My 6 Favorite Star Wars Expanded Universe Characters
Have you ever wondered what kind of power vacuum there must have been in the Empire after the Rebels blew up the second Death Star, killing Darth Vader and the Emperor? Or who were the first Jedi who discovered the Force and built the first lightsabers? Did Han Solo and Princess Leia ever settle down and have kids? Or if Luke Skywalker heralded the ‘Return of Jedi’, who were the rest? Well wonder no more, because pop culture has you covered. Welcome to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, a collection of books, comics, video games and cartoons that tell the rest of the story.
For the saga of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance is only a fraction of the larger, grander Star Wars Universe. Dedicated fans, geeks and professional writers have expanded beyond the movies to tell more and more stories. The Expanded Universe is the greatest, geekiest bit of fandom there’s every been – and what’s more, it’s all A-OK’d by George Lucas himself. It’s all licensed and approved!
I love the Expanded Universe. I think it’s gloriously geeky and riveting. I love that for every single minor or background character that appears in the six main movies, the fans and professional writers have created full and rich backstories. I once read a book called Death Star, about the building of the first Death Star (bad book, don’t read it). Several times in the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, Darth Vader meets with other Imperial agents aboard the Death Star. Well one of the armed guards standing at the door in the background of those scenes is a main character in the book Death Star. So every time I watch A New Hope, I can point to the guard and say ‘that’s Atour Riten!’ Weird name.
But that’s the glory of the Expanded Universe, filling in the cracks and telling the stories beyond the six movies. Allow me to introduce you to My 6 Favorite Star Wars Expanded Universe Characters.
6. Garik ‘Face’ Loran/Corran Horn
My first real introduction into the Expanded Universe was through a series of novels about Rogue Squadron, the team of ace X-Wing fighters that Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles flew with on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, and then against the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. You all remember Wedge, right? He was the X-Wing pilot in the Death Star trench run in A New Hope who got shot and had to back off, then returned for the following two movies, taking part in all the major spaceship battles. Well in this series of novels set shortly after the fall of the Empire, Wedge put together a new version of Rogue Squadron, under the pen of author Michael Stackpole. It was a delightful, if short, series about an eclectic and entertaining group of X-Wing pilots flying different missions and having different adventures for the New Republic.
You’re going to hear more about the Squadron later in this list.
One of the main characters of the series was Corran Horn, a good-hearted, scoundrel-sort of a man created by Stackpole. In fact, he was Stackpole’s signature character. Horn was dashing, exciting and loyal to his squad – then he turned out to be a Jedi! Stackpole continued Horn’s adventures out of the squadron and into his own solo novel, I, Jedi, where he trained to become a Jedi. Horn later married and had children. He was a fun character, very heroic, who I mostly enjoy as just a connection to the glorious Rogue Squadron series.
Then we have Wraith Squadron and Garik ‘Face’ Loran.
Wraith Squadron was a spin-off to the Rogue Squadron series, written by Aaron Allston, and it was much more exciting. After the success of his first squad, Wedge Antilles decides to create a second. Only this time, instead of getting the best-of-the-best to be pilots, he’s going to put together the Rebels’ washouts and losers into a crack team of commandos. They’d be pilots, yes, but more importantly they were a black-ops squad sent on the wildest, craziest assignments in the universe. The Wraight Squadron books were awesome. Like the time they had to pose as a pirate squad in order to infiltrate the space kingdom of an evil warlord. Plenty of fun stories.
Garik ‘Face’ Loran is much like Corran Horn, in that he was one of the main characters, and he was a friendly, loyal, and swashbuckling sort of hero. Loran was also a comedian who wanted to call the team ‘Supper Squadron’ instead because he was hungry when they were picking team names. He wasn’t my favorite character in Wraith Squadron, but he represents the team as a whole. I liked him even more after he showed up in a later series. Years after the Wraith Squadron books ended, I was reading another Expanded Universe novel by Allston set during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. All of a sudden, Loran and his Wraith Squadron commandos show up! No longer led by Wedge Antilles, Loran and the Wraiths are a deep-cover, black-ops unit who take the main character on a mission of sabotage. It’s an awesome cameo, and made me love Loran much more.
Garik Loran is called ‘Face’ for a rather awesome reason. Loran was a child actor who starred in pro-Empire propaganda films! The kind of movies designed to make the average person love and want to join the Empire. Just because teenage moisture farmers on backwater Tatooine don’t like the Empire doesn’t mean everybody else in the galaxy don’t love them. Stormtroopers and Imperial officers have to come from somewhere. And Loran was the one who convinced them to join with his movies.
