Star Wars remains one of the most popular and well-known science fiction offerings ever created, and the $1 billion+ box office haul of Star Wars: The Force Awakens proves that even after thirty years (twenty-ish if you count the prequel trilogy) the impact of the Star Wars saga has not diminished.
Star Wars fans will be quick to note that its popularity was not limited to the movie screen. Toys, comics, and novels all became part of the universe and brought it alive in new ways. Marvel comics had the rights to produce Star Wars comic books for many years before they moved to Dark Horse (and back to Marvel with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney). Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster was the first of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, debuting in 1978.
The wave of popularity for Star Wars seemed to reach its peak upon the release of Return of the Jedi, after which interest in the franchise began to wane. Over the next decade, Star Wars became an interesting tidbit of 70s-80s nostalgia, until an author by the name of Timothy Zahn kicked off a series that would reignite interest in the Star Wars mythos with his debut offering of Heir to the Empire. With one book that grew into a captivating trilogy, Zahn helped establish the Expanded Universe and, along with a plethora of authors, brought new characters and locations to life for readers all over the world.
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm for a paltry $4 billion dollars (cue Dr. Evil), they decided to set the six movies, the Clone Wars animated series, and the new Rebels series as canon, while labeling comics and novels produced before the sale as Legends. If you think back to the level of furor over the Prequel Trilogy’s handling of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side (full disclosure: I was one of those who complained rather loudly about them) you can imagine how the news of “relegating” so much growth of the Star Wars universe was met by fans. It wasn’t always pretty.
Sadly, even after the rampant success of The Force Awakens, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath, and the new line of comics now being produced by Marvel, the vitriol over this relegation has not diminished and in many ways has escalated to bullying. I follow Chuck Wendig on Twitter (he’s a fun follow, btw) and some of the hate lobbed his way is positively frightening. If one isn’t a fan of his writing (stylistically, I’m not, but the guy can spin a tale), or hates the fact he *gasp* added gay characters to the universe (in a very inobtrusive, matter-of-fact way, without overt glorification or flag-waving), then fine, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Name-calling, threats, or venomous hatred are absolutely unnecessary and serve to give all fans a bad name. Interesting side-note: the Marvel-produced comics have been met with almost universal acclaim by critics and fans alike, so it is as if a loud group of fans wants to have its cake and eat it, too. There was still hope the issue would die, but no that would not be the case.
Enter Matt Wilkins (thanks to @geekgirldiva for that information) and his group Give Us Legends. Tech Times reports (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/151377/20160418/star-wars-fan-billboard-begs-lucasfilm-to-continue-the-original-expanded-universe.htm) a billboard has been erected at a cost of about $5000 in the hometown of LucasFilm. Here’s what it looks like:
It is an admirable thought, and sounds wonderful at face value. The website giveuslegends.com, which has existed in some form or another since 2014, even acknowledges they do not want to replace the new continuity, only have Legends run alongside. While some will argue whether some of the Legends stories were any good or how cohesive the continuity was in the Legends universe, the stories produced there were, by and large, fantastic. They are all memorable for different reasons, and deserve their place in history.
Here’s the thing: they HAVE their place in history. Disney/LFL did not decide to stop producing Legends material. Books are still printed, and many have the same cover art, and no effort has been made to curtail the sales of Legends works. The only change made was to put a gold “LEGENDS” banner across the top or bottom of the cover to indicate its place in Star Wars lore. Even the Dark Horse comics have been re-branded and are still being sold by Marvel.
Some fans are acting as if LFL is actively removing the Legends material from bookstores and libraries, hoping that it will disappear. Not true. It still exists, and it always will. But as far as Disney/LFL creating new stories under the Legends banner, well, to quote my dad “that’s not going to happen.” LFL made a decision to open up the post-Return of the Jedi timeline for new stories and new writers. It was a bold move but a smart one, as I don’t believe anyone at LFL wanted to be constrained by prior works beyond the films/TV shows, lest the new movies become nothing more than adaptations of books. I think we’ve seen enough of those out of Hollywood lately, don’t you? The new continuity allows for new ideas, characters, and stories within a tight continuity. Let’s not even get into what it means to LFL from a business perspective. There is a whole new generation of fans who love Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren and want to see their stories. There’s now thirty years, THIRTY YEARS of backstory to explore with fresh storylines (look up Sana Solo) to explore. It’s the grumpy adults like me who are having the hardest time adjusting to the new reality, but it’s time to do exactly that. There is an incomparable richness to the Star Wars universe, and the new stories produced by LFL will serve to build upon the galaxy far, far away in new and exciting directions. Will there be duds along the way? Yah sure yabetcha, but it’s that way with anything, including Legends (anyone remember Black Fleet Crisis? UGH). I have no doubt there will be many call-backs to the Legends storylines (unless you think JJ Abrams and co. came up with Ben’s name and the eldest-Solo-falls-to-the-Dark-Side all on his own…you don’t, do you?) and acknowledgements of what came before. Even Lucas put the Outrider (from Shadows of the Empire) in A New Hope. Let’s just embrace what LFL is doing with the Star Wars universe and move forward.
Besides, there’s always time for Rian Johnson to adapt the Yuuzhan Vong as a terrifying and unstoppable genetically-engineered army created by the First Order to cleanse the galaxy…