Star Wars expanded universe
The Star Wars expanded universe (formerly branded as the Star Wars Expanded Universe or SWEU) 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 purchased by The Walt Disney Company in 2012, and with a sequel trilogy of films and other works in development, in April 2014 Lucasfilm announced 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 multiple novels and comic book series.
Early works (1977–1989)
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.
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). 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, and R. A. Salvatore 's Vector Prime began the 19-book The New Jedi Order series (1999–2003), written by multiple authors. New Jedi Order, set 25 to 30 years after the original films, introduced a new threat: the Yuuzhan Vong, a powerful alien race attempting to invade and conquer the entire galaxy.
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. Lucas discussed ideas for a sequel trilogy several times after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but denied any intent to make it.
Lucasfilm as Disney subsidiary (2012–present)
In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion. In April 2014, Lucasfilm rebranded the Expanded Universe material as Star Wars Legends and declared it non-canon to the franchise. 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, 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.
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 himself was reintroduced into the canon in the 2016 third season of the CGI-animated television series Star Wars Rebels by Dave Filoni, who has used multiple characters and elements from Legends works in the series.
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.
The Legends-branded expanded universe plotlines take place before, between, and after the saga films, over a span of 37,000 years. The earliest events depicted in Dawn of the Jedi comic series take place 37,000 years before the films, and the Legacy comic series is set at most 138 years after the 1983 film Return of the Jedi.
As the fictional timeline evolved, a dating system was implemented using the climactic Battle of Yavin in 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope as the epoch with which to measure the calendar era of the fictional universe. The time period of a given work is determined by its distance in time from this "year zero": BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) and ABY (After the Battle of Yavin).
- The Pre-Republic Era (13,000,000,000 BBY–25,053 BBY)
- Set before the rise of the Republic and first mentioned in the Knights of the Old Republic, this era sees the Rakata, a bipedal species from the world of Lehon in the Unknown Regions, establish an empire using the dark side of the Force. The Rakata eventually come into conflict with the Je'Daii, precursors to the modern Jedi, who study and use both the light and dark sides of the Force equally. The preview issue of Dawn of the Jedi states that the Je'Daii originated ten thousand years before the story arc takes place (approximately 46,453 years BBY), while the first page of the graphic novel after the book's title page states that the story itself takes place 36,453 years prior to the Battle of Yavin. This era ends with the collapse of the Rakata Empire and the establishment of the Galactic Republic in 25,053 BBY.
- The Golden Age of the Old Republic (25,053 BBY–1,000 BBY)
- In this era (set thousands of years before the films), the Jedi are numerous and rule the galaxy, serving as guardians of peace and justice. The Tales of the Jedi comics series takes place in this era, chronicling the immense wars fought by the Jedi of old, and the ancient Sith. The Knights of the Old Republic series and the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic take place during this time, as well as the Darth Bane series. The Sith Era also takes place during this time.
- The Rise of the Galactic Empire (1,000 BBY–0 BBY)
- Set in the time around the prequel trilogy this era takes place after the seemingly final defeat of the Sith. In the waning years of the Republic, the Senate was rife with corruption and scandal, and saddled with a bureaucracy so immense that effective governing of the galaxy was nearly impossible. The Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, secretly orchestrated his rise to Supreme Chancellor under the guise of Senator Palpatine and personally engineered the Clone Wars. He promised to reunite the galaxy under a New Order, and killed the majority of the Jedi. The Phantom Menace takes place in the year 32 BBY, Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars film in 22 BBY, and Revenge of the Sith in 19 BBY.
- The Rebellion (0 BBY–4 ABY)
- With the Old Republic gone, an outcry of resistance begins to spread across the galaxy in protest to the new Empire's tyranny. Cells of Rebellion fight back, and the Galactic Civil War begins. This era begins with the Rebel victory that secured the Death Star plans, and ends after the death of Emperor Palpatine high over the forest moon of Endor. The Rebellion starts to reform itself into a body of government, first as the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and later the New Republic. The original trilogy takes place during this era. Specifically, A New Hope takes place in 0 BBY, The Empire Strikes Back in 3 ABY, and Return of the Jedi in 4 ABY.
- The New Republic (4 ABY–25 ABY)
- Having defeated the Empire at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance must now transform itself from a militant resistance force into a functioning galactic government. As Imperial territory is reclaimed, the New Republic suffers growing pains, having to fend off insurrections, Imperial loyalists, crime lords and wayward warlords. Also, Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, begins to rebuild the Jedi Order and train new apprentices.
- The New Jedi Order (25 ABY–40 ABY)
- With the Jedi Knights now over one hundred strong the New Republic has signed a peace treaty with the remains of the Empire. The galaxy is finally enjoying a peaceful respite from decades of war. It's in this era that a horrible alien menace invades the Republic from beyond known space. The Yuuzhan Vong lay waste to entire worlds in their scourge, as depicted in the novels of The New Jedi Order. The Dark Nest trilogy falls at the end of this era. The mysterious Killik encroach upon Chiss-controlled space, inciting a three-way war between the Chiss, the Killik Hive, and the Galactic Alliance, with Jedi falling in on all sides.
