What’s better? The old Star Wars “Legends” universe or the new and exciting Star Wars “Canon” universe?

What are these universes, you ask? Well first off, let’s get into how these two universes came to be.

As I’m sure you’re more than aware, Lucasfilm is once again putting out new Star Wars movies, which started with 2015’s release of The Force Awakens (TFA). These new movies were announced when it was declared that George Lucas (he puts the “Lucas” in Lucasfilm) decided to sell his production company to the Walt Disney Company for $4 billion on October 30, 2012.At the time Lucasfilm was one of the largest privately owned companies in the world, with a fan base that adored its products (although many were outright critics as well, but what’s a Star Wars fan if they aren’t critical of something that is done in the name of Star Wars?). The original announcement stated that there were plans to make new movies (at the time only Episodes VII, VIII, and IX were announced).

And with this announcement, my world crumbled.

Not because the company was being sold to Disney. I’m a Disney fan as well, and I have felt that Disney is the perfect company to take on the Star Wars legacy. I felt they cared for their own properties very well and it was likely they would care for Star Wars equally well. I was, what you would call, cautiously optimistic.

No, I was worried about these new movies. You see, I’m an avid Star Wars reader. To the point that I work on a Star Wars timeline of my own. I also collect anything Star Wars that has a story element to it. This includes the comic books, novels, movies, TV shows and video games. Here’s a large portion (but not the entirety) of my current collection:What this announcement did was to put into question what would happen to my beloved “EU” (that’s the Expanded Universe as it was, and still is, known). You see, I had been working on my EU timeline for about 10 years by this point and it was pretty comprehensive. I also loved how all the stories fit together into one (moderately seamless) cohesive universe. You can read the Star Wars story from start to finish through countless books and comics over the course of the 25,000 years that the stories covered. That all changed with this announcement. New movies meant that the preexisting books and stories were on the chopping block.

First, I need to define what “canon” is. Canon, in this case, is an idea, story, person, place, story element, etc. that is part of Star Wars continuity. If a story is “in canon,” that means it’s an official part of the Star Wars story and therefore nothing can contradict it. If it’s not “in canon,” then any stories can contradict what happens in that story.

So why were the previous EU stories on the chopping block? Well, what would happen if they (the movie people) decided to bring Chewbacca back into the movies? Well then that would essentially invalidate entire eras set after the death of Chewbacca at the start of the New Jedi Order book series. And that was only one example. There are several options that the people behind the movies, TV, books, comics, etc. had at this point that they could do with the “EU.”

  1. Wipe it out. All of it.

This means that they would get rid of everything that has come before (barring a few exceptions, like the movies) and move on from there.

  1. Wipe out only parts of it that conflict with what they are working on.

This gets tricky because what would be deemed worth saving? Would they wipe out everything after Return of the Jedi and keep everything before? Would they pick a different time period based on when the movies are set to take place? Do they start small, by taking out only a small portion of the timeline now and then expand to other areas as it becomes necessary? You see this is a very tricky and confusing action because no one would ever really be able to tell you what is in canon and what isn’t then.

  1. Keep everything and make the future movies fit.

This is what many fans of the EU hoped for. They hoped that all the future movies would fit into the current timeline as had been established over the ~34 years of Star Wars storytelling history. The main problem with this is now you’re forcing moviemakers to catch up on 34 years of history, as well as work into their movies what happened to various elements of the Star Wars universe. Where is Chewie? What do you mean a moon fell on him? Although it can be done, and Star Wars is notorious for dropping you into the action and not explaining everything anyway. I found this as a surefire way to mess things up. Continuity would start to be overwritten without any regard to what had come before, and over time, it would just be chaos.

So what happened?

It was announced on April 25, 2014 that the current EU would be banished to the realm of “alternate reality” and become a separate universe: the Legends Universe. This means all comics, novels, video games, TV shows, etc. would no longer be part of the Star Wars story, and instead would encompass a timeline of their own: the Legends Timeline. As they state:

“In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe … Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new Legends banner.”

And from this Lucasfilm decided to start anew. A Lucasfilm Story Group was created to oversee all stories from now on which would include novels, comics, video games, TV Shows and movies all on equal footing. Novels would be just as important as movies for the story, and nothing would overwrite anything else (at least one hopes so). From this point on, only a few things would carry over from the previous “Legends” continuity into the new “Canon” continuity:

  • The six main Star Wars movies and the Clone Wars movie
  • After a short bit, but not with the initial announcement, the novelizations of these movies were also included (at least the parts that don’t contradict with the movies)
  • The 2008-2015 Clone Wars TV show (the new one helmed by Dave Filoni, not the Genndy Tartakovsky one).
  • This is because it was essentially created by and guided by George Lucas.

