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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is a 1996 multimedia project created by Lucasfilm. The idea was to create a story set between the films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and to explore all commercial possibilities of a full motion picture release without actually making a film. The venture reinvigorated interest in the franchise ahead of the theatrical Special Editions of the Star Wars trilogy released the following year.

Star Wars:
Shadows of the Empire
AuthorGeorge Lucas (characters)
Steve Perry (novel)
John Wagner (comic)
CountryUnited States
SeriesCanon C
SubjectStar Wars
GenreScience fiction
PublisherLucasArts (video game)
Bantam Books (novel)
Dark Horse Comics (comic)
Publication date
Media typePaperback,
Computer and video games: Nintendo 64, Windows
Followed byThe Mandalorian Armor 

Several products were released, including a novel, a junior novelization, a comic book series, a video game, a soundtrack, trading cards, role-playing games, posters, model kits, Micro Machines toys, statuettes, vinyl dolls, and a series of action figures and vehicles.[1]

The story introduces Rebel ally Dash Rendar, who aids the heroes in their attempt to liberate the frozen Han Solo from bounty hunter Boba Fett. Darth Vader continues the search for his son, Luke Skywalker, whom crime-lord Prince Xizor attempts to kill in his plot to replace Vader at the side of Emperor Palpatine.



In 1994, Lucasfilm publishing director Lucy Autrey Wilson met with Bantam editor Lou Aronica to discuss future publications, and Aronica suggested a Star Wars crossover multimedia event. Later in the year, Lucasfilm met with franchise licensees, including LucasArts representatives and author Steve Perry to discuss the multimedia project, intended to feature the media and marketing elements of a film release without actually producing a movie.[2] This was largely meant to reinvigorate the franchise ahead of the prequel trilogy, along with George Lucas's 1997 Special Editions of the original trilogy.[2] Lucasfilm producers originally wanted the film to focus on the main characters between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, but Dark Forces game designer Jon Knoles suggested that it take place between the latter film and Return of the Jedi[2] (an era explored by no other Star Wars novel).

Shadows of the Empire
AuthorSteve Perry
Cover artistDrew Struzan
CountryUnited States
SubjectStar Wars
GenreScience fiction
PublisherBantam Spectra
Publication date
1 April 1996
3 March 1997
PagesHardcover: 340
Paperback: 416


As Luke Skywalker finishes constructing a new lightsaber on Tatooine, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian arrive and inform him that their ally, Battle of Hoth veteran Dash Rendar, has located Boba Fett's ship, the Slave I, with the frozen prisoner Han Solo aboard. The heroes lead an attempt to liberate Han from the bounty hunter, but are met by Imperial TIE fighters and lose the battle. Back on Tatooine, Luke is chased by swoop bike riders in the service of Jabba the Hutt and saved by Dash.[2] The Rebels learn from Bothan spies where they can intercept the plans for a new Death Star, but Luke is briefly captured by the agents of crime-lord Prince Xizor, who plans to kill Luke in a plot to gain Emperor Palpatine's favor, so he can replace Darth Vader as his right-hand man. Leia and Chewbacca meet Xizor's human-replica droid Guri, who brings Leia to Coruscant, where Xizor tries to seduce the princess in an attempt to bait Luke. Luke, Lando and Dash sneak into the crime lord's palace to save Leia. As the Rebels engage Imperial fighters above Coruscant, Xizor is prevented from escaping by the vengeful Darth Vader, whose Star Destroyer shoots down the doomed prince's repulsor craft. The debris from the explosion hits the Outrider, apparently killing Dash. Back on Tatooine once more, Luke records a holographic message for Jabba the Hutt.[3]

Author Steve Perry was comissioned to write the novel—the backbone of the multimedia project—after writing the novelizations of The Mask for Bantam, and Aliens based upon graphic novels by Dark Horse Comics, which had been licensed by Lucasfilm to create Star Wars comics. In addition to studying the original Star Wars trilogy, Perry read the first spin-off novel in the franchise, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, to get an idea of how to write for Vader.[4] The publishers wanted a 'substitute' for the incapacitated Han Solo, and Perry came up with the character of Dash, noted by fans as being mainly a vehicle for Solo-esque dialogue. The publishers also instructed Perry to make Xizor's attempt to seduce Leia successful, but the author refused as he feared fan backlash.[3]

While the narratives in the print media seldom intersected, it was necessary that characters, scenes, and dialogue match when they did come together. Steve Perry has expressed his support of adapting the story as an animated film.[4][5] A prequel novel was planned, to be written by author Charles Grant, but was cancelled due to a Lucasfilm Licensing move from Bantam to Del Rey Books.[6]


The comic book emphasizes the destiny of Boba Fett and his fellow bounty hunters, first seen in a brief scene on The Empire Strikes Back. It also tells the story of Jix, Darth Vader's assistant, who infiltrated Jabba the Hutt's gang of bikers to prevent that band's attempt to murder Luke Skywalker. The series was written by John Wagner and illustrated by Kilian Plunkett.

