Star Wars canon
Star Wars canon is the depiction of Star Wars storylines and characters considered officially canon to the franchise by its owner, Lucasfilm. Canon material is represented in media designated as such by the company.
A large number of derivative Star Wars works have been produced in conjunction with, between, and after the original trilogy (1977–1983) and prequel trilogy (1999–2005) of films. This body of work was collectively known as the Star Wars expanded universe for decades, and a hierarchy of canonicity was created and maintained by Lucasfilm to organize its content. In April 2014, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded by Lucasfilm as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise.
Post-April 2014, the official Star Wars canon consists of the eight released Star Wars theatrical feature films, the Star Wars animated film, the television series The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, multiple novels and comics, and any other material released after April 25, 2014, unless otherwise stated.
1977–1991: Original trilogy and early supplementary worksEdit
Star Wars was released in May 1977; after its release it became a worldwide phenomenon. Six months previous to the release of the film, in November 1976, the novelization of the film called -Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker— and was based on Lucas' screenplay, ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and credited as written by Lucas.
Lucas followed the original film with two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983)—; together those three films became known as the Star Wars trilogy until the release of the prequel films. Film novelizations of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Donald F. Glut and Return of the Jedi (1983) by James Kahn were also released.
Since 1977, the Star Wars films have spawned a series of novels, comic books, newspaper comic strips, radio dramas, video games, role-playing games, and spin-off novels not written or produced by Lucas. This body of work became known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, until rebranded as Star Wars Legends in 2014.
Lucas commissioned Foster (who worked on the novelization of the original film), to write a sequel novel to the at the time only existing film, as the basis for a potential low-budget sequel which that could be adapted into a script in case the film proved unsuccessful, the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye was released in 1978, and was never adapted into film. Its success led to other works telling original stories set before or between the films, such as The Han Solo Adventures trilogy (1979–1980) by Brian Daley, and The Adventures of Lando Calrissian (1983) trilogy by L. Neil Smith.
A Star Wars comic book series from Marvel Comics ran from April 1977 to May 1986. Former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter credited the title's strong sales for saving Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978. Marvel's Star Wars series was one of the industry's top selling titles in 1979 and 1980. West End Games began publishing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game in 1987, and the subsequent ancillary roleplaying game material such as sourcebooks, gamebooks, and adventure modules have been called "the first publications to expand greatly beyond what was known from the vintage era of the movies". The material was used as a resource by some novelists that followed.
1991–1999: Establishment of the Star Wars Expanded UniverseEdit
The 1991 Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire, which reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, began what would become a large collection of works set before, between, and especially after the original films. StarWars.com wrote in 2014 that the novel "jumpstarted a publishing program that endures to this day and formalized the Expanded Universe". It introduced, among others, the popular characters Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, and was followed by the sequels Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993). This so-called "Thrawn trilogy" is widely credited with revitalizing the Star Wars franchise. In The Secret History of Star Wars, Michael Kaminski suggests that this renewed interest was a factor in Lucas's decision to create the prequel trilogy.
Around this same time, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and launched a number of series set after the original film trilogy, including the popular Dark Empire sequence (1991–1995) by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. In 1993, Dark Horse published Tales of the Jedi, expanding the fictional universe to the time of the Old Republic, 4000 years before the films. The series was conceived and written by Tom Veitch and illustrated by artists Dave Dorman, Chris Gossett, Janine Johnston, and David Roach. Later Veitch was joined by Kevin J. Anderson as co-writer. The series spawned many other productions, including books and comics, and a popular online role-playing game.
The Star Wars canon was first defined in a 1994 interview with Lucas Licensing's Allan Kausch and Sue Rostoni in issue #23 of Star Wars Insider:
Gospel, or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelizations. These works spin out of George Lucas' original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we've read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history—with many off-shoots, variations and tangents—like any other well-developed mythology.
