Friday, December 20, 2013

Expanding and Expanding

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

There seems to be a strange sort of correlation between ardent I-III haters and hardcore fans of what is known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU for short), the collection of books, video games, comics, and even a cartoon or two detailing events in the galaxy far, far away that was not covered in the films. While this is certainly not true of everyone, I am never surprised to see a large selection of EU material in a hater’s library. In fact, there are many haters that hate on the fact that the films are not more like the EU, and in fact contradict it from time to time.

"This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg"

So I thought it would be “fun” for me to extrapolate upon my own opinions regarding the EU, which I have thrown out from time to time. But before we get into the opinion stuff, I do want to reiterate one solid fact that many EU fans either forget or purposefully neglect to mention:

The EU is, by design, since inception, for all intents and purposes, not canon.

Oh sure, it has developed its own internal canon that the various writers follow out of respect for what came before. But as Star Wars stories? They’re entertaining apocrypha at best.

Now, again, this isn’t my opinion, but a stone cold fact that was set down by George Lucas when he allowed writers to work on what is essentially licensed fanfiction. Which is actually a beautiful thing, if you think about it. By putting that caveat in, it allows writers to blossom and tell whatever stories they wish, thus building the myth without having to follow a set list of rules. They can play fast and loose and have fun with it. As long as it didn’t completely contradict the films, the one true canon, each reader could build his or her own head-canon; taking stories they like and discarding what they don’t. Finally, it still allows Lucas the freedom to continue telling his story his way in the future, if he so desired.

Ah, but that last part reveals one inherent flaw in the system. Do you see it? Readers create their head-canon, but then the Maker himself comes and changes everything. It’s his right, he’s the filmmaker and the only one really allowed at this point to say what is and isn’t canon. But people will always be resistant to change. It’s one of the reasons Lucas added one more caveat: leave the Clone Wars alone, as he knew he’d eventually want to come back to that before anything else, and few would be able to accurately predict where he’d take it.

"The Legends were True!"

The Clone Wars CG animated show was a weird case. By Lucas’ own admission, he considered it closer to true canon than any other EU material in existence. However, he still wanted to give the creation team the same sort of leeway to take the stories in the directions they wanted with only a few “wouldn’t it be cool if…” edicts handed down, thus letting the fanbase take or leave it the same as any other part of the EU.

Now, what does this particular fan make of the EU? Well, I’ve quite enjoyed many parts of it, but on the whole it doesn’t interest me that much.

While it’s true, I haven’t sat down and read a whole lot of the actual books and comics. Just a small handful, really. But I have a fair idea of many of the more famous story synopses based on character encyclopedias, references in books I have read, and plain old word of mouth. My problem is that much of it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what Star Wars actually is. Too much of the EU is hard science fiction, when the films are more of a fantasy epic and rollicking adventure that just happens to be set in space.

"Are...are you sure you want to light that near the baby?"

And do not speak to me of the post-Jedi storyline. It’s one of the few things I’m legitimately hopeful for with VII-IX: that they’ll give me a post-Jedi story that fits better with the Saga as a whole. As it is, I find it’s just a depressing mess that undoes Jedi’s happy ending in any way it can. The one thing I actually like is the concept of Mara Jade. I say concept, because I’ve seen little of her character in action, so my idea of her portrayal is shaky at best. But the idea that Luke gets married and has children is pretty much essential to the Saga as built up between I-VI, as it was the outright rejection of attachment as opposed to teaching responsible attachment that helped lead them to their doom. And love saved the galaxy in the end. Lastly, what I do know of Mara Jade seems to me that – under the right writer – she’s a strong woman who is more than a match for the younger Skywalker.

Having said all that, I want to stress that – especially since I have not read them cover to cover – I cannot pass judgment on the objective quality of the writing and story by themselves, so I will not. Moreover, I want to make sure people who actually do like, or even love, the stories as they unfolded know that I’m not being a basher here – I encourage people who love and celebrate it to continue to.

So what EU stories DO I like? Well, I’ve always been a fan of the Star Wars Tales comics, which are un-canon to the EU’s un-canon (discontinuity-caption?). I love the lore given to the Jedi Path and Book of Sith. The Clone Wars, both versions, do a lot of things I like (and a few I don’t). And there are many video games I very much enjoy. But when it comes to full-fledged novels, I’ll tell you the three main entries on my shelf:

1.  Darth Plagueis: One of my all-time favorite books, period, it gives some much-needed Palpatine backstory and is fantastically written. My only complaint is that they leave Plagueis alive far too close to the films to my liking – it’s pretty clear Palps in in full control by the time Phantom begins.

2. Yoda – Dark Rendezvous: It’s a decent if not “incredible” page-turner, but the scenes between Yoda and Dooku both past and present send chills up my spine in the best way, so it remains one of my favorites.

3. Shadows of the Empire: Boy, they really marketed the hell out of this one when it first came out, didn’t they? I have mixed feelings about this one. The stuff with Xizor I adore. I think he’s a great character, and he was fun to read. Plus, I had a laugh with Leia playing seductress. Dash Rendar, however, annoyed me to no end. He was a Han Solo clone, pure and simple, but more irritating. The fact that he died near the book’s climax redeemed his storyline for me (not because he was dead, but that after being such a jerkwad he sacrificed himself for the team) – until I read that he survived in other material and knew he would going into it. Boo.

"Palpatine Begins"

In the end, like I said, the beauty of the EU is that you can pick and choose what you like and don’t. Me, I prefer the backstory to the continuation. I like a world where Chewbacca is still alive, Boba Fett is still dead, and the Empire of the Sith is truly defeated for good.

I just hope JJ Abrams does too.


  1. Man, this essay just reminded me why I tend to despise canon as a concept...It's one of the nice things about being a Doctor Who fan, in that it absolutely doesn't have a canon.

    Though I read an interesting article (can't remember what it was) that was saying the problem with most of the EU stories is that, since Star Wars operates in that high epic fantasy register, most of the EU stories just try and keep coming up with "higher" and "epic-er" stories that keep upping and upping the stakes. Which, you know, gets rather boring after a while. What we really need are an influx of major stories that focus on the smaller, day-to-day aspects of the universe- ordinary people going about their lives and their own personal stories, separate from the galactic wars and political machinations that define so much of the saga. It's why I always liked "Star Wars Tales"- many of them were so refreshingly down-to-earth in their depictions of characters.

