For over three decades, in a variety of novels, video games, comic books, reference material and other sources, the Star Wars Expanded Universe thrived, developing, deepening and, well, expanding the universe of the Star Wars films. Considered to varying degrees part of the official canon of the shared universe (for example, the name “Coruscant”, the planet from which most governments in the Star Wars Universe govern, came from the Expanded Universe), there was at least a little something for every Star Wars fan to be found in the “EU”, from detailed explorations of background characters to adventures of entirely new ones. Following the acquisition of the Star Wars franchise by Disney, however, the EU was re-branded “Star Wars Legends”, the stories therein now considered apocryphal, with all future stories set in the universe to be closely monitored, the better to keep them consistent with the films and across Disney’s new empire.
This second, entirely canonical, life for the EU is still in its infancy, and of course, no amount of corporate decrees can actually delete stories that have already been told. Here, then, are ten characters of note from the first Expanded Universe, characters who added to our knowledge and understanding of the Star Wars universe, who offered a different perspective on familiar tales, or who were just plain entertaining, “legends” though they now be.
10. Ulic Qel-Droma
The chief protagonist of a series of comic book stories set in the far distant past of the Star Wars universe, Ulic wasn’t always the most engaging or charismatic character in a given story, but his adventures marked some of Dark Horse’s earliest forays into Star Wars comics and showed that Star Wars fans would respond to stories set outside the familiar settings of the Original Trilogy, while the overarching tale of his rise, fall and redemption, in parallel to that of Anakin Skywalker and later Jacen Solo, help suggest that such tales are a part of the fabric of the Star Wars universe, its own internal cosmological cycle destined to play out again and again in the course of its history.
9. Nom Anor
An advanced scout for the extragalactic alien Yuuzhan Vong (whose invasion of the Star Wars galaxy formed the basis for the “New Jedi Order” subset of novels), Nom Anor was one of the few specific Yuuzhan Vong to work as a compelling antagonist. A spy & insurgent amongst a race of warriors who worship battle, he was also one of the few Vong who wasn’t a religious zealot, which made his later (self-serving) transition into a leader of Vong heretics who came to worship the Jedi all the more interesting. The “New Jedi Order” was a mixed bag of stories (which happens in a storyline as long as that one), but Nom Anor was one of the rare villains from that era to make a lasting impression.
8. Admiral Pellaeon
Introduced as the right-hand man to fan favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn, Pellaeon was never a major player in the Expanded Universe, but his few small appearances painted a picture of a rational, thoughtful individual, a career soldier who just ended up loyal to the wrong side, a far cry from the usual Imperial hotheads and hardliners that populated much of the EU. Pellaeon’s unique role as a reasonable Imperial was cemented when he signed the treaty with the New Republic which formally ended the war between the Empire and the Rebellion, some nineteen years after the destruction of the Death Star.
7. Asajj Ventress
The Sith Rule of Two (which states that the Sith could only ever be comprised of one Master and one Apprentice) could be an albatross around the neck of stories set in the Old Republic/Prequel Trilogy era, as it limited the chief antagonists of the Jedi to two characters, two characters whom the Expanded Universe could only do so much with given their roles in the films. But that didn’t stop storytellers working in that era from introducing a variety of Dark Side-using pseudo-Sith, the most memorable of which is Asajj Ventriss. Inspired by Episode II conception art, Ventriss burst onto the scene in Genndy Tartakovsky’s energetic Clone Wars animated shorts, and became a multimedia Prequel-era villain from there, appearing in comic books and the later 3D-rendered The Clone Wars series. The Sith restriction was even used to round out her characterization, making her bristle at not being a true Sith and thus constantly trying to prove herself, making her a dark mirror image to the era’s chief protagonist, Anakin Skywalker.
