Star Wars expanded universe
The Star Wars expanded universe (SWEU; formerly branded as Expanded Universe or EU) is a collective term for all Star Wars fictional material produced by Lucasfilm or officially licensed by it. This expanded universe includes an array of derivative Star Wars works produced in conjunction with, between, and after the original trilogy (1977–1983) and prequel trilogy (1999–2005) of films, and includes books, comic books, video games, and television series. Intended as an enhancement to and extension of the Star Wars theatrical films produced by George Lucas, the continuity of all Expanded Universe material was tracked by Lucasfilm, and Lucas reserved the right to both draw on it and contradict it in his own works.
The Star Wars space opera media franchise began with Lucas's 1977 film Star Wars, which is set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and chronicles the attempt by the characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the Wookiee Chewbacca—assisted by the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2—to thwart the evil plans of Sith Lord Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire.
Lucasfilm was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in October 2012, and with a sequel trilogy of films and other works in development, Lucasfilm announced in April 2014 that all previously released expanded universe content would be declared non-canon to the franchise and rebranded as Star Wars Legends. A new company division, Lucasfilm Story Group, would ensure from then on that all forthcoming comics, books, games and other media were non-contradictory to the films, other canon media, and each other. This restructuring left the Star Wars theatrical films, the Clone Wars animated film, and the 2008 Clone Wars animated TV series as the only material embodying the official Star Wars canon. A number of works have subsequently been produced, including the Rebels animated TV series, the 2015 film The Force Awakens and its 2017 sequel The Last Jedi, the 2016 anthology film Rogue One, Star Wars Battlefront II and multiple novels and comic book series.
1976–1991: Early works
Credited to George Lucas but ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, the novelization of the original 1977 film Star Wars—called Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker—was based on Lucas' screenplay and released six months before the film in November 1976. Foster's 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye was commissioned by Lucas as the basis for a potential low-budget sequel to Star Wars should the film prove unsuccessful. The film novelizations The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Donald F. Glut and Return of the Jedi (1983) by James Kahn followed, as well as The Han Solo Adventures trilogy (1979–1980) by Brian Daley, and The Adventures of Lando Calrissian (1983) trilogy by L. Neil Smith.
A Star Wars comic book series from Marvel Comics ran from April 1977 to May 1986. Former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter credited the title's strong sales for saving Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978. Marvel's Star Wars series was one of the industry's top selling titles in 1979 and 1980. West End Games began publishing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game in 1987, and the subsequent ancillary roleplaying game material such as sourcebooks, gamebooks, and adventure modules have been called "the first publications to expand greatly beyond what was known from the vintage era of the movies". The material was used as a resource by some novelists that followed.
Star Wars: Droids (released on DVD in 2004 as Star Wars Animated Adventures: Droids) is an animated television series which originally aired in 1985, featuring the exploits of R2-D2 and C-3PO, the droids who have appeared in all ten live-action Star Wars films. The series takes place between the events depicted in Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. In 1986, Marvel Comics' Star Comics imprint published a comic book based on the cartoon series under the name Star Wars: Droids. The bi-monthly series ran for eight issues.
Star Wars: Ewoks is an American/Canadian animated television series featuring the Ewok characters introduced in Return of the Jedi. It aired for two seasons between 1985 and 1986. In 1985, Star Comics published a bi-monthly Ewoks comic, based on the animated series, which ran for two years, ending with issue #14. Like the TV series, this was aimed towards a younger audience. It was produced along with Droids, which was based on the Droids animated series.
1991–1999: Thrawn trilogy and expansion
The 1991 Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire, which reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, began what would become a large collection of works set before, between, and especially after the original films. StarWars.com wrote in 2014 that the novel "jumpstarted a publishing program that endures to this day and formalized the Expanded Universe". It introduced, among others, the popular characters Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, and was followed by the sequels Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993). This so-called "Thrawn trilogy" is widely credited with revitalizing the Star Wars franchise. In The Secret History of Star Wars, Michael Kaminski suggests that this renewed interest was a factor in Lucas's decision to create the prequel trilogy.