The 1996 Steve Perry novel Shadows of the Empire, set in the as-yet-unexplored time period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, was part of a multimedia campaign that included a comic book series and video game. By this same year, the collection of reference materials documenting the Expanded Universe had grown unwieldy. Lucasfilm Licensing decided something had to be done to organize the increasingly large collection of media which chronicled the Star Wars universe. A hierarchical system of canon was developed to organize the materials.
1999–2008: Prequel trilogy and establishment of the Holocron databaseEdit
The Original Trilogy was followed more than a decade later by a prequel trilogy which included the films The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005). The decades before, their release Lucasfilm had, specifically prohibited development of the time period before A New Hope—including the rise of the Galactic Empire and the personal histories of Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine—to avoid conflict with Lucas's own plans for a potential prequel trilogy. Lucas eventually released the prequel trilogy, punctuated by the 2003 animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, which explored the titular conflict in more detail. Subsequent novels and comics were set before, concurrent with, and after the events of these works.
The Expanded Universe storytelling started exploring more the time period after Return of the Jedi. In 1999, Star Wars book publishing moved from Bantam Spectra to Del Rey Books, and R. A. Salvatore 's Vector Prime began the 19-book The New Jedi Order series (1999–2003), written by multiple authors. New Jedi Order, set 25 to 30 years after the original films, introduced a new threat: the Yuuzhan Vong, a powerful alien race attempting to invade and conquer the entire galaxy.
The ever-growing amount of Expanded Universe was becoming harder and harder to track and organize, and the continuity was becoming harder to manage. Historically to solve the problem, Lucasfilm tracked the storylines and content of these media in large black binders, known as bibles. In 2000, Leland Chee was hired as Continuity Database Administrator for Lucas Licensing, and implemented a database to replace the bibles. The database was named the Holocron, a term used within the fictional Star Wars universe for "ancient repositories of knowledge and wisdom" used by the Jedi and Sith. Lucasfilm's Holocron consists of over 55,000 entries for franchise characters, locations, species, and vehicles.
The Holocron was divided into five levels of canon (in order of precedence): G-canon, T-canon, C-canon, S-canon, and N-canon.
- GWL-canon or G-canon stood for George Lucas canon: Marked GWL after George Lucas (whose middle name is Walton). It included Episodes I–VI (the released films at that time), and any statements by George Lucas (including unpublished production notes from him or his production department that are never seen by the public). Elements originating with Lucas in the scripts, filmed deleted scenes, film novelizations, reference books, radio plays, and other primary sources were also G-canon when not in contradiction with the released films. GWL-canon overrode the lower levels of canon when there was a contradiction. In the words of Leland Chee: "George's view of the universe is his view. He's not beholded to what's gone before."
- T-canon was Television canon: This canon level was only second to the films, and consisted of the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) and the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars released during the same year. This level superseded the stories depicted in Gendy Tarkakovsky's 2003 Clone Wars animated micro-series which, due to the release of the 2008 works, became classified within the lower canon level of continuity.
- C-canon was Continuity canon: Consisting of most of the materials from the Star Wars Expanded Universe including the books, comics, and videogames bearing the label of Star Wars. According to a Wired article, the creation of stories that introduced radical changes in the continuity, like The Force Unleashed video-game which introduced Darth Vader's secret apprentice, required Lucas's approval, and he spent hours explaining to the developers anything he deemed necessary for them to know. Games and RPG sourcebooks were a special case; the stories and general background information were themselves fully C-canon, but the other elements such as character/item statistics and gameplay were, with few exceptions, N-canon.
- S-canon was Secondary canon: Covering the same media as C-canon, it was immediately superseded by anything in higher levels of canon in any place where two elements contradicted each other, the non-contradicting elements were still a canon part of the Star Wars universe, this included certain elements of a few N-canon stories. The Star Wars Holiday Special is an example of secondary canon.
- N-canon was Non-canon: "What-if" stories (such as the Star Wars Tales comic anthology series published under the Star Wars: Infinities label), crossover appearances (such as the Star Wars character appearances in Soulcalibur IV), game statistics, and anything else directly contradicted by higher canon ends up here. N-canon was the only level that was not considered official canon by Lucasfilm. Any published material that contradicted things established in G-canon and T-canon was considered N-canon.