    1. Wow, that was fast.

      And, aside from the fact that I'm a continuity/lore hound, I pretty much completely agree with you.

    2. Well, continuity is a different thing than canon. Continuity is going "this follows from this which references this which follows from this, etc.". Canon is going "x piece of continuity *doesn't count*". One is essentially cataloging things, while the other is actively trying to control one's enjoyment of the piece.

  2. As a reader and enjoyer of the EU, I don't get all hung up on Canon and Continuity all that much. I'm also a roleplayer and have played the Star Wars RPG since 1995. Since in those games I've played, the continuity may change because of our actions, I learned to let go of it a long time ago. Also as a fan, I remember that Star Wars is a modern mythology, and being such, continuity can be very fluid. I respect those like Nathan P Butler with his Timeline Gold and attempteing to fit EVERYTHING into one continuity, but I don't think it can honestly be done. The events themselves aren't important insomuch as what they are supposed to teach us or give us as entertainment. As a 36+ year fan of this stuff, it's kept me alive and engaged for so long, but it's still just fake mythology.

  3. It used to be that there vwere two lines of Star Wars continuity, two SW universes. The films G canon which was Lucas' own SW universe, and the EU which was a different SW universe. That is not to say one is more correct than the other. It means the films affect the EU, but the EU has no bearing on what happens in the films. This is because the EU is made up of interpretations of SW that doesn't allows gel with each other or with Lucas' vision.

    TCW series shock things up some with Lucas claiming it is the same universe as his films, even though the series does deviate and is rated one level lower than the films, T canon. So it is hard to say if it really is the same universe as the films or the EU. Lucas was also involved in the production of the live action Ewok films yet he considers them not to be a part of "his films" and would like to burn them.

    However with Lucas no longer in charge of SW, I have heard the new management along with Dave Filoni are now trying to collapse the dual SW universes (film and EU) into one and do away with the canon levels. Hopefully this isn't them finding a loophole to retcon what happens in the films to try to suit the hateboy fans. Needless to say I am concerned about this. More likely this is to try to improve fan acceptance of the new films and other media that would be different interpretations of SW. This may also be a way the new management is trying to rein in the EU.

    My own opinion is the first 6 films are Lucas' interpretation of SW and that since he is the creator, his interpretation is what matters most. But I guess many fanboys are getting their wish with that mean old Lucas out of the way. Now SW can be changed to the way the fans want it.

    1. That doesn't sound like Filoni; he's always been in George's corner.

      In any case, such a prospect is terrifying.

    2. I don't think he means to go against Lucas, he is just trying to fix a non-problem but doing so in good faith. Trying to consolidate the different lines of continuities into one which is what I am not happy with.

      Here are some quotes Filoni and Gilroy made from the canon wars site.

      "Henry: George gave Dave and I a lot of freedom and he didn’t want us to be limited by what the EU had established.


      This series at least to George is NOT EU, it is a part of Star Wars
      as he sees it. I think if anything there was a period where Henry and I
      had to learn exactly what it took to be a part of George Lucas’ Star
      Wars, and tell the Star Wars story his way. We had to learn how to look
      at the Galaxy from his point of view and let go of some of what we
      considered canon after we found out the ideas were only EU. Really we
      had to “unlearn what we had learned” and go back to the movies as the
      defining source material."

      That part sounds good, like they were only going to follow elements from the films and ignore the EU. However:


      Even now, I look at the stories I’m working on and add elements to
      connect them to aspects of the EU to tie it all together when it makes

      In other words he is trying combine the film universe with the EU because he is a EU Completists screwing over both Film Canon Purists and Dual-Canon Purists.


      I once pitched George the idea that Plo had a parachute and that he
      bailed out of his fighter before it crashed. Then George said he would
      only continue the scene and make Plo’s death more painful, I think his
      parachute was going to catch fire and he falls on something sharp. "

      George reining Dave back in.

    3. Part 2

      "Gilroy and Filoni:

      Henry: When I started writing the show bible, George said, “Stay
      away from Han, Chewie, Boba Fett and Jabba.” Well... George changed his mind about Jabba at the very next meeting. George also said, “And don’t go to any of the planets I went to in the films.” Then eight months
      later he changed his mind, “Let’s go to ‘DELETED’. What if there’s a
      secret Separatist base on ‘DELETED’?” So let’s just say we’ll see some
      familiar Star Wars places besides Tatooine. Lots more cool new planets
      though. George gave us a tremendous amount of freedom on the show."

      George being a nice guy as usually, towards them. Letting them have some artistic freedom with the show. Northing to object to there.

      "Dave: George is always good at listening to ideas. He does pitch us
      every story now and gives us rather detailed outlines. In first season,
      it was a little different, but now a lot of the time George will come
      in and say, “I want to do a story about ‘X’.” Now the part you are all
      interested in — if what he pitches includes areas that are covered in
      the EU — this is my only real chance to get the EU material in on the
      ground floor of the story, right at the beginning, when George presents
      his idea. I will bring up ideas that are similar in the EU, or talk
      about how that particular group of characters already has a backstory.
      Sometimes I would print out whole Wookiepedia entries and show it to
      him, but now I use the big official encyclopedia set. In the end it is
      up to George whether it counts or not and that’s his right as the
      creator of the Star Wars Universe."

      So when George pitiched an idea, they convinced him to allow them to add EU stuff to legitimize more of the EU to the same status as the films, merging the two universes into one. While I enjoyed TCW, I did noticed they tried to make it a hybrid of film and EU canon. I just throught it was okay since the series was T canon and didn't retcon or override the 6 first films, the Lucas SW universe. But with Lucas stating the series is the same continuity as "his universe" and the two differing in many key areas raises many questions, Of course Lucas has every right to change his mind, but he has seemed to be a guy that can convinced by other people to change his mind. With Filoni's tendency to make attempts to merge the two universes unchecked by Lucas now with the new Rebels series, I don't know what to think. From some of the preview info about the show, it does already sound like they are going to retcon and contradict some stuff in the 6 films.