The comics were written and drawn at the same time of the novel, so the first issue could be released immediately after the book. However, the story told by the comics is unique in many ways. The primary difference is that the comics tell what happened to Boba Fett and the other bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to find the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back. Steve Perry, author of the project's novel, was a story consultant.

Cover of Shadows of the Empire: Evolution

Excerpts from the comic were published in Nintendo Power magazine.[7] Two separate mini-comics were released with Micro Machines toys (with three alternative covers) and Ertl model kits.[8] A pop-up comic was also made, entitled Battle of the Bounty Hunters.[9]


A sequel comic was written, called Shadows of the Empire: Evolution, which was created over five issues and later combined in a trade paperback. The series was written by Steve Perry, and was his first foray into comics.[4] It was pencilled by Ron Randall, inked by P. Craig Russell, and colored by Dave Nestelle.

The story is set around the time of Return of the Jedi. Xizor, the leader of the Black Sun criminal organization, has been destroyed, and Guri, an attractive human replica droid who was Xizor's personal assassin in the original novel, is left wondering what her future will hold now that she no longer has a master. During the ongoing struggle for supremacy in the underworld, Guri endeavors to discover her human side—if it even exists. But in her quest to alter her programming and gain humanity, Guri is pursued by both bounty hunters and Rebels led by Luke Skywalker. Secrets lying in her android mind make her a valuable asset.


LucasArts's Shadows of the Empire was one of the first games available for the Nintendo 64, and later for Windows. The most commercial product in the Shadows of the Empire line, the game was first released in December 1996 as an exclusive N64 title five months after the console's launch.[10] The PC version came nearly a year later, in September 1997.[11] In the game, players control mercenary Dash Rendar in four missions:

  • Part I: Dash Rendar is drawn into the Battle of Hoth.
  • Part II: Dash confronts bounty hunters from the original films—IG-88 and Boba Fett—in an attempt to rescue Han Solo.
  • Part III: Dash must save Luke Skywalker's life by fighting a gang of swoop bikers in Mos Eisley, then help Luke recover plans for the second Death Star.
  • Part IV: Dash, with Luke and Lando Calrissian, travels to Coruscant to rescue Princess Leia from Prince Xizor's stronghold.

Certain parts of the game contradict elements from the book and comic,[citation needed] but the overall story remains the same. The PC version has full-motion cinematic cutscenes with sound effects and voices, while the N64 version utilizes artwork with text at the bottom of the screen.


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Soundtrack album to the novel Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire by
ReleasedApril 23, 1996
RecordedCity Hall; Glasgow, 1996
LabelVarèse Sarabande[1]
ProducerRobert Townson
Review scores
Allmusic      link
SoundtrackNet      link
FilmTracks      link
Soundtrack-Express      link
iTunes      link

Lucasfilm commissioned Varèse Sarabande Records to publish a score. Producer Robert Townson selected Joel McNeely to compose it; both had produced music for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. The soundtrack was performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus.[2] Themes from the movies can be heard in tracks one (the main theme from Star Wars and "Carbon Freeze") and eight ("The Imperial March" and "The Force Theme"). The tenth track also contains credited appearances of "The Imperial March". Portions of the soundtrack are featured in the video game.[2]

The liner notes give plot summaries for each track's corresponding section of the novel. McNeely wrote, "Unlike with film music, I have been allowed to let my imagination run free with the images, characters and events from this story. I have also had the luxury to loiter as long as I like with a character or scene. Every passage represents some person, place or event in this story." Ben Burtt wrote a poem for the liner notes, about an ancient battle on Coruscant, which McNeely used in some compositions.[12] In the lyrics, Burtt made references to the Droids series he was involved in writing.

The disc also includes an interactive track for personal computers, containing concept art and additional information about the project. The multimedia track includes an overview of the Shadows of the Empire project; a creative team gallery; information about McNeely, the orchestra, and the efforts to put together a soundtrack for the novel; and information about the book, the game, the comic series, and the toys based on the characters.