In a 2001 statement on the franchise's official website StarWars.com, Director of Fan Relations Steve Sansweet clarified:
When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves—and only the films. Even novelizations are interpretations of the film, and while they are largely true to George Lucas' vision (he works quite closely with the novel authors), the method in which they are written does allow for some minor differences ... The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation.
Lucas Licensing's managing editor Sue Rostoni said in 2001, "Our goal is to present a continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy, insofar as that history does not conflict with, or undermine the meaning of Mr. Lucas's Star Wars saga of films and screenplays."
In 2004, USA Today reported that over 1,100 Star Wars titles had been published, including novels, comics, non-fiction, and magazines. Then-president of Lucas Licensing, Howard Roffman, estimated that there were more than 65 million Star Wars books in print. He said, "The books are a way of extending the fantasy of Star Wars. The movies have had a really profound effect on a couple of generations. Star Wars has become a cultural touchpoint, and our fans are avidly interested in exploring more stories."
In August 2005, Lucas himself said of the Expanded Universe material:
I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions.
2008–2014: The Clone Wars and restructuring of continuityEdit
The animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars ran from 2008 to 2014 and was set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Lucas discussed ideas for a sequel trilogy several times after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but denied any intent to make it.
In October 2012, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for $4.06 billion. On the same year, Leeland Chee who still managed the Holocron database described the difference between Star Wars and other franchises by saying: "What sets Star Wars apart from other franchises is that we develop a singular continuity across all forms of media, whether it be the films, TV series, video games, novels and comics, and the Holocron is a key component to Lucasfilm being able to do this."
In early April 2014, StarWars.com defined the Expanded Universe as "stories set outside of the canon established by the films and TV shows of George Lucas that make the galaxy deeper and richer". Weeks later, in late April 2014, Lucasfilm rebranded the Expanded Universe material as Star Wars Legends and declared it non-canon to the franchise. The company's focus would be shifted towards a restructured Star Wars canon based on new material.
Soon after declaring the Legends/Expanded Universe works as non-canonical, Lucasfilm and the Star Wars Story Group explained that the only preexisting works to be considered canonical within the franchise would be the original and prequel trilogies of films, The Clone Wars film, and the 2008 The Clone Wars animated series. The announcement called these works "the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all the other (subsequent) tales must align". It was also made clear that a planned Star Wars sequel trilogy, and subsequent works developed within the restructured canon, would not be based on Legends material but could possibly draw from it.
Formation of the Lucasfilm Star Wars Story GroupEdit
In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion. Subsequently, Lucasfilm formed the "Star Wars Story Group", which was established to keep track of and define the canon and unify the films, comics, and other media. Among its members are Chee, Kiri Hart, and Pablo Hidalgo. Chee said in a 2014 Twitter post that a "primary goal" of the Story Group would be to replace the previous hierarchical canon with one cohesive one.
In April 2014, the Lucasfilm and the Star Wars Story Group rebranded the Expanded Universe material as Star Wars Legends and declared it non-canon to the franchise, specifying subsequent works would not be based on Legends material but could possibly draw from it. During the same announcement, Lucasfilm declared that no further Star Wars Legends works would be published, so all the focus could be shifted towards the restructured Star Wars canon. After the restructuring of the Star Wars canon, the only preexisting works to be considered canonical from that point on would be the original trilogy and prequel trilogy of films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars film, and The Clone Wars animated series. The previous levels of the Holocron became obsolete, because going forward all works would share the same level of canon as the films. The pre-existing canonical works were described as "the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all the other (subsequent) tales must align".
Dave Filoni, supervising director of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, explained that he followed Lucas's example in considering the films and television series canon, but allowing for the use of Legends material as necessary. While filming Attack of the Clones (2002), Lucas used the character Aayla Secura, whom had been introduced in 2000 within the Legends comic book series Star Wars: Republic. Also within his prequel trilogy of films and the Special Edition release of Return of the Jedi, for the Republic capital planet, Lucas used the planet Coruscant, which had been created by Timothy Zahn within the Legends novels known as the Thrawn trilogy. Filoni and his team have used multiple characters and elements from Legends works in Rebels, and notably incorporated popular character Grand Admiral Thrawn into the 2016 third season of the animated series.
