|Star Wars character|
|Created by||Kieron Gillen (writer) |
Salvador Larroca (artist)
|Voiced by||January LaVoy (From a Certain Point of View, audiobook) |
Emily Woo Zeller (Doctor Aphra: An Audiobook Original)
|Full name||Chelli Lona Aphra|
|Family||Korin Aphra (father)|
Lona Aphra (mother)
|Significant other||Magna Tolvan|
|Origin||Second moon of Thrinittik|
Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. Created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, she first appeared in Marvel Comics' 2015 Star Wars: Darth Vader comic book series. Aphra became a breakout character, and began appearing in her own comic series, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, in December 2016. She is a morally questionable, criminal archaeologist initially employed by Darth Vader, who later goes into hiding from him. Aphra is the first original Star Wars character not from the films to lead a Marvel comic series.
Doctor Aphra is a criminal archaeologist with an expert knowledge of droid and weapons technologies, with a particular interest in ancient weapons and Jedi artifacts. She travels in a unique starship called the Ark Angel, which features a custom white-and-blue paint job. StarWars.com describes Aphra as "a (mostly) morally bankrupt, in-over-her-head archaeologist" with an Asian appearance. Slate calls her "driven, selfish, decisive, and wildly unpredictable". SyFy Wire calls the character an anti-hero who "shares the snark of Han Solo and sexual charisma of Lando Calrissian, but toes the line between right and wrong far more regularly than these two characters—and more often than not steps over it into the downright naughty." IGN explains, "Aphra has all of Han's swaggery, scoundrel-y charm, but little of his noble streak." Creator Kieron Gillen notes that the character's main interest is "this weird obsession she has with uncovering old stuff".
Noting that "Aphra's sarcasm and the careful way she codes her words are a vital part of her character", StarWars.com also explains that though she is somewhat of a genius, Aphra's ability to think on her toes is what has kept her alive in situations where her genius fails her. Gillen notes that readers can never be sure what the character will or will not do. Doctor Aphra writer Si Spurrier explains that despite the expectation that Star Wars characters "will always do the right thing", Aphra makes mistakes and sometimes chooses the unexpected. Sarah Kuhn, the author of Doctor Aphra: An Audiobook Original, agreed that "[Aphra] is the definition of chaos ... You never really know exactly what she's going to do, which means that, personally, I think she's having the most fun of anyone in the Star Wars galaxy."
In creating the character, Gillen looked to what he called "The Indiana Jones archaeologist archetype", which he believed fit well into Star Wars. His original concept for Aphra was Indiana Jones and his ramshackle problem solving, but with inverted ethics. He said that Aphra falls somewhere between a hero and a villain in that "You do see her do good things and bad things." Gillen further states, "She's kind of fun but at the same time, there's a really dark heart to her." He explains, "She has this very fun-loving attitude, she's very fun to be around, but she's really bad as a person." He added:
Aphra ... was designed to be Darth Vader's foil ... she has to do a lot of the talking when Darth Vader doesn't. Darth Vader will not make jokes. To be even a fun book to read, you need her to lighten it. But when you introduce her as a lead, that kind of changes the dynamic entirely. A) she becomes slightly more serious, and B) everyone else around her becomes a lot more deadly.
Spurrier states that Aphra "knows that Vader is probably not a nice person. She's aware that space fascism is not necessarily a good thing but it may be the right thing for a chaotic universe." Gillen compares Aphra to Darth Vader in that fans root for both as anti-heroes, but explains that while Aphra is a "bad person in many ways", Vader is on another level as "one of the greatest villains of all time." Gillen further explains, "you can root [for her], because she makes really bad life decisions and sort of rolls with them ... She doesn't like killing people. She's not like a random murderer." He noted that Aphra is complex in that she is "adamantly pro-Empire" but tends not to obey its rules.
