George Lucas may have created Star Wars, but there are plenty of elements dreamed up by others for books, games, comics, and more that Lucas decided to incorporate into official Star Wars canon. Wondering what parts of Star Wars didn’t come from him?
“Canon,” in case you’re not familiar with the term, refers to the farthest extreme on the spectrum of how official or accepted a piece of fiction is. Fanfic would be considered extremely unofficial, while Star Wars: A New Hope is 100% canon. It is accepted by the author or creator as an authentic part of his or her story or universe. The Expanded Universe, aka the EU, lands somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
George Lucas’ own definition has long been that the films are canon, TV shows and movies and a few video games are semi-canon, and all other media (books, comics, etc.) are apocryphal. They might be accepted in “broad strokes,” but the film series is not beholden to apocryphal creations, and is free to contradict the books and comics and whatever else anytime (which creates all sorts of continuity issues for the EU).
For purposes of this article, I’m choosing to accept both the films and The Clone Wars TV series as canon, because both were made with Lucas’ direct involvement. There are other sources that could questionably be counted as canon, if we accept this rule universally, like those godawful Ewok TV films. But not everything with Lucas’ fingerprints on it is accepted as canon, nor should it be. Star Wars Holiday Special: enough said?
The first time the Republic/Empire capitol was seen or mentioned on film or TV was in 1999’s The Phantom Menace. But this wasn’t what George Lucas ever intended for the galactic capitol to be called. As far back as early drafts of Return of the Jedi, Lucas wanted to call it “Had Abbadon.” But Timothy Zahn’s bestselling Thrawn Trilogy books named the galaxy’s capitol Coruscant, and described it as a city the size of an entire planet, completely covered by layer after layer of technologically-advanced levels. Lucas abandoned his plans for Had Abbadon and decided to use Zahn’s Coruscant idea instead — perhaps due to the popularity of the novels, or maybe he just thought it was a better idea. Who knows.
A few details have emerged about Had Abbadon over the years, and we know now that it would have had some similarities to Coruscant, but ultimately was very different. It was an ancient, volatile world steeped in history and mythology. One legend even claims that the Jedi Order was born on Had Abbadon. (A few of these elements got recycled in recent years when a world called Had Abbadon appeared in a comic book series set one hundred years after the Original Trilogy.)
Lucas’ plan for Had Abbadon included not one but two Death Stars orbiting over it, along with a natural moon. This lush, green moon was called Jus-Endor, but later shortened. That’s right, the “forest moon” Endor was originally meant to orbit the capitol planet. The Emperor’s throne room was way down at the bottom levels of the planet, where it would have been surrounded by a massive lava lake. Luke Skywalker was going to engage in his final duel against his father, Darth Vader, on the shores of this lake. Although these details were changed to make Return of the Jedi more cost-effective, Lucas recycled his lava locale as Mustafar, the setting for Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s fateful duel in Revenge of the Sith.
Never heard of Aurebesh? I hadn’t either, until now. Many Star Wars fans know that the common language spoken across that galaxy far, far away is called Basic. Aurebesh is Basic’s written form. It consists of 34 letters and several punctuation marks. Letters are written backwards to make them capitalized.
The Original Trilogy rarely showed written words, but when it did — such as words appearing on a computer screen — it was a series of random shapes that held no real meaning or translation to English. Aurebesh traces its EU origins to a 1987 guide book for Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. West End Games’, the book’s publisher, took the shapes seen on screens in the Original Trilogy and gave them a proper format and assigned English letters and sounds to them.
While this did nothing to make the writings seen in the Original Trilogy films into actual words, Aurebesh became canon when Lucas employed it first in the Prequel Trilogy, and then in the DVD Special Editions of the Original Trilogy. It’s been seen countless times in the The Clone Wars, video games, and comic books, too.
3. The 501st Legion
Quite possibly the world’s biggest fan organization, the 501st Legion is a group of Star Wars fans who enjoy cosplaying as bad guys from the Star Wars universe, most notably Stormtroopers. They appear frequently at Star Wars-themed public events, conventions, and charities. Charity work is one of their most important functions, as they help out numerous childrens’ charity organizations year round.
The 501st was founded by a man named Albin Johnson in 1997. Seven years later, Timothy Zahn honored them in his Star Wars novel, Survivor’s Quest. They also played a lead role in the bestselling video game, Star Wars: Battlefront II. But their true canonization came in 2004’s Revenge of the Sith. Their battalion name was never spoken in the film, but all marketing materials, credits, toys, etc. referred to the troop of Clone Troopers that assisted Anakin Skywalker in his raid on the Jedi Temple as the 501st.
Since then, the 501st has appeared in comics, video games, and The Clone Wars TV series.
4. Quinlan Vos
The EU has this tendency to take every teeny, tiny element from the films — be it a planet, a weapon, a vehicle, or as in this case, a character — and create elaborate stories out them that explain who or what they are. Sometimes this leads to some insanely dumb stuff, but sometimes it works out better.
