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.