So what about that fictional world of Star Wars? What is canon? You may have heard the word when talking to Star Wars fans over the last few years. Canon is the history of Star Wars. Everything that is seen as the factual history of the Star Wars universe is considered Star Wars canon. I have Kristian Harloff’s voice burned into my brain after countless episodes of Collider’s Jedi Council vidcast. “What’s the Deal with Canon?” It can include everything from the movies, tv shows, books and comics. Depending on how sweaty a Star Wars fan you were talking to, you might have heard the words “Expanded Universe.” This is essentially what canon was called before Disney bought Lucasfilm, and they all decided to scrap everything except (at that time) the six films and the Clone Wars tv show. Everything under EU was changed to the moniker “Legends.”
Now that I have that foundation laid down, I want to focus on the importance of canon to Star Wars fans, and, more importantly, the importance of the canon on the Star Wars universe. I was inspired to write my thoughts down, and please take this as only my outlook on canon as a whole, after listening to the Force Center Podcast by Ken Napzok and Joseph Scrimshaw expound on their thoughts and feelings about Star Wars canon.
The way I approach canon is by starting with the movies. The movies are like the Word to me. Whatever happens in the movies is unequivocally true literally, figuratively, emotionally, even grammatically. Everything else in canon is supplemental. It’s the gap fillers that help us realize these characters in the Star Wars universe as complex beings with real motivations. The scary part of canon, which Mr. Napzok and Mr. Scrimshaw pointed out, is when we can’t fully suspend disbelief with the situations, locations, or actions the non-movie canon materials place before our beloved characters.
I haven’t finished reading all of the canon novels, but I’ve read Lost Stars, Tarkin, A New Dawn, Lords of the Sith, and Dark Disciple. I’ve enjoyed all of them to varying degrees and for very different reasons. The ones I most enjoy are the ones that help me understand the main characters in a new perspective. Lost Stars and Dark Disciple feature characters who don’t appear fully in the original trilogy, but their characterizations are so well realized that I invested in their stories throughout the plot-lines of the movies or tv shows. Tarkin and Lords of the Sith gave some great insight into the minds of our villains in a way that I’d never before experienced. It was great to understand the motivations from their point-of-view.
The problem arises when authors want to put our beloved characters in situations that we don’t necessarily think are Star Wars, or even worse, the characters don’t react to those situations in a way we believe they would based upon what we already know about that character. For example, in the Marvel Star Wars comic, we find out that Han Solo had a wife before Episode IV (read the comic to find out what actually happened, or just Google it). Now before we had the whole story, viewers rejected that idea because we didn’t believe Han Solo was such a slimy piece of worm-ridden filth. It wasn’t in his character based on the films. He came back to help the Rebels defeat the Death Star in A New Hope for Pete’s sake.
It might also be novel to read about these side adventures of Darth Vader in his comic line, but if the point of them is merely to show what a badass he is, it’s not really furthering his character. I don’t need to know everything about these character’s lives, just the defining moments of their character. In Lords of the Sith we get awesome action, but we also understand where Vader is currently at, and where he is going based upon his training and discussions with Palpatine. Maybe it’s a side-effect of comic issues being short by design, but I’d much rather wait until there’s a grouping of comics in a graphic novel format which present the whole arc and dynamics for the characters.
People love a narrative. They look to connect the dots, to make sense of it all. History is a great example. Historians don’t only want to get “what” happened in the past, but also “why” it happened. What lead to this event, and how did that effect the group and what did they do going forward? The narrative of history is character-driven. People are the ones writing the story of history based on their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and, most importantly, their actions. If historians can understand the history and motivations of a person or a group of people, they can understand the “why” of life’s developing plot-line.
That’s what Star Wars canon means to me. It’s presenting the true facts of Star Wars. Like solving a galactic sized puzzle with an infinite amount of pieces, as lovers of the Star Wars universe, we want to put on our historian hats and grab our magnifying glass. We want to scan every piece of canon to make sure it all fits the puzzle first presented to us from both the original and prequel trilogies. Both were from the creator, George Lucas, and everything else created to fit that universe should not be thrown in to fill empty space. It should be made to fit and flesh out the rich and diverse character-driven history of the Star Wars universe.