When I woke up this morning, I tossed aside my A New Hope-themed comforter. In the shower, I lathered up with Suave for Kids – hey, it was my only option for finding shampoo with Kylo Ren on it, isn’t it? Before leaving for the morning, I brushed my teeth with Colgate for Kids featuring Rey and BB-8. As the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on what the franchise means for me – and what it can mean for others.
One of the most powerful aspects of literature, in my mind, is its ability to be pedagogical. That is, fiction can teach us and change us. No fiction has shaped my life as utterly as the Star Wars franchise has. There are times I wonder what kind of person I would be if I had never seen Star Wars. Asking this aloud prompted my roommate to note that I wouldn’t have any t-shirts, at least.
But I think there are a few other ways it has taught me and changed me. First, Star Wars taught me that ordinary people can do great things. Growing up, I wasn’t really the most confident person. I wasn’t the best looking, nor did I really apply myself to my grades as much as I could have. I wasn’t good at sports, and I needed remedial band practice between regular band practices. I think this caused a lot of existential despair in me, for a long time. » Read more..
“I know of only one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
With one phrase, Luke Skywalker has thrown all of pop culture into a frenzy as we finally got our first look at The Last Jedi. As always, speculation runs rampant on both the movie title, the mic-dropping trailer line, and how the two are related. Why does Luke want to end the Jedi? Does that make him the eponymous last one? Is he headed towards the dark side too?
And also: If he’s not a Jedi, then what is he?
In the wake of all this theorizing, the concept of “Grey Jedi” has reappeared. It’s a character type that has been around for at least a couple decades: some fans consider Qui-Gon Jinn one. Now many in the fandom are wondering if Luke is headed down that path as well, away from the Jedi and towards something new that is neither Jedi nor Sith.
Luke may certainly be a new type of Jedi, but it’s unlikely he’ll be a grey one. For one, Luke isn’t the type to willingly embrace the dark side. However, more importantly, the concept of Grey Jedi is one that is completely at odds with what we’ve seen of the Force.
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As I discussed on Friday, the usual pattern of book and comic announcements at the respective Del Rey and Marvel panels at Star Wars Celebration Orlando changed a little bit. But it wasn’t a bad thing, because that meant that news got delivered more organically and it allowed the panels at Celebration to be focused on more interactive elements. But there actually was quite a bit of publishing and publishing-related news that came out at Celebration.
And since can’t talk about Star Wars Publishing news at Celebration without actually discussing the news, let’s get into it. Primarily what I’ll discuss here are Journey to The Last Jedi, Inferno Squad/Battlefront II, Hasbro news, and Marvel. We got quite a few books announced — several of which were surprises — and we heard about an astonishingly cool connection between the story of the new Battlefront game and an upcoming Del Rey novel. And we got more information about things we knew about earlier, such as Hasbro’s upcoming Jaina Solo action figure and Marvel’s upcoming Darth Vader comic. There’s so much to go over that the only way I can think of doing it is chronologically, based on when news came out at the convention.
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There used to be a predictable pattern to Star Wars publishing and Star Wars Celebration. Big announcements and other book news would invariably occur at the Del Rey panel for books, and the Dark Horse or Marvel panel for comics. I’ve been to five Celebrations, and the pattern always held. I always attended the book panels as a matter of principle, but they were also where the big publishing announcements were made. Even before I wrote for this site and officially covered Celebration, I’d always “cover” the panels and give the news to whatever fandom spaces I was occupying at the time (from message boards to social media). Things are a little different now.
Some people have observed — and some with dissatisfaction — that we’re getting book announcements outside of Celebration (such as how the Certain Point of View/”Operation Blue Milk” project was announced prior to Celebration), or that the Del Rey panel didn’t have the slew of new book announcements that it would traditionally end with. There has certainly been a change, and I’m not qualified to render any judgment about marketing or publishing, but I do have to say that change isn’t necessarily bad. It’s perhaps harder to cover these events, and there’s certainly no longer a one-stop-shop for announcements, but I came out of this Celebration thinking that the future was brighter for Star Wars publishing, and I don’t just mean in terms of the great titles that were announced by Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm Press.
There’s also Battlefront, a panel I attended with no expectations of anything other than good-looking pew pew. But I came out of it marveling at the payoff of almost two years of cross-medium storytelling between Del Rey, Disney-Lucasfilm, and Marvel. I’m hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we have more such partnerships to come, but even if it ends up being a one-time thing, it was still a pretty great moment. So I’m going to talk about the panels I attended and what impressions I got for Star Wars publishing going forward. Sadly, this year I didn’t get the chance to attend the Marvel panel nor did I get a chance to attend the Hasbro panel, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss them too.
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Comparing anything in the Star Wars galaxy to the works of JRR Tolkien is a tricky business, and one we should be cautious of. Though George Lucas did once cite The Lord of the Rings as an influence, thematically they are very different works, and Tolkien and Lucas drew their core inspirations from very different places. When it comes to Dave Filoni’s work on The Clone Wars and Rebels, though, the situation is a little different.
Filoni is a self-confessed Tolkien fanboy, who has talked often of the professor’s influence on his work. He even gave Ahsoka some of Gandalf’s lines in Rebels season two (“I have questions – questions that need answering”), as Ahsoka dropped in and out of the story as the old wizard does in The Hobbit. In a recent interview with Fangirls Going Rogue, Filoni revealed that his main influence when creating the character of Bendu for season three was in fact the notorious Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring.
Bendu is generating a great deal of interest as the internet struggles to decipher Luke Skywalker’s cryptic words in the trailer for The Last Jedi. Bendu does, after all, claim to be “the one in the middle,” a new perspective on the Force. Attempts to argue that the character is a sign that Lucasfilm are laying the groundwork for a more “grey” approach, however, risk clouding the true meaning of the character, and overlooking some unsettling truths about him. For a fuller understanding, it helps to look at the character of Bombadil, and work towards Bendu from there.
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