SyFy Wire describes Aphra as a "queer woman of color". Slate notes, "She aches for two different women who have claims to her heart—two women whom, inevitably, she must betray to survive." Gillen has confirmed Aphra's sexuality, saying he has written her primarily romantically interested in women, but noted that real-world attitudes towards homosexuality "[don't] really exist in the Star Wars universe". Of Aphra's relationship with female Imperial captain Magna Tolvan, Gillen said he imagined "This hard-bitten, kind of very serious kind of person chasing down this more whimsical person and the sexual tension ... the flip of it is, Aphra's the person who's also pursuing Tolvan."
Darth Vader (2015–2016)
Aphra first appeared in issue #3 of Star Wars: Darth Vader (March 2015), which is set after the original Star Wars film and was created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca. Aphra's appearance in the comic was adapted as an audiobook released on July 21, 2020. In the story, she is recruited by Darth Vader to aid in his schemes. At the end of the series, Vader attempts to kill Aphra, but she escapes, leaving him thinking he succeeded. Gillen had originally planned to have Vader kill Aphra during the story, but realized a way that she could escape and still keep the integrity of both characters.
From 2015 to 2016, Aphra appeared in Star Wars: Vader Down, a six-issue crossover comic miniseries which includes its own debut issue, issues #13–15 of Darth Vader, and issues #13–14 of the Star Wars comic series. Concurrent with the Darth Vader series, in 2016 Aphra also appeared in the Rebel Jail arc of the Star Wars comic, which comprises Star Wars issues #16–19.
Doctor Aphra (2016–2019)
After first being teased in September 2016 as Star Wars: Classified, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra was announced in October 2016, and began to be released in December 2016. The story picks up after Vader's attempt to kill Aphra at the end of the Darth Vader series. She is in hiding so that Vader will not discover that she is alive, but needs to get back into her life as an archaeologist so she can repay her enormous debts to the Wookiee Black Krrsantan, and fulfill her promise to help locate the people who tortured him in the past. Gillen said he wanted to write the series to explore "what makes her tick and why she's doing what she's doing". Gillen wrote issues #1 to #13, and then cowrote #14 to #19 with Simon Spurrier.
Spurrier took over for a departing Gillen as of #20. Larroca and Kev Walker shared the artwork for issue #1, with Walker doing it alone for #2 and #3, followed by Walker and various other artists rotating in and out of the series. Spurrier refocused the series to expand Aphra's adventures past the known Star Wars universe and attempt to tell stories that would be unique to Aphra's character.
The series was nominated for Outstanding Comic Book at the 30th GLAAD Media Awards. Alan Scherstuhl of Slate wrote of the series, "The stories, like Death Stars, tend to explode, but unpredictably so, with escalating twists, striking moral quandaries, and only occasionally anything like a truly happy ending." He explains, "Besides the vigorous storytelling and startling twists, the Doctor Aphra comics ... fill in shades of gray that are otherwise missing from Star Wars' moral spectrum." Jesse Schedeen of IGN called Doctor Aphra "Marvel's riskiest Star Wars project to date", but noted that "the distance from the movies gives Doctor Aphra a greater sense of freedom in terms of tone, style and plot possibilities." Schedeen described the series as "very much like a Bizarro Han Solo story with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in", and noted that it "thrives on its dark sense of humor."
In 2017, Aphra appeared in the five-issue crossover miniseries The Screaming Citadel, which is made up of its own debut issue, issues #31–32 of Star Wars, and issues #7–8 of Doctor Aphra. The initial Doctor Aphra series ended in December 2019 with issue #40. She is also the main subject of in the short comic "Epilogue", also collected in the Empire Ascendant one-shot comic, which is in turn collected in the thirteenth volume of Marvel's Star Wars series.
Doctor Aphra (2020)
Doctor Aphra relaunched in 2020, and is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The first issue was released digitally on May 3 (in recognition of Star Wars Day) and physically on May 27.
Aphra also appears in flashbacks in issues of the 2019 comic Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, as well as in the first issue of the 2020 comic Star Wars: Bounty Hunters.
