Hard as this maybe to believe, but there was a time in the mid to late 80's, while Sir Tim Berners-Lee was still perfecting his idea for the world wide web and connected computers were the stuff of science-fiction, university research teams and clandestine government departments, when it appeared that the only thing keeping "STAR WARS" fandom going as a collective group were fanzines, but for those of us outside the US, getting hold of these mythical publications were; well, we had better chance of looking at moon rock in the Science Museum.
Before anyone comments, I knew Lucasfilm had a 'zine lending library but to the best of my knowledge, they did not send, understandably, overseas. So, of the fanzines that (due to people who knew people or who made an annual pilgrimage to MediaWestCon) made their way to a small group in the UK, were two Harrision Ford fanzines, "Facets" (1980 - 1983) and then "Flip of a Coin" (1983 - 1996) who always did what the "SW" zine writers couldn't always guarantee, at least one Solo-centric story between the covers.
Over the past how many years, fans consistently would vote Solo as one of the top characters vying with Fett as the number one, but when it came to the Lucasfilm sanctioned EU novels, he was a somewhat neglected character reduced to supporting role (yes, the fact that Solo was only ever to be a supporting character doesn't escape me). I know that there were Brian Daley's trilogy (didn't like how he wrote the character and although following "ATTACK OF THE CLONES", I now "get" the Corporate Sector; at the time, they weren't "STAR WARS" enough for me and I didn't understand the reasons why), AC Crispin's trilogy (which I found disappointing), followed by Roger MacBride Allen's Corellian trilogy which I found cliched. And then there is the awful, "Courtship of Princess Leia" - if you like it, all power to you; I don't. Let's make a deal over that one - you respect me, and I'll respect you. In fact there have not been a lot of the EU "SW" universe where it's been about Solo.
Jump forward to D23 Expo this past weekend, and I'm currently looking at the newly released - and I'm going to stick my neck out here and say - first Drew Struzan designed poster for "THE FORCE AWAKENS". I have no doubt that in the best modern marketing fashion, we will have more posters that feature groups of the other characters; and I have to admit that I'm finding it strangely disconcerting to see Han Solo so front and centre in the marketing for this title so far. I have no doubt that those who choose to read this, will be saying "what are you thinking of?! It's HAN SOLO/Harrison Ford for Heaven's sake! Why WOULDN'T he be front and centre?"
I have no doubt that a lot of this focus is due to the career that Ford went on to have post- "EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" and the somewhat misguided belief that Ford had no time or "like" for the role that made the late 70s Hollywood decision-makers take a bit more notice. I mean, who genuinely ever thought that Ford would agree to reprise the role of Han Solo? Why would Ford ever return to the role? I was lucky enough to attend the 30th Anniversary charity screening of "ESB" in Los Angeles in 2010 and the real draw was the following Q & A with Ford. If he's comfortable with you in comfortable surroundings, I have no doubt he is quite the amusing raconteur; in the environment of a cinema auditorium with the public? Nerves makes one guarded and understandably so. What became quickly apparent to me is that he doesn't not like either Solo or "SW", he is fully cognizant of the opportunities the success of both the films and the character brought him, but the media (and "SW" fans) often will not recognize that this is just one role and one group of films that have made up a career.
I love Han Solo and I am a huge Harrison Ford fan, but my one concern with having all the current "TFA" media coverage is that we will have too much Solo by December. I have spoken of the current marketing direction with friends at length because we agree that Lucasfilm/Disney are doing the right thing - introduce the new characters with the returning, it is the quickest way to get them on message. I know that the current EW coverage is also detailing Adam Driver's character and it feels like Abrams has learned from the marketing mis-step from "STAR TREK - INTO DARKNESS" where the message to fans and the public was "Cumberbatch was not Khan" and then not only to learn the character was who everyone thought, but the last 30 minutes was a virtual reshoot of Nicholas Myer's excellent original. I also feel that possibly Kennedy and Abrams where shocked, surprised and pleased in equal measure that Ford defied us all and said yes.
As a "STAR WARS" fan of 38 years and counting, I cannot wait to see the characters that I fell in love with together again on a cinema screen, and I am happy to see Han Solo finally getting the attention he deserves.