2015–present: sequel trilogy, anthology films, and subsequent worksEdit
Production on the sequel film Star Wars: The Force Awakens also began in 2014. In September 2014, the first canon work after the restructuring released. It was the novel Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, serving as a prelude to the animated series Star Wars Rebels which released soon after in October 2014. Marvel Comics began publishing a series of Star Wars comic book titles in January 2015.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, and marked the beginning of the sequel trilogy of films. The following December, the film Rogue One was released, the first in a planned Star Wars Anthology series of films taking place outside of the main saga.
List of canon worksEdit
The following is a list of Star Wars works considered canon to the franchise, and includes the original theatrically released versions of the episodic saga and anthology films, animated series, video games, comics, and books. All of the films (except for The Clone Wars) have been directly adapted into novelizations and comic books; these are canon when not in contradiction with the films.
|List of Star Wars canon works|
|Release date||Title||Type of media|
|May 1977||Star Wars||Film|
|May 1980||The Empire Strikes Back|
|May 1983||Return of the Jedi|
|May 1999||Episode I – The Phantom Menace|
|May 2002||Episode II – Attack of the Clones|
|May 2005||Episode III – Revenge of the Sith|
|August 2008||The Clone Wars||Film (Animated)|
|October 2008||The Clone Wars||Animated series|
|May 2014||Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir||Comic miniseries|
|September 2014||A New Dawn||Novel|
|October 2014||Rebels||Animated series|
|January 2015||Star Wars||Comic|
|February 2015||Darth Vader|
|March 2015||Princess Leia||Comic miniseries|
|March 2015||Heir to the Jedi||Novel|
|April 2015||Lords of the Sith||Novel|
|July 2015||Dark Disciple|
|July 2015||Lando||Comic miniseries|
|September 2015||Lost Stars||Novel (Young adult)|
|September 2015||Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure|
|September 2015||The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure|
|September 2015||Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure|
|September 2015||Shattered Empire||Comic miniseries|
|September 2015||Uprising||Video game|
|October 2015||Chewbacca||Comic miniseries|
|November 2015||Vader Down||Comic one-shot|
|November 2015||Battlefront: Twilight Company||Novel|
|November 2015||The Perfect Weapon||Short story|
|November 2015||Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens||Anthology (Young adult)|
|December 2015||Before the Awakening|
|December 2015||The Force Awakens||Film|
|January 2016||Obi-Wan & Anakin||Comic miniseries|
|April 2016||C-3PO||Comic one-shot|
|April 2016||Poe Dameron||Comic|
|June 2016||Han Solo||Comic miniseries|
|July 2016||Aftermath: Life Debt||Novel|
|October 2016||Ahsoka||Novel (Young adult)|
|November 2016||Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel||Novel|
|December 2016||Rogue One||Film|
|December 2016||Doctor Aphra||Comic|
|February 2017||Aftermath: Empire's End||Novel|
|February 2017||Darth Maul||Comic miniseries|
|May 2017||Guardians of the Whills|
|May 2017||Rebel Rising||Novel (Young adult)|
|June 2017||Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith||Comic|
|July 2017||Forces of Destiny||Animated micro-series|
|July 2017||Battlefront II: Inferno Squad||Novel|
|September 2017||Captain Phasma||Comic miniseries|
|September 2017||Leia: Princess of Alderaan|
|October 2017||Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View||Anthology (Young adult)|
|October 2017||The Legends of Luke Skywalker||Novel|
|November 2017||Star Wars Battlefront II - Campaign||Video game|
|December 2017||Canto Bight||Short story collection|
|December 2017||The Last Jedi||Film|
|May 2019||Episode IX|
|2020||Untitled Anthology film|
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