Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember?”
As a Star Wars-obsessed kid growing up in the ‘90s, there were a limited amount of opportunities to get detailed Star Wars knowledge. There was no theforce.net or Wookieepedia. As the Star Wars universe expanded through books, games, and comic books, there was an increased need for an encyclopedia of characters. Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters by Andy Mangels was one of those books that filled that need.
The year was 1995, and late that year Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters was published. I don’t remember exactly when or how the book came into my possession, but over the next few years it became my bible. I was able to fill in the holes left by the Star Wars novelizations that I couldn’t afford, or couldn’t get from the local library. While my Star Wars library is pretty extensive, there was plenty that I wasn’t able to read.
As a result, I managed to memorize a lot of the entries that were in Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters. There was so much to learn about the characters, both major and minor, that wasn’t shown in any of the movies. 18 years later, it’s an amazing look back at what was accepted as canon, and what isn’t any longer as the Star Wars universe continues to expand.
For example, “In the time after the Clone Wars, the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi arrived at the home of his old friend, Viceroy and First Chairman of Alderaan, Bail Organa… Kenobi brought with him Skywalker’s wife and her young newborn twins, Luke and Leia. Bail sheltered the woman and her daughter in the Royal House while Obi-Wan brought the infant Luke to Tatooine to be raised by Kenobi’s brother, Owen Lars.
Leia was adopted into Bail’s family and made a princess…” (p. 152)
Up until Padme’s fateful demise in Revenge of the Sith, this was the accepted story.
In case you don’t believe that Han Solo shot first (and why wouldn’t you?), Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters will set you straight. “Before they could leave, Han was stopped by a Rodian bounty hunter named Greedo… Han distracted him long enough to shoot him, using a blaster hidden under the table.” (p. 146)
This is backed up in Greedo’s biography:
“The Corellian’s smug attitude angered Greedo, but before he could threaten Solo further, the spacer shot a blaster from under the table, killing Greedo instantly.” (p. 69)
Also, in case you wondered what happened to Greedo after Han shot him, according to Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters he was turned into liquor by the Mos Isley bartender Wuher. Anybody else glad that wasn’t part of the movie?
Darth Vader’s backstory changed in a big way. “Almost nothing is known about Anakin Skywalker’s early years. As a youth, he was infamous as a hotshot pilot, but it was his hidden and untapped talents that would lead him to his destiny. A great Jedi Knight named Obi-Wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi saw in Skywalker great potential in the force.” (p.176)
How things change with a few prequel movies. Now we know all about Anakin’s childhood, his high midi-chlorian count (which wasn’t even heard of at the time that Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters was written), and his love of Padme that eventually led to his downfall.
However, the largest change between the guide and newly established canon has to be Boba Fett. There are paragraphs of backstory that have been retconned to make way for the Jango Fett clone story.
“Long before Luke Skywalker journeyed off Tatooine to fulfill his destiny as a Jedi, Boba Fett was known as Journeyman Protector Jaster Mereel. Years past, the ugly young law-enforcement officer on the world of Concord Down had killed another protector, and though the dead man had been corrupt, disgracing his office and uniform, Mereel was still imprisoned for the murder… Jaster Mereel was exiled from Concord Down, stripped of all he owned.
To be honest, the changes made to Boba Fett’s story were for the best. Nobody cares about Jaster Mareel, but the orphaned clone son of Jango Fett? That actually gives Boba an extra layer of humanity that was lacking otherwise.
Of course, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters was written so long ago that it’s impossible to use it as a reliable source of information (Tenel Ka still has two arms!). Even the second edition, the The New Essential Guide to Characters, which was released before Revenge of the Sith, is wildly out of date. A third edition, The Essential Characters, is scheduled for publication on April 15, 2014, but don’t expect for that guide to stay current for very long as Episodes VII, VIII, and IX hit theaters in the following years.
As Yoda once said, “Always in motion is the future.” Even so, sometimes it’s fun to look back at the past, at what has been, and to laugh at just how much things have changed in the Star Wars universe.