Explore the galaxy’s seedy underworld -- along with its most fearless and inventive blasters-for-hire.
Star Wars Inside Intel is a StarWars.com feature where Lucasfilm’s Emily Shkoukani, whose job is to know as much about a galaxy far, far away as possible, explores obscure facts about Star Wars lore and continuity. In this installment, Emily explores bounty hunters…
As the Client perfectly articulates in The Mandalorian, “bounty hunting is a complicated profession.” The Star Wars galaxy is full of both admirable and nefarious characters, but bounty hunters straddle a delicate line between good and evil. The tactics and skills of each bounty hunter often define them and their value to potential employers. The most rudimentary definition of a bounty hunter is a person who’s hired to capture or kill a target and receives payment upon completion of the job, although it’s almost never that simple.
Bounty hunting can be broken down into three primary factors: the client, the target, and the hunter. The client identifies the target and sets the parameters (wanted dead, alive, etc.) and the hunter tracks the target down for the client. In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Senator Padmé Amidala finds herself the target of two bounty hunters -- Jango Fett and Zam Wesell. Hired by Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation, the Neimoidian clung to his grudge against Amidala following the Trade Federation’s defeat on Naboo and attempted to have her killed as part of his agreement to join the escalating Separatist movement. Fett and Wesell were unsuccessful, however.
Bounty hunters have the option to conduct their business independently or as part of the formal Bounty Hunters Guild. The Guild is responsible for moderating, regulating, and distributing bounties to members of its organization. But while the Guild exists, it’s not required that a hunter be affiliated with it, nor is it necessary for a client to use the Guild’s services and members. Senator Amidala being a high-profile target meant Nute Gunray took precautions to avoid the intended assassination leading back to him; therefore, the use of independent hunters was necessary to carry out the kill discreetly. Some consider this type of job “assassin work.” but to reiterate the Client’s statement, bounty hunting is a complicated profession.
In Season 1 of The Mandalorian, Toro Calican seeks Guild membership and believes capturing wanted assassin Fennec Shand will prove his worth. On top of an impressive resume, joining the Guild can also require dues in order to obtain the benefits that the organization offers, such as exclusive bounties, tracking fobs, and job security.
After joining the guild, there are various ways a bounty hunter can check for bounty postings. Bounties can be posted on communications boards or found on bounty pucks, which are typically distributed by Guild contractors such as Greef Karga.
Bounty pucks, sometimes called holopucks, contain bounty information. The puck emits a hologram profile of the target including an image and name (if available). A puck will also list if the target is wanted dead, alive, or either, as well as the associated reward.
The return of tracking fobs issued by authorized Guild agents is sometimes part of the proof required to secure payment in addition to the bounty itself. These compact, short-range sensor units, keyed to a target’s unique identification, are usually provided to hunters by Guild agents or clients, and provide extra security to the client, who can be sure that the target brought in matches the information on the fob.
The Guild has established and enforced rules for its members such as delivering targets as stated in the bounty (dead, alive, etc.), maintaining any necessary confidentiality, and more. Although most hunters abide by these terms, the consequences for breaking them differs based on whether a hunter is a member of the Guild. Guild hunters could potentially lose their membership or face penalties and fees. Rule breakers who were unaffiliated could either get away with it or face other consequences that a client or crime syndicate might uphold, depending on who’s affected.
Going it Alone
It’s not required of a bounty hunter to be part of the Guild, and independent hunters are just as common as Guild hunters. Most, if not all bounty hunters start out independent and it’s entirely up to them whether they remain independent or join the Guild. While the Guild does offer perks such as exclusive bounties and flashy gadgets, the pros of being an independent bounty hunter is that there are no Guild dues or requirements to become a hunter, and generally a full cut of the bounty.
Independent bounty hunters rely on finding bounties through different means than what the Guild offers its members. However, these means are also available to Guild members, since they typically consist of public information. Bounties could be posted on bulletins and posters, through contractors, or they could be made verbally.
Bounties posted through bulletins and posters have various sources of origins. The bounty could be a local lawbreaker on the run or a big-time target that evaded capture (like Han Solo). These types of postings are usually found in bars or plastered on walls of towns where the bounty is wanted.
Getting the Job
Contractors, also known as “bounty brokers,” accumulate and distribute active bounties to hunters. While contractors could be affiliated with the Guild, some worked independently. Greef Karga was a contractor for the Guild on Nevarro, while Syphacc was an independent contractor who ran his operation under the title “Syphacc’s Bountiful Bounties” alongside the motto “Dead or alive… Doesn’t matter to us.”
Verbal agreements typically imply an unsavory job for bounty hunters. Nute Gunray opted to discuss the terms of his bounty on Senator Amidala this way, avoiding a paper trail (or “data trail”) that could lead back to him. Another reason for a client to opt for this route is urgency. When Darth Vader believes he’s closing in on Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the Empire discreetly contacts a lineup of bounty hunters; Vader identifies the target and sets the parameters -- no disintegrations.
Some bounty hunters work for criminal syndicates and organizations. The Hutt Clan was most notorious for hiring bounty hunters to operate within their organization. Hunters such as Cad Bane, Sugi, Embo, and Boba Fett were all at one time or another working for the Hutt Clan. Syndicates most often employ bounty hunters as a form of insurance. If someone crossed the organization, or cost it profits, a bounty would quickly be placed on their head.
Bringing in the Target
The tactics to ensnare a bounty vary depending on both the hunter and the target. A hunter may have a signature tactic for capturing bounties, but some more elusive bounties may require hunters to think differently about how to trap or kill them. Bounty hunters are often equipped with an array of gadgets that complement their hunting style. In his prime as a bounty hunter, the Kyuzo Embo was formidable. Upon tracking a bounty, Embo used his arsenal of weapons, including his bowcaster and signature helmet, which he used as both a weapon and shield, to capture bounties.
Some bounty hunters work in groups. Embo was once affiliated with a handful of groups, including the Krayt’s Claw, the Hutt Clan, Cad Bane’s group, and more. Each group is unique and can apply whatever rules they want to one another. Although typically formed with good intentions, greed or other extraneous circumstances can sometimes get in the way of a group’s operations and cause strife. There are pros and cons to bounty hunter groups. Some of the pros include higher chance of success and a wider range of skills; cons include sharing profits and internal tension.
In Marvel’s Star Wars: Bounty Hunters series, Nakano Lash runs a bounty hunting group during the Dark Times that includes discharged Imperial Beilert Valance, twins T’ongor and T’onga, and the Trandoshan Bossk. Each member offers the group something unique, like Bossk’s inherent tracking skills, and Valance’s impressive combat prowess.
Bounty hunters are some of the galaxy’s most diverse professionals, each one with varying motivations and tactics. From their lethal skills to their questionable morals, they keep the Star Wars galaxy interesting.