The entire Canon story upon the announcement

This announcement basically said that all movies, novels, TV shows and comics from that point (or shortly thereafter) would be considered under this new Canon Universe, unless otherwise stated. This includes all comics from Marvel Comics, which started producing new series in 2015, are part of the Canon, as well as one storyline from Dark Horse Comics, Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir. This is because it was based on Clone Wars scripts that never made it to the TV show. All novels after this point in time are also part of the Canon Universe, starting with A New Dawn, which was released in September 2014.

Although it would seem that this announcement would crush me, since I had been building my apparent “Legends” collection for many years, it actually got me really, really excited. I am not entirely sure why though. Perhaps it was the knowledge that the new movies would be completely “new.” I had no clue as to what would be coming. I was fresh. It was exciting. Perhaps it was that I could begin another timeline: The Star Wars Canon Timeline. A clean one, without all the clutter from decades of conflicting stories. This one would hopefully be far better organized and I could do things I always wanted to do with the old one, but it was much too large to begin the process.

So there you have the history of the Legends and Canon Star Wars universes. In the next part of Star Wars: “Legends” Vs. “Canon,” I’ll go into a comparison between the novels of the Legends Universe versus the novels of the Canon Universe and how they compare.

Check back Tuesday, April 11 for the next part in this three-part series!

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  • Mark Pellegrini

    Cool idea for an article series.
    For me, Star Wars canon outside the movies has always been a sort of “pick and choose” deal. I was a fan before the Special Editions and it seems like what does and doesn’t “count”, according to the higher ups, has always been rather fluid. It’s always been more satisfying to decide on your own what you want to keep and what you want to ignore (whilst accepting that it’s your personal canon and not objective fact).
    Like, I remember when Boba Fett’s origin used to be that he was an ex-Storm Trooper named Jaster Mereel who killed his superior officer and changed his identity to escape the Empire’s retribution. Also, he looked like a wolfman or something. Then that all changed to him being a clone of a Polynesian dude. And that was before the big EU purge.
    Or how, like, half of the stuff from the Marvel Comics Star Was serie would count, but if it contradicted something that happened in the novels or the Dark Horse comics, it was non-canon? Or they’d try to harmonize everything, so that bipedal alien that was identified as Jabba the Hutt was now just an accountant PRETENDING to be Jabba. Or Boba Fett got eaten and escaped from the Sarlaac Pit on three separate occasions.
    And the EU was always so vast, I was never going to read EVERYTHING anyway, so my canon tended to just be whatever I could get my hands on. I read the Thrawn Trilogy and Dark Empire Trilogy, so they were in my timeline, but not any of the Jedi Academy or Yuzhon Vong (sic) stuff, so I never included them. But I had inconsequential side story stuff like Tales from the Mos Eisly Cantina, so that all “counted” for me.
    So the recent “Legends” retroactive designation never really struck me as the end times sort of thing other fans were making it out to be. Star Wars canon had been going through trimming and overlapping and retconning even before the Special Editions. It was a massive purge, to be sure, but I mean, if you personally want to keep Twin Engines of Destruction or The Ewoks Battle for Endor in your canon, then hey, I don’t see any cops around.

    • trustno173 .

      Yeah, there’s still a lot of things from the old EU I still consider canon like most of Dark Horse’s prequel era comics, especially the Clone Wars stuff like the Battle of Jabiim and the Quinlan Vos arc (which even goes before the Clone Wars) plus we would have explanations for what happened to Yaddle and Yearal Poof, plus there’s stuff like the comics to TCW animated series that tie in to the show and are acknowledged (Commander Wolffe’s eye for example) so it I personally think they made the wrong move by casting EVERY SINGLE THING from canon prior to TFA… only to recanonize some of it with different names (I’m looking at you Kylo Ren aka Kyp Durron and Jacen Solo in the same body) I mean, I have to make some alterations in my headcanon, but I think it works out. I also think it was a big mistake purging the Knights of the Old Republic games, since Lucas had a hand in those.

      • Jim Lehane

        Hi Trustno, thanks! I’ve been working on the collection for decades, so it’s been a definite slow build. I’m actually personally waiting for them to give us some “Canon” stories back in the Old Republic like the KOTOR series. That is probably my favorite SW video game of all time.

    • Jim Lehane

      Thanks Mark. I originally intended this to be a rather short piece describing the differences between the two Star Wars Universes that definitely expanded into a “series” because I don’t know when to stop writing. For me, I’ve always been a purist. If the team at Lucasfilm or Lucasbooks or whatever put out a story, I included it. For the EU, this was “easy”. Anything and everything was included, whether I owned it or not. I find Canon to be a bit more tricky since not everything is really Canon although the vast majority of the current stuff is.