device. Hiding out on the moon, Luke finds the tracker, which they stick on an escape pod and jettison in the direction of the nearby Imperial forces who are also looking for our heroes. Skorr mistakenly rockets after the escape pod, and is quickly apprehended by the Imperials and sent to the spice mines of Kessel. Now, remember: Skorr is the smart one.

Han’s mind: not even a little bit changed

Suspect #2: Alfreda Goot

Shortly afterward, Han and Leia are back on Ord Mantell for some reason. Han is playing something called “fan-tan” in a cantina while Leia is off doing who-knows-what. A droid gootbelonging to the Togorian Mandalorian bounty hunter Alfreda Goot arrives to inform Han that Leia’s gone and gotten herself captured again (chicks, amirite?) and Goot will only give her up if Han wins a race back to Mos Eisley. What winning the race has to do with collecting the bounty on Han, I couldn’t tell you. The droid produces a piece of Leia’s jewelry (chicks, amirite?) to prove the story, and off Han goes.

The Empire has a heavy presence in the area (which actually jives with the Skorr story) and Han picks up an Imperial tail on the way to Tatooine. Ultimately, a firefight ensues between Han, Goot, and the Imperials, and she’s shot and killed by Han. Maybe she should’ve just sold Leia to the Empire and called it a day.

Han’s mind: maybe a teensy bit changed

Suspect #3: Czethros

This is a fun one: Czethros is a humanoid cyborg bounty hunter with a frog-like sidekick who abducts Chewbacca in order to get at Han. Han steals Czethros’ starship and flies through an Imperial no-fly zone on his way to rescue Chewie, leading to the Empire arresting Czethros and sending him to Kessel. Sounds familiar, right? That’s because he was originally intended to be Skorr. Czethros is a major player in the Young Jedi Knights series whose past encounter with Han is recounted to Jacen Solo—but with a handful of details changed at the last second once the authors realized that Skorr (spoiler alert) was no longer alive.

Han’s mind: honestly I’m surprised he even remembered this one

Suspect #4: IG-88

renegade-ig88

Droids are super into really complex strategy, right? You know, all that RAM and shit? So when IG-88 learns that Han, currently palling around with his fellow scoundrels in Renegade Squadron, sets down on Ord Mantell for repairs (again) after a battle in the Alderaan Graveyard, IG-88 gets himself some Imperial backup (which, okay, is smarter than Skorr) and bursts into the cantina where the Renegades are hanging out, guns blazing (which is decidedly dumber than Skorr).

Han and company fight their way back to the Falcon‘s berth in a nearby junkyard, but it’s not ready to fly yet. What follows is the kind of progression of absurd errands that exhausts my patience in lots of video games: after securing the junkyard, Renegade Squadron and Chewbacca must retrieve various spare parts for Han from around the area, destroy the shield generator protecting a nearby anti-aircraft turret, destroy the turret itself, and finally, retrieve a new power core for the Falcon, fighting off Imperial forces all the while.

By the time all this is accomplished, they’ve been forced back from the junkyard and into the hangar itself, which is when IG-88 makes his reappearance. IG is seriously damaged in the following hands-on tussle, and Renegade Squadron blasts away from the planet.

Han’s mind: moderately changed

Suspect #5: Cypher Bos

Bos is one of four Nalrithian eggmates—meaning he and his siblings came from the same egg, which gives them limited telepathic contact with each other, because science. Driven to prove himself the biggest badass in the family, Cypher kills the two weaker eggmates and becomes a bounty hunter working in the employ of the Empire. His final competitor, Phoedris, feels guilty about his dick of a brother and enlists in the Rebellion.

cypherbosMeanwhile, the rebels are setting up shop on Hoth (we’re getting close to Empire at this point) and desperately in need of funds. A large convoy of credits is passing by Ord Mantell (because the Galactic Empire still ships physical money around for some reason), and Leia happens to have its access codes from her time as Princess of Alderaan. With Phoedris as their guide, Han and Leia intend to break into an Imperial facility and use Leia’s codes to steal the credits.

Cypher learns that Phoedris will be going on a mission with Han Solo, and finally kills his brother—after using their mental connection to learn all the details of the mission. He then infiltrates the rebel operation posing as Phoedris and escorts Han and Leia to the Imperial computers as planned. He doesn’t know Leia’s identity at first, but once he pieces it together he quickly changes tack in order to capture both she and Han for the Empire and Jabba respectively. One more quick firefight later, Cypher is dead and Han and Leia go free.

