Today, December 1st, 2015, is the first day of the month when Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out in theaters. Let it sink in…
Okay, are you done freaking out now? Well, I’m not!! I’ve got a fever and the prescription is more Star Wars! To start the 17-day march to The Force Awakens, we’re kicking it into high gear with December Top 5’s focused on everybody’s favorite space opera franchise! First up, I’m digging deep into the six movies to bring you some of the most obscure, but totally awesome, characters and their odd, EU backstories.
One of the most incredible things about Star Wars is over the last 38 years since the release of the original movie is how every character, even the one’s that flash by for only a frame, have a backstory. While a lot of the time and effort put into fleshing out Admiral Piett or Salacious Crumb is now considered “Legends”, much of what has been written will most likely stay the same. It could be subject to change in future movies or novels, but I am fairly confident it actually won’t, as long as it wasn’t totally ridiculous or dumb. Anywho, let’s get to talking and start with a prequel character with one scene and with a tie-in to some of the new material that has already been released since the canon was reset.
5) Dexter Jettser
The very big, Goro-like alien with four arms who owns a diner and helps Obi-Wan Kenobi as an informant in Attack of the Clones. Dexter, or Dex, as the name of his diner suggests, assists Obi-Wan to identify the Kaminoian saber dart responsible for silencing Zam Wessel, the bounty hunter trying to kill Senator Amidala.
Now it seems odd for a diner owner to be the best source of galactic information, but we learn Dex has had a wide-ranging and odd career path. Hailing from the planet Ojom, Dex is from the alien Besalisk species, known for its adventurous spirit and propensity to quickly grow bored with routine. Dex had many odd jobs all over the galaxy including prospecting, smuggling, gun running, and because of his Goro arms, a professional fighter. Therefore, he has a vast knowledge and experience normal sentient beings would not possess. Hence, his ability to identify the poison dart used by Jango Fett.
His fate is largely unknown after the end of Attack of the Clones, however, the fate of his restaurant is not left to the stars. In the recent book Star Wars: Aftermath, which takes place right after Return of the Jedi, Dex’s Diner is used as a semi-staging area for a group of Coruscant rebels to launch an attack on a sector of the planet still under Imperial control. That’s right, he may not run the abandoned restaurant, but Dex is still assisting the good guys decades later.
4) Baron Notluwiski Papanoida
A blue-skinned alien species from the planet Pantora, Baron Papanoida is seen in one quick scene in the foyer of the opera house scene in Revenge of the Sith. You may not be able to see it in the picture included, but the role of the Baron is played by none other than the Maker himself, George Lucas. It is his only appearance as a character in the trilogy, but it was very common for crew to be extras in the movie, especially in the final prequel movie.
Baron Papanoida would remain only an obscure background character until his history and story during the Clone Wars would be hashed out on an episode of the animated TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Along with his two daughters, Chi Eekway, and Che Amanwe, they would cross paths with the infamous Rodian bounty hunter, Greedo, deal with Jabba the Hutt, and end a blockade on their home planet.
The best part is in the picture, Baron Papanoida is with Chi Eekway, his daughter, who is played by Lucas’ real-life daughter, Katie Lucas. In the animated show, Che Amanwe is modeled after Lucas’ other daughter, Amanda. While since Revenge of the Sith there have been other Pantorans introduced into the Star Wars galaxy, the original three Pantorans were all Lucas’. That’s right, an entire alien species in the Star Wars universe is based on the Lucas family. I wonder how they will work in George’s new wife and toddler? It remains to be seen. Should we read into it at all that Lucas’ species are blue and called Pantorans and James Cameron had a blue-skinned species on the planet Pandora? One can speculate…
3) Figrin D’An
An easily recognizable alien to even casual Star Wars fans, Figrin D’an is a Bith alien and the leader of the group playing at Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina in Mos Eisley in Star Wars. While most of his incredible backstory, laid out in one of my favorite EU books, Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina, is Legends, there are still some details considered canon. He was portrayed by legendary makeup artist Rick Baker, who also contributed to the costume, and led the all-Bith band in their famous cantina song “Mad About Me” with a small interruption from Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The EU details are both awesome and unfortunate. Their backstory leading up to their gig at the cantina take them on an adventure playing for Jabba, almost getting killed, and then being hired by cantina barkeep Wuher–the guy who yelled “No blasters” and didn’t like C-3PO being in the bar–to play. D’an was also a glitterstim addict, the Star Wars equivalent of heroin, and the music they played sounds like jazz, but in the EU galaxy was called Jizz. Yup, that’s right, someone made that executive decision at Lucasfilm. Thankfully, most of his history has been wiped out, and I wait patiently for Figrin D’an to reappear as Darth Thelonius in The Force Awakens.
