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Star Wars Celebration 2015: The Death and Rebirth of the Expanded Universe

Charles Allen is a guest Project Fandom contributor and long-time Star Wars fan.


In the nearly 4 decades since its release, the Star Wars franchise has evolved into a full-on living world. With the announcement of the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney came many questions about the direction of the Star Wars Universe. During my time at the April 16-19, Star Wars Celebration 2015 I set out to find the answers to how Lucasfilm would continue to tell compelling stories beyond those of the feature films. With many panels to choose from, I placed my focus firmly on the future of the franchise and how the Star Wars Universe is expressed in comics and novels.

One Big Story: Working Within the Star Wars Canon hosted by Creative Director Michael Siglain.

The original Star Wars trilogy created a rich and vibrant universe. The Star Wars Expanded Universe, now known as Star Wars Legends, gave that universe life. It provided backstories and new adventures for our heroes and villains, it took ancillary characters from the movies and set them off on their own journeys across the galaxy, and it created new characters with their own stories to tell. The addition of new planets, starships, and conflicts provided Star Wars fans plenty of action to keep us engaged in the franchise.

The panelists were Jennifer Heddle senior editor from Lucasfilm, from the newly created Lucasfilm Story Group Leland Chee (aka Keeper of the Holocron) and Pablo Hidalgo, Shelly Shapiro editor-at-large at Del Rey, Jordan D White Star Wars editor and C.B.Cebulski executive editor from Marvel Comics, and Sadie Smith managing editor from DK Publishing. The purpose of the panel was to discuss the future of the Star Wars franchise and how each avenue of the new Star Wars universe interacts with each other. The first part of the panel spoke to the challenges faced when trying to adapt new stories with the existing material.

The Expanded Universe was created primarily to fill gaps in both the story timeline and the real time spaces between movies. In fact there were no plans for any other movies after Return of the Jedi. From 1983 to 1999 when Episode I: The Phantom Menace released, the only new material for a Star Wars fan was found in the Expanded Universe. Fast forward several years, issues with continuity and consistency in the Expanded Universe made it near impossible for this new group of filmmakers to create their own Star Wars stories without contradicting all of the content created in the EU. Lucasfilm made the decision to rename the Expanded Universe Star Wars Legends, wipe the slate clean, and move forward with new Star Wars Canon.

Canon is now the Star Wars universe. Everything in the original 6 movies and all content added since the creation of the story group is considered canon. Although elements from Star Wars Legends may make its way into canon, its purpose must be to tell a larger story. The new vision of Star Wars is to have all mediums of the franchise (books, comics, TV shows, game developers etc), working in unison with each other and support the stories told in the new movies. The story group works with each publisher to ensure all content is within canon, doesn’t contradict other stories in development, and fits within the long-term game plan for Star Wars story telling. To help keep track of the new Star Wars canon, DK publishing developed The Ultimate Star Wars book serving as an all-encompassing Star Wars encyclopedia for recognized canon.

The story group also fields questions on new story ideas and helps each publisher collaborate with one another. An example of this collaboration between publishers is the character Kanan Jarrus. Kanan is a main character from the animated series Star Wars Rebels but was introduced in the book Star Wars: A New Dawn. Kanan is now featured in the Marvel comic Kanan- The Last Padawan published on April 1st 2015. The panel spoke excitedly about similar cross over projects between publishers going forward.

The final and most exciting piece of information from the panel was the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. On September 4th, new original stories from each publisher will include hints and clues to the storyline of the new movie. Lucasfilm hopes to increase the excitement and anticipation prior to the December 18th release of Episode VII.

Star Wars Comes Home to Marvel Hosted by Jimmy Mac and Jason Swank from RebelForce Radio

This panel discussed the success of the current Marvel Star Wars Comics and introduced fans to some exciting new titles. The panelists included Jordan D White Star Wars editor and C.B.Cebulski executive editor from Marvel Comics, Jennifer Heddle senior editor from Lucasfilm, and Leland Chee from the Lucasfilm story group.

Marvel has a long history with Star Wars dating back to 1977 and the comics for the original movies. With the end of the Expanded Universe, Marvel now has the freedom to create new stories that are part of canon and intertwined with the new movies, books and TV shows.

 

Star Wars Comic Cover

 

In January 2015, Marvel released the first new Star Wars comic series. Written by Jason Aaron with art by John Cassaday, this comic simply titled Star Wars, follows the adventures of the familiar cast of heroes and villains between Episode IV and V.

Issue 5 of Star Wars is set to release in May. In June, issue 6 introduces fan favorite Boba Fett to the comic series, as he is tasked to discover who destroyed the Death Star. Releasing in July, Issue 7 is the first of several one off issues of the comic series. It is drawn by Simone Bianchi and will tell the story of Obi Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. The plan is to tie these special one off stories together over the course of the next few years. Also in July, Issue 8 introduces a new artist Stuart Immonen.

