If asked about an “alternate universe Star Wars story,” most people might immediately bring the Star Wars Tales comics to mind. Others might bring to mind the old Infinities comics exploring different takes on the Original Trilogy. A few might think of alternate universe scenarios in video games, such as the dark side endings to various games or The Force Unleashed franchise allowing its pet character Starkiller to kill all of our beloved heroes. A really cheeky person might ask if we meant the Legends Expanded Universe. Alternate universe stories might be common in other franchises – especially comic books – but Star Wars rarely draws from that well, except in fan-created works. Even most Star Wars video games would fall into whatever was the canon continuity at the time. Though the obsession of Star Wars with fitting everything into continuity could be the subject of its own article, it’s still strikingly odd that Star Wars almost never consciously creates alternate universe stories. Taking aside the alternate endings for video games, only Dark Horse committed to alternate universe content in any consistent way. The novels conspicuously never touched it, except for early works of dubious continuity value. (Before anybody asks, no, this is not a “Bring Back Legends” article)
Disney Book Group is doing something rather interesting – they’re publishing a series called A Twisted Tale, which takes their extremely well-known animated features and shooting their stories off in an alternate direction by changing a key fact of the story. It’s a little like Back to the Future II, and if we have to explain that reference to anybody we’re going to be very distressed. Now, this idea is pretty cool not just conceptually, but because Disney is pretty strict about the use of its animated brands on a level fairly comparable to Lucasfilm. So if they’re willing, why not Star Wars?
The first book in the series is called A Whole New World, and it’s an Aladdin alternate universe story by Liz Braswell. It’s a pretty fun story, and so we’ll illustrate what we mean about Star Wars by reviewing this book. It’s a darker and more realistic take on Aladdin, being geared towards young adults who might have grown up on Aladdin (though folks like us who saw it in theatre are decidedly past the young adult stage, at least “young adult” as it’s understood in publishing). The story follows along the movie at first, developing it the way a film novelization might, until the point at which Jafar sends Aladdin to recover the lamp: Jafar betrays Aladdin but manages to keep the lamp, and is able to institute his dark plans far earlier. He becomes a sultan and sorcerer, and Princess Jasmine has to escape and become a revolutionary leader… which is a version of Aladdin we never knew we needed until now. And that’s the beauty of an alternate universe story: it can be more than just a plot twist if it explores different sides of characters or a different type of story.
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Pop quiz, hotshot: which great science fantasy franchise is returning to the world in 2015 after many years of absence? Why, Mad Max, of course! George Miller’s post-apocalyptic series has returned to us, and it appears to be in better shape than ever. Critics and audiences appear to be in love with this movie, so it would seem like it’s time to take a good look at it. So get your driving wheel from the pile, spray your face so you can enter Valhalla, and come with us to see the lessons Star Wars could learn from Mad Max: Fury Road!
Stand by your franchise’s style
Desert wastelands. Ridiculous character names like Rictus Erectus or Toast the Knowing. Punk aesthetics and ridiculously souped-up vehicles. Extreme close ups before crashes. Low camera angles during chase scenes. These are the aesthetic choices Miller and Byron Kennedy applied to The Road Warrior back in 1981 and turned it into a global phenomenon. These are exactly the same choices Miller applied to Fury Road in 2015. And why wouldn’t he?
You don’t even need to see the main character driving his Pursuit Special to know you are watching a Mad Max movie: it’s obvious from the first minute that you are back to the universe you left thirty years before. The movie uses some CGI here and there, when practical effects just won’t do it, but it manages to feel as genuine and gritty as The Road Warrior felt. It goes without saying, but the same thinking could easily apply to Star Wars: there’s nothing wrong with Star Wars just as it is. We love the way it is, with its simple plotlines, its black and white characters, and its cheesy names. There’s no need to “bring Star Wars to the twenty-first century”. It’s still great! Don’t mess with it! » Read more..
Unlike Star Wars, there are numerous versions of Transformers and you don’t even have to factor in Michael Bay’s version! Marvel UK, Marvel US, Dreamwave, IDW – that’s four variants right there and there’s likely a few more still.
It is IDW’s reboot, started several years ago, with Simon Furman writing it, that has the most lessons to impart to Star Wars, if it but listens.
Furman’s arc re-imagined Transformers, with a multi-front galactic war being fought between the Autobots and Decepticons. No longer were they limited to Earth, no longer was it all set on one planet – though Earth did become a significant resource due to Shockwave’s age-old plotting. In this new structure both Megatron and Optimus Prime were generals, marshalling troops and resources on a galactic scale. Thus, when both take a hand in events on Earth, it is indeed A Big Deal™. » Read more..
For all Marvel’s recent success at the box office with its Cinematic Universe, its small-screen efforts have thus far been a mixed bag. Most people will agree that its first series, Agents of SHIELD (I refuse to put the periods in there), got a lot better once it caught up with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but there’s no doubt that it struggled at first to define itself, lacking both the personality and—more forgivably given its budget—the grandeur of the Marvel films. Their second series, Agent Carter, has improved by leaps and bounds over SHIELD’s debut even as SHIELD itself in its second season has begun to bring much more life and excitement to its proceedings with an expanded and more-colorful cast freed to the bureaucratic doldrums of the series’ beginning. Later this year, Marvel’s television roster will have doubled with the arrival on Netflix of both Daredevil and AKA Jessica Jones, with three more series to follow further down the line—and all within the same contiguous universe as the films.
For Star Wars fans, Marvel is the ultimate guinea pig for the Age of Disney. What success Marvel has had at the box office Lucasfilm now seeks to reproduce with both a sequel trilogy and no doubt several standalone films, and with more options for small-screen, lower-budget productions than ever before, it stands to reason that they’re watching Marvel’s television operations with great interest. Here are some things I think they should keep in mind. » Read more..
Recently one of my authors, Carrie Vaughn announced the end of her main series. I call her ‘one of my authors’ because for the past 6 years I could always count on her to have a new book (or two) out each year. For someone who reads as much as I do this is important. Star Wars was winding down and not producing as much in the past and I have to have a book on me all the time. She’s an author that I’ve met and hung out with on several occasions over the years that I adore because she’s so personable and always forthcoming with the fans. For years she has said, “If you ever see the title Kitty Saves the World, that is the last book for my main character. So as an avid reader I’m sure you can all imagine my dismay at seeing her Facebook post a few weeks ago with the image of a new book with that title. One goes through various stages of grief all in an instant when one finds out a favorite series is ending. However, upon further reflection I heartily applaud Vaughn’s decision.
Carrie Vaughn is making a choice to end the story arc for her main character, a werewolf named Kitty. The supernatural world she created, though, is so much bigger than just the one character. So perhaps we will see books featuring other characters. She has already experimented with this and stated there is a big possibility for such books. She is doing what other authors who get bogged down with a certain set of characters should do. She is doing what Star Wars needs to do with this reboot. Another example of an author who knew when to walk away is Charlaine Harris whose books were the inspiration for True Blood. While I sometimes regret not being able to go to the bookstore and pick up the new Sookie Stackhouse book, part of me appreciates knowing there was an end for those characters. One could also look to J.K. Rowling who stopped at seven books for Harry Potter when she easily could’ve started next generation books with new bad wizards for the characters to fight (to be fair she still might do this.) I like having an end to a series. I didn’t realize how much I liked it until Vaughn’s recent announcement. » Read more..