Around this same time, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and launched a number of series set after the original film trilogy, including the popular Dark Empire sequence (1991–1995) by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. In 1993, Dark Horse published Tales of the Jedi, expanding the fictional universe to the time of the Old Republic, 4000 years before the films. The series spawned many other productions, including books and comics, and a popular online role-playing game.
In 1994, Lucas Licensing's Allan Kausch and Sue Rostoni discussed the relationship between Lucas' creations and the derivative works by other authors:
Gospel, or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelizations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history—with many off-shoots, variations and tangents—like any other well-developed mythology.
The 1996 Steve Perry novel Shadows of the Empire, set in the as-yet-unexplored time period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, was part of a multimedia campaign that included a comic book series and video game.
In 1999, Star Wars book publishing moved from Bantam Spectra to Del Rey Books. A new series set 25 to 30 years after the original films, The New Jedi Order (1999–2003), was written by multiple authors and introduced a new threat: the Yuuzhan Vong, a powerful alien race attempting to invade and conquer the entire galaxy. The first novel in the series, R. A. Salvatore 's Vector Prime, killed off popular character Chewbacca.
1999–2012: Prequel trilogy and renewed interest
The bulk of Expanded Universe storytelling explores the time period after Return of the Jedi. Lucasfilm specifically prohibited development of the time period before A New Hope—including the rise of the Galactic Empire and the personal histories of Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine—to avoid conflict with Lucas's own plans for a potential prequel trilogy. Lucas eventually released The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005), punctuated by the 2003 animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, which explored the titular conflict in more detail. Subsequent novels and comics were set before, concurrent with, and after the events of these works.
In 2004, USA Today reported that over 1,100 Star Wars titles had been published, including novels, comics, non-fiction, and magazines. Then-president of Lucas Licensing, Howard Roffman, estimated that there were more than 65 million Star Wars books in print. He said, "The books are a way of extending the fantasy of Star Wars. The movies have had a really profound effect on a couple of generations. Star Wars has become a cultural touchpoint, and our fans are avidly interested in exploring more stories."
The animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars ran from 2008 to 2014 and was set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This new series overwrote certain aspects of earlier Clone Wars EU works, such as Anakin now having a Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, and being knighted much earlier in the war. Lucas discussed ideas for a sequel trilogy several times after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but denied any intent to make it.
Holocron database and canonicity
Historically, Lucasfilm tracked the storylines and content of these media in large black binders, known as bibles. In 2000, Leland Chee was hired as Continuity Database Administrator for Lucas Licensing, and implemented a database to replace the bibles. The database was named the Holocron, a term used within the fictional Star Wars universe for "ancient repositories of knowledge and wisdom" used by the Jedi and Sith. Lucasfilm's Holocron consists of over 55,000 entries for franchise characters, locations, species, and vehicles. Chee said of the database in 2012, "What sets Star Wars apart from other franchises is that we develop a singular continuity across all forms of media, whether it be the films, TV series, video games, novels and comics, and the Holocron is a key component to Lucasfilm being able to do this."
The Holocron was divided into five levels of canon (in order of precedence): G-canon, T-canon, C-canon, S-canon, and N-canon.
- GWL-canon or G-canon stood for George Lucas canon: Marked GWL after George Lucas (whose middle name is Walton). It included Episodes I–VI (the released films at that time), and any statements by George Lucas (including unpublished production notes from him or his production department that are never seen by the public). Elements originating with Lucas in the scripts, filmed deleted scenes, film novelizations, reference books, radio plays, and other primary sources were also G-canon when not in contradiction with the released films. GWL-canon overrode the lower levels of canon when there was a contradiction. In the words of Leland Chee: "George's view of the universe is his view. He's not beholded to what's gone before."
- T-canon was Television canon: Referred to the canon level comprising the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Many stories wound up superseding those depicted in continuity canon, and the second Clone Wars animated series and its film also overwrote Genndy Tartakovsky's 2003 Clone Wars animated micro-series.
