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Escape Pod: Ailyn Vel

Okay, stick with me on this one.

Point one: several months back, there was a rumor going around that in order to step away from the baggage of the prequel era, Lucasfilm was going to begin their (not yet confirmed) Boba Fett spinoff movie by killing off the existing version of the character and having someone else don his Mandalorian armor.

Point two: last week, a “leaked” list of the Star Wars release slate through 2020 appeared online and “confirmed” that not only was a Fett movie in the works, it would be first out of the gate between Episodes VII and VIII.

Point three: even if one and two are complete bullshit, of course they’re going to make a Boba Fett movie.

While the first rumor was met with the gnashing of teeth from both hardcore Fettites and the diversity crowd (who at the very least would have appreciated a Maori in a leading role), it does open up a lot of interesting possibilities, one of which I’d like to explore in the following. Read More

Escape Pod: Hoojibs

As I’ve mentioned before, my first exposure to Star Wars was the Special Editions. When they were released in a VHS box set later in 1997, each tape began with a little 10-minute featurette detailing some of the changes made to that particular film. Being brand-new to the franchise, these featurettes were my first exposure to George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Dennis Muren, and so on, and the behind-the-scenes world of Star Wars as a whole—and as such, they’ve stuck in my head in a way that weirdly eclipses their actual importance as early “bonus content”. Case in point: my op-ed category title here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, Scotch Tape and Popsicle Sticks, comes from a quote by Mark Hamill referring to the Death Star battle in A New Hope.

Another line that’s always stuck with me comes from a little later, when Lucas is discussing the dewbacks—whose presence on Tatooine was scaled back due to the limitations of the physical puppetry at the time. The formative ingredients of Star Wars’ universe, he said, were plot, naturally, his own “psychological eccentricities” (no kidding, right?), and finally, whimsy: “I wanted to give a kind of random, real-world feel to everything.” The dewbacks, he explained, were there for whimsy. Read More

Escape Pod: Matthew Stover

There are few Star Wars authors (none, actually) more universally revered than Matthew Stover, the author of Traitor, Revenge of the Sith, Shatterpoint, and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. Stover writes his novels with moving prose, fantastic characterization, snappy dialogue, and generally an inspiring passion for the Star Wars universe. Some of the most memorable entries in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are the product of Matthew Stover, and Disney would be making a grievous mistake in not inviting him to play a role in any sort of EU 2.0. Throughout his involvement with the Galaxy Far, Far Away, Stover has demonstrated a fantastic capacity for utilizing the Star Wars setting to its utmost potential, and for crafting stories that inspire the fandom.

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Escape Pod: Ania Solo

Show me a good Star Wars story, and I’ll show you a character who just plain does not want to be there.

As I sit here writing this, the fifteen-second teaser for Star Wars Rebels has just showed up online, and already people’s eyes are twitching over one particular phrase: “the Jedi will rise”. Let’s be realistic here: of course there will be Jedi in Rebels. As I mentioned in our chat on the show a while back, I’m personally hoping for more of a Yoda vibe than a Luke vibe—an old, retired Master the characters occasionally seek out for advice, and maybe a handy li’l slogan for the opening titles.

But really, I doubt Lucasfilm wants that—they want a Luke, someone learning the ways of the Force that young viewers can relate to; and in all likelihood, someone with a spunky twenty-something Togruta to show them the ropes.

But why? Does Force enhancement enhance a character’s gateway potential as well?

I don’t think so. Enter Exhibit A: Ania Solo. If you haven’t been reading the new Legacy comic series, Ania is the great, great (great?) granddaughter of Han and Leia, and while she shares that common ancestry with her contemporary Cade Skywalker, the protagonist of the original Legacy, Ania is everything Cade is not.

Far from being an aloof, landed figure struggling to shoulder the weight of her family history, Legacy creators Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman took Ania Solo from “elite”, cruised straight past “everyman”, and didn’t stop until they reached “works in a junkyard”. To what extent she knows or cares about her ancestry remains to be entirely illuminated, but what’s clear is that all Ania wants is to stay out of the way; the sad little queen of a sad little hill. The series’ drama begins when the old Solo luck comes knocking and deposits an errant lightsaber at her door—thrusting her into the center a series of events she could not give less of a crap about; at least, not at first.

In my earlier article What Star Wars Can Learn From The Avatar Franchise, I pointed out that while one of that series’ highlights was its tendency to empower “the Han Solo character type”, they were only, naturally, riffing on the role that Han Solo himself perfected. When I look back on the great tapestry of characters Star Wars has offered over the years, even I am surprised by how little people seem to have appreciated what Han brought to the Original Trilogy—ironic distance. The language of Star Wars—the first one, I mean—was one of broad, sweeping archetypes and mythological melodrama, but as much as it tapped into ideas that everyone can understand, I would argue that the secret ingredient in the Star Wars formula, the thing that keeps it from collapsing under the weight of its own artificial portent, was a simple eye-roll every once in a while.

To make a good Star Wars story, someone needs to be there to tell the protagonists how exasperating this all is. While overall, I think this was one of the biggest failings of the Prequel Trilogy, note that Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan came as close as it got to a Han figure. Who, after all, was the audience-identification figure in The Phantom Menace? Qui-Gon? Anakin? Or the one guy who wondered aloud why the hell Jar Jar was sticking around?

But this problem isn’t just with the Prequels—even the Expanded Universe, especially as the years after Return of the Jedi kept ticking along, became less and less about everymen and women and more about big kings of big hills, and lately has seemed to have, well—collapsed under the weight of its own artificial portent.

Of course, to shove Ania Solo into the Escape Pod is a smidge disingenuous, as there’s likely no way for the ST to really use her without reinterpreting her as a child or grandchild of Han and Leia. But if there’s one big mistake I’m willing to lose the New Republic Era in order to correct, it’s the lack of any non-Force-sensitive Skywalker or Solo offspring.

