Apologies now: this is about to go all over the place, so bear with me.
Now, I’ve talked a bit before about my Star Wars story, but today I’d like to dive in with a little more detail. For those of you who don’t feel like clicking through, I grew up with the Prequels. I was born in 1994, and there’s no denying that being born in that era colored my perception of Star Wars. That said, I wasn’t taking an active part in the fandom for the entirety of my childhood. When my dad first showed me A New Hope, I was too young to really appreciate it. That said, I was certainly aware of the franchise’s existence for the duration of my childhood. I still remember getting a Sith Infiltrator 3-D Puzzle as a party favor back then.
It was in 2002 that I really became a Star Wars fan. I never saw The Phantom Menace during its original run, and to be honest, I can’t remember if I saw Attack of the Clones either. What I do remember is seeing the Attack of the Clones trailer in theaters, and I remember thinking that it looked really good. Regardless, by the end of 2002 I had caught my brother watching Return of the Jedi at my grandparents’ house. I distinctly recall coming in during the Sail Barge fight, and later returning for the briefing sequence and sticking through after that. That, unless I’m misremembering, was the experience that made me a Star Wars fan. Now, in 2003, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars microseries first premiered, and while that’s not what made me a fan, it cemented my fandom in major ways. Those who grew up with The Clone Wars or Rebels might not be able to recognize how cool it was to be getting new Star Wars content roughly every week, even if that content only lasted 2 or 3 minutes. But, beyond managing to stoke my interest in Star Wars, I later realized that most of my collecting focuses could be traced back to Clone Wars. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the stars of some of the early episodes of the series are the ARC Troopers, elite clone troopers who, in my 9 year old mind, were basically the coolest guys ever. More than anything else now, clone troopers are my collecting focus, and I realize now that the interest began back with Genndy. Clone Wars also introduced, in spectacular fashion, General Grievous. Grievous is another character I’ve written about, and I think it’s safe to say that the reason he was for a long while my favorite character was Clone Wars. Compared to my clone trooper collection, my Grievous collection is somewhat paltry. What it lacks in quantity, however, it makes up for in quality. Perhaps the Holy Grail piece of my collection is Sideshow Exclusive Edition General Grievous Premium Format figure. While the piece itself is fantastic, I love the story behind it perhaps even more: my dad and I, after finding someone in Pennsylvania selling one for approximately retail, drove 8 hours each way to pick up the piece in an absolute marathon of a day. (I should take this time to thank my parents, dad especially, for putting up with and enabling my Star Wars habit. Beyond the drive to get Grievous, I’ve gone to Celebration IV and Star Wars Weekends at Disney with my folks, both of which were fantastic trips that I count myself lucky to have been able to take).
Before the release of Revenge of the Sith, I had begun to further dabble in other Star Wars media. I recall writing a book report on The Cestus Deception (which for the most part went way over my head), and started to pick up various reference guides. Now, in most cases, reading something like The New Essential Guide to Characters or The Star Wars Encyclopedia wouldn’t be the best way to experience what the series had to offer, but for me they were perfect: even without the time or, to be honest, reading comprehension ability to read all the Star Wars books and comics out there, I could still learn about the franchise, to the point where I recognized that it was pretty darn cool when Quinlan Vos got a shout-out in Revenge of the Sith. Moreover, when I entered in to a new school in 6th Grade whose library contained several adult Star Wars novels, I had some of the background necessary to get what was going on. The novels, Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy, referenced stuff like the Thrawn crisis, stuff that I hadn’t read the novels about but had read about in other sources.
The Jedi Academy Trilogy was one of my formative Star Wars experiences, and when I was a kid I absolutely adored those novels. When I grew older, I came to learn that they don’t exactly have the best reputation among the fandom at large. Looking back now, I see the flaws a lot more clearly. Something similar happened with the prequels: when I was a kid, Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace were in contention for my favorite Star Wars film. Those who know me probably know that my favorite TV show is The Simpsons. There’s a scene where Lenny and Carl are dueling with plutonium rod, arguing whether Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones sucked more. At the time, I was amazed that people thought they were bad. Now, I get the sentiment. I love all of the Star Wars movies, but at the same time I can recognize that they have a bunch of major issues with them. It’s similar with the Jedi Academy Trilogy: even if the books aren’t great, I still like them enough where I don’t regret buying signed copies of them last year. I guess one big part of growing up, perhaps especially in regards to Star Wars in the 90’s and 00’s, is learning that what you loved kinda, well, sucks. (I’ll always have Genndy, though).
If you listen to the podcast, you may have gathered that I know a good bit more about the Expanded Universe than Shiloh. I don’t consider myself to be an expert, but I have made a point to experience a pretty wide breadth of it, even after it became Legends. Now, plenty of that is thanks to the reference books I picked up instilling an interest, but I do think some of it has to do with when I was really becoming a fan. Once Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, there wasn’t a whole lot of any major Star Wars releases going on. There were rumors of the oft-mentioned live action Star Wars TV series, and rumblings of The Clone Wars, but even that was three years off. To fill that void, I turned to the Expanded Universe. My middle school library had a bunch of novels, including the Thrawn trilogy, that I had exposure to for the first time. I ate them up, with some greats (Thrawn, for one) along with some duds (Darksaber, for one) in there. Even the duds, however, were enjoyable if just for seeing moments and characters mentioned in reference guides in their original sources. It was around then that Legacy of the Force started, which became the first series I followed as the novels released. Now, I can’t comment for sure, but if I was born later and became a fan around the time the 2008 The Clone Wars started up, I’m not so sure I would have bothered reading all those EU novels and comics. Even if I had, I’m sure the show would have colored my perception of the Expanded Universe, and not the other way around.
That said, The Clone Wars got me ready for the eventual canon reset following Disney’s acquisition. When I first heard Disney bought Lucasfilm, I was cautiously excited. I knew that it was unlikely that new movies would gel with the EU, and frankly I was looking forward to spinoffs that could fit within the canon than movies that would overwrite it. I hoped, perhaps foolishly, that sequels would at least pay lip service to the EU. Of course, that’s not what happened. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but The Clone Wars had shown from its outset that while it would attempt to honor the EU when it could (the presence of Asajj, for example), if the story it wanted to tell was in conflict with the EU, it didn’t mind overwriting it. There were those out there that couldn’t forgive The Clone Wars for that, and while I don’t agree with them, I can understand. As for me, it made the canon reset hit a little more softly. Bit by bit, new media was chipping off the edifice of the old stories. The reset, while it hurt, was like ripping off a Band-Aid: it avoided protracting what was, in the end, somewhat inevitable. Perhaps if I was older, and reading books like the Thrawn trilogy as they released, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the reset. Having really known them for under a decade by the time they were made non-canon, I was able to let them go without too much difficulty. Somewhat amusingly, I think my consumption of EU works has actually picked up pace since the Legends announcement. Now that there’s a finite body of work, finishing it seems a little more like a possibility.
(seriously though whatever makes you happiest can be your own personal canon, it’s all fiction anyway)