- Legacy (40 ABY-140 ABY)
- Having reached peace with the Yuuzhan Vong, the newly formed Galactic Federation of Free Alliances (commonly referred to as Galactic Alliance or GA) struggles to keep itself working as a single government. But many threats from inside are joined by a danger that comes from the remains of the Dark Side, that threaten to give rise to a new Sith Lord more powerful than Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine. The new Jedi Order created by Luke Skywalker faces a new era as the heirs of the Skywalker legacy grow up. Jacen Solo has partnered with a nemesis from Luke Skywalker's past, Lumiya, who has promised him only if he becomes the next Sith Lord will he be able to bring peace to the galaxy. The Legacy of the Force novels are set at this time. Following the culmination of the Legacy of the Force novels, a series titled Fate of the Jedi begins, involving Luke as he tries to correct the blemish left on the Jedi Order by Jacen Solo. This is followed by the book Crucible. Much later in this era, as suggested by the title, is the Legacy comic series. Set one-hundred thirty years after the films, these comics follow the story of Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke Skywalker, who has to confront a resurrected Galactic Empire under the control of a new Sith Order. Volume 2 follows the adventures of Ania Solo, a descendant of Han Solo, as she wanders the galaxy trying to stop the plots of the evil Darth Wredd.
In early April 2014, StarWars.com defined the Expanded Universe as "stories set outside of the canon established by the films and TV shows of George Lucas that make the galaxy deeper and richer". The franchise is a sprawling collection of novels, comics, video games, and other media that has been created over the span of 40 years. While stating that "the Expanded Universe has enriched the Star Wars experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond what is seen on the screen", Lucasfilm subsequently clarified that Lucas had always reserved the right to both draw on it and contradict it in his own works. Following their acquisition by Disney, in 2014 Lucasfilm clearly delineated between the continuity established in the EU and the new content they would be producing.
In the two-hour Star Wars Holiday Special produced for CBS in 1978, Chewbacca returns to his home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate "Life Day" with his family. Along with the stars of the original 1977 film, celebrities Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, and Jefferson Starship appear in plot-related skits and musical numbers. The Holiday Special also features the first appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett, in an 11-minute animated sequence. Lucas loathed the special and forbade it to ever be aired again after its original broadcast, or reproduced on home video.
The television film Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure aired on ABC on Thanksgiving weekend in 1984. With a story by Lucas and a screenplay by Bob Carrau, it features the Ewok Wicket from Return of the Jedi as he helps two children rescue their parents from a giant known as Gorax. The 1985 sequel, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, finds Wicket and his friends protecting their village from invaders.
The animated series Star Wars: Droids (1985–1986), which aired for one season on ABC, follows the adventures of the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, 15 years before the events of the 1977 film Star Wars. Its sister series Star Wars: Ewoks (1985–1987) features the adventures of the Ewoks before Return of the Jedi and the Ewok movies.
Depicting events between the prequel films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars: Clone Wars aired on the Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2005, and won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program in 2004 and 2005.
A comedy animated series called Star Wars Detours was produced prior to the Disney acquisition, but its release was postponed in 2013 and it ultimately never aired. A live-action television project has also been in varying stages of development at Lucasfilm since 2005, when Lucas announced plans for a television series set between the prequel and original trilogies. Producer Rick McCallum revealed the working title, Star Wars: Underworld, in 2012, and said in 2013 that 50 scripts had been written. He called the project "The most provocative, the most bold and daring material that we've ever done." The proposed series explores criminal and political power struggles in the decades prior to A New Hope, and as of December 2015 was still in development at Lucasfilm.
A new CGI-animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008–2014) was introduced, set in the same time period as the previous Clone Wars series and related to the 2008 animated film of the same name. It was followed by the current CGI-animated series Star Wars Rebels, which debuted on Disney XD in 2014. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the series follows a band of rebels as they fight the Galactic Empire. The Clone Wars, its originating film, and Rebels were accepted as part of the canon by Lucasfilm when previous works were reassigned to the Legends brand in 2014.
Radio and audio drama
A 13-episode radio adaptation of the original 1977 film written by science fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden was first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. Lucas, a fan of the NPR-affiliated campus radio station at his alma mater the University of Southern California, licensed the Star Wars radio rights to KUSC-FM for US$1. Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels reprised their roles from the film. The production used John Williams' original score from the films and Ben Burtt sound designs from the film. The broadcast was an overwhelming success, and a 10-episode adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back followed in 1982, with Hamill and Daniels joined by Billy Dee Williams. Return of the Jedi was adapted into six episodes in 1996, featuring Daniels.
In 1983, Buena Vista Records released an original, 30-minute Star Wars audio drama titled Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell, written by Daley. In the 1990s, Time Warner Audio Publishing adapted several Star Wars series from Dark Horse Comics into audio dramas: the three-part Dark Empire saga, Tales of the Jedi, Dark Lords of the Sith, the Dark Forces trilogy, and Crimson Empire (1998).
Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, the 1976 novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope by Alan Dean Foster, was followed by Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978), an alternate sequel commissioned by Lucas. The film novelizations for 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.
The bestselling Thrawn trilogy (1991–1993) by Timothy Zahn reignited interest in the franchise and introduced the popular characters Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Gilad Pellaeon. The first novel, Heir to the Empire, reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and the series finds Luke, Leia, and Han facing off against tactical genius Thrawn, who is plotting to retake the galaxy for the Empire. Though Thrawn was designated a Legends character in 2014, he was reintroduced into the canon in the 2016 third season of Star Wars Rebels. In The Courtship of Princess Leia (1994) by Dave Wolverton, set immediately before the Thrawn trilogy, Leia considers an advantageous political marriage to Prince Isolder of the planet Hapes, but she and Han ultimately marry. Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire (1996), 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. The novel introduced the crime lord Prince Xizor, another popular character who would appear in multiple other works. Other notable series from Bantam include the Jedi Academy trilogy (1994) by Kevin J. Anderson, the 14-book Young Jedi Knights series (1995–1998) by Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, and the X-wing series (1996–2012) by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston.
Del Rey took over Star Wars book publishing in 1999, releasing what would become a 19-installment novel series called The New Jedi Order (1999–2003). Written by multiple authors, the series was set 25 to 30 years after the original films and introduced the Yuuzhan Vong, a powerful alien race attempting to invade and conquer the entire galaxy. The bestselling multi-author series Legacy of the Force (2006–2008) chronicles the crossover of Han and Leia's son Jacen Solo to the dark side of the Force; among his evil deeds, he kill's Luke's wife Mara Jade as a sacrifice to join the Sith. The story parallels the fallen son of Han and Leia, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, in the 2015 film The Force Awakens. Three series were introduced for younger audiences: the 18-book Jedi Apprentice (1999–2002) chronicles the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn in the years before The Phantom Menace; the 11-book Jedi Quest (2001–2004) follows Obi-Wan and his own apprentice, Anakin Skywalker in between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones; and the 10-book The Last of the Jedi (2005–2008), set almost immediately after Revenge of the Sith, features Obi-Wan and the last few surviving Jedi.
Marvel Comics published a Star Wars comic book series from 1977 to 1986. Original Star Wars comics were also serialized in the Marvel magazine Pizzazz between 1977 and 1979. The 1977 installments were the first original Star Wars stories not directly adapted from the films to appear in print form, as they preceded those of the Star Wars comic series. From 1985–1987, the animated children's series Ewoks and Droids inspired comic series from Marvel's Star Comics line.
In the late 1980s, Marvel dropped a new Star Wars comic it had in development, which was picked up by Dark Horse Comics and published as the popular Dark Empire sequence (1991–1995). Dark Horse subsequently launched dozens of series set after the original film trilogy, including Tales of the Jedi (1993–1998), X-wing Rogue Squadron (1995–1998), Star Wars: Republic (1998–2006), Star Wars Tales (1999–2005), Star Wars: Empire (2002–2006), and Knights of the Old Republic (2006–2010).
After Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, it was announced in January 2014 that in 2015 the Star Wars comics license would return to Marvel Comics, whose parent company, Marvel Entertainment, Disney had purchased in 2009. Launched in 2015, the first three publications in were titled Star Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader, and the limited series Star Wars: Princess Leia.
The first official licensed Star Wars electronic game was Kenner's 1979 table-top Star Wars Electronic Battle Command. The first licensed Star Wars video game was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, published in 1982 for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Atari's 1983 rail shooter arcade game Star Wars was based on the 1977 film and used vector graphics. The next game, Return of the Jedi (1984), was based on the third film and used more traditional raster graphics. The third game, The Empire Strikes Back (1985), was a remake of the first game and based on the second movie.
In 1993, LucasArts released its first Star Wars video game and first space flight simulation game, Star Wars: X-Wing, after publishing several World War II flight combat games. X-Wing was one of the best-selling games of 1993, and established its own series of games.
Released in 1995, Dark Forces was the first Star Wars first-person shooter video game. A hybrid adventure game incorporating puzzles and strategy, it also featured new gameplay features and graphical elements not then common in other games, made possible by LucasArts' custom-designed game engine, called the Jedi. The game was well received and well reviewed, and was followed by four sequels. Dark Forces introduced the popular character Kyle Katarn, who would later appear in multiple games, novels, and comics. Katarn is a former Imperial stormtrooper who joins the Rebellion and ultimately becomes a Jedi, a plot arc similar to that of Finn in the 2015 film The Force Awakens.
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996) is a Lucasfilm multimedia project set in the as-yet-unexplored time period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that included a novel by Steve Perry, a comic book series, a video game, and toys.
- The Force Unleashed (2008–2010) is a similar project, set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, that includes a 2008 novel, a 2008 video game and its 2010 sequel, a graphic novel, a role-playing game supplement, and action figures.
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