Only Loran came to hate the Empire and gladly joined the Rebels…but he had one of the most recognizable, pro-Empire faces in all the galaxy. That doesn’t make for a popular rebel. Hence being a washout who got scooped up for Wraith Squadron. He’s a pretty neat character, and one with a badass scar too.
5. Asajj Ventress
Asajj Ventress is just badass. She’s like a dark side ninja when all the Jedi are wise, nonviolent samurai. She’s fast, brutal, wields some kickass alternative lightsabers and has a tragic backstory. She’s like Darth Maul, except that he was foolishly killed at the end of The Phantom Menace. Was anybody else disappointed in Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones? We go from the ultimate badassery of Darth Maul to an old fogy of a Sith warrior in Dooku. Talk about a let down. Well in behind-the-scenes Star Wars continuity, there was another kickass dark side warrior just waiting in Dooku’s shadow: Asajj Ventress.
But for some reason, the Powers That Be decided to save Ventress for the cartoon shows instead of the actual movies. They needed a warrior who could have exciting lighsaber fights with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, but Dooku wouldn’t cut it. And they couldn’t exactly bring Darth Maul back from the dead (except they did). So Ventress starred as one of the main villains in Clone Wars, a series of short cartoons on Cartoon Network that were aired in 2003 before Revenge of the Sith. That’s where I and the world first met Ventress. She survived that series, and now stars as one of the villains in Star Wars: Clone Wars, another series on Cartoon Network about the same exactly wars as the first cartoon.
Why Star Wars TV shows seem dedicated to the stories of the Clone Wars, I have no clue. Why not have a show set during the Rebel vs. Empire era?
Asajj Ventress’ story is kind of neat. She was born a member of the Nightsister witches, a group of female Force-users who dabble in the dark side. But she was sold to slavers and taken to a whole different world, where she was later found by a nice Jedi who recognized her Force-sensitivity and started training her. The nice Jedi was killed, and his death pushed Ventress towards the dark side. Eventually she came to the attention of Dooku, who took her as his apprentice. At his side, she fought the good guys wielding two red lightsabers, each with a curved hilt. So that’s pretty sweet right there.
In the newest Clone Wars series, Dooku and the Emperor eventually turn against Ventress and try to kill her. Can’t have someone else getting strong in the dark side, after all. But Ventress is too badass to be killed so easily. She escaped and, most recently, has become a bounty hunter. I guess that’s pretty cool.
4. Voort saBinring
Does that picture not tell the most exciting story? Imagine this: those fat, pig-like guards at Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi stuffed into the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter. A Gamorrean starfighter pilot! Flying for the Rebel Alliance! Voort saBinring is a glorious bit of science gone insane, and we’ll take another look at Wraith Squadron for his piggy story. You remember them from only 2 entries ago, right? The team of washout commandos that Wedge Antilles put together? Well one of their members, my favorite member, was Voort saBinring.
Voort was the victim of genetic tampering when he was young, turning this piggish thug into a mathematical genius, and giving him the ability to speak English through a voicebox. You may recall Jabba’s guards only grunting. That’s what his species is normally capable of. Voort escaped the genetics lab and joined the Rebellion, but nobody liked the Gamorrean pig alien so he was always denied promotions and kept on the bottom wrung – until he joined Wraith Squadron.
‘Piggy’, as he was called, was a really fun character, always proving himself to be witty and smart, despite his grotesque looks. Whenever the Squadron flew on a mission, Piggy’s increased intelligence and mathematical know-how had him giving flying suggestions to his squadmates in the midst of battle, even while he was flying on his own. Piggy’s standout moment came when Wraith Squadron, the power cut to their ship, had to take over a pirate frigate called the Night Caller. The Wraiths came up with a pretty insane idea: Piggy was locked into a crate that would be thrown through space from the Wraiths’ ship into the cargo hold of the pirate ship. Being a Gamorrean, he could survive a bit longer in outer space than humans. Piggy brought with him one of the starfighter guns from his X-Wing, retro-fitted into a shoulder-mounted blaster that he could personally carry. Those guns are designed to shoot other starfighters, and ships like that are built tough on the outside to withstand the vacuum of space. So firing one of those from inside the cargo bay, where the metal is much softer, Piggy blew holes through several walls at a time. Suffice to say, he took control of the Night Caller.