2) Nien Nunb
I’m probably the most excited for this character! Since the re-release of new Star Wars material under the new ownership of Disney, Nien Nunb has been one of the most used and mentioned lower-tier characters. The cheeky co-pilot of Lando Calrissian in the Battle of Endor, Nunb was a muppet developed in tandem with Jim Henson Studios and was voiced Kipsang Rotich, a Kenyan student from the Los Angeles area. Richard Marquand, director of Return of the Jedi, said they grabbed Rotich and had him speak his native language of Hayan and Kikuyu. So, when the movie played in Kenya, there were people who could understand the dialogue Nunb was speaking to Lando during the movie. Super cool!
While having multiple EU stories and mentions, the new canon has used Nunb in multiple comics, including Princess Leia’s arc and Shattered Empire. Nunb was integral in the rescue of Alderaanian refugees from Nunb’s home planet of Sullust and received special honors for his bravery from Leia herself. It has also been confirmed he is a pilot for the Resistance in The Force Awakens. In fact, if you look closely at the Comic-Con Behind-the-Scenes “trailer”, Nunb’s head is in one quick shot of the puppetry studio. I’m super stoked to get more from him in the comics, novels, and now the new movies! So excited!
Probably the least known of the six bounty hunters tasked by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back to find and capture Han Solo and Princess Leia, Zuckuss has no dialogue, one scene, and is probably one of the coolest bounty hunters in the Expanded Universe. He was of the Gand species from the planet Gand, sported elaborate breathing gear that was necessary when he was off his homeworld. Normal, oxygenated air from the atmosphere of most inhabitable planets is toxic to Zuckuss and the Gand species, who breathe ammonia. Pretty rad, no?
Zuckuss, in the EU novel Tales of the Bounty Hunters, is partnered with robot bounty hunter, 4-Lom. Their partnership was born out of a Kenner toy error, where the two bounty hunters had their names mixed up on the run of packages. The error wasn’t noticed by Lucasfilm until 1989 and led to a lot of confusion surrounding who was who among the six bounty hunters on Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer. When it was finally cleared up, it paved the way for the awesome Zuckuss-ness we are all familiar with today. 4-Lom, being a robot, was a natural partner since he had no problem existing in Zuckuss’ ship, The Mist Hunter, which had sections devoted to pumping in an ammonia-rich air for Zuckuss to breathe.
For some inexplicable reason, I loved Zuckuss when I was a kid. There were few greater treasures to me than my bounty hunter action figures and Zuckuss was a consistent #2 on the list. He was known as “The Uncanny One” by other bounty hunters for his innate ability to sense a bounty’s location, emotions, and even what they are thinking and feeling. This is discovered to be from Zuckuss having Force-sensitivity–I guess midi-chlorians can breathe ammoniated air–which match up with his eventual leanings toward the New Republic and lending his abilities to the Alliance later in life.
Outside of the EU, most people will be familiar with Zuckuss as part of Robot Chicken’s madness where he is voiced in two sketches by Conan O’Brien. The second one with 4-Lom, voiced by Conan’s late-night co-host Andy Richter, is particularly funny. Zuckuss, while 4-Lom feeds him lines, convinces the Emperor to let them join the other bounty hunters in capturing Han Solo and Chewbacca. It ends with them high-fiving their arrival as bounty hunters and sealing a 4 PM appointment on the Super Star Destroyer Executor. The rest, as they say, is fake history.
All of this means almost nothing since the old canon has been wiped out, but I don’t care. Zuckuss is still the man and I love my Zuckuss action figure.