      This may simply be Disney trying to take control of their new "Empire", and make their new films seem more on par with the first 6, even though they won't fully be George's vision. This will make militant online EU-Philes very happy.

      For the record I don't think Filoni or Gilroy are bad guys or anything, they just have a different interpretation of how SW should be than George.

    4. As long as they don't contradict the fundamental themes and lessons. I still don't consider either show true canon.

    5. @Anonymous

      The "militant online EU-philes" would not be happy at all. They were not happy about the integration of lower-level EU content into TCW, since there were inconsistencies, both avoidable and unavoidable, aplenty between how TCW and the C-Canon material presented them. They were outraged when the post-ROTJ expanded universe material was effectively made moribund about 13 months ago. They utterly despise Filoni (and Lucas) and will almost certainly despise Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg after they fail to pander to their every demand as 'Star Wars: Rebels' unfolds. Trust me, they vehemently oppose any "integration" between the film and EU halves of SW, since they know that their favoured half would lose out.

      The Expanded Universe was mostly harmonious with Lucas' vision during the release of the Prequel Trilogy. Lucas even made an effort to include parts of the EU which he liked into the films. The Twi'lek Jedi Aayla Secura, created for the PT era comic series 'Star Wars: Republic', was brought into AOTC and ROTS. Quinlan Vos, the main protagonist of 'Republic', was given a mention by Obi-Wan in ROTS and was even planned to show up in the Order 66 montage. Lucas went as far as demanding that his planned death in the comic series be changed to a survival, allegedly because he had plans for Vos in a live action TV project.

      As someone who isn't a militant EU-phile but simply an SW fan who likes much of what the EU has given us, I found that TCW was greatly enhanced by the inclusion of some of the better EU content. The Mandalorian story was enriched by allusions to the Old Republic era, a Jango Fett comic miniseries from 2002 and some other Mandalorian appearances in the EU. The ethical dilemmas surrounding the clone troopers were previously explored in the EU and expanded on by TCW. Quinlan Vos even showed up. All throughout the series, these inclusions were excellent. By alluding to things beyond what was explicit, the setting was embellished. Lucas himself did that in the PT. That's the sort of "merger" of film and EU content that I get behind.

      TCW is T-Canon and 'Rebels' will most certainly remain on that level. Whatever other status they may have bestowed upon them, they're ultimately high-profile Expanded Universe material, not the central films. I'm sure that they'll be collaborating with the film production team so as to prevent unnecessary contradition, but that will be as far as the "unified continuity" will go. Filoni may no longer have Lucas looking over his shoulder, but I've never considered Lucas to be absolutely essential for sideshow stories like 'Rebels'. That series seems to be shaping up to be the sort of low-key story that T.Hartwell and The Nilbog would appreciate.

    6. Vos was based on an extra in Phantom, so he's a weird case.

    7. That's not true regarding Lucas wanting to "burn" the Ewok movies; maybe you're confusing them with the Star Wars Holiday Special? Lucas wrote the basic story for both of the Ewok movies, and the two films were released together on DVD in 2004.

    8. I honestly don't get the idea that they are going to please the Haters with Rebels. That is almost the complete opposite of what I have heard. Filoni said in the RebelForce Radio podcast that he would seek to incorporate prequel elements into the show whenever possible. Not to mention that the show will be based on ideas GL pitched of that time period, and that Pablo Hidalgo has gone on record in Twitter to say that the only thing that counts is what's on screen.

      Needless to say, I think that Filoni has been onboard long enough to take the mantle of Star Wars into the future. I'm sure he will do great Star Wars.

    9. Lucas and LFL employees have stated contradictions about canon for years. I think Lucas didn't really cared as long as the EU didn't constrain how he wanted to write his films. Back when Lucas still owned Star Wars, his word was final. Not whatever his employees stated since they were intermediates’ giving their interpretations of what Lucas meant. But Lucas stating TCW was the same as his films is confusing since they are different.

      Of course Lucas being involved in the production doesn't automatically make it a full G canon level as the Ewok films show. The cloned emperor in Dark Empire was also his idea, but it still doesn't make DE, G level.

      However since Lucas no longer owns Star Wars, it is up to other people to decide now. I just don't want to see people change what happens in the first 6 films from the outside. Fans tend to want to group everything together not caring if it really fits together. Many seem to refuse that these are different interpretations of Star Wars and different interpretations don't always mesh. So instead of accepting things happen this way here, and another way here, they try to retcon everything together which leads to fights. Which version do you choose to retcon the other versions?

  4. You can see him drinking with Sebulba in TPM, he is like the female bounty hunter watching the podrace. Both were background extas thet were givin backstorys by the EU since it tends to give everything back stories.

    I have seen more and more fans claiming that TCW is the same level as the films, even Lucas has said the series is the same as his films. Lucas has further stated that the canon levels are only marketing and he really doesn't follow any of it. All this really blurs the lines between the old dual universe setup, and may even defeat it. It is now being stated that the new Rebels series will also be the same levels of the films. I don't know if this means filoni now has the power to retcon the films from the outside with his new series and that others can too.

    With TCW there were some things that didn't mesh with the films themselves, but thinking the series wasn't the same continuity it was ok to me to deviate some. But with what Lucas has said, has TCW changed what goes on in the films? For example Darth Maul surviving the fight with Obi-Wan is now what really happened in the films if TCW really is the same level? It has become very confusing now.

    1. "Lucas has further stated that the canon levels are only marketing and he really doesn't follow any of it."

      Which I think highlights the extent to which canon is really a fandom invention and more often than not exists to give a sense of hierarchy and 'importance' to certain sections (in this particular case, the film devotees). At the end of the day, it's a tactic to bully and exclude other members because of their likes and preferences, usually while maintaining a "Great Man History" view of those works, in which one man only is responsible for the greatness that is "x" and all other contributors are lesser- Star Trek is perhaps the worst example, given its strict adherence to "canon" and the devotion to a man who by all accounts was pretty danged despicable.

      But this is all getting a bit negative, even for me. At the end of the day, what I'm trying to say is that you should like/dislike/engage in whatever part of the work/universe you want to to be considered a "true fan"- whether, in this case, that means liking the prequels, hating the OT, the reverse, only subscribing to the EU, loving all the films and nothing else, or whatever other permutation of whatever exists in the vast and buried expanses of the SW universe. You should be able to decide what's important to you without having others try to dictate that importance for you.