- C-canon was Continuity canon: Consisting of most of the materials from the Star Wars Expanded Universe including the books, comics, and videogames bearing the label of Star Wars. According to a Wired article, the creation of stories that introduced radical changes in the continuity, like The Force Unleashed video-game which introduced Darth Vader's secret apprentice, required Lucas's approval, and he spent hours explaining to the developers anything he deemed necessary for them to know. Games and RPG sourcebooks were a special case; the stories and general background information were themselves fully C-canon, but the other elements such as character/item statistics and gameplay were, with few exceptions, N-canon.
- S-canon was Secondary canon: Covering the same media as C-canon, it was immediately superseded by anything in higher levels of canon in any place where two elements contradicted each other, the non-contradicting elements were still a canon part of the Star Wars universe, this included certain elements of a few N-canon stories. The Star Wars Holiday Special is an example of secondary canon.
- N-canon was Non-canon: "What-if" stories (such as the Star Wars Tales comic anthology series published under the Star Wars: Infinities label), crossover appearances (such as the Star Wars character appearances in Soulcalibur IV), game statistics, and anything else directly contradicted by higher canon ends up here. N-canon was the only level that was not considered official canon by Lucasfilm. Any published material that contradicted things established in G-canon and T-canon was considered N-canon.
Lucas Licensing's managing editor Sue Rostoni said in 2001, "Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays." In a 2001 statement on the franchise's official website StarWars.com, Director of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet clarified:
When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves—and only the films. Even novelizations are interpretations of the film, and while they are largely true to George Lucas' vision (he works quite closely with the novel authors), the method in which they are written does allow for some minor differences ... The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation.
In August 2005, Lucas himself said of the Expanded Universe material:
I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.
2012–present: Restructuring of the canon and the sequel trilogy
In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion. Subsequently, Lucasfilm formed the "Star Wars Story Group", which was established to keep track of and define the canon and unify the films, comics, and other media. Among its members are Chee, Kiri Hart, and Pablo Hidalgo. To prevent a planned sequel trilogy from being beholden to and restrained by the plotlines of the Expanded Universe works, the choice was made to discard that continuity. In particular, Chee said that the death of Chewbacca in Vector Prime was a key factor in the decision.
In April 2014, Lucasfilm rebranded the Expanded Universe material as Star Wars Legends and declared it non-canon to the franchise. Chee said in a 2014 Twitter post that a "primary goal" of the Story Group would be to replace the previous hierarchical canon with one cohesive one. The company's focus would be shifted towards a restructured Star Wars canon based on new material. Lucasfilm explained that the only preexisting works to be considered canonical within the franchise would be the original and prequel trilogies of films, The Clone Wars film, the stand-alone Dark Horse Comics which was based on unproduced scripts from The Clone Wars TV series, and the 2008 The Clone Wars animated series. The announcement called these works "the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all the other (subsequent) tales must align". It was also made clear that a planned Star Wars sequel trilogy, and subsequent works developed within the restructured canon, would not be based on Legends material but could possibly draw from it. The previous levels of the Holocron became obsolete, because going forward all works would share the same level of canon as the films.
Lucas had previously used the character Aayla Secura, introduced in 2000 in the Star Wars: Republic comic book series, in Attack of the Clones. He also used Coruscant, the New Republic capital planet created by Zahn in the Thrawn trilogy, in his prequel trilogy of films and the Special Edition release of Return of the Jedi. Thrawn was reintroduced into the canon in the 2016 third season of the CGI-animated television series Star Wars Rebels by supervising director Dave Filoni, who has used multiple characters and elements from Legends works in the series. Filoni explained that he followed Lucas's example in considering the films and television series canon, but allowing for the use of Legends material as necessary.
The first new canon novel was Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, published in September 2014, followed by the animated series Star Wars Rebels a month later. Marvel Comics began publishing a series of Star Wars comic book titles in January 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, and marked the beginning of the sequel trilogy of films.
