Continuing our discussion of potential "Star Wars" standalone movies, today let's talk about Han Solo. Out of all the characters from the movies that could carry a film by themselves, young Han Solo makes the most sense. After all, he's a fan favorite from the original trilogy, he has plenty of back story to delve into, and his criminal activities offer up a lot of potential for adventure. This was identified quite soon after "A New Hope" was released. In fact, one of the first Expanded Universe stories was a Han Solo prequel.
Right after adapting the first "Star Wars" movie into comic form, Marvel Comics created Han Solo and Chewbacca prequel stories with "Star Wars" Issues #7 - #10 way back in 1978. Written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Howard Chaykin, the comics were a perfect illustration of what could go right and what could go wrong in Expanded Universe stories. Taking the cue that "Star Wars" was a space western, the story "Eight for Aduba-3" was based on the movie "The Magnificent Seven." It also started building a cast of supporting characters for Han Solo and Chewbacca to play off of beyond those seen in the movies. However, this story also created Jaxxon – a giant green alien bunny modeled after Bugs Bunny. How Roy Thomas watched "A New Hope" and thought a giant green bunny would fit into that universe, I don't have a clue (Yet it was strangely foreshadowing of Jar Jar Binks, who would come along 21 years later.) While the quality of these spinoff comics can be debated, it did teach a couple of important lessons – Han Solo could work in standalone stories and keeping in tone with the original films is exceptionally important.
A year later in 1979, Brian Daley wrote a trilogy of Han Solo and Chewbacca standalone novels – "Han Solo at Star's End," "Han Solo's Revenge" and "Han Solo and the Lost Legacy." At the guidance of Lucasfilm, these adventures were set outside of the Empire in the Corporate Sector. While the stories were set far enough away to have no impact on the movies, they still hit the tone that fans were looking for. The important lesson from these books was that the Expanded Universe could deliver stories outside of the films that were still true to the characters.
It would be a number of years before Han Solo would get another notable standalone adventure. In 1997, A. C. Crispin kicked off a new Han Solo trilogy with "The Paradise Snare." I wrote a book review for it back when it was released, and this was my summary:
"The story begins when Han Solo is 19. He's an orphan living with a band of con artists and thieves, led by Garris Shrike. Han must fend for himself, but is cared for by Dewlanna, an elderly Wookiee who acts as Han's guardian. Flashbacks tell us how Han grew up and got involved with the thieves.
Han escapes from Shrike and takes on a job as a pilot for a strange cult. However, the cult is only a front for a spice smuggling operation for the Hutts. His bosses give him a Tiger-like bodyguard named Muuurgh who watches over him and keeps him out of trouble. Soon, though, Han falls in love with a Corellian cult member who is to be used and sold into slavery. Of course, Han rescues her, destroys the cult, and makes the Hutts very irritable.
Han then returns to Corellia with his love, Bria, and meets her wealthy parents. Will they accept him? Then, eventually, Han heads to Coruscant to apply to join the Imperial Academy."
Crispin then followed it with "The Hutt Gambit." This book, interestingly, almost completely skips over how Chewbacca and Han Solo first met. And as Crispin revealed in an interview I conducted with her for TheForce.Net in 1997, this was done at the direction of Lucasfilm:
"Per Lucasfilm's request, I did not cover Han's time in the Imperial Academy, or his first meeting with Chewbacca when he saved Chewie and thus caused the Wookiee to swear a Life-Debt to Han. I don't know whether any of that will be covered in the prequels, but from what I've heard, the time-frame for the prequel trilogy makes that unlikely. I've heard that the prequels are supposed to end two decades before SW:ANH. If that's true, the time frame would be all wrong."
The fact that LFL had so clearly staked out this story would lend credence to the idea that a young Han Solo film could be set in this time frame. A.C. Crispin then concluded the trilogy with "Rebel Dawn."
Han and Chewie got another standalone novel…sort of…in 2009 with the novel "Deathtroopers" by Joe Schreiber. Believe it or not, our heroes battle zombie Stormtroopers. On the surface it seems like a ridiculous pairing, but once you delve into it the story works surprisingly well. The Emperor secretly has a biological weapon (with roots in Sith history) transported on a Star Destroyer. When the virus is accidentally (?) released, the Imperial crew is zombified. All except for a couple of prisoners in the brig – Han and Chewie. We then get a traditional zombie adventure with a "Star Wars" twist.
In January 2013, Del Rey released "Scoundrels" by Timothy Zahn. Here's the official synopsis:
"To make his biggest score, Han's ready to take even bigger risks. But even he can't do this job solo.
Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han's got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he's deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There's a bounty on Han's head—and if he can't cough up the credits, he'll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king's ransom. Or maybe a gangster's fortune? That's what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han's less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.
All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy's most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it's Solo's scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?"
IGN.Com - Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg discussed their take on the standalone Star Wars movies as well as what they think of how the Expanded Universe should be handled as well as spoilers.
IGN: Is there anything you can say in terms of working with established Star Wars characters, or are you coming from a whole new plot and characters for your standalone movie?
Kinberg: This is what I would say: as a fan, I wouldn’t want to know too much. I know that’s impossible because it’s not the '70s or '80s anymore, but part of what was so exciting about A New Hope for me was I was entering into a universe I didn’t know. Even in Empire, I was surprised by a twist I never would have seen coming. But it’s different nowadays. I understand the excitement, and I’m happy that people are interested, obviously. But I’d rather people have something left to discover when they go in.
Clone Wars Season 5 Finale Trailer - The latest episodes of "The Clone Wars" have been quite impressive, and this trailer promises more drama. And did you know you can download entire episodes of the series at StarWars.com? Be sure to view Sabotage, which features a Mandalorian war, Darth Sidious vs. Darth Maul, and more coolness.
TheForce.Net - Fight Like A Jedi! Star Wars fans unite to help a young fan battle a terrible disease. See how you can help out!