It has been four years since the introduction of the new sequel era of Star Wars. During that duration of time, fans have been left with scant information about the cast of characters, politics, and worlds of that period. Lucasfilm’s information blackout strategy for animation, publishing, and toys is failing to broaden the experience and satiate the hunger of fans. After the recent disappointing product announcements at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s time to take a step back and take stock if this four-year-long strategy is succeeding.
It’s not hard to remember the recent warm nostalgia of the run-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In those days, the hunger for anything about this new era of Star Wars was immeasurable. Fans were delighted about the “Journey to the Force Awakens” publishing series, that focused on this new period in Star Wars. Titles like Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath, Claudia Gray’s “Lost Stars” and Jason Fry’s “Rey’s Survival Guide” and “Weapon Of A Jedi”. More titles like and Greg Rucka’s “Before The Awakening” which focused exclusively on the new trio of heroes of this era.
Soon after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we experienced another great novel of the new era with Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Bloodline. A fascinating look into the new Republic and the shadowy rise of a dark power. These were all great stories that added to lore and focused on this new Resistance era of Star Wars. Although we wanted more insight, at least we had something in our hands that was relevant to the new sequel trilogy. Even in the comic realm, we had a four-part series with Marvel’s “Shattered Empire”, highlighting the cruelty of Palpatine and Luke’s ambition to discover more about the Jedi. It was a glorious time that we got to spend our money and engage our imaginations in the time and place that was new and where we had our focus.
During those years, there was some mild disappointment that the “Journey To The Force Awakens” series lacked robust insight into the First Order and our heroes. Some of those fans, with their lofty expectations, were trying to fulfill that Star Wars super-nerd merit badge by spending time and treasure to learn more about Star Wars. Then, ready to deliver to friends and family, valuable background and insight when questions arise after the release of the motion picture. It’s a tried and true, glorious undertaking that many of us enjoy and relish in. Although we didn’t get much lore, we did get a huge helping of beautiful, engaging storytelling set in the sequel era.
It was clear then as it is now that a sort of doctrine was set in place. That any new information about this new era would be given priority to the films and that novels, comics, and animation would have to wait after the fact. A strategy that I believe is failing the sequel trilogy and ultimately Star Wars.
After the heartwarming and exciting run-up atmosphere of “The Force Awakens”, the attention was then focused onto the recognizable age of “A New Hope” with the release of Star Wars: Rogue One and the second season of Star Wars Rebels. Star Wars publishing that year showcased only two novels for the new era, Chuck Wendig’s second installment of the “Aftermath” series Star Wars “Life Debt” and Claudia Gray’s “Bloodline”. On the comic front, where new runs sprung in all kinds of directions in the past with established characters.
In the run-up year to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we were delighted again to see a new “journey series” for the film. This time they would include only three books of any real relevance to the Resistance era, Elizabeth Wine’s “Cobalt Squadron” and the “Legends of Luke Skywalker” by Ken Liu. The third, being my favorite of the year “Phasma” by Delilah Dawson. On the comic front, Marvel’s only contribution to the new era was the Poe Dameron comic series. Meanwhile, many of the comic series are based in the past in different areas with familiar faces.
The exception being Doctor Aphra, who although was centered in the time of the original trilogy, was a new face and exciting for the saga. During these three years, of packed-up demand for knowledge, it would be up for Director Rian Johnson and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to deliver. An impossible task, locked inside a metal clock with two-in-a-half hours to spare.
As a Star Wars fansite owner, I have a perspective that is vastly different from most folks. To provide news and reviews, we consume everything coming off the Star Wars assembly line. Every book, comic, news release and even leaks to get a crystal clear picture that enables us to deliver honest and intelligent commentary for our readers. After four years of consumption, we have scant knowledge about the cast of characters and worlds within the sequel era. If I don’t have any, then Joe Schmo who only watches the films has even less. That’s a real problem that translates to real dollars in lost ticket sales, toys hanging on the pegs and overall disappointment in Star Wars.
This axiom of new information for movies first, everything else second is hurting Star Wars. With two films that can only deliver so much in the way of background and lore, it’s vital for fans to be able to feed that hunger by feasting on other platforms, especially concerning animation. But instead, the focus has been to travel back in time to familiar characters, in safe periods of time. Where we are raising our hands and leaping for more Rey, we get the Death Star. When we crawl on our knees begging for more Kylo, we get Thrawn. When we want to know more about the rise of The First Order we get The Clone Wars.
It’s appalling that after four years and two films, why is there not a Kylo Ren novel on the shelves? Surely it’s time to start investing eyes into his world as a young man and the dark path that he takes. Where are the comics for Rey surviving on Jakku?, Or a new animation series about Luke and his new Padawans in the Jedi temple? What about literature on the cast of characters like Maz Kanata, Lor San Tekka and the Knights of Ren? With Star Wars: Episode IX debuting in December 2019, will fans once again, put everything on the Director’s shoulders-to impossibly fill that bag of expectations? That even now, after the scripts are done, the arcs completed, why don’t we have more into the lives of these characters? Should their whole life be shuttered and locked away because of what might be revealed in Star Wars: Episode IX?
This dogmatic rule, of nothing being revealed in this new age, until the film’s release, leads only to one course of action-that all new projects must take place somewhere else. Taking away our organic desires for something new and instead of being fed something familiar, again. Whereas we want that delicious new inspiring dish, only to be fed safe pizza.
It’s hard for me to understand, that if there are treatments in place for the sequel trilogy, with significant beats secured and recognized, then why is it so hard to put information in other platforms? Having a Luke Skywalker novel about his life after Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have hurt Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it would have elevated it. It would have prepared audiences, why Luke chose his self-exile in greater detail and color than any film would be able to accomplish.
Having an adult-ish animation series about the rise of the First Order would contribute to the grandeur of the period in substantial ways. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an excellent example of how that animation series elevated that era to the prominence we see today. The Clone Wars made the prequel trilogy better and the love for that period grown beyond expectations. Why then didn’t we have an animation series for this new Resistance era instead of Star Wars Rebels? Looking back, what would have served the sequel trilogy better? Star Wars Rebels or Star Wars Resistance?
Audiences are clamoring for something new, and with this new era we have it, yet there is nothing there to supplant it outside of the films. If the strategy is to deliver all this content about this new era after the trilogy is completed, then it’s a disastrous one. Why would I want to invest my time and treasure about the Resistance era, when Rian Johnson will be taking me to a new place and time in his new trilogy? And soon after, another series of films by Ben Weiss and David Benioff.
The status quo of introducing and enticing fans to new periods only to shut them out and point them to others for the sake of security is ridiculous and self-defeating for the brand. We want to live in this space in the here and now, and that attention span has a shelf-life. You can’t expect audiences to see something shiny and then ask them to not look under the hood for years until it’s concluded in the motion picture space. Tantamount to seeing a brilliant new Tesla but getting shuffled off to the Honda Accord in the lease lot. Dependable, loved but not exactly exhilarating anymore.
The recent announcements at San Diego Comic-Con, gave me a headache in my eye. The novels, Star Wars: Master And Apprentice” by Claudia Gray and E.K. Johnston’s “Queen’s Shadow”, and the resurgence of twelve new episode of The Clone Wars, felt like I was transported back to 2012. A Star Wars roadmap that looks more like a shot-gun blasted mess than a coordinated, focused approach for the new era in Star Wars. After four years of pent-up appetite for insight into the new era, we’re served novels that would be appetizing a decade ago.
There is some prospect of good news, which didn’t arrive at SDCC, with the new animation series Star Wars: Resistance, but according to rumors, the series maybe be slotted in for a much younger audience. It is relevant to this new era, but is it a show that’s approachable for teenagers and adults?
I am a big believer in re-evaluating approaches and the way you do business. I employ it in my career as often as I can spare it. After four years its time to evaluate how has the sequel trilogy has been served and that of Star Wars as a whole. I do, however, want to make something abundantly clear, this editorial is for retrospection and constructive criticism and absent of malice. The incredible, hard-working individuals at Lucasfilm have created a fantastic catalog of storytelling that I will enjoy forever. This editorial isn’t about taking anything away, or declaring that bad decisions were made. It’s about making sure the right projects feed the timely attention of audiences and consumers first and place these works in different era’s second. It’s merely about prioritizing all platforms in support of that era first. Then filling those platforms with rich, in-depth insight into the characters and worlds during the run of the films. The sequel era of Star Wars isn’t getting the attention it deserves in the here and now. It is true that the movies bring in the massive profits and the animation, books, and comics don’t. However, when you have two films that do not delve sufficiently into the lore and backstory, you need something to fill the void. The securitization of knowledge has hampered the storytelling of this new era, and it needs to stop.