It’s always special when Lucasfilm storytelling inspires different groups across the company. To celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, the product development team is going back to Star Wars Legends stories originated by Lucasfilm Publishing. In partnership with Hasbro, four select characters from iconic books and comics will be released as 6-inch figures for Star Wars: The Black Series.
“At its core, Star Wars is all about amazing storytelling,” explains Chris Gollaher, director, product development, “and throughout the history of the company, some of the most imaginative and exciting stories have come from our Publishing program. We couldn’t celebrate the first 50 years of the company without acknowledging some of the great characters and stories that have come from our novels and comic series throughout the years.”
The process of adapting a hand-drawn character to three-dimensional form involves an unusual challenge. “With comic art,” says Gollaher, “we look at an artistic interpretation and compare it to reference sources from the films to transition from comic art to a highly-detailed ‘real world’ execution like the Black Series.”
The villainous Darth Maul appears in his Sith Apprentice form, seen in the 2000 comic Star Wars: Darth Maul, and itself inspired by original concept art for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by Iain McCaig. “Having an action figure of Maul in a costume he has worn only in the comic books is really fun,” says Lucasfilm executive editor Jennifer Heddle. “This is a pre-The Phantom Menace Maul, full of rage and drive, and poetic in his athleticism.”
Luke Skywalker is another onscreen character, only this time his appearance is taken from the comic Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, an adaption of Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel. “This is an opportunity to have a Black Series Luke action figure in a time period that he hasn’t appeared in as a 6-inch action figure before,” says Heddle.
A character who originated in Star Wars comics is Kir Kanos*, “a complex villain you love to hate,” according to Heddle. The story first appeared in the Star Wars: Crimson Empire comics series in 1997. “One of the coolest aspects of Crimson Empire,” says Heddle, “was seeing the red-robed Imperial guards in action, not just standing still as we see them in Return of the Jedi, but rather engaging in furious hand-to-hand combat. It wasn’t like anything Star Wars fans had seen before.”
Another character who first appeared in comics is Jaxxon. The large green rabbit debuted in the first Star Wars Marvel comics series in 1977 and became a fan-favorite. The character recently made a comeback in the Star Wars Adventures comics series. “Seeing Jaxxon finally become an action figure is pretty great,” explains Chris Gollaher. “We’ve talked about him over the years, but he’s always been just on the outside of core continuity. The new Star Wars Adventures stories updated the character in a very fun way, and gave us a really great execution to work with, so we went for it!”
The experience of realizing these characters in action figure form can be a personal one. “Seeing these figures takes me right back to memories of sitting on my bedroom floor, paging through the latest Star Wars comic,” says Jennifer Heddle. “Publishing’s ability to create those kinds of memories is a driving force behind what I do, and to have Lucasfilm acknowledge that legacy in this way is absolutely thrilling.”
For Chris Gollaher, appealing to the fans is what “we always strive for. With the incredible stories and characters that continue to come out of our Publishing programs, we will certainly have no shortage of great inspiration to draw from with our Black Series figures or even other product lines. We look forward to seeing what the next 50 years brings!”
*Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the Kir Kanos figure as Carnor Jax, as the packaging is mislabeled.