The Star Wars Content Drought (December 1986 – May 1991)
Star Wars books were few and far between in 1983. There were 10 novels, alongside a whimsical Marvel comics series and other comic strips. These novels were released when the Original Trilogy was fresh: late 1976 through late 1983. The Marvel series ended in September 1986, leaving many hardcore Star Wars fans thirsty for more. By then, there were also a couple of Ewok movies, the Droids and Ewoks TV shows, and the infamous Holiday Special. After Ewoks Season 2’s series finale aired in mid-December 1986, new content was scarce until West End Games released sourcebooks and role-playing-game books. Sometimes these gamebooks had prose and story scenarios, but Star Wars literature didn’t blow up until Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire in May 1991. Its success marked the end of the drought and the beginning of a new era for the franchise.
George’s New Vision For Star Wars
Hundreds of novels, comics, short stories, and more came out after Heir To The Empire, and all of the major plot points of these stories had to be personally approved by George Lucas. At times, George wholeheartedly disagreed with some of the plot points. For example, comic book writer Tom Veitch wanted to resurrect Darth Vader for the 1991-1992 Dark Empire comic series, and have the Dark Lord once again be a terrifying antagonist. Instead, George gave Veitch permission to resurrect the Emperor, and Veitch’s in-universe explanation for how Palpatine was brought back revolved around a cloning process. Sound familiar?
Heir To The Empire: The Root From Which The Star Wars Expanded Universe Stems
Zahn’s explosive first Star Wars book, Heir To The Empire, was the Big Bang that created the Star Wars: Expanded Universe. Almost all of the countless stories in the Star Wars: EU stem from its success and momentum. The book even impacted George’s Prequel Trilogy: the first time Imperial Center was ever referred to as “Coruscant” was in Zahn’s book. It featured debut appearances of fan-favorite characters such as the cunning mastermind, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the beautiful badass, Mara Jade.
The Thrawn Trilogy embodies the cinematic experience of Star Wars put to words. It was so successful that Dark Horse made comic book adaptations of them. The only other novel-to-comic adaptation that comes to mind is the 1980-1981 adaptation of Han Solo: At Star’s End. However, At Star’s End had the advantage of coming out when the movies were on everyone’s minds. Despite this, only the aforementioned first book of the Han Solo Adventures trilogy was adapted, whereas Zahn had his whole trilogy done.
The Many Ways To Digest Heir To The Empire’s Story
Heir To The Empire is the most accessible Star Wars novel due to the plethora of ways you can experience it. You can read the novel (physical or ebook), enjoy the comic (ebook), or listen to the audiobook (I recommend unabridged – and don’t worry – the other two books in the trilogy are also available unabridged). You can even listen to the audiobook as you follow along on the page. That’s how I read The Old Republic and Darth Bane novels. It’s the most immersive way to read Star Wars.
DarthAngelus & His Animated Adaptation
For so many Star Wars fans, Heir To The Empire represents the Episode VII they grew up with. To many more, it represents the sequel they never saw on the screen. But now they can! And you can, too! Heir To The Empire is being adapted into an animated series by DarthAngelus on YouTube. You can currently watch the opening crawl and the first seven chapters.
DarthAngelus’s adaptations are extremely impressive. The voice acting is on point. The sound effects. The music. It all gives you that nostalgic Star Wars feeling. The animation style is a rougher-looking version of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a notoriously expensive show to animate. I can’t wait for him to release his adaptation of Chapter 8! He is not making any money off of it, so be sure to send your love and thanks to DarthAngelus. And let him know who sent you!
If you enjoy his animated series and want to know what happens next in the story without waiting for Chapter 8 to be uploaded (though definitely watch it when it’s out!), I would recommend the 20th Anniversary Edition of the book on Audible, which you can permanently unlock for FREE with your 30-day Audible free trial.