Much like ‘Face’ Loran, Piggy only made brief appearances after the three Wraith Squadron books. He was spotted fighting the Yuuzhan Vong, and that’s the last anyone has ever seen of him. But wow was he just plain cool, in a really weird sort of way.
3. Jagged Fel
Jagged Fel is the face of the New Empire, and also the closest thing Han Solo has to a son-in-law. He’s a badass, disciplined starfighter pilot, a master of TIE fighters, and one part of the Expanded Universe’s most important love story. He’s the strong silent type, confident in his skills, unafraid to admit when he’s good, and bound by duty. Though his romance with Jaina Solo, daughter of Han and Leia, has loosened him up a bit. I like Jag Fel because he’s one of the good guys, but his connection to the Empire makes him unique among the good guys. He’s not a Jedi, he’s not a Rebel; he should be one of the bad guys – but his heroic nature has him on the side of the angels, no matter his greater allegiances.
Jag Fel is actually one of the more popular and long-standing characters in the Expanded Universe, so I’ll try to keep it short. But there are a lot of concepts you’ll need to be briefed on to understand Jag’s place in the Expanded Universe. First of all, Jag is the son of Baron Soontir Fel, the greatest pilot in the Empire. The Baron survived Return of the Jedi and went off into exile after the Emperor was killed. There he raised a family, and trained his son Jagged Fel to be a badass starfighter pilot too.
Meanwhile, after the Emperor and Vader were killed, the Empire was transformed into the Imperial Remnant, while the Rebel Alliance took over the galaxy as the New Republic. The Imperial Remnant and the New Republic had something of a Cold War, and political intrigue became a major factor in Expanded Universe novels. All the Rogue Squadron books took place in this period. Also during this era, Han Solo and Princess Leia got married and had three children: the twins Jacen and Jaina, and the youngest, Anakin Solo. All three kids were Jedi and had plenty of stories on their own. In fact, beyond the canon movie characters, Jacen and Jaina are two of the most important characters in the Expanded Universe.
And Jagged is Jaina’s on-again, off-again fiance!
Jagged Fel came out of exile and joined the New Republic at the start of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. I’ve mentioned them a few times, and they’re pretty easy to explain: just picture the worst, most monstrous aliens ever! After a few years of political stories about the New Republic, the writers behind the Expanded Universe created this supremely evil alien threat from beyond the known galaxy. The Yuuzhan Vong invaded and attacked, giving everyone a new war to fight that lasted dozens of novels and comic books. I’ve read a few of the books. Jag and Jaina’s relationship grew and waned during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion.
And the relationship has continued afterwards. The Vong were eventually defeated, and once again the stories of the Expanded Universe turned to stories about politics, the dark side and usual stuff. But by the end of the Vong War, Jag Fel was a pretty big and important guy. So much so that he was put in charge of what remained of the Imperial Remnant. From there, Fel organized a peace treaty with the New Republic, and eventually became the first Emperor of a revived New Empire. But he’s still a good guy, so at least there’s that.
2. Gavin Darklighter
As mentioned before, my first foray into the Expanded Universe were the Rogue Squadron novels. And Gavin Darklighter was quickly and easily my favorite member of Rogue Squadron. How fortunate, then, that he’d go on to not only be one of its best pilots, but also have a long history as a military commander in the New Republic. Gavin Darklighter was 16-years-old when he joined Rogue Squadron, which is about the age I was reading those books in high school. So I eagerly latched on to the young, untested, but still very skilled and brave pilot.
Gavin Darklighter is the younger cousin of Biggs Darklighter, who was a close, personal friend of Luke Skywalker from Tatooine. You may remember Biggs from the battle against the Death Star at the end of A New Hope. Biggs was the pilot with the checkerboard squares on his helmet, and he’s the one who blew up, making Luke sad. Well in creating pilots for Rogue Squadron, author Michael Stackpole gave Biggs a young cousin, also from Tatooine. So Gavin (a name I love) became a sort-of Luke Skywalker stand-in. The brave, young and heroic pilot from the backwater world of Tatooine. Yes people, Gavin Darklighter used to bullseye womprats in his T-16 back home!