Track listingEdit

  1. "Main Theme from Star Wars and Leia's Nightmare" – 3:41
  2. "The Battle of Gall" – 7:59
  3. "Imperial City" – 8:02
  4. "Beggar's Canyon Chase" – 2:56
  5. "The Southern Underground" – 1:48
  6. "Xizor's Theme" – 4:35
  7. "The Seduction of Princess Leia" – 3:38
  8. "Night Skies" – 4:17
  9. "Into the Sewers" – 2:55
  10. "The Destruction of Xizor's Palace" – 10:44


Kenner was one of the companies that made the toy line for the Shadows of the Empire project.[1] Their line contained action figures (including new characters such as Xizor and Dash Rendar), vehicles (from the Outrider to swoop bikes) and two-pack pairings of new and classic characters (such as IG-88 and Boba Fett). The classic characters figures were given a new spin with Chewbacca disguised as Snoova, a Wookiee bounty hunter, and Luke Skywalker costumed in an Imperial uniform (all the better to infiltrate Imperial City).

Lewis Galoob Toys, famous for their line of Micro Machines miniature toys and playsets, also developed a full Shadows of the Empire toy line. It included three sets of miniatures and a boxed Action Fleet set with two swoop bikes and riders and four miniature articulated figures. Also included in the sets are the classic Star Wars characters (Luke, Vader, the Emperor) as well as the new Shadows characters (Xizor, Dash Rendar, Guri and Leebo).

Kenner action figuresEdit

Kenner vehiclesEdit

The model making company Ertl released several plastic model kits of Shadows of the Empire, including the Virago (Xizor's spaceship), Prince Xizor, and the Emperor.

Collectible and gift company Applause released two vinyl figures, of Dash Rendar and Prince Xizor as well as a cold-cast resin statuette of the villains: Xizor, the Emperor and Darth Vader.

Trading cardsEdit

The Topps company developed the Shadows of the Empire trading card line.[1] The 100-piece Shadows of the Empire card set from Topps represents all three platforms that tell the story—the book, comic series, and game. The cards are the work of Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, the twin artists who painted one of the more popular original Star Wars release posters. The 100 card set featured double UV-coating and an extra-thick 20 pt. card stock, all with full-bleed painted images on a 21/2" x 31/2" card. The Shadows of the Empire card series is highlighted by 72 cards that virtually storyboard the events in Steve Perry's novel. The series also contains six cards dedicated to vehicles, another six to the comics, and six more keyed to the video game. Each pack came with nine cards.

References in other mediaEdit

The 1996 Return of the Jedi radio drama by Brian Daley makes several references to Shadows of the Empire.

In the 1997 Special Edition re-release of A New Hope, swoop bikes and ASP labor droids make an appearance, as does Dash Rendar's ship, the Outrider. Though originally developed for the Special Edition of A New Hope, the Sentinel-class landing craft (also known as the 'Imperial landing craft') also made its first appearance in Shadows of the Empire.

Several missions in the X-Wing Alliance (1999) computer game refer to Shadows of the Empire. The game involves assisting Dash Rendar in the capture of the Imperial freighter Suprosa, which was carrying the design schematics of the second Death Star. Dash Rendar's Outrider can be seen in the game, as well as in the game Bounty Hunter (2002).

A one-shot comic book was released from writer Ryder Windham in January 2000. It was called Shadow Stalker, and was a prelude to Shadows of the Empire expanding on the adventures of Jix. The series also incorporated characters from the Archie Goodwin Star Wars newspaper strip story "Iceworld".

The Force Unleashed later followed in the project's footsteps by creating multimedia involved in a film's release without making a movie.

With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film were rebranded as Legends and declared non-canon in April 2014.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b c d Wes Nihei, ed. (September 1996). "Shopping for Shadows". GamePro. No. 96. IDG. p. 30.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gonzales, Dave (December 22, 2016). "The Greatest 'Star Wars' Spinoff Movie Was Everything but a Movie". Thrillist. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Harber, Stephen (March 4, 2019). "Star Wars: How Shadows of the Empire Became a Gritty '90s Epic". Den of Geek. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Perry, Steve (March 2010). "Steve Perry (Author)". Star Wars Interviews. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Wagner, John (1997). Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire TPB. Dark Horse Comics. p. i. ISBN 978-1569711835.
  6. ^ Liptak, Andrew (December 17, 2015). "Building a Galaxy Far, Far Away: New Publisher, New Directions (1998-2005)". The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  7. ^ "Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire". Nintendo Power (92): 38.
  8. ^ "Cover gallery: Shadows of the Empire". The Star Wars Expanded Universe Timeline. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  9. ^ "Star Wars: Battle of the Bounty Hunters Pop-Up Book :: Profile". Dark Horse Comics. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  10. ^ Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, MobyGames, accessed December 22, 2006.
  11. ^ IGN: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, IGN PC, accessed December 22, 2006.
  12. ^ "Scoring the Trilogy". Star Wars Insider. Titan Magazines (29).
  13. ^ McMilian, Graeme (April 25, 2014). "Lucasfilm Unveils New Plans for Star Wars Expanded Universe". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  14. ^ "The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page". April 25, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2016.

External linksEdit