On December 14th, 2019, Emperor Palpatine's voice was broadcast across the Star Wars universe for all to hear as he announced the return of the Sith. Mentioned in the opening title crawl of Episode IX, this lore-important broadcast could only be heard by fans of the popular sci-fi franchise by logging into the popular battle royale game Fortnite as part of a Fortnite x Star Wars event.
Only later with the release of The Rise of Skywalker novelization would long-time fans of the series be able to read a transcript of the speech given during the Fortnite event, with author Rae Carson tweeting “someone else conceived it” in response to a fan asking if she had a hand in writing it herself.
It’s no secret to long-time fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe content that the order of importance in a franchise is dictated by visual media. Film, TV, and video games will control the direct action while written content in the form of novels and comics takes a back seat. This ride in the back allows for a lot of interesting exploration of stories untold with the slight caveat of a potential retcon somewhere down the line.
Fans of the animated Star Wars: Rebels (2014-2018) series that ran out to get their hands on a copy of Marvel’s Kanan: The Last Padawan (2015-2016) comic will have experienced this first-hand. The Kanan comic, written by Greg Weisman and illustrated by Pepe Larraz and Jacopo Camagni, explored the history of series favorite Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. in Rebels), revealing what happened to him when he was just a padawan as Order 66 was executed and the Jedi Order was wiped out.
Much loved among fans of the franchise, the opening of Weisman’s Kanan comics later clashed as the 2021 Star Wars: The Bad Batch series for Disney+ rewrote Kanan’s experience with Order 66 to interweave Star Wars: Rebels and The Bad Batch, likely in hopes of bringing Rebels fans over to the new media.
The Rise and Fall
But the buck doesn’t just stop with clashing events, as complete character views and opinions can be rewritten or ignored when explored within visual release media. Viewers of Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker will be well aware of Poe Dameron’s blasé opinion of the franchise’s literal golden boy, C-3PO. Annoyed looks, sarcastic jokes, and the odd insult aren’t new to 3PO but what set Poe apart from others in his treatment of 3PO came three years prior in Charles Soule and Phil Noto’s Poe Dameron #9 comic (2016). As the pair worked on a mission together seeking out a droid, Poe challenged 3PO’s use of the word “master” when addressing him.
“All that “master” stuff. Everyone knows your story. Every big event in the galactic civil war, you were right there. You were directly involved in bringing down the empire. You and Artoo. So, I don’t know why you’re calling me master. Why you’re calling anyone master? Seems like people should call you that.”
Poe’s respect for 3PO and his own heritage within the Resistance painted a moral, good man that has lived and breathed the history we’ve spent generations enjoying across cinema. With The Rise of the Skywalker, Poe’s background seemed to have suddenly changed to include a stint as a smuggler, giving him a much closer characterization and history to series legend Han Solo. With new problems causing page and screen to clash, a 2020 novel by Alex Segura titled Poe Dameron: Free Fall was released to smooth over the issues and explain both as true, with Poe simply having smuggled for a short time in his adolescence.
It’s a tough job to keep track of this stuff and the Lucasfilm Story Group has the arduous task of making sure contradictions introduced in visual media can be fixed within written releases. The role of a writer in the larger Star Wars EU then seems to be that of relegation to side stories and “fixing” of continuity issues across the universe as they arise.
Navigating the Star Wars canon from the perspective of a writer can be a scary one when the media is looked at in order of release. After the release of director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), fan backlash seemingly caused Disney to take an immediate U-turn on the story and reintroduce several seemingly safe bets in The Rise of Skywalker. This introduced a level of whiplash that caused both detractors and fans of Last Jedi to question if there was any greater goal to the series as the Lucasfilm Story Group quickly released accompanying media to fill in the gaps.
Discussion and exploration of the narrative shift between Last Jedi and Rise of the Skywalker could be an article in and of itself, with even casual cinemagoers being aware of the problems that arose from such a decision. The ability of fan reception to cause larger changes within the franchise has now even reached a point of comedic mockery in popular culture. The fifth entry in the meta slasher franchise Scream (2022), released earlier this year, made fun of fan obsession and backlash by having their in-universe movie series Stab becoming critically panned after Rian Johnson directed the latest release, a direct reference to what happened with Star Wars following Last Jedi.