Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hey! the trailer's out

Yeah, I know, I've neglected this blog for a while, however I noticed two things from the trailer I need to get off my chest.  First, in the Daisy Ridley character sequence, the shots used are *not* consecutive.  In the close up, there is what at first looked to me like a sniper rifle of sorts, similar to the rifle Luke carries early on in A New Hope.  On further inspection, one end of the "gun" looks very similar to prequel era lightsabers, particularly Darth Maul's.  Intriguing...


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ding Dong the EU is Dead

I know I've been absent from the blogging scene for a while.  Personal things can really pile up.  However, in case you hadn't noticed, there has been a ton of news as of late.  The first thing that I felt strongly enough to write about was the fact that we now have definitive word on what is now canon, and what is most definitely NOT canon moving forward.  While it is sad to let go of some of the good things the EU may have brought us, make no mistake, this was sorely needed, and a long time coming.

I've let it be known that I lost interest in the EU a long time ago.  How long?  Let's see; In 1991, when Dark Horse published Dark Empire I was ecstatic.  Luke Skywalker was back in a big way, and he was all dark and brooding, and the whole series was set in this very dark version of Star Wars, much like most of the comic book landscape at that time.  I LOVED that series, and it still holds a special place in my heart.  Cam Kennedy's artwork was such a fresh punch in the gut compared to the style the American super hero artists were doing at that time.  It, like Star Wars in general, allowed me to see the commonplace become extraordinary.  I had seen the Heir to the Empire novel at my local comic shop, but I did not immediately want to buy it.  I was happy with my comic book version.  Much later however, I finally relented, and checked out all 3 "Zahn Trilogy" books from my local library.  Now, when I read these books, there were some real red flags that popped out to me.  The idea that Obi-Wan Kenobi, an immortal force ghost, was so quickly written out the story, as well as not a mention of the far more recently deceased Yoda and Anakin who could totally have stuck around and given Luke a helping hand, or at least a bit of guidance in how to continue on.  I digress, whatever small issues I had at that time were just that, small, because OMG NEW STAR WARS.  And that sentiment continued into the next series, the Jedi Academy 3 book cycle by Kevin J Anderson.  This is where the first seed of dissent really took root.  The Jedi Academy books were the first to really attempt to tie together the "Zahn Trilogy", and the comic books that Dark Horse was putting out at the time.  This first big leap, was that Luke Skywalker was now attempting to rebuild the Jedi Order by recruiting force sensitives from the galaxy all the while a new government was attempting to form.  To this day, I find the use of the word "praxeum" nauseating.  It's one of those non-sensical words that Sci-Fi writers love to use.  Which would be fine if Star Wars was Sci-Fi.  It isn't, it's Science-FANTASY, which is a big difference.  Yet the powers that be continued to give these sci-fi writers the reigns to a science-fantasy series, and throughout those years, turned something quite unique into something that looked and sounded like everything else on the market.

Remember the 90s?  Me too, I never left.
By 1996 my interest in the Star Wars EU was at its peak.  The multimedia event known as Shadows of the Empire was in full swing.  I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.  I bought the toys, the RPG book ( I've never played a tabletop RPG in my life) the trading cards, TWO copies of the book, the hardcover and the audiobook.  The comics were of course my favorite of the bunch. Covers by Hugh Fleming, and interior artwork by one of my all time favorite Star Wars artists Kilian Plunkett, and on top of that, it was focused on 90s Star Wars bad boy Boba Fett.  As much as I loved Shadows of the Empire, something just never sat quite right with me.  Dash Rendar, a really lame attempt to have a Han Solo surrogate completely missed the mark. The designs of the Imperial armor used by Lando and Luke on Coruscant just didn't give that Star Wars feel.
Cobraaaa- - oh, wait.
Shadows of the Empire might not have been the last novel or comic I bought from the EU, but it's certainly the last I remember well enough to care about.  One year later, in 1997, I pretty much set the EU aside.  Why you may be asking?  Real Star Wars was back!  The special editions and the knowledge that new films were on the horizon had me back to basics.  The FILM series that started it all.  The core Star Wars universe, with some really great, and facing facts, some not so great moments added in for good measure. See while some believed that Star Wars was almost dead until the "Zahn Trilogy" came along.  Wait. Let me address something here, by calling those books the "Zahn" books, or even the "Thrawn" books, shows the fallacy of thinking from the get go with the EU. Star Wars comes first, always.  Second is George Lucas, and everyone else is a distant third (although Dave Filoni would be my hier to that empire hurr hurr).  Anyway, many of us die hard fans were not waiting for new Star Wars novels, we were perfectly content with mere rumors that George was ready to do new Star Wars films.  The novels and comics were a bonus, pacifiers to keep those with wandering eyes a shiny thing to play with.  