In the case of Quinlan Vos, the latter seems to be the case. Vos’ very first appearance was actually in The Phantom Menace, though he was nothing but an outdoor extra in Tattooine’s Mos Espa — an extra that most viewers probably didn’t even notice. A year later, writer John Ostrander and artist Jan Duursema debuted Vos in their Star Wars: Republic comic book series. Having scoured The Phantom Menace for a background character they could use, they sought Lucas’ approval to use an extra from the film with dark dreadlocks and a yellow stripe running across his eyes and face, and they got it.
They christened him Quinlan Vos and created his entire character, debuting him in issue #19 of their comic book series. He had quite the tumultuous start, too: he awoke with no memory of who he was. Ostrander and Duursema made him a Jedi Knight (though his presence on Tattooine at the same time as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn has never been explained), albeit one who occasionally dabbles in the Dark Side.
After the character gained popularity among fans, appearing in numerous comic books beyond his lengthy run in Republic, George Lucas took a shine to the character and canonized him by writing him into Revenge of the Sith, though his scene was cut in rewrites. But his name, “Master Vos,” is still mentioned by Obi-Wan in the film’s dialogue.
Vos later appeared on screen in 2010, in a Season 3 episode of The Clone Wars, fighting alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi during a manhunt for the abysmal Ziro the Hutt.
5. The Nightsisters of Dathomir
The Nightsisters are a coven of witches who tap into the Dark Side of the Force to power their magic, and they come from a world named Dathomir. Both Dathomir and the Nightsisters debuted in Dave Wolverton’s 1994 novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia, though at the time, the Nightsisters were known only as the Witches of Dathomir.
The Nightsisters went on to appear in numerous comic books and novels, though their primary canonical appearance comes from multiple episodes of The Clone Wars, where it was revealed that Dark Side assassin Asajj Ventress was born into their order, though her life took some unfortunate detours after a series of tragedies.
Their home world Dathomir eventually went on to take on added significance when The Clone Wars revealed that Darth Maul was born on Dathomir as a “Nightbrother,” a group of male Zabrak warrior slaves bred and kept by the Nightsisters.
6. Level 1313
This waaaaay deep-below-the-surface level of Coruscant traces its influences all the way back to Star Wars: Underworld, the live-action TV series George Lucas has wanted to produce for years (but hasn’t been able to due to its expectedly hefty budget). We have no idea if 1313 itself was included in that series pitch by name; I think it’s most likely it wasn’t.
But after years of the series never getting off the ground (or above it, har-har), Lucasarts co-opted the “criminal underworld of Coruscant” idea into a video game they called Star Wars: 1313. This was the first time Level 1313 was mentioned by name, and it was designated as the center of Star Wars‘ various criminal empires. The game got pretty far along in development — even appearing at last year’s E3 to tantalize us with some killer graphics and gameplay — but Lucasarts was sold to Disney as part of the Lucasfilm sale late last year, and Star Wars: 1313 was canceled. But the story doesn’t end here.
Thanks to a little inter-office synergy, Level 1313 was canonized long before the game was ever intended to arrive. The final story arc of the last season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars featured Jedi Ahsoka Tano falsely accused of bombing the Jedi Temple and on the run as a fugitive. During one episode of this story arc, Ahsoka escaped to the underbelly of Coruscant while trying to evade the authorities and prove her innocence. Level 1313 was one of the parts of Coruscant she visited — and its design on the show was based on the work done on the game — making this long in-the-works setting a very real part of the Star Wars universe.
7. Aayla Secura
Like Quinlan Vos (see above), Aayla Secura is another EU character later integrated into Lucasfilm canon. Also like Vos, she was created by Star Wars: Republic scribe John Ostrander and artist Jan Duursema. She made her mysterious debut just two issues prior to Vos, and was later explained to be his Padawan.
George Lucas is said to have liked the painting of her seen here, by Jon Foster, and he decided to include her in the Geonosis battle sequence in Attack of the Clones. She went on to appear in Revenge of the Sith, where she met her untimely demise on Felucia when Order 66 was given. She has appeared in comic books, video games, and The Clone Wars TV series.
8. Force Speed and Force Grip
Force Speed debuted in West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, but it made its real debut in Star Wars continuity as part of the 1997 video game Star Wars: Dark Forces II – Jedi Knight. Likewise, Jedi Knight also birthed the Force Grip power, where victims are not only choked but also suspended from the ground.
George Lucas canonized Force Speed by having Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn use it in an early scene in The Phantom Menace, enabling them to escape from Destroyer Droids. Force Grip first appeared in the Star Wars universe proper when Count Dooku used it to lift Obi-Wan Kenobi into the air and choke him in Revenge of the Sith.
Timothy Zahn’s second Thrawn novel, Dark Force Rising, introduced the planet Rishi as a new base of operations for smuggler Talon Karrde and his second-in-command, Mara Jade.
Attack of the Clones canonized Rishi by setting the oceanic world Kamino near an area of space called the “Rishi Maze.” Though the movie never explained what the Rishi Maze is, we know now that it’s a small, satellite galaxy orbiting the primary Star Wars galaxy, and that several inhabited worlds exist there, including Rishi itself, the planet for which it is named.
If nothing else, all this proves that George Lucas isn’t opposed to borrowing from the EU for the storyline of the upcoming Episode VII.