The first thing that most visitors saw as they walked into Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida last week was a two-story high replica of an Imperial AT-AT walker. Those who came in through another entrance instead saw a massive inflatable Death Star suspended above the lobby floor. R2-D2 units whirred all around below, issuing forth from the nearby meeting room for the R2-D2 Builders Club. All over, costumed and armored men, women, and children helped to further the notion that attendees had just stepped into a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars Celebration is unlike any fan convention or trade show that I've been to. These are my people. I grew up watching and wearing out VHS copies of the Original Trilogy. My mother likes to sometimes remind me that my first trip to the movies was for A New Hope -- then just Star Wars -- while I was in utero. I treasured and still do treasure my action figures. I read every new book and comic as it comes out. Yet for all of that, I had never made the trek before to a Star Wars Celebration.
This was my mecca.
The highlight of the show for nearly every attendee was The Super-Secret Star Wars Panel with Todd, Seth, and Matt, which saw the world debut of footage from Star Wars: Detours. Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich, along with director Todd Grimes, offered what amounted to a very promising look at their upcoming comedy series.
NEWS -- Star Wars: Detours Announced
Set in the Star Wars universe and filled with the same brand of humor that marks the creator duo's Robot Chicken treatments of the franchise, Detours appears to follow a more linear narrative trajectory. Set shortly before the events of A New Hope, the series tugs on multiple threads to offer an expansive look at the funnier side of Star Wars. This is a series that will ask (and answer) the question: what if Darth Vader, an Uncle Sam-like figure for the Empire, pursued online dating?
If you're interested in Detours then you've likely already seen the reveal clips online. Watching it all unfold on the show's Celebration Stage, I couldn't help but commend the wisdom of coming out with actual footage. Imagine the uproar if Lucasfilm had gone with a more gradual reveal plan, showing off those cute CG-rendered characters without the sharp humor from Green/Senreich and their ridiculously talented writing team, one that includes the likes of Jane Espensen and veterans from The Simpsons, The Daily Show, Buffy, Family Guy, and more.
The energy in the room was palpable as the shiny, new footage was revealed for the first time. Green and Senreich fully embraced it, as did starring voice actor Donald Faison (Scrubs' Turk) in his surprise appearance. They came off more like fans than creators, goofing around on the stage, snapping photos of each other, and just generally having a good time. Really, their attitude speaks to the general vibe of Celebration overall: it's a low-key event that, despite the mobs of people, feels absolutely relaxed.
There were surprises in other parts of the Lucas-verse as well. The show's Del Rey books panel took a look at some of the upcoming happenings on the printed side of the Expanded Universe. The one I'm most excited about for 2012 is Star Wars: Scoundrels, from the one and only Timothy Zahn. Described as "Solo's Eleven," the criminal lineup cover image kind of tells the whole story. That one's out just after Christmas, on December 26.
Further out in summer 2013 we've got Star Wars: Crucible, by Troy Denning. This adventure follows the heroic trio of Han, Leia, and Luke in their first post-Fate of the Jedi adventure. It opens, as Denning revealed during the panel, with Han shooting first. All three of our heroes are getting on in years (as you can see on the cover), and the book is apparently meant to be a pivotal point in the continuing EU stories.
My guess: one of the three is doomed, and the smart money is on Luke. His impending death has been foreshadowed for some time, and I think the EU stories will be better served with him gone. It's no longer reasonable to believe that our three original A New Hope heroes will continue to beat the odds in adventure after adventure, and Luke's journey feels all but wrapped up at this point.
My speculative outlook for Crucible is further reinforced by what follows it. Del Rey is giving up on the lengthy six-plus book arcs for the time being, and so the next arc to follow after next summer's book will be realized as a trilogy, called Sword of the Jedi. Those who are well-versed in their Star Wars EU timeline, and who have been keeping track of the hint-dropping in more recent books, should have a few guesses as to how Sword will start to bridge the gap between the ongoing series of books and the far-future Star Wars: Legacy comic book series from Dark Horse.
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Speaking of Dark Horse, there's big new for the Star Wars Expanded Universe in comics as well, starting with an upcoming, ongoing series from Brian Wood that explores the period of time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. A number of years passed between the two films, and there are many stories to be told. We'll also be seeing more ebooks from the Del Rey side that explores this time period.
There's also a new Purge book on the way, for the first time unfolding as a two-part tale. For those who aren't familiar, Purge explores the period of time after Order 66 went out when Darth Vader scoured the galaxy in search of Jedi to wipe out. In the latest, titled The Tyrant's Fist, the Dark Lord of the Sith heads to a planet populated entirely by Force sensitives. Sounds like a ridiculous bloodbath of badassery to me.
It's really difficult to capture the feeling of actually being at something like Star Wars Celebration. With Lucasfilm and its assorted divisions running the show, there's a level of fan service going on that you just don't see at other gatherings of this sort. I'll have more reports from the ground for you soon, but I hope you enjoyed this broad look at the major movements in the Star Wars Expanded Universe for the coming year.