Some of the most popular Star Wars tales in both comics and prose fiction take place in eras or locales far removed from the stories of Episodes I-VI. The most recent example of this kind of story is Dark Horse Comics' newest installment in the Legacy series, which takes place over 100 years after Return of the Jedi. Although a series like Legacy may not depict characters we’re immediately familiar with, it’s important that it still feel like Star Wars. But what does that mean, exactly?
There are the obvious physical trappings, of course, that place it in a galaxy far, far away: droids, alien species, space travel, lightsabers, blasters, the Force. But while those elements may make the Star Wars universe visually recognizable, it takes more than aliens and spaceships to make a story feel like Star Wars. So here are some of the more intangible elements that I think help evoke that Star Wars emotion.
Underdogs. The original trilogy is a pretty obvious example of rooting for the underdogs. Luke Skywalker comes to mind…but so does the entire Rebel Alliance. The classic David vs. Goliath dynamic runs throughout the Star Wars saga. Even in the prequels, we’re rooting for Anakin to somehow avoid the fate we know is coming.
Camaraderie. Friendship is one of Star Wars’ most enduring themes, and many of the best Star Wars stories portray friends who support and look out for each other. Saving the galaxy is always easier -- and more fun -- with your buddies at your side.
Fighting for good. I suppose this one should go without saying. Not that there aren’t plenty of great stories in the Star Wars universe told from villains’ point of view, but Star Wars heroes believe in fighting for right, for a higher cause.
Humor. The Star Wars films would not be nearly as memorable as they are without a healthy sense of humor. For me, the best Star Wars fiction includes laughs along with adventure.
Acts of daring. Star Wars characters often tend to be on the impulsive side and take great risks in order to save the day. The best scenes make you feel like your heart’s in your throat. (“You’re not actually going into an asteroid field?”)
Memorable villains. Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine… It’s not much fun rooting for the good guys unless the bad guys are really bad. The best villains are the ones you love to hate.
Lessons learned. I don’t mean this in a Very Special Episode or Public Service Announcement kind of way, but the main characters should be different in some way at the end of the story than they were at the beginning. (As an aside, this should be true of pretty much any piece of fiction writing.)
This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, and not every piece of fiction needs to showcase everything mentioned here. But as a Star Wars editor, I think it’s crucial that anything being billed as a Star Wars story contains some combination of the above. I’m sure my colleagues at Random House and Dark Horse Comics feel the same way.
Of course, the most important element of all is fun. Or what’s the point of it all anyway?