    2. That's very well said. I try my best to be as fair about it as possible. Of course, when people play that card to defend themselves dictating to me, I get a little miffed.

    3. Well, we may disagree on the films critically, but I would never try and argue how "true" a fan you are because of your preferences toward them.

    4. IMO, saying canon is just a bulling tactic fans use on other fans is a strawman argument. It's not so much about being a true fan or not, (though some fans on both sides have twisted it to that) but when one piece contradicts another piece, which is right? Lucas or the EU author?

      The EU is made of different interpretations of Lucas's story. Often is the case, different interpretations clash to some degree or another. OCP tried to limit this as much as possible but it still happened alot. However Star Wars, at least in the past was George Lucas's story, not the fan's or EU's. It was his to change as he saw fit regardless of how fans felt. If Lucas throught the EU wasn't a part of his story, then it wasn't, but that doesn't stop one from disagreeing with and ignoring him. However his wishes should be respected. Alot of fans believe in collective fan ownership of Star Wars which is false. It was (and in some ways still is) Lucas' story, and that his creator rights should be respected. Of course that doen't mean you have to agree with his choices. Even the EU writers respected that Lucas can and did overturn the EU because he was not bound to them, they were to him. So in a way, canon was protecting Star Wars from being hijacked away from Lucas' vision by the EU and fans. However it still became hijacked at times which lead to a canon war.

      However some EU Completists and Canon Purists have warped canon into tools to fight each other with. Even the term true fan is just another tool both sides use on each other.

  5. Well he has also stated that there are two SW universes, his film universe and the EU which is a parallel uninverse, dual canons if you will. To quote "George Lucas, Flannelled One, November 2001 - TV Guide interview

    “There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books. They don’t intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies. I don’t get too involved in the parallel universe.”"
    Even Lucas has said more than once that the movies are Gospel, and everything else is Gossip", but this was before TCW series.

    "Marc Xavier", November 2003, "The Furry Conflict and the Great ‘Beard‘ of the Galaxy"
    (report based on a Q&A session with George Lucas which occurred at USC on 11-19-03)
    "Q: What do you think of the expanded universe of books?
    A: The books are in a different universe. I've not read any of them, and I told them when they started writing I wouldn't read any of them and I blocked out certain periods, they couldn't touch where the real story happens."

    This shows that at least one time he followed canon since he didn't want other people messing with "his" story in Lucas's own words.

    "George Lucas, Flannelled One, Aug. 2005 - "New Hopes" interview in Starlog #337
    (see it for yourself here)

    It really doesn't get much simpler. Lucas considers the EU to be the second of "two universes", "outside [his] little universe", part of a "different", "other" world, a universe that is a "parallel universe" to his own . . . the makers of it "try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they go off in other directions". His story, the saga of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke, is over, and while other tales inspired by the galaxy Lucas created also bear the brand name, they don't affect his Star Wars story in any way."

    1. Part 2:

      The CGI TCW was the game changer as it blured the two universes into one while contradicting both the films and EU stories at times. I think the canon stuff came to be not so much as a way to control what is valid, but to resolve contradictions which there are many between the films (even just the OT) and the EU. Remember that the EU is made of many different people's interpretations of SW besides Lucas's own vision which leads to differences and outright contradictions. As Lucas said, they go off in other directions. The easy way to solve this at one point was just to say X happens this way in the films, but X happens this other way in the EU with the dual canon. Nither side was right or wrong, just different in their own worlds, or in this case universes.

      EU Completism is logically unsupportable, requiring extensive intellectual dishonesty to maintain. Canon (film) Purism is closer to reality, but requires that many statements be dismissed . . . this, too, is a path toward intellectual dishonesty. The only self-consistent way to understand the myriad canon policy statements is to acknowledge the dual-canon approach wherein Lucas Licensing's Official Continuity Policy and Lucas/LFL's canon policy co-exist.
      In the Lucas/LFL canon policy, Lucas's films and the associated scripts and novelizations constitute the whole of the Star Wars story. Meanwhile, we get to see a different interpretation of that universe in the parallel reality known as the Expanded Universe.

      Accepting the dual-canon nature of Star Wars plus the above view leads us to "Dual-Canon Purism". Dual-Canon Purism acknowledges the primacy of the films and related canon, not to mention the primacy of Lucas in regards to rank and creative vision. For Dual-Canon Purists, the Expanded Universe is known to exist, but would exist outside the objective reality of Star Wars. This is what many fans went with, even through thare still some hardcore film devotees and hardcore EU devotees who object to it.

      However this has all changed. Begining with TCW the two canons were began to merge by Filoni and even Lucas who once wanted them separate. It seems the new Disney management and Filoni are hellbent of completeing this merger.

      With TCW, it does contradict the films at times, but since it is supposed to be the same as the films, does TCW retcon what happens in the films outright now? That if you are a film devotee for example, do you have to accept that Darth Maul didn't die in TPM as is what indeed happens in that film? Back when there was still two universes you could explain he dies in the film universe, but not in the universe of TCW series and/or the EU, but if the series and films are one in the same then Maul does indeed survive in TPM no matter if you are a film devotee, a EU completist, or a dual canon purist. Does TCW really have the power to change the films from the outside instead of within? Will the new Rebel series also have that power. Will this cause a large increase in canon fights between fans? I just wished they kept with the dual universe thing, it sovled alot of these problems pretty nicely.

      Yes you personally can ignore or accept whatever you want, but is doesn't mean anything to the fandom at large.

    2. "Yes you personally can ignore or accept whatever you want, but is doesn't mean anything to the fandom at large. "

      And I find it enormously suspect when people try and make overarching decisions for "the fandom at large".

    3. What he (she?) means is that the fandom at large will make individuals' lives hell for going against them. Not that they're right to do so. In fact the poster seems against such annoyances.

    4. Thankyou Nilbog, that is exactly what I was refering to. Hopefully Hartwell just misunderstood what I was saying. Sadly with many fandoms there is alot of peer pressure going on and many don't accept other's personally opinions.The dual canon view was a way to stop alot of the fan infighting by making both the films and EU correct in their ways. That way there was nothing to fight about.

