GUYS YOU CAN TOTALLY FACEBOOK AND TWITTER US. Those buttons up there aren’t just graphic blandishment.
Man, you know what feels good? Being back in the studio, with its limited number of characters, and its simple, solid-colored backgrounds. We loved visiting The Lost World Of Sid & Marty Krofft, but between Mowrer having to draw dozens of human and puppet characters, and me having to paint backgrounds for multiple fantasy worlds, a break was in order.
So, canon, then.
It’s not the same as “cannon,” despite what some people think. It’s a highfalutin-sounding word for an elusive idea, that idea being that it’s possible to quantify which parts of a series of fictional works DID not-actually-happen, and which DIDN’T not-actually-happen. The word itself has only fairly recently come into vogue here in the less-reputable quarters of popular culture, though in more highbrow circles, it goes back hundreds of years, at least to when the Council Of Trent declared most of the Latin Vulgate, essentially, Expanded Universe material. But hey, I don’t need to tell you about that.
Even before we started calling it canon, we were applying the idea: All those 1940s Green Lantern stories with Alan Scott that were contradicted by the 1960s stories with Hal Jordan? They happened-not-happened, just in a different universe. I guess that means The Acts Of Peter took place on Earth-2.
Actually, DC is probably the worst example I could give, being at least five revisions and a host of messy continuity fixes removed from their original canon. A better example might be Star Trek, which went to torturous lengths to reassure their highly…let’s call them vocal…fanbase that all the previous movies and TV episodes actually happened-not-happened, just in a parallel universe. You guys like your parallel universes, remember? This is another one~ And hey, here’s Leonard Nimoy to tell you it’s all right!
Of course, Star Trek has its own problems with the idea of canon, for reasons we’ll get to in a moment.
Which brings us to Star Wars, another property with a highly…let’s call them contentious…fanbase.
At issue is the fate of the Expanded Universe, the agglomeration of comics, novels, cartoons, TV shows, short stories, and variety specials, that has always accompanied Star Wars and really kicked into gear with the 1991 publication of Heir To The Empire. Specifically, how much – if any – of it is considered canon for the we-still-can’t-believe-it’s-happening Episode 7.
The simple answer, and the best one we have for now, is, “whatever J.J. Abrams doesn’t specifically contradict.” What that means, though, is still up for debate. A lot of people – many of them on reddit, because that’s where you go to get the internet’s initial, unfiltered reactions to things – seem to think the entire thing has been erased from existence, leaving the thirty-odd years after Return Of The Jedi a complete blank flimsiplast. That doesn’t seem entirely correct, though, if for no other reason than Abrams seems to be working hard to reassure Star Wars’ notoriously…let’s call them whiny…fans that he’s making a movie they want to see, and declaring mountains of material, all of which is beloved by somebody, null and void is not conducive to that.
Besides, this is no different from how it’s always been. As expressed in the first issue of Star Wars Insider:
“‘Gospel,’ or canon as we refer to it, includes the screenplays, the films, the radio dramas and the novelizations. These works spin out of George Lucas‘ original stories, the rest are written by other writers. However, between us, we’ve read everything, and much of it is taken into account in the overall continuity. The entire catalog of published works comprises a vast history—with many off-shoots, variations and tangents—like any other well-developed mythology.“
That’s how it’s always worked; if it happened (not-happened – you get the point) in the movies, it’s canon. If it happened somewhere else, not canon, but nothing specifically saying it didn’t. Unless the movies turn around and do contradict something, then Boba Fett’s backstory goes from some nonsense about a “journeyman protector” (and seriously, what the hell does that phrase mean?) to something more streamlined and character-focused.
And yeah, I said it. I prefer the Attack Of The Clones version to whatever the hell a “Jaster Mereel” is. Deal with it.
It was always George Lucas’ universe to fill in as he pleased. Marvel produced three years worth of fantastic Star Wars stories, but Lucas was under no obligation to include The House Of Tagge, Valance, or even Hedji in The Empire Strikes Back, and he didn’t. The Marvel comics themselves were often contradicted by everything from 1991 onward, when we got a novel trilogy, a comic, and a YA novel series all set in the immediate post-Jedi timeline, none of which mention the Tofs, the Nagai, or even the Zeltrons.
To further confuse the issue, enough people harbored fond memories of the Marvel series that most of it has found its way back into continuity, including the great David Michelinie/Walt Simonson creation Lumiya. Those YA novels, meanwhile, have been largely retconned.
All of which is pretty much what was happening with Star Trek while Star Wars was just a twinkle in George Lucas’ desire-to-make-a-Flash-Gordon-movie. Gene Roddenberry preferred to disregard the animated series – but several Trek writers like the idea of having a sexy cat woman on the bridge. And Sulu’s first name – canonically revealed in Star Trek VI – might have been something else if not for Vonda McIntyre’s great The Entropy Effect.
So, much like the biblical canon, it seems to depend largely on what you choose to believe, and what you ignore. Personally, I’d be fine if they quietly dropped the magical Force-repelling lizards, and all the clones randomly having double vowels in their names. And there, I just lost everyone who was still with me after the Boba Fett thing.