- Britt, Ryan (January 24, 2013). "Weird Differences Between the First Star Wars Movie and Its Preceding Novelization". Tor.com. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Fry, Jason (July–August 2000). "Alan Dean Foster: Author of the Mind's Eye". Star Wars Insider (50).
- Allison, Keith (December 25, 2014). "A Long Time Ago ..." The Cultural Gutter. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
- Allison, Keith (January 22, 2015). "... In a Galaxy Far, Far Away". The Cultural Gutter. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
- Newbold, Mark (April 15, 2013). "Star Wars in the UK: The Dark Times, 1987—1991". StarWars.com. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Star Wars #1 (April 1977)". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Star Wars". The Comic Reader (142). April 1977.
- "Star Wars #107 (May 1986)". Marvel.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Shooter, Jim (July 5, 2011). "Roy Thomas Saved Marvel". Jimshooter.com. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015.
In the most conservative terms, it is inarguable that the success of the Star Wars comics was a significant factor in Marvel’s survival through a couple of very difficult years, 1977 and 1978. In my mind, the truth is stated in the title of this piece.
- Miller, John Jackson (March 7, 1997), "Gone but not forgotten: Marvel Star Wars series kept franchise fans guessing between films", Comics Buyer's Guide, Iola, Wisconsin (1216), p. 46,
The industry's top seller? We don't have complete information from our Circulation Scavenger Hunt for the years 1979 and 1980, but a very strong case is building for Star Wars as the industry's top-selling comic book in 1979 and its second-place seller (behind Amazing Spider-Man) in 1980.
- Veekhoven, Tim (October 30, 2015). "West End Games: Expanding That Galaxy Far, Far Away". Starwars.com. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- "The New York Times Best Seller List" (PDF). Hawes.com. June 30, 1991. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- "Critical Opinion: Heir to the Empire Reviews". StarWars.com. April 4, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Breznican, Anthony (November 2, 2012). "Star Wars sequel author Timothy Zahn weighs in on new movie plans". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
- "Timothy Zahn: Outbound Flight Arrival". StarWars.com. January 31, 2006. Archived from the original on February 4, 2006. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
- Kaminski, Michael. The Secret History of Star Wars (3rd ed.). pp. 289–291.
- Cronin, Brian (November 29, 2007). "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #131". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Kausch, Allan; Rostoni, Sue (Fall 1994). "Star Wars Publications Timeline". Star Wars Insider (23).
- Webster, Andrew (December 2, 2012). "The Classics: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire". The Verge. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
- "Shadows of the Empire Checklist". Rebelscum.com. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
- Britt, Ryan (July 6, 2016). "Star Wars Was Nearly Ruined By A Hacky Alien Invasion Storyline". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- Eng, Dinah (June 23, 2004). "Star Wars books are soldiering on". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 20, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Whitbrook, James (January 15, 2018). "The Expanded Universe Story That Led to Lucasfilm Re-Writing Star Wars Canon". io9. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Lawler, Kelly (December 2, 2015). "Why I love the Star Wars prequels (and you should too)". USA Today. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- "100 Top Animated Series: 21. Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003 TV series)". IGN. 2009. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Granshaw, Lisa (April 29, 2015). "How the Clone Wars microseries led the way for Star Wars' return to TV". Blastr. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- "George Lucas Talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars". StarWars.com. March 17, 2008. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011.
- Franich, Darren (March 11, 2013). "Star Wars TV: Clone Wars canceled, Detours postponed". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- Itzkoff, Dave (February 14, 2014). "Clone Wars Moves to Netflix". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Goldman, Eric (March 8, 2014). "Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 6 "The Lost Missions" Review". IGN. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
- Boucher, Geoff (May 7, 2008). "George Lucas: Star Wars won't go beyond Darth Vader". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Chee, Leland (July 20, 2012). "What is the Holocron?". StarWars.com. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- Leonard, Devin (March 7, 2013). "How Disney Bought Lucasfilm—and Its Plans for Star Wars". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- Baker, Chris (August 18, 2008). "Meet Leland Chee, the Star Wars Franchise Continuity Cop". Wired. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- Chee, Leland (July 19, 2012). "Introducing… Leland Chee". StarWars.com. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- "Jedi Holocron". StarWars.com. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- "Sith Holocron". StarWars.com. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- Chee, Leland (August 20, 2012). "SWCVI: The Holocron Keeper at Celebration". StarWars.com. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
- Whitbrook, James (February 2, 2015). "A Brief History Of Star Wars Canon, Old And New". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- "Sue Rostoni, LucasBooks Managing Editor". Star Wars Gamer. Wizards of the Coast (6). July 2001.
- Sansweet, Steve (August 17, 2001). "Ask the Lucasfilm Jedi Council". StarWars.com. Archived from the original on February 5, 2002. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
- "Interview with George Lucas". Starlog (337). August 2005.
- Schou, Solvej (December 21, 2012). "Mickey meets Star Wars: Walt Disney Co. completes acquisition of Lucasfilm". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
- "Disney To Acquire Lucasfilm Ltd" (press release). The Walt Disney Company. October 30, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
- Bricken, Rob (January 9, 2014). "Disney appoints a group to determine a new, official Star Wars canon". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- Moore, Trent (January 7, 2014). "Here's how Disney + Lucas plan to define (and redefine) Star Wars canon". Blastr. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- McMillan, Graeme (May 22, 2015). "Star Wars: Meet the Man Responsible for Keeping the Story Straight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
- "The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page". StarWars.com. April 25, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
- McMilian, Graeme (April 25, 2014). "Lucasfilm Unveils New Plans for Star Wars Expanded Universe". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
- "Disney and Random House announce relaunch of Star Wars Adult Fiction line". StarWars.com. April 25, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
- "Twitter". mobile.twitter.com.
- Keyes, Rob (March 21, 2017). "How Star Wars Is Almost More Sacrosanct Than Real History". Screen Rant. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
- Siegel, Lucas (February 20, 2017). "Star Wars: Dave Filoni Explains George Lucas and Lucasfilm's Relationship with Legends". Comicbook.com. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
- Tremeer, Eleanor (March 6, 2017). "From Leia Organa To Rey: 6 Most Powerful Female Jedi In Star Wars". Moviepilot. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
- Filoni, Dave; Gutierrez, Andi (August 12, 2016). "Dave Filoni Extended Interview: The Star Wars Show". Official Star Wars YouTube channel. 40:51. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Bacon, Tom (January 23, 2017). "Thrawn, The Next Star Wars Novel, Promises To Transform The Franchise". Moviepilot. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
- Truitt, Brian (July 16, 2016). "Thrawn to make grand appearance in Star Wars Rebels". USA Today. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
- "The Rebels Face Grand Admiral Thrawn When Star Wars Rebels Season Three Premieres Saturday, September 24". StarWars.com. August 8, 2016. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
- Krupa, Daniel; Goldman, Eric (July 17, 2016). "Star Wars Celebration 2016: Rebels Will Treat Thrawn As A Vader-Level Threat". IGN. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
- Goldman, Eric (August 30, 2014). "Star Wars: A New Dawn Review". IGN. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
- "Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion Premieres Friday, October 3 on Disney Channel". StarWars.com. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
- Brooks, Dan (July 26, 2014). "SDCC 2014: Inside Marvel's New Star Wars Comics". StarWars.com. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- Wheeler, Andrew (July 26, 2014). "Force Works: Marvel Announces Three New Star Wars Titles From All-Star Creative Teams". Comics Alliance. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- Yehl, Joshua (July 26, 2014). "SDCC 2014: Marvel Announces 3 Star Wars Comics for 2015". IGN. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- McClintock, Pamela (December 7, 2015). "Star Wars: The Force Awakens: When the Film Opens Around the World". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 26, 2017.