    5. And the fact that companies look at mega mouthpieces and trends as opposed to what each individual thinks, it's important to show just how diverse the fanbase really is re: who likes what. Otherwise, they'll cater to the squeakiest wheels thinking it's what everyone wants.

    6. Just like the media with the PT hate.

  6. How is it a overarching decision? Just because you think X is this way in Star Wars doesn't stop a majority of other fans stating you are wrong. I even have seen you do that a few times over at FBTB forum, quite a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

    1. Hm, curious as to how you know me on FBTB, and also would need to see specific examples to understand what you're referring to.

    2. Use to lurk there thinking about joining, but got turned off by the site's anti PT bias, especially in the lego set reviews where it should not have been. It is supposed to be review of toys, not reviews of the films they are based on. Many of the PT lego set reviews featured unneeeded PT bashing which is in poor taste. While I really don't want to take the time or give them ad hits to search that site (call me lazy if you want) for examples. I recall your former screen name here Flynn from there, since I have been reading Nilbog's blog for a pretty long time. But I do recall you pushing your views on other posters on that forum as fact as well as sometimes here on Nil's blog. Do as I say, not as I do.

    3. Well, I'm not really in the mood to defend my actions on a forum I've not regularly posted in for at least a year or two, but suffice it to say that arguing/debating something with the means of critical discussion and/or objectivity isn't the same as pushing it as unassailable "fact", which I try to be very careful not to do.

      At any rate, though, it's a different matter than what I'm talking about here- what discussions of canon inevitably try to do is make an overarching decision for fandom as to what does and doesn't "count". And I find those sorts of claims to be inordinately troublesome most of the time, especially given the sense of elitism and exclusion they tend to create.

  7. "but suffice it to say that arguing/debating something with the means of critical discussion and/or objectivity isn't the same as pushing it as unassailable "fact", which I try to be very careful not to do.'

    In that case you have failed to do so a few times. But we are getting off topic about this.
    Some of your talk seems to imply you support the idea of collective fan ownership of Star Wars? Most of the people I have seen pushing the "true fans" concept are EU fans who claim to be a true fan that you most like and accept more than just the 6 films, all of the EU. To push the EU down non EU fan's throats. A few times I have seen PT haters use that term claiming true fans hate the PT films. No matter which side uses that term it is dishonest and a shaming tactic. Collective fan ownership is just a way to legalize stealing Lucas's art, very dishonest. Many film devotees dislike the EU because it does attemp to alter the SW story in ways that doesn't fit the films. Not because they want to bully other fans with, more often to fight them back.
    The thing is weither you or I or anyone else likes it or not, Star Wars was George Lucas's story, he created it, it was his to do as he willed up until he sold it to Disney. He was nice enough to let other writers to play around, but even they knew what they were writing was not Lucas's story. What I always disliked about the EU was how some fans tried to use it to retcon and override Lucas's version of the films, to hijack his story away from him. As he said, the EU authors went off in other directions, he isn't bound to go the way they and the fans want him to go. Really who can blame him for not wanting to be told what he can do with his own creation? If he throught his films and the EU were two different universes (BTW doesn't invalidate either) than that was how it was.

    It is like with Mickey Mouse, other people helped make him great like Ub Iwerks and Ward Kimball, even Walt's wife Lilly, but Mickey was still Walt's creation to do as he saw fit. The artists who helped Walt were employees, hired for their skills. No matter how many other people he hired or allowed to create media about Mickey. If Walt decided to make a cartoon that would override a Carl Bark's comic strip, then it happened. Unlike Star Wars, Disney cartoons are mainly stand alone instead of one large story which avoids alot of BS. However, in both cases executives now control them, to do whatever they think will make the most money and not to any artistic view. Yes they have hired artists like Filoni, but they can be overrided at anytime by managers.

    1. "It is like with Mickey Mouse, other people helped make him great like Ub Iwerks and Ward Kimball, even Walt's wife Lilly, but Mickey was still Walt's creation to do as he saw fit."

      Okay, wow. I have a lot of things to comment on this post, but this is the one that stuck out the most- Walt Disney didn't create Mickey Mouse any more than Bob Kane created Batman. Ub Iwerks came up with the concept and design of the character, and was the head animator of a good deal of the shorts- he did most of the animation on "Steamboat Willie", for example. Calling him "Walt's creation" is in this case flat-out wrong.

      This is why the "Great Man History" version of art is so troublesome- because it erases the contributions of the many people that helped make it what it was. To call Star Wars "Lucas's creation" erases the contributions of people like Ben Burtt, Marcia Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, and the many others who helped make the film as special as it was. In this case, Lucas had the primary influence and was the director (trust me, I'll give him credit where credit is due and there is definitely credit to be given), but to act as if it was solely his is flat-out rude to the others who worked on it.

    2. This is a case-by-case basis, though. As much as filmmaking is a collaborative art, there are many cases where you can point to one person as where the majority of the magic comes from. As the "primary influence" and driving force, Lucas IS Star Wars for all intents and purposes, regardless of the talents who helped him refine and realize it.

      In fact, you could easily say the same for the examples you gave against this concept - we've simply given the credit to the WRONG person, or people in the case of a partnership.

      Credit where it's due both to individual contributions and to masterminding the project.

    3. Again Hartwell, you are creating another strawman argument. The great man of history does nothing to erase the contributions of those "the man" hired to help him. These other people likely would never have come together without the "great man" as you put it in the first place. They also go in knowing that they are working on another person's creation and are fine about it. It is how things work in the real world and there is nothing wrong with it.

      "Walt Disney got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse from a tame mouse at his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1925, Hugh Harman drew some sketches of mice around a photograph of Walt Disney. These inspired Ub Iwerks to create a new mouse character for Disney."

      Disney came up with the idea of Mickey and Ub just flushed the design out for Walt. But it is still Walt's idea, and his creation and Ub knew and understood this. However this does nothing to underscore Ub's talent or his many contributions. It is simply a bizarre view view you have that isn't reality. So it is not flat out wrong, you are Hartwell. Both Walt and Lucas learned lessons the hard way after losing control of earlier projects.