Darth Vader Comic Cover

The Darth Vader comic series debuted in February. Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Salvador Larroca, the first story arc deals with Vader and his relationship with the Emperor after the destruction of the Death Star. The series introduces new characters such as Doctor Aphra and droids Triple Zero and BT1. Issue 5 is set to release in May with the end of the first story arc in June’s Issue 6.

 

Princess Leia Comic Cover

 

Published on March 4th, the Princess Leia comic mini series written by Mark Waid and drawn by Terry Dodson, chronicles Leia’s search for survivors of the destruction of Alderaan.

Kanan- The Last Padawn Comic Cover

As previously mentioned, Kanan: The Last Padawan ties in the character Kanan Jarrus from the animated series Star Wars Rebels and the Novel A New Dawn. Written by Star Wars Rebels season one writer Greg Weisman, this comic tells the story of Kanan, a Padawan that survived Order 66. The first issue was released in April and is drawn by Pepe Larraz.

Lando Comic Cover

During the Panel, Cebulski announced a new mini series starting in July. Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Alex Maleev, Star Wars Lando will tell the story of Lando Calrissian between Episode IV and Episode V.

Star Wars- Journey to The Force Awakens

In September Marvel will release Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens- Shattered Empire. Written by Greg Ruckal and drawn by Marco Checchetto, the four part mini series takes place between Episode VI and VII and is part of the Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens, and will include hints to some of the plot points of the upcoming movie.

Here are some additional fun facts presented during the panel:
  • The first issue of the new Star Wars comic was the highest selling comic in the last 25 years.
  • The first issue of Princess Leia was the highest selling comic book in March. The last issue of the Princess Leia series releases in June.
  • Star Wars Legends comics and Dark Horse publications will be available on the Marvel Unlimited subscription service.
  • The new comics are available on Marvel Unlimited 6 months after the publication date.
Star Wars at Del Rey Hosted by Jimmy Mac and Jason Swank from RebelForce Radio 

This Panel discussed the new canon titles already available and announced some exciting new books in the works. On the Panel were Del Rey Editor Shelly Shapiro, Lucasfilm senior editor Jennifer Heddle, Authors John Jackson Miller (Star Wars: A New Dawn), Jim Luceno (Tarkin) and Christie Golden (Star Wars: Dark Disciple).

The Partnership between Del Rey and LucasArts started in 1977 with the novelization of the original trilogy. Spawned from works from numerous Del Rey authors, the Expanded Universe grew the Star Wars story well beyond what anyone imagined. Now, as the Expanded Universe is retired to Legends status, Del Rey is there to create the novelizations of the upcoming movies and produce new and exciting stories within canon.

A New Dawn Cover

Released in September, Miller’s book Star Wars: A New Dawn was the first book published under the new Lucasfilm Story Group. A New Dawn is a prequel story to the Star Wars Rebels animated series and features Kanan Karrus and Hera Syndulla.

In November of 2014, veteran Star Wars author James Luceno released Tarkin the second book approved as canon. This novel focuses on Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise though the ranks of the Empire, overseeing the construction of the Death Star and leading the fight against the rebellion.

Heir_to_the_Jedi Cover

In March the third canon novel, Heir to the Jedi was released. Written by Kevin Hearne, this book takes places between Episode IV and Episode V. It tells the story Luke Skywalker’s adventures after he destroyed the Death Star and his journey of self-discovery.

Lords_of_the_Sith Cover

Star Wars Aftermath CoverSome future books were revealed on the panel. Lords of the Sith, written by Paul S. Kemp is scheduled for release at the end of April. This novel is set between Episode III and Epidose IV and features Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Star Wars: Dark Disciple written by Christie Golden is based on several of the unproduced scripts from the Clone Wars animated series and is set for release in July. Twilight Company, a novelization of the new Star Wars Battlefront video game written by Alexander Freed is scheduled for a November release.

As part of the Star Wars: A Journey to The Force Awakens , Aftermath written by Chuck Wendig will release on September 4th along with the rest of the Journey stories.

A surprise guest crashed the Del Rey panel. Alan Dean Foster joined the panel and announced he will write the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Foster wrote the novelization of A New Hope and the first Expanded Universe novel Splinter of the Minds Eye. The novel The Force Awakens will release as an Ebook the day the movie premiers.

 

AlanDeanFoster

By definition the Expanded Universe was any story, character, place, or time not contained within the content of the movies. The movies served as a starting point for EU content, but the stories expanded the scope of the universe beyond the original scripts. By necessity, Lucasfilm has reset the Star Wars universe. Canon is a new expansion of Star Wars; its new stories, characters, and places mixed together with the familiar. The difference, there is now a long-term plan. All elements of the Star Wars franchise can work together in this new expanded universe to tell amazing stories of the past, present and future of the evolving Star Wars galaxy.

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