In the lead up to the prequel films I dabbled a little in the comics scene to see what was being prepared for Episode I.  I saw that things were still farcical and still generally off the mark.  What did Dark Horse do right out of the gate with Episode 1 era comics?  They give a Jedi a wife and family.  See ya later EU.  I was gone again while there was pure unadulterated Star Wars to be had.  For all their warts, the prequel films, and later The Clone Wars were George's vision of Star Wars, and when all the chips were down, and lines were drawn in the sand, I stand with the man who created the damn thing.  I'll take Jar Jar Binks ANY DAY over extra galactic beings who don't exist in the Force ( the Force, which is encompasses all living beings, so therefore something like that shouldn't even exist.) 
Yuuzahn Vong, right?  The two "u's" make them clones, correct?
So, now we get to the news that Lucasfilm (not Disney, Disney owns many, many companies, in which Lucasfilm is but one) has made the decision that the new films will not be restrained by what has happened in the multitude of books that have been thrust upon Star Wars fans. It has created the Lucasfilm Story Group to help shepherd the saga into the future by staying true to what STAR WARS is, and not what some sci-fi writer thinks it should be.  Instead they will blaze a new trail, with the EU books of the past being used in much the same way that they were used in the making of The Clone Wars.  A source to draw from, much like the works of Ralph McQuarrie, or Ian McCaig.  The EU is now the equivalent of something you might find in the "Making of Star Wars" books. 

There are ideas and characters I will truly miss by the EU being relegated to its Legend status, but I'm willing to let that go.  The Force Unleashed was one of my favorite star wars works, and Starkiller one of my favorite characters.  Revan, another big loss. The old Ewok and Droids cartoons as well as the live action Ewoks TV movies are now negated, and I thought those were canon all the way up to this announcement because of George Lucas' involvement, especially in the TV movies.

 New material, beginning with a handful of novels as well as the animated series Star Wars Rebels will begin to exapand upon the true canon of the Star Wars universe that could indeed incorporate ideas from past novels, but will not be beholden to entire story lines.  I hope, from a fundamental level, that Story Group rules with an iron fist in keeping with what George laid out for the soul of Star Wars.  It would be a shame if they scrap the old EU for an equally terribly written new one. If they do, I'll ignore that one too, because at it's core, Star Wars is a visual medium.  It's best to remember that.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Rebels" May Help Hasbro Out of Its Action Figure Rut

Just in the nick of time, Hasbro jumped through the closing blast doors of 2013 and released a photo from its upcoming Star Wars Rebels toy line.  Not surprisingly, it is the figure of the previously announced character known enigmatically as "the Inquisitor".  Here is what Hasbro and Starwars.com had to say in their announcement on December 30th:
The Inquisitor, the Empire's Jedi hunter and a major new villain in the highly anticipated Star Wars Rebels animated series, was unveiled by Lucasfilm at this year's New York Comic Con. Today, StarWars.com is excited to present the official reveal for the character's first ever 3.75-inch action figure from Hasbro.
The figure -- the first to be seen from the upcoming Star Wars Rebels Saga Legends line -- features five points of articulation, show-accurate accessories, and is sculpted in the art style of the series. Look for the Inquisitor and the Star Wars Rebels Saga Legends line to hit store shelves in fall 2014, and stay tuned for more Star Wars Rebels toy news from Hasbro at international Toy Fairs and here at StarWars.com.

For those not up to speed with the Hasbro toy world, there are currently 3 lines of action figures to choose from.  "The Black Series" (6" at @$20 per figure), a smaller "Black Series" (3 3/4" @$10 per figure, and the "Saga Legends" (3 3/4" @$5-6 per figure).  The two "Black Series" lines are aimed at collectors, as the figures feature a higher attention to detail, multiple points of articulation, sleeker, less "kid friendly" packaging, whereas the "Saga Legends" line seems to be aimed right squarely at kids, featuring roughly 5 points of articulation, a limited amount of weapons, and a smaller variety of minute details.  

Many in the collecting world seem to despise Hasbro's direction with the "Saga Legends",  blasting any comment thread they can find about how much they dislike the 5 points of articulation, or "5POA", as they've abbreviated it.  I, for one, applaud this new direction for Hasbro and Star Wars action figures.  Many fans and collectors my age, let's just call us "OTers" that actually played with the original 70's and 80's Kenner figures, and then got pampered in the last twenty years since Hasbro brought back action figures.  Hasbro made more and more elaborate figures with ever increasing costs which got passed along to consumers, so much so that it priced out it's original, intended audience: kids!
Starting last year, it seems Hasbro has attempted to right the ship, and make these action figures into toys again.  I personally have bought more action figures from the new Saga Legends line than I have in the last 2 years.  These toys take me back to being 6 years old, where it was OK to shove one in my pocket on my way to wherever I was going.  Lucasfilm seems to be in collusion with Hasbro in regards to Star Wars Rebels and what may be in store for its toy output.  