      I don't see how acknowledging Star Wars is Lucas hurts anyone since it doesn't. To quote Paul. F:
      " Creating something is not a democracy. The people have no say. The artist does. Now, this doesn’t mean that an authority figure is trampling on someone’s rights or denying them their civil liberties. This means a creative figure has the right – okay, the authority – to create, or recreate, whatever the living hell they want."

    4. "These other people likely would never have come together without the "great man" as you put it in the first place."

      Why? How can you make that assumption? Neither of us were there and it's shallow reasoning to suggest it *only* would've happened if 'this Great Man' was there to pull it together.

      Especially because in this case the amount of influence Disney had on the creation of Mickey is close to nil- the only thing he gave Iwerks was that he needed a new character to replace Oswald, to which Iwerks responded by giving him various (original) sketches of characters (some of which would go one to become 'classic' characters), none of which Disney was happy with. It was then a *separate sketch* of mice that inspired Iwerks to create Mickey. The basic concept of the character, not to mention the design that was so iconic that it basically stayed unchanged since his debut, was almost all Iwerks'. The most credit Disney deserves is as "co-creator".

      Not to mention the fact that your suggestion that he "knew and understood" that it was "Walt's idea" isn't true since Iwerks *left the company* because he felt he wasn't getting the credit he deserved. Which is the real, pressing problem of this sort of attitude- when people like Disney, Bob Kane, Terry Nation, or the multitudes of other 'creators' out there get the continual credit (and paychecks) for their work, all while people like Iwerks, Bill Finger, Raymond Cusick, etc. get elided.

      Now, you're right that it's a different case with Lucas- in fact, in my original comment I considered deleting that paragraph *because* it was a different case. I still think it poses a problem, but I'll post my issues in a separate reply to keep this one relatively clear.

    5. "Walt Disney got the inspiration for Mickey Mouse from a tame mouse at his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1925.

      What about this you do not understand are you ignoring it for a strawman argument?
      Walt gave Mickey his personality and character, animator Ub Iwerks created Mickey's design and appearance. Patterned after many cartoon characters of the day, especially Felix the Cat, Ub refined Walt's designs to give Mickey a fluid range of motion. Ub also almost single-handedly animated the initial Mickey Mouse shorts, producing as many as 700 drawings a day!

      This doesn't understate that Ub Iwerks is a key figure in the history of film and should always be remembered as a great technical innovator as well as the animator who started it all. Ub didn't leave because he wasn't getting the credit he deserved. By 1929 many talented animators from New York including Norman Ferguson and Ben Sharpesteen came to the Disney studio and introduced many innovations to the Disney studio. Also history between Walt and Ub was beginning to have drawbacks in their working relationship. Since he had seen Walt’s struggles and limitations of an artist Iwerks wasn’t blown away by his boss the way many of his peers were and was resentful of him in a way the others were not. For example he wasn’t happy when Walt would retime his X-sheets or tell him to only do the key drawings and to give his assistants the inbetweens. The combination of Iwerks' rising ambitions, occasional differences with Walt, and a tempting deal with Pat Powers to finance his own studio prompted him to break away in 1930. To everyone’s surprise and shock, especially the head of the studio, in January 1930 Ub Iwerks left the Disney Studio to start his own studio. Since he had trouble expressing his emotions to Walt an easy exit that made him not have to deal with his boss’s frustrations was a great deal. Over a period of six years Iwerks headed his own studio and did three cartoon series (Flip the Frog, Willie Whooper, and Comicolor Cartoon Fables) in that timeframe. Great animators such as Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane were working at the studio as well as future Warners director, then-cell washer Chuck Jones. However, Ub Iwerks lacked the skills that were making Walt Disney a bigger success everyday. He didn’t want to adapt to the innovations in cartoons that were occurring in the 1930s, wasn’t interested in improving the quality of his cartoons, wasn’t that creative, didn’t care that much about running the studio and most importantly didn’t have a great understanding or appreciation for story and character. While the quality of the Disney cartoons in all aspects got drastically better each year in that time period Iwerks’s cartoons stayed relatively the same. By the time Iwerks studio closed Disney was well underway in the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature film ever made inAmerica. Ironically the things Iwerks lacked as a filmmaker (a drive to get better, great storytelling, understanding of what makes a great film, and having the emotions of the characters drive the story) were the most important things in making Snow White a great movie and an incredible success.

  8. Here is another quote from A Certain Point of View:

    "I often say ‘Star Wars’ is George Lucas’ story to tell because it IS. He’s earned the right, financially and creatively, to own it in every sense of the word. Peter Jackson doesn’t own ‘Lord of the Rings’, he’s the temporary custodian building upon a rich, well-established story. The same is true of Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams. Without diminishing their talents in the least, it’s true to say that in terms of their most successful work they are writers and filmmakers for hire.

    What puts the entire Star Wars saga on the mantel of greatness is that it is represents a singular creative vision from an artist who time and time again put everything on the line for his art. That’s more than worthy of my cinematic love."

    Gary Katz, Joe Johnson, and Ub Iwerks were also artists for hire which doesn't diminish their work or contributions.

    1. I fail to see how calling someone an "artist for hire" *doesn't* diminish their contributions, since the implications of that phrase is that it's someone who does the work purely for the job, usually under the control of another creative figure. It's especially untrue to apply to Katz or Iwerks, given that they were full-on collaborative with their works (Iwerks was working with Disney for *years* and they even started a company together).

      Not to mention that calling Jackson an "artist for hire" completely misunderstands the nature of adaptations in the first place. And I don't even know where Whedon or Abrams fit into that at all.

    2. It applies to Wheadon re: The Avengers and Abrams re: Trek (and now Wars)

      However, Wheadon is on the opposite side when it comes to Buffy, and Abrams on his multitude of original projects (Lost is iffy).

      Jackson and his team is a weird case where we can't exactly ask the true original artist anymore, so we don't know what the elder Tolkien would think (in spite of the bile spewed on the project by the younger). One could always argue that in spite of changes, Tolkien would have appreciated how much of his "unfilmable" book survived intact. Or not, we'll never know.

    3. My point is more it's unfair to call Jackson's work on the films as him being an "artist for hire" because it presumes all he's doing is translating the films visually. Which is 100% not at all how adaptations work and as we can see he had a fair amount of influence on those films that's distinct from what existed in the books.