6. Quinlan Vos
One of the stars of Dark Horse’s various Prequel Era comic book series, Quinlan Vos was basically Jedi Han Solo, a roguish Jedi with a penchant for the Dark Side against which he constantly fought. To the credit of John Ostrander and Jan Dursema, the writer and artist who created Vos, the character’s struggle with his inner darkness managed to successfully walk the line between “compelling storytelling” and “insufferably angsty”, while also avoiding many of the Mary Sue traps that would be so easy for Jedi Han Solo to fall into.
5. Jacen Solo
The eldest son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, Jacen would probably be higher on this list if not for the turn his character made in the course of the “Legacy of the Force” novel series. Prior to that series, Jacen was a compassionate and inquisitive Jedi, one who constantly questioned and explored the role of the Jedi in the galaxy and the nature of the Force. Despite the unfortunate turns his character later took, he earns a place on this list just on the strength of Mathew Stover’s “New Jedi Order” novel Traitor, which depicts a captive and tortured Jacen reaching a new understanding of the Force and finding a new way to fight back against the Yuuzhan Vong. A unique character with tons of potential, he deserved better than he got.
4. Wraith Squadron
A bit of a cheat, as this is actually a group of characters. The stars of a subset of X-Wing novels (on the whole, some of the best Star Wars novels out there) by Aaron Allston, Wraith Squadron exists in the shadows of the All Star-esque Rogue Squadron (the crack squad of pilots founded by Luke Skywalker; they were the ones attacking the Imperial Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back). Comprised of pilots with a variety of secondary backgrounds (one is a sniper, another an actor), Wraith Squadron is basically a team of Star Wars commandos that specialize in infiltration and deception, but is also exceedingly entertaining and funny while carrying out their missions. For anyone looking to check out the Expanded Universe but a little wary of all the Jedi/Sith mumbo-jumbo, Wraith Squadron is worth your time.
3. Ahsoka Tano
Anakin Skywalker’s heretofore unknown (prior to her debut) apprentice, Ahsoka is also a beat of a cheat, as The Clone Wars animated series from which she hails is technically still considered canonical, post-Disney acquistion. But Ahsoka is worth mentioning because she injects a much needed female presence into the Star Wars universe, and her relatively sunny disposition provides a strong counterpoint to the often grim and brooding Anakin, and the producers of that series deserve credit for avoiding the obvious end for the character when her series drew to a close. More importantly, serving as, essentially, the Point-of-View character on a TV show puts her in front of a lot more eyes than the book-bound female characters of the EU, giving women (especially young girls) another character to cheer for beyond Leia and Padme.
2. Grand Admiral Thrawn
Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire (which kicked off the modern Expanded Universe in novels), Thrawn dominates the EU in the same way Palpatine and Darth Vader dominate the film trilogies. Cooly logical where Vader is awash with rage, an alien at the top of the mostly-human Imperial hierarchy with a penchant for art criticism and a keen eye for strategy, Thrawn continues to captivate readers despite appearing in only a handful of novels. Ask an EU fan to name one character they’d like to see make the jump into a movie, and a decent chunk of them will answer “Thrawn.”
1. Mara Jade
The rest will answer “Mara Jade.”
Introduced in the same novel as Thrawn, Mara would go on to become an even bigger character in the EU, appearing regularly in dozens of novels, comic books, video and card games, eventually marrying Luke Skywalker and giving birth to his son, Ben. But before that, she spent ten years in the Expanded Universe cutting her own path, developing into a fully-realized character in her own right, not tied to any particular relationship. In that time, she gave a pre-Prequels, pre-Clone Wars audience something the Star Wars universe desperately needed: a significant female character other than Princess Leia, capable of holding her own and standing side-by-side with the “big three” of Luke, Leia and Han. A favorite amongst cosplayers and one of a handful of Expanded Universe characters to actually be portrayed by an actor, Mara, like Jacen, fell victim to some dubious plotting towards the end of the original Expanded Universe era. But if anything, that just inflamed the passions of her fans even more, and it did little to diminish one of the Star Wars universe’s strongest and most engaging characters.