An expanded audiobook adaptation of Aphra's introduction in the Darth Vader series, titled Doctor Aphra: An Audiobook Original, was released on July 21, 2020. Written by Sarah Kuhn, the audio drama added new scenes and featured a full voice cast. The script was released in book form on April 6, 2021.
"The Trigger" (2017)
"The Trigger" is a short story written by Gillen, published in the 2017 Star Wars anthology From a Certain Point of View. Set during the 1977 Star Wars film on the day that the Empire destroys the planet Alderaan with the Death Star, the story finds Aphra captured by Imperial troops and reacting to the news of Alderaan's destruction. Slate noted:
Her reaction to the news is complex: She's awed, even a little turned on, at the thought of such destructive might. She annoys the Imperials by excitedly gaming out what tech could have possibly achieved it. She wonders aloud whether the Death Star has a "trigger"—whether any one person flipped the switch that murdered billions. She wonders if killing that many from a distance is easier than killing one person in front of you.
Gillen said he wrote the story with the intent of "working out a fairly logical reason, why with her background, she thinks the Empire is bad to the alternative. If you grew up in a galactic civil war, I think peace by any means might be better than war. That's kind of Aphra's take. Aphra can handle everything. She lies to herself. But normal people? Normal people would probably like to live under a fascist regime rather than actually people just killing each other in a war. And that's a really dark hole to think about but I can buy someone believing that with Aphra's background."
Impact and reception
Increased sales of Darth Vader #3 convinced Gillen of Doctor Aphra's instant popularity, and he called the character "a big part" of the unexpected success of the Darth Vader series. Aphra became a breakout character, and was placed in her own series, Doctor Aphra, which is the first ongoing Marvel Star Wars comic focused on an original character not from the films. Gillen said in April 2018, "[Doctor Aphra] was the number two trade in February. A completely new character selling that well is shocking in comics. That kind of response is enormously impressive, as it doesn't happen often." He added, "Sal[vador Larroca] and I cooked her up but enough people have written her now to make [her] bigger than me. She definitely feels like she's outgrown me, essentially. So I quite like giving her away to other people who'll get to play with her." Aphra has also become a popular cosplay. Gillen said of Aphra's popularity:
Of all the characters I've created for other people's universes, she's by far the most successful one ... She's kind of fun but at the same time, there's a really dark heart to her ... All those weird kind of contradictions to her, I think they're quite appealing. At the same time, she's got a very core thing people can get. She's quite complicated and not complicated at all. With Luke or Leia, they've got that core archetype you get, you get what they're like. You get that with Aphra but at the same time, there's an underlying ... all this weird, twisted stuff in there that kind of gets under people's skin."
Most of what we've seen so far in Star Wars is goodies versus baddies. And Aphra ain't that. And I would suggest that the reason people ... respond more to Han Solo than they respond to Luke Skywalker is because he's not just playing the goodie. He's a little more complicated than that. And Aphra is 100% the same but from the other direction."
Trent Moore of SyFy Wire deemed Aphra "arguably the best thing" about the Darth Vader series, and Catrina Dennis of StarWars.com calls her "the type of character that steals every scene she's in." Hanna Flint of SyFy Wire describes Aphra as "an edgy, cool and refreshingly diverse character", and Bria Lavorgna of StarWars.com calls her "one of the coolest characters in Star Wars right now." Noting that Aphra's first appearance was an homage to Indiana Jones, Alan Scherstuhl of Slate states that she subsequently "gains a depth that Indiana Jones never quite did", and praised the fact that Gillen has "never exploited or exoticized her sexuality." Citing Aphra's "feats of technological prowess coupled with her unpredictable personality" as the characteristics which "make her a character worth watching", Dennis writes, "Aphra has stolen the hearts of fans everywhere with her unpredictable humor and a complicated backstory that has unfolded into something much more than her introduction to the saga may have let on."
Doctor Aphra and her two droids have also appeared in the Star Wars: The Black Series line of 6" action figures.
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- Chelli Lona Aphra / Doctor Aphra in the StarWars.com Databank