As a member of Rogue Squadron, Gavin was always a part of the missions, kicking butt and shooting bad guys in his X-Wing fighter. He had a couple close calls, but always hung in there through even the most perilous fights. Gavin was easy to root for as an audience surrogate, which is probably why I liked him so much. Gavin’s biggest storyline involved him falling in love with a hot alien chick named Asyr Sei’lar. He was even held hostage by some other aliens once and put on trial to determine if he truly loved Asyr or if he was just some human scum. That was a weird, but fun, scene as his Rogue Squadron pals came to his legal defense.
Unfortunately, it would not end well for Gavin and Asyr. Her people, the Bothans, were very politically minded. And they did not approve of such a high profile Bothan (she was also a pilot for Rogue Squadron) marrying a lowly human! So when Asyr was thought killed in an attack by the bad guys, she decided to keep her survival a secret and start a new life. She hated leaving Gavin, but she knew her people would never stop trying to make their lives miserable for political gain. So she dedicated herself to trying to change her people’s minds in secret.
Gavin was heartbroken. But he soldiered on as a member of Rogue Squadron.
Eventually Gavin settled down with a human woman and had a big family. He stayed with the Rogues even after Wedge Antilles retired, and Gavin was promoted to Rogue Leader. He was in that position when the Yuuzhan Vong attacked, and he stayed a commander in various forms during that whole invasion. Gavin isn’t a major player in the Expanded Universe, by any means. But he is still a high-ranking military figure who makes an appearance here or there. I knew him back in his heyday, when he was a young, hotshot pilot kicking ass and falling in love with hot alien babes.
And isn’t that what any of us want?
1. A’Sharad Hett
A’Sharad Hett may very well be my favorite Jedi ever, and it should be no surprise why. Just look at him! He’s a Tusken Raider Jedi! The Sand People from Luke’s homeworld in the first Star Wars movie, A’Sharad was one of them – and then trained as a Jedi! He’s the very definition of ‘let’s do something cool’ in the Star Wars universe. Let’s give a lightsaber to one of the Sand People. Better yet, lets give him two lightsabers! Hells yeah! But what’s so great about Hett is that his character doesn’t just end with that single image; even though that would be more than enough. No, Hett has an exciting backstory and a great coming-of-age tale, with most of his stories based around his training as a Padawan student and his rise to Jedi Knight during the Clone Wars.
What’s so great about A’Sharad Hett’s Padawan training? How about the fact that he’s the Padawan of Ki-Adi Mundi!
Oh Hells yes! All the times that old Conehead bastard appeared for a few minutes in the Prequels, we fans know that he later went back to the Temple and trained the universe’s only Tusken Raider Jedi as his student! A’Sharad Hett has a legitimate and important connection to the movies. He’s an answer to a question that only the genius writers of the Expanded Universe thought to ask: who is Conehead’s apprentice and how can we make him the most badass Padawan ever? Answer: Tusken. Raider. Jedi.
Surprisingly, Ki-Adi-Mundi was a pretty popular character in the Expanded Universe comics. Specifically, he starred in several stories in a series called Star Wars: Republic in 1999, around the time that The Phantom Menace came out. That’s where I first got to know him as a character, and where I first met A’Sharad Hett. I wasn’t buying the comics, mind you, I was just flipping through them at the supermarket. Shut up, that’s a legitimate way to read comics! Later I would track down some of the comics in back issue bins, or just Google the characters to find out more of what happened. That’s how I got to know A’Sharad Hett even more.
A’Sharad Hett is the son of famed Jedi warrior Sharad Hett, who left behind his Jedi teachings to join the nomadic Sand People of Tatooine. A’Sharad was born into a Tusken clan, and was raised by his father as both a Tusken Raider and a Jedi – until his father was killed by the villainous bounty hunter Aurra Sing! A’Sharad was only 15 at the time, and he took up his father’s lightersaber to swear revenge! Ki-Adi-Mundi was part of that same story, having been investigating the disappearance of Sharad Hett, and Conehead agreed to take on A’Sharad as his apprentice. These are the comics I read. A’Sharad joined Ki-Adi-Mundi for several stories in the comics, until he finally came face-to-face with Aurra Sing!
A’Sharad and Sing dueled on a foreign planet, until our hero gave in to his anger and knocked her out. As we all know, anger is a big no-no for Jedi. A’Sharad was ashamed of himself and wanted to quit being a Padawan, but Ki-Adi-Mundi’s former teacher – known as the Dark Woman – agreed to continue A’Sharad’s training. And that was pretty much the end of his main stories. A’Sharad would make a few cameos afterwards, fighting as a warrior in the Clone Wars. He even later took off his mask.