    4. But it still is not his work to begin with, he is presenting his interpretation of someone else's book series. Just because you change a few bits of someone else's work doesn't make it your own which makes Jackson fall under a artist for hire.

    5. Again, "Artist for hire" is far too diminishing a remark to be used towards these people, and especially towards a film director because the film happens to be based on an existing work. A good majority of film directors direct scripts written by other people- does that make them an "artist for hire" because it's not *their* scripts?

    6. Except LotR was Jackson's passion project. The studio didn't hire him to make the movies, he went looking for producers, and the movies wouldn't have been made at that time without him.

    7. Also- "adaptation" =/= "interpretation". The two can be wildly different things (though in the case of Jackson's films there is an intent to portray as much of the films as accurately as possible, so it's obviously more of a case-by-case basis).

      Seriously, though, unless one of Tolkein's appendices had full screenplays, storyboards, character designs, editing schematics, and other assorted miscellania to be used to make the films, "artist for hire" is just *not* the right term to be using.

    8. "A good majority of film directors direct scripts written by other people- does that make them an "artist for hire" because it's not *their* scripts?"

      Yes, just because they choose what scripts to work with still makes them an "artist for hire". Being picky or being able to be picky doesn't change it, of course this doesn't discredit their talent either like you try to make it out. It's not an insult, just the truth. I don't look down at them for it either, they are just selling their skilled labor.

      You see in a free market system, we have what is called a labor market. People sell their labor for money in order to live. The higher and more rare your skills are, the more money you can earn. Even directors do it, only the ones that have become very well off, can afford to be picky. It isn't diminishing at all, just another strawman argument. Just because you call something bad doesn't make it so and I find it rather bizarre of you.

      Unlike Lucas, Jackson's major successes are his interpretations of other's works. Even if he tried to portray as much of the films as accurately as possible. He still has to guess since he can't ask Tolkein and has to interpret the books himself. My father is a big LOTR fan and he complained about stuff Jackson added into the films that were not in the books and other changes. This is because the films are Jackson's interpretation. Even my father says this isn't a bad thing in of itself, just that it is a different view of LOTR.

    9. "(though in the case of Jackson's films there is an intent to portray as much of the films as accurately as possible,"

      Who says that Jackson knows what is "accurate" to Tolkin's vision? For all we know Jackson's view could be 180 from Tolkin's view. This is an example of an argument from authority. A argument that concludes something is true because it comes from a presumed expert, in this case Peter Jackson. At best it is an inductive argument, or in other words, probabilistic at best.

    10. Still, you're both ignoring something important.

      Take another example: Joss Wheadon. When it comes to something like Buffy or Firefly, he's in Lucas' position. He's the creator, he can say what is and isn't, and regardless of how execs have screwed him in ways Lucas refused to accept since Graffiti, they're still his babies and would not have existed without him.

      In the case of the Avengers, however, the studio was going to make it one way or another and he just happened to accept the position they offered. So, regardless of how much he tried to make it his own, in THAT instance he was an "artist for hire".

      To my knowledge, the closest Jackson ever came to a situation like that was with The Hobbit, where he stepped in when Del Toro left and they couldn't find anyone else, and even then he was technically "the studio" himself. Despite being an adaptation, the studios would never have touched it had some filmmaker not begged for funding. Would someone else have made it eventually? Perhaps, but it would not have been then and there. With the Avengers, if Wheadon said no, they'd find someone else relatively quickly. But if Jackson hadn't come to the studio, we wouldn't see LotR until some other crazy filmmaker decided to try the impossible.

    11. My issue (and I'll elaborate on this later when I respond to Anonymous's replies in proper) is that the phrase "artist for hire" has separate connotations beyond the simple fact of "yes, this artist was hired by the studio to make this movie", and it's a rather demeaning (and inaccurate) term to use for most of the examples presented.

    12. Hartwell, your view of artist for hire as demeaning isn't true, it is a rather bizarre fantasy you have that isn't reality. You are just playing white knight to a cause you have invented in your own head.

      Lucas is the top expert of Star Wars, Joss is the top expert of Buffy and Firefly and just a persumed expert of the Avengers since he was not their creator. Jackson is just a persumed expert of LOTR, King Kong, Tin Tin, etc. He may have made films of his own creations (in those cases he would be the top expert) but I have not followed his career.
      This doesn't discreate Jackson's talent as Hartwell likes to believe, just that Jackson doesn't have final say over canon like Lucas or Joss have over their own creations. How this is an insult is beyond logic. Alot of the geek culture likes to believe Jackson is the better artist than Lucas. Also they like to believe that people like Gary Katz were the reasons ANH and TESB were "good" while ROTJ and the PTs were "not so good". However it is really just an attempt to rationalize how Lucas could make 3 films they really like (ANH, TESB and Raiders) and four films they really hate (TPM, AOTC, ROTS and Kingdom). If the same filmmaker is responsible for all those films, it can’t be that their own unrealistic expectations and mistaken assumptions are responsible for why they don’t like some of them (coincidentally, the later ones).

      Nilbog, I agree Joss is like Lucas with Buffy and Firefly, but he is also an artist for hire with the Avengers. It is a case by case basis. Through Hartwell has done a good job of turning my examples into a major red herring at this point.

      Regardless of how you feel about Jackson, with LOTR the books themselves would be the highest canon since they present Tolkin's vision, Jackson's films present Jackson's vision of the story making them less canon. This isn't an insult to Jackson, just the truth.

      It seems like too many angry fans, Hartwel has a grudge against Lucas and wants to rebel from the evil Lucas who has stolen credit from the "real talents" that once made Star Wars great. But the reality is Lucas is the artist and creator of Star Wars which makes him the top expert of his creation. Because he hired people to help execute his art doesn't change this.

    13. To be fair, there is a negative connotation to "artiist for hire", even if it's technically true in an instance and nothing is wrong with it.

      It simply resides in the difference between an artist being hired for an existing job, vs an artist being the catalyst for a work's existence. Jackson is a catalyst for the films he's made, thus he was not "hired". However, in the cases of adaptation, he's also not the one true canon (in spite of aiming to be as accurate as possible).