One of the first images we had from Rebels, was that of Imperial TIE fighters.  These TIE fighters were not the same as their silver screen counterparts.  The TIE's wing panels for Rebels are much more in proportion to that of the old Kenner 1970's toy version of the space craft.


 At the New York Comic Con, Pablo Hidalgo in his Rebels presentaion announced that one of the vehicles to be featured on the show had until now only been seen in the Star Wars canon as a Kenner toy.  The Imperial troop transporter.

  


All Hasbro has to do is dust off those old molds, and put them in shiny new Rebels themed packaging and what's old is now new again.
The creative use of old molds seem to not be limited to only action figures.  Although not announced, it seems Hasbro could get some use out of an old roleplay toy used in the Clone Wars toy line.  A lightsaber toy meant to be attributed to General Grievous, yet oddly was never actually used in the Clone Wars animated series, bears a striking resemblance to the double-bladed lightsaber wielded by the Rebels villain the Inquisitor.

With only some minor tweaking and a change of blade color and, again, you have a new toy for fans of Rebels.

Now, it could be argued that Lucasfilm is not doing this with Hasbro in mind, and that could very well be, but with Toy Fair coming up soon we may find out just how much we can look forward to.  Producer Dave Filoni and many working on Rebels grew up on those toys and tying those designs into the new show might simply be a touchstone for us nostalgic folks, so we can identify with the new series.  I think the evidence is pretty compelling though, and Hasbro certainly needs the shot in the arm that a new TV show and a new cast of characters can give a toy line. Hasbro has to be happy with the fact that they can have the toys pre-designed and ready to go into kids' hands, not adult collectors. We need to remember that these are toys first, "collector value" should become a four letter word.  I really hope to see kids carrying around Rebels toys, and have their own adventures in a galaxy far, far away. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It Was Unavoidable-- Marvel Takes Reigns from Dark Horse


Dark Horse has lost the rights to produce Star Wars comics, they now belong to Marvel Entertainment. Marvel, like Lucasfilm, is owned by the parent company of Disney.


Much more so than prose novels, comics were always my thing.  While I still collect them from time to time, Marvel, in general, was my least favorite publisher.  I was  DC guy.  The near god-like heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman appealed to me much more than the more down to earth heroes like Spider-Man or Captain America ever would.  The one thing in my youth that did draw me to Marvel however, were the Star Wars comics they produced in the late 70's and early 80's.  I most vividly remember the covers to the Return of the Jedi adaptation. 

A simple trio of characters in front of a star field somehow gave me a dire need to open up the comic and just bask in it.

There are also some very bad things associated with the Marvel stewardship of the Star Wars brand, in particular Jaxxon the green rabbit creature that is much maligned. Critics of the news that Disney has shifted the comic book rights under back to Marvel, immediately jump to the conclusion that we're going back to the bad 'ole Jaxxon days.  However this is not the same Marvel that existed back in the 70's and 80's.  Marvel now has an amazing stable of talent, both writers and artists, many of which I would LOVE to see create new Star Wars content. For me, the list begins and ends with Chris Bachalo.  

As far as stories go, I personally am a proponent of there being a new blank slate as far as EU to come (more on that in another time).  While certainly a possibility, I don't think Marvel would continue the storylines created at Dark Horse. What would be a wonderful, albeit a pipe dream, but Marvel could take the initiative to re-work old stories to fit into the new Disney continuity.  What we are likely to see is a series based off of Star Wars Rebels, and then a slow trickling out of series after each movie, perhaps to expand upon the events within the movies, as opposed to whole new adventures starring those characters.  Marvel and Dark Horse both fell into that pitfall before.  The comic books that take place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back by Marvel, as well as those surrounding The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars by Dark Horse have now largely been retconned (Durge, and Ki-Adi's wife and family for example).  I have to believe that Marvel as well as Lucasfilm would take these past missteps to heart when deciding the franchise's new direction in comics.

While yes, Dark Horse losing the licences is a sign of Disney's grand corporate strategies, we shouldn't put on our rose colored glasses just yet, and let Dark Horse off the hook.  Aside from the Legacy series, Dark Horse's Star Wars output in recent years has been pretty lackluster.  The myriad of Darth Vader mini-series, series taking place 20,000 years in the past, and Brian Wood's "Star Wars" flagship series that feels so off the mark, it did little to spark interest in the comics arm Star Wars.  It's almost as if they were trying to lose the license. Face facts: Dark Horse has been spinning its wheels.

So let's look to the future, Marvel may be able to get some traction going to get people to take Star Wars comics seriously again, perhaps in this new generation of fans some wide-eyed kid will walk into a comic shop and have the same reaction to a Marvel Star Wars book that I had when I first saw Dark Empire in those dark days of the late 80's early 90's.  Marvel has the talent, and if the Force isn't with them, Disney certainly is.