A’Sharad also had a run in with Anakin Skywalker at one point, teaching Anakin some life lessons, or something. Anakin wasn’t a fan of Tusken Raiders, after all. They killed his mom. But A’Sharad and Anakin became friends. Another cool thing about A’Sharad is that he survived Order 66 and the Jedi Purge from the end of Revenge of the Sith. Ki-Adi-Mundi did not. But A’Sharad survived and went back into exile on Tatooine, like his father before him. He stayed in hiding among the Tusken Raiders, waiting for a chance to strike back against the new Empire and Darth Vader. And we all know who else was in exile on Tatooine during that time: Obi-Wan Kenobi! The two had a duel, and A’Sharad got his butt kicked for becoming too savage while living among the Tusken Raiders. Obi-Wan banished him from Tatooine.
The rest of A’Sharad’s story gets pretty weird. While banished, he becomes a bounty hunter during the days of the Empire. It’s also during this time that he begins his journey to the dark side, uncovering some ancient Sith teachings. A’Sharad was also kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by those nasty Yuuzhan Vong again. The torture drove A’Sharad mad, and he fully embraced the dark side and the Sith. He became Darth Krayt!
This is where things take a dramatic turn.
Darth Krayt premiered as the big bad guy in a comic book series called Star Wars: Legacy, set sometime in the far future. The series, which I didn’t read, was about a guy named Cade Skywalker – I’m sure you can see where this is going. Darth Krayt’s true identity was kept a secret for several issues, drawing up the excitement of the fans. Finally it was revealed to be A’Sharad Hett! Only dedicated Star Wars comics fans would know A’Sharad Hett – but then only dedicated Star Wars comics fans would be reading Legacy. So it was win-win! This fun, exciting character was allowed to live on in more comics. Hooray for him!
So you can see why I like A’Sharad Hett. He’s got an amazing look, has a pretty cool story about his growth as a Jedi and eventually becomes the future version of Darth Vader. That’s quite the life!
Also, he got an action figure! And yes, I bought it.
Honorable Mention: Kettch the Ewok
The funniest joke in all of Star Wars, at least as far as I’m concerned. Kettch once again hails from the story of Wraith Squadron. But the reason that Kettch is only an ‘Honorable Mention’ instead of on the actual list is because Kettch isn’t real! Kettch is a running gag used to brilliant effect.
In the first book, Wedge Antilles and his pal Wes Janson were interviewing potential commandos to join Wraith Squadron. You’ll recall Voort saBinring up there as an example of some of the weird candidates they got. Well Wes decided to play a little joke on Wedge. At the end of a long day of interviews, Wes was like, “And now our final candidate: an ewok!” For a brief moment, Wedge believed him, until they both broke down laughing.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Over the next few missions, a stuffed teddy bear started showing up around the Wraith Squadron base. Nobody know who kept putting it there. Then when Wraith Squadron flew their starfighters against the pirates, someone altered Wedge Antilles’ onboard radio, so that when he was talking, it sounded to everyone else like he was an ewok. When Wraith Squadron later met with the bad guys (going under cover), some of the bad guys had heard the radio transmissions and wanted to know more about their ewok pilot. The Wraiths then just used Voort’s backstory – the one about being a genetic experiment – to explain how an ewok was able to fly a starfighter.
Then to fulfill the ruse, during one of the last missions, Wedge decided to actually dress up like Kettch! He wore all black and strapped the stuffed teddy bear to his chest. That way, when other pilots flew against him and looked into his cockpit, they wouldn’t see Wedge, but would instead see the stuffed ewok! It was just a brilliant piece of storytelling. Hilarious, and mired in Star Wars history.
But Kettch’s story doesn’t end there!
The bad guys, having heard Kettch’s story, decided to build their own ewok pilot. The bad guys had access to their own genetic lab, and they actually made an ewok who was smart enough to fly a starfighter. This ewok, named Kolot, appeared in the final book of the Wraith Squadron series. He and another character played small parts in the final battle, then finally fled together to Corelia. So the story of an ewok trained as a starfighter pilot lives on!
Now that was an exhaustive list! But it was fun to write. It combined my love of explaining geeky stuff with some of my favorite characters and stories. So do we have any other Star Wars Expanded Universe fans who read this blog? Who are some of your favorite characters?