Han’s mind: pretty close to changed

Suspect #6: This guy

marvelguyKnown on the wook as “Fan-eared bounty hunter“, the fine gentleman you see before you exists for exactly two panels at the end of issue #37 of Marvel’s original Star Wars series. Han shoots him down, and before he dies he tells Han that he’s “marked”—Jabba is still looking to collect from him, in other words. Despite taking the prize for the least substantive entry on our suspect list, Mr. Eared was actually a crucial bit of early continuity: on the assumption that George Lucas wouldn’t actually keep the Jabba plot in play for the films after ANH, earlier issues of the comics had seen the bounty expunged. Once the word came down that it was part of Empire‘s story (the series’ own adaptation started two months later) this moment was thrown in to establish that bounty hunters were in fact still after him.

Another noteworthy bit: the actual scene is so short that it doesn’t actually say what planet Han is on; when the Ord Mantell line comes up in the adaptation shortly afterward, the context of the series seems to imply that’s what this was, but it’s not explicit.

Han’s mind: probably changed

Suspect #7: Skorr Part 2—Skorr Harder

Some time later, Han and Luke run into Raskar, an old pirate acquaintance of Han’s. Raskar has fallen on hard times and tracks the Falcon to Hoth with the intention of turning Han in to Jabba (but they’re not on Ord Mantell yet, so he doesn’t count). During their confrontation they come across a cavern full of spice—enough to deal with Raskar’s money woes and keep him from capturing Han after all. Luckily for our heroes, he hasn’t figured out that there’s a rebel base on Hoth; but not so luckily, they have to return to Raskar’s ship to retrieve the Falcon, and they’re greeted there by a whole team of bounty hunters who’ve taken over the ship and locked up the crew. The team is working on behalf of Boba Fett, natch, and consists of Bossk, Dengar (who amusingly keeps getting called “Zuckass”), and Skorr, freshly escaped from the spice mines of Kessel and dying for revenge.

skorrfightWith their prisoners under control, the hunters fly Raskar’s ship to Ord Mantell to meet with Fett—and are surprised to see the Executor there, awaiting the delivery of Luke Skywalker. Skorr is almost as pissed at the Empire as he is at Han, but reluctantly agrees to stick with the plan. Leaving Raskar’s bunch locked up in the cargo hold, the hunters take their own ship and the Falcon down to the planet and lock Luke and Han up in an abandoned moisture plant (because plain old vaporators weren’t doing the job, I guess). Once it becomes clear they’re dealing with both Boba Fett and Darth Vader himself, Skorr confronts a chained-up Han and Luke once more, “accidentally” allowing Luke to retrieve his lightsaber from Skorr’s person while he’s distracted by his favorite pastime, beating Han.

With Fett inbound in Slave I, Luke and Han cut themselves free and seemingly flee the building—in reality, they make a fake set of tracks into the desert for the bounty hunters to follow, then double back and make a break for the Falcon. Knowing their escape was imminent, though, Skorr is waiting for them—all he wants is to kill Han and deny the Empire its prize. Despite getting the drop on them, and refusing Han’s request for a blaster to make it a fair fight (you can’t blame a guy for asking), Skorr misses his killshot thanks to some Force intervention on Luke’s part, and Han tackles him. After a moment of struggling, Skorr accidentally—for real this time—fires his blaster into his own chest, and dies.

Han’s mind: officially changed

As a final word on the matter, the old StarWars.com Databank had its own compilation of these events (though it predated Renegade Squadron) on its Ord Mantell page, and that piece seemed to confirm that Skorr was the bounty hunter Han was actually referring to. He’s widely considered to have been the first bounty hunter whose story we saw, but technically that honor goes to the no-name in Star Wars #37, which beat Skorr to print by around a year—not to mentioning beating Empire‘s theatrical release by a month, meaning that he was “that bounty hunter on Ord Mantell” even before most people knew there was a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell.

Further reading/playing:

4 comments

  1. cthugha says:

    That was very interesting and very funny… and I very much approve of the title picture. (Any Ord Mantell connection there? I know it’s from one of the older WEG sourcebooks, but can’t remember where exactly…)

  2. I forgot to say: the best part of this piece is your use of “Star Warriors”.

%d bloggers like this: