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2018 Year In Review

2018 Year In Review - Part 2

Posted by Steve on December 20, 2018 at 02:52 PM CST


What a year it’s been in the Star Wars galaxy. While most of us are holding our collective breath for next year, which will go on record and be the craziest year of Star Wars ever, this current year was not without it highlights, lowlights and everything in between.

Let’s look back at just some of the things that happened in various categories over the last 12 months. We started off with the world of film and television; now let’s look at the publishing and online side of things!

Solo Official Guide Cover

Publishing

Star Wars released 14 books/novels this year, not including reference type materials, children’s books or paperback releases. Like most years when a feature film comes out, a good portion of materials published centered on “Solo: A Star Wars Story” But the year’s first big release focused on another film that was still in theaters, “The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition” novelization by Jason Fry which hit shelves on March 6th.

With input from director Rian Johnson, Fry expanded on key moments in the film and chipped in with new additional content as well. One approach that Fry had was starting the novel off with an original prologue where Luke Skywalker, on Ahch-To of course, is experiencing a somewhat prophetic dream.

In it, Luke is still on Tatooine and married his childhood friend, Camie Marstrap, and they are now moisture farmers themselves. This version has it that Luke retrieved R2-D2 at night unharmed and turned the two droids over to the Empire, creating an alternate timeline where Luke never goes on his grand adventure. This aesthetic earned rave reviews and much adoration for Fry, and would go on to inspire other novels this year.

For the year’s other feature, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, there would be seven books/novels, several comic books and a couple of visual/art guides related to that film released. The highlights include the time jumping “Last Shot” by Daniel José Older, “Lando’s Luck” by Justina Ireland, “Solo: A Star Wars Story Official Guide” by Pablo Hidalgo, and the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” novelization by Mur Lafferty.

Like Fry’s take on The Last Jedi, Lafferty expanded on the film in surprising and wonderful ways all the while adding original content. One of those inclusions was a scene where L3-37, after “waking” up, has a private conversation with the Millennium Falcon’s computer about self-awareness and personal responsibility. That scene, along with another where Enfys Nest hands over the coaxium to Saw Gerrera and a young Jyn Erso, made this novel a must have.

Women of the Galaxy

The feel-good story of the year goes to Star Wars/Nerdist writer Amy Ratcliffe who dropped her very first book on the publishing world. “Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy” was released in October and was easily the sentimental favorite of 2018, garnering overwhelming reception and reviews at ‘Cons and Expo’s across North America. The first reference type book focusing solely on female characters (75 of them in fact) featured pages and pages of beautiful artwork by female artists only.

I spoke with Amy in New York at Comic Con and attended multiple panels where her book was featured and the excitement each time it was mentioned was electric. Not a political statement by any stretch, the book’s purpose is to show just how many female characters there are now in the franchise, and that the sky’s the limit.

While those releases made headlines, the two biggest news making items for books came in July when we saw the release of “Thrawn: Alliances” by Chiss expert Timothy Zahn, and at San Diego Comic-Con it was announced we would be getting new books from Claudia Gray and E.K. Johnston. Gray (Lost Stars, Bloodline, Leia Princess of Alderaan) would be giving us the Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi novel “Master and Apprentice” and Johnston (Ahsoka) would give us our first Padme Amidala centered story, “Queen’s Shadow”

“Alliances” featured parallel stories where we had Thrawn and Darth Vader on a joint mission shortly after the events in Star Wars Rebels Season 3, while another narrative was set during the Clone Wars and featured Thrawn working alongside Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. Taking place partially on the planet Batuu and its outpost “Black Spire”, the book was also a way to introduce the “Galaxy’s Edge” attractions into the canon universe.

Next year things are already looking epic as we’ve got four big titles to look forward to including the already mentioned “Master and Apprentice” and “Queen’s Shadow” And just recently we learned that Timothy Zahn will be completing his current Thrawn trilogy with the release of “Thrawn: Treason” due out in July. For me personally, “Alphabet Squadron” by Alexander Freed out in June, has me the most excited of the lot announced so far.

Darth Vader #25 Cover

As for comic books in 2018, it was a banner year as we saw some new titles grab the public’s attention, while many already established runs either continued their success or sadly came to an end. This will go down as the year of Darth Vader however as the Dark Lord had one of the great runs plus his occasional appearance in the Doctor Aphra series and other ancillary products.

Charles Soules “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” series, which sadly just came to end on December 18, was consistently the most interesting series all year and featured some of the best character development and arcs I’ve ever seen. The “Burning Seas” and “Fortress Vader” arcs are stunning in their depth and world-building and were easily my two favorite stories of the year. How Soule was able to alter our perspective and expand on a character so wildly examined is noteworthy to say the least. As Soule recently told StarWars.com’s Kristin Baver…

I wanted to create a Vader that didn’t feel like a Vader that we’ve seen in all the other Vader appearances. Fans know him as an extremely confident and menacing figure who seems to know exactly what he’s doing at all times, and can’t be stopped, can’t be defeated, can't even screw up really in some ways.”

He ended the series on the “Fortress Vader” arc which reveals sides of this character and Sith practices not often thought about anymore. Vader’s journey is cathartic to say the least and by the time we get to the end, we start to see shades of the Vader we know from the original films. The announcement was officially made at New York Comic Con that Soule would finish his run and writer Chuck Wendig would receive the Vader baton if you will with a brand-new short series called, “Star Wars: Shadow of Vader”

Only trouble is, Wendig was fired by Marvel from this and future projects in October for what they considered obscene behavior on social media, mainly Twitter. They would eventually cancel the series all together and move on with “Vader: Dark Visions” written by Dennis Hopeless. The decision to fire Wendig was met with fury by some and congratulations by others who agreed with the decision.

Regardless of which side you landed on, it proved to be one of more polarizing and newsworthy items of the year, in the Star Wars publishing realm anyways. And while Lucasfilm has yet to comment on it, Wendig has said his relationship with them is still intact.

Another one of Soule’s runs, the excellent Poe Dameron series, came to an end in September after 31 issues and 2 annuals. This series, which took us from the events in The Force Awakens all the way to after The Last Jedi, more than any other run, set up future events in this current timeline. It directly puts in play certain details which are sure to show up in J.J. Abrams Episode IX including Poe’s promotion back to Commander and the return of his beloved Black Squadron. How they will be addressed, we of course don’t know yet.

Even the Forces of Destiny shorts got into the comic game with a great 5-issue series featuring some of my favorite covers of the year, mostly the Elsa Charratier variants.

Both Gary Whitta’s six-issue Marvel run and Alessandro Ferrari’s graphic novel based on The Last Jedi were superb and expanded on the film in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. The Whitta series, more than just a retelling of the events of the film, gave us new insight into some key moments including Ackbar’s last words, Leia’s inner monologue while floating in space and Luke’s final thoughts before dying. Like Fry’s novel, this series does what it sets out to do, expand on an already great story.

Doctor Aphra #18 Cover

Writer Simon Spurrier had a tremendous year with his Doctor Aphra series which is at issue #27 and counting. As we moved from the “Remastered” arc into the “Catastrophe Con” one, this series and its titular lead, only gets better and better. Issue #18 featured one of the best covers (Ashley Witter) and guest spots of the year, namely Star Wars Rebels alum General Hera Syndulla.

Another big announcement at San Diego Comic-Con was that Marvel was launching an “Age of…” mini-series that would take place over three notable eras which include the Rebellion, the Republic and the Resistance. Each series, starting with “Age of Republic”, will get an 8-issue treatment with a different writer each time.

Every month will get two releases, one focused on a hero and the other on a villain. It kicked off this month with Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul gracing the covers, accompanied by a few variants. The rest will be released the early part of next year.

The ongoing Marvel Comics Star Wars series reached issue #61 just recently and this year we saw two very exciting and insightful arcs begin and end with “Mutiny at Mon Cala” and “Hope Dies” Kieron Gillen has really upped the action this year and gave us many great moments including Luke learning the history behind Jyn Erso and the Rogue One team. These again, like other runs this year, we experienced world building at another level as the Lucasfilm story group is really bringing all sides of the franchise together for more cohesive stories.

I know for a fact, the focus on the publishing side of the Disney/Lucasfilm house is a big focus over the next 4 to 5 years. They really see an opportunity to tell more original stories, expanded on current ones, and move around in the timeline more fluidly. Speaking with Michael Siglain, head of publishing at Disney/Lucasfilm, he noted while the focus will definitely be providing ancillary support to major studio projects, they will continue to also tell original stories going as far back as necessary.

Online Content

“2018 was great because we got to celebrate and feature the fans in ways like never before with Our Star Wars Stories and the Fan Awards. As well we produced what is probably our favorite single piece of content we've done, the amazing Arrested Development/Star Wars with Ron Howard."

~Mickey Capoferri, Senior Director of Online Content and Programming

The focus this year from Capoferri and his online team was clearly fan driven which was directly reflected in the content you saw throughout year. From “The Star Wars Show” really upping their game, the return of the Fan Awards, to the amazing docuseries “Our Star Wars Stories”, it was clear the fans were at their frontal lobes.

A holdover from last year, the “Forces of Destiny” shorts remained strong and ran a second season of the popular series which went from March to May, airing 16 episodes. As of this writing, Lucasfilm has stated there are no plans to make more so we’ll have to wait and see. In a poll with fans, this series ranked #1 in the “digital shorts” category so here’s hoping we see more down the road. Like I mentioned earlier, these quick takes, which are widely accessible due to their online strategy, will be the norm going forward.





In the month of May, in perhaps the most amusing video The Star Wars Show folks put together this year, was getting director Ron Howard to narrate the story of Star Wars: A New Hope, Arrested Development style! It was a big winner with the fans, and showed that even the business side of Star Wars can be entertaining, something that show in particular focused on this year. And as you saw from the quote above, it was something they were particularly proud of.





In July the good will kept on coming as they announced that the fan awards were back with the "2018 Star Wars Fan Awards"! The awards, which honor the best of fandom in a variety of categories, were expanded this year to include several more categories other than fan films which have historically been the case.

I’m told they received a record number of entries and if you were part of the process either as a creator or voter, you were witness to some incredible and creative works by the most passionate fans in the galaxy! The winners were announced just a couple of weeks ago in a special episode of The Star Wars Show





Hands down the most meaningful and heartfelt piece of online content this year was the docuseries, “Our Star Wars Stories”, which took a closer look at four fans and one family, and how Star Wars has changed their lives for the better.

The five episodes, hosted by Toy Hunter’s Jordan Hembrough, gave us a look into the private lives of some of the most dedicated and authentic fans out there including 501st founder Albin Johnson and the cosplaying Perales family. Each one opened their doors to Hembrough, producer Matt Martin and director Alan Griswold and reminded us all just how great Star Wars is at bringing people together and inspiring countless more.

The year ended with the surprise drop of another round of shorts on November 30th, this time based on some of the all-time great moments in Star Wars film history. The “Galaxy of Adventures” shorts aired on a new outlet even for Star Wars, squarely aimed at kids with the aptly titled, “Star Wars Kids” website and YouTube channel.

These shorts, only a minute in length, employed a heavy dose of anime inspired CG that had many fans of all ages wondering why haven’t they used this style before? Because these things take time, there is of course zero chance they were inspired from the animotion Star Wars trailer by YouTuber Dimitry Grozov back in September. That trailer, based on “Star Wars – A New Hope”, took the community by storm…





So, as we enter 2019, expect a lot more from the dot com side of things as shorter, digital, focus based content will soon be the norm, not the exception. Of course, as a film first franchise, there will always be features and full-length series, but how we consume them in the coming years will most definitely be shifting.


Related Stories:

Star Wars 2018 - In Memoriam
2018 Year In Review
Star Wars - Galaxy of Adventures Seven New Shorts Added Online!
Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy - Review And Interview!
Introducing Our Star Wars Stories

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