Ironically, if Han and Leia had had a child who couldn’t become a Jedi, that character would probably have been much safer—since Star Wars mostly seems interested in telling stories about Jedi, non-Jedi tend to run up against much less life-threatening peril. That bias worked out pretty well for Ania up until the still-ongoing events of her comic, but seeing a strong, young woman with so much of the smuggler and the princess in her, yet without all the baggage that comes with Jedi indoctrination—ah, excuse me, I mean training—makes me honestly excited at the prospect of someone like her in the Sequel Trilogy. Even three or four generations removed, she’s got all the tenacity and dignity of Leia, and all the honor and resourcefulness of Han; but all the courage and ideals in the world are no match for a good facepalm every now and then.

Escape Pod: Mara Jade Skywalker

I find myself surprised to be writing this article. Surely if I wanted one thing from the Expanded Universe to survive the anticipated Disney purge and make its way into the Sequel Trilogy that it would be my favorite character, Corran Horn, right? The more I thought about what to write as I sat down to write that article though, the more my appreciation for the character of Mara Jade kept pushing itself into my thoughts. So I’m writing to save Mara Jade instead.

This appreciation was completely unexpected, not only because I thought I was going to write about a different character but because I have never been a big Mara fan. Looking back I realize now that I should have been and I can’t even explain why I wasn’t a fan. She really embodied what I look for in strong female characters in the Star Wars books. I didn’t quite know what I had until she was no longer included in the stories.

Zahn’s Jade

385px-Choices_of_One_PB_artThis Jade is perhaps the one I least like which is weird since he invented the character. Don’t get me wrong, I find the concept of her character to be enticing and I like how despite being the Emperor’s Hand she constantly makes decisions for herself and doesn’t feel like killing is always the answer to a problem. I think as a youngster reading the books I didn’t want to like her because she wanted to kill Luke and no one was taking my hero away from me! However, as an adult reading Zahn’s books now I find myself not liking the situations she’s written into. Zahn created this amazingly strong character and for the most part she is written into books where she can’t really win because Luke, Leia and Han are always in the way. By the time Choices of One came out I was really expecting or hoping to have a book with Mara Jade and without Luke, Han and Leia in it. I actually can’t figure out why all of her stories have to revolve around them. I believe she is a strong enough central character to the EU that she could hold a book by herself. I feel like we’ve never gotten to see her be the ultimate assassin/dark agent because the Big Three are always there to spoil things.

Now you might be thinking that during the timeframe that Zahn writes in Mara is the bad guy. Should the bad guy get to win? Answered simply, yes, if you consider her a true bad guy. I don’t. Time and again we’ve seen her administering Imperial Justice on people who actually deserve it for one reason or another. She’s not ruthlessly killing anyone she encounters and she usually tries to find out the truth before passing judgement. That’s part of what makes her character unique and intriguing to the reader. Therefore I don’t understand why we’ve never had a novel where we solely followed Mara Jade around. She’s the total package of a female character and could definitely hold down a book of her own. She is intelligent, independent and powerful which are all qualities I would like to see in the female Jedi that are included in the Sequel Trilogy. Why invent a new character when the perfect one already exists?

Bantam’s Mara Jade:

Jade survives the death of the Emperor and becomes successful in Talon Karrde’s organization. This version is definitely my favorite of the Jade character. I like how she decides to train as a Jedi only after a lot of thought and living of life. She continually tries to avoid the attraction to Skywalker and busies herself with the Smuggler’s Alliance and Lando. Her travels keep bringing them together and in a touching scene we finally get Luke admitting his love for her. She challenged him at every meeting and the Mara they developed became the best match for Luke.

385px-Maravsyomin

Del Rey’s Mara:

The only part I enjoyed of this version of Mara was her determination and strength shown on Dantooine during the NJO. Despite her sickness and hordes of Vong attacking them, she was able to stay alive long enough for backup to arrive. The ultimate motherly instinct and I applauded Del Rey for keeping her alive even after Ben was born because I seriously thought they were going to kill her off then. So often storytellers feel the hero needs to be motherless. When Anakin Solo died the readers shifted their focus to Ben and were hoping for great things from the offspring of Luke and Mara.

I am not going to get into the bad parts of the Del Rey Mara Jade and those are definitely something I don’t want to see saved from the purge. I’d also ask that any discussion doesn’t go into that either. I’m interested in having Disney preserve the character that is Mara Jade Skywalker and seeing her with Luke in the Sequel Trilogy (while also being a badass female Jedi too!).

480px-Mara_Jade_SWGTCG

Final Thoughts:

Mara Jade is the perfect match for Luke Skywalker. If they are going to have the story call for an offspring of Skywalker, and it seems logical that it would, I sincerely hope they include Mara as a female role model for the young Jedi in the series and as a wife and mother. Mara Jade has been a part of the Expanded Universe for a long time as a strong female character. I’m also slightly tired of heroes always having a missing or dead parent(s) in movies. So many of the recent sci-fi/fantasy stories seem to start with dead parents and I don’t think it is always necessary. I know some of this contradicts my thoughts on how Luke is going to die in Episode VII but I have been persuaded by some of the comments made on that article that the death of the mentor has been overdone. Star Wars also has a track record for having missing parents ie. Luke initially had no parents and Anakin’s father was unknown and then his mother was killed off in Episode II. If they can find a plausible way for Luke and Mara to remain together alive and on the sidelines I am all for them staying that way but I don’t want to see it at the expense of not fully developing the next generation of Jedi. Mara Jade is a great example of a female Jedi and I hope that they decide to include her in the Sequel Trilogy and other stories.