    14. Anon, "artist for hire" derives from the term "work for hire", a legal term that basically means that the person creating the work does not get legal authorship of it. In artistic terms it refers more to work done as commissions, in which the work itself is usually controlled more by the employee and often treated as a means to a paycheck by the employer. Now if you're talking about canon (apparently that's what we've been discussing this whole time? I honestly thought it left the conversation once Iwerks came in) I can see where the term applies, but it is regardless an inaccurate term to apply to *most* film directors.

      "However it is really just an attempt to rationalize how Lucas could make 3 films they really like (ANH, TESB and Raiders) and four films they really hate (TPM, AOTC, ROTS and Kingdom)."

      Lucas didn't make Empire, Raiders, or Kingdom. Unless you're meaning different terminology, but "filmmaker" almost exclusively refers to the director, at least in how I've seen it used. And I don't know why you're so keen in grouping me with "Lucas-bashers", given that I *explicitly said it was a different issue regarding Lucas and credit when this was first brought up*. Unless it's an attempt to discredit my argument by likening it to a easily-deniable position, which, unless I'm quite mistaken, would be a....strawman?

      Seriously, though, I'd much appreciate you replying to me without throwing fallacies at me where they don't apply and calling my opinions "bizarre versions of reality" or "fantasy". Your condescension could really come down a notch.

    15. (and for what it's worth, my opinions of Lucas are that he was a very talented director who got beaten down by two of the most hellish shoots imaginable, and whose efforts 20 years later to avoid those pitfalls resulted in rather sterile and controlling direction. So while I couldn't charitably be called a "fan", I am also demonstrably not a "hater" and would appreciate not being lumped in with them, thank you very much)

    16. I think both sides also forget that all four Indys are just as much Spielberg's as Lucas', and because they're such good friends with similar sensibilities, they deserve equal credit (or "blame").

      And yes, it's kind of off-topic at this point, but I tend to enjoy when discussions evolve - as long as it doesn't turn into something too chaotic. Which, sadly, it almost is.

      Aside from a few specific points which I have already debated, I largely agree with Anon. However, while Hartwell does have a tendancy to come off as pretentious (I appreciate your point of view, but you often sound like a hater through using their rhetoric), he's also made several good points in this discussion and has been (largely) respectful this time.

      Debate is welcome and encouraged, but both sides should try to avoid outright antagonizing each other.

    17. Apologies for my somewhat baiting in my reply- I was getting a bit terse toward's Anon's tone.

  9. Who cares about the "Great Man Theory" of art when the demonstrably untrue "Leigh Brackett Made A Significant Contribution to ESB (Aside from an Unusable, Bizarre Draft That Was Scapped)Theory" keeps rearing its uninformed head? George Lucas is undeniably the sole CREATOR of Star Wars who then HIRED some very talented artists to execute his vision, period. This isn't Lennon/McCartney or Rob Base/DJ E-Z Rock, this is "Prince HIRES the members of The Revolution to play his songs".

    1. And that's the gospel truth. That's what I was trying to say.

    2. Dunno, I never hear Brackett get that much credit- certainly not to the level Lucas does. If any name is paired to ESB it's typically Kershner, Katz, or Kasdan- I don't hear much of Brackett at all (since most people know she passed away while scripting).

      At any rate, it's certainly not an issue as pressing as 'Great Man Theory', for a wide variety of reasons (chief being that the central issue with GMT (as I am now going to abbreviate it) is how it enforces power structures and corporate histories, and giving a woman a tad more credit than is perhaps due is not exactly feeding into that).

  10. My exact sentiments, Adam.

    Part of the problem with the post ROTJ EU is that it takes itself too seriously-it's almost apocalyptic and horrorlike in parts. I really hope GL set things straight with the writers in that regard.

    1. Agree with this- even though I'm not fond of ROTJ's uber-happy ending, making it as outright bleak as some of novels did sucks a lot of the joy out of it.

    2. The EU is often called Star Wars without the fun or humor Lucas puts in his films. Too many fans want Star Wars to be 100% dark and gritty like many other Scifi films. However while Stat Wars does have dark it's moments, it also has more light hearted moments and there is always some hope in the films.

    3. Like I said in the article, people lump SW in with Sci/Fi when it's really a whole different beast.

    4. There is nothing I dislike more than the modern tendency to grim-&-grittify everything up, be it superheroes, space fantasy, what have you. It ran comics into a hole in the 90s (which DC apparently still hasn't learned from), and just stripped a lot of our imaginations of plain and simple *fun*.

      Doctor Who famously had this "war" during the wilderness years, with fans terming it the "Gun/Frock" debate. Luckily the Frocks ended up winning and giving us the deliriously frothy spectacle that is the new series. Not that there still isn't that contingent of fans that seem to want every character to die every episode for some reason. Never understood that.

    5. There is somewhat of a "war on whimsy" going on that just stnks to high heaven. And while some properties lend themselves to grittier interpretations (I.e. Batman), not everything can.

      Oh my god, I just agreed 110% with a comment Hartwell left on a Star Wars article. It's the apocalypse!

      (Just good-natured teasing ;-))

    6. Hm, we've agreed once before, and I can't for the life of me remember what it was on...

  11. For the record I don't think Filoni or Gilroy are bad guys or anything, they just have a different interpretation of how SW should be than George.

    Does that mean that the entire saga, including the movies and books leading up to the end of "Return of the Jedi" will be scrapped or changed by Disney in the future? That is what I'm afraid of.

    As for whether STAR WARS should be light or dark and gritty . . . I believe it depends upon the storyline. A good example would be REVENGE OF THE SITH, which started with a light-hearted and humorous adventure in which Obi-Wan and Anakin rescued Palpatine from General Grievous. Yet, that sequence was tinged with a dark moment, when Palpatine convinced Anakin to kill a defenseless Count Dooku.

    Looking at it still amazes me at how Lucas had managed to blend both light-hearted humor and a gritty, yet important moment in one sequence.

    1. Well, as of this moment, the six films, the Clone Wars series, and anything in the film novelizations that doesn't contradict the first two are Canon, as is anything Disney makes from here on out. Anything else is explicitly non-Canon, though will continue to reprint and circulate under the "legends" banner.