For the vast majority of those who tag themselves as “˜geek’, the universe of Star Wars represents a utopian dream, so sprawling and magical that it seems possible that it is only just beyond our reach. May 25, 1977, saw the release of the first movie, Star Wars, later renamed to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope to separate it from the franchise it spawned.
Next came Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, released on May 21, 1980, and Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, released on May 25, 1983. By now, people were wearing Obi-Wan costumes to openings and parties, and trying to turn off the light switch using “˜The Force.’ George Lucas had successfully created a franchise that would eventually, as I mentioned, sweep the world.
Of course, on May 19, 1999, George Lucas decided that he needed to ruin his franchise, but that’s a discussion for another time.
The point I want to make is that, for many of us, the original trilogy is what makes up the core of Star Wars. Anything and everything else, makes up the Expanded Universe; those extras that Lucas — unlike Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek — counts as part of Star Wars canon.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe, or EU, includes the animated movies, video games, comics, books, and probably even the lunchboxes to some degree. To some of us, the Expanded Universe may also include Star Wars prequel trilogy, but some of us don’t, in that it isn’t part of the really good work that Lucas has done.
As a disclaimer for the next few months to come, I am actually a fan of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and I count them as level with A New Hope. But I digress.
The Star Wars EU is one of the greatest concepts ever invented in fiction entertainment. It allows for the same interpretation of characters and events that, for example, a Shakespeare play like Hamlet enjoys, as it is performed time and time again, in different countries and in different styles down the generations. The same can be said for the Star Wars EU, and this is especially true for the novels.
There is a veritable mass of books, thanks in part to Timothy Zahn, after his 1991 addition to the EU with the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy, Star Wars: Heir To the Empire. Since then, dozens, nearly hundreds of books have been written to fill out whatever storyline you are interested in; from Boba Fett to Han Solo, the Jedi’s of old and new, and even the Ewoks.
And so, to celebrate the August 15 release of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie and subsequent TV series, debuting on the Cartoon Network shortly after, I will be writing a Countdown to Clone Wars series for the next few weeks, reviewing a different Star Wars novel or series each week. We’ll start with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and end with I, Jedi. In between, we’ll touch on the Clone Wars themselves, as well as the celebrated X-Wing series of books. By the time that Clone Wars kicks in, you’ll be in love with the EU as much as I am.
And the reason we want to take this sweeping look at the EU is because, in many ways, the Clone Wars additions, movie, and TV series, as well as the following live-action TV series that will focus on the extras between the end of Episode III and IV, are really additions to the EU. Though with George Lucas’s involvement, they fill many of the requirements of being an EU addition, not the least being the fact that they aren’t one of the original trilogy.
So each Thursday morning, hopefully starting next week (if Amazon and I get our acts together), tune in to Geeks of Doom for the latest installment of Countdown to Clone Wars, and understand why the Star Wars EU means so much to so many.