Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Changing Face of Han Solo

I would be lying if I didn't admit that Star Wars was a pivotal event in my life. I've been a science fiction addict every since. Key to that was Han Solo. I think as a kid I wanted to be Han Solo with a lightsaber - the perfect mix of Han and Luke. As time has marched on, I've felt more drawn to Han himself, though I'm not nearly so jaded.

But who is this smuggler? Many years ago I got my hands on copies of all of George Lucas's drafts of Star Wars and saw the genius of the complex story he first put down. As a film it would have been an unshootable mess, but it would have made a good book. It seems that someone had a similar idea and has turned it into a comic book. I picked up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. But in those pages is not the familiar dashing rogue played by Harrison Ford, but an alien and very much a side character. But this is where he began. He evolved through the different drafts to arrive at the character we see in the first film.

It was a long time from seven to ten before the second film came out. Still, the movies were not the only source for a kid those days to find Star Wars. I had some of the Marvel comics and I ate up the three Han Solo books by Brian Daley. Here was the Han Solo that has lived in my head. Very much still that rogue you can so clearly see in the original cut of the movie (where Han shoots before Greedo has a chance to).

Han Solo is not a good guy. He is a flawed man. He is not the hero of the tale, Luke Skywalker is. But Han has a good heart and gets pulled in by the Rebellion. In those days between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back that is who Han was. There was the movie, the novelization of the movie, the comic book adaption, the three Han Solo novels, and Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Aside from that was the Kenner action figures and how we took those characters and carried on the story. Much like role playing games.

Then came Empire. A new film with more Han Solo. We get some of his past and Han has gotten a little nicer. Then in the end he is frozen in carbonite. His fate waited for three years. Then he was back in Return of the Jedi and became a general and got the girl.

After that Star Wars kind of fell off my radar for a while. I found Star Trek and became a hardcore trekkie. But I couldn't stay away. West End had created a role playing game and I had friends who wanted to play.

We of course respected the rules and didn't use the characters from the movies, but I had a smuggler character with a YT-1300 freighter and a Wookie co-pilot. I kind of treated it like Han Solo, but more of the image of him I had in my head.

Then A.C. Crispin revisited Han's past. A new, longer trilogy (with a nice footnote about where the previous trilogy fell). It further expanded his background and other novels explored Han and the other characters post Jedi. Now, on the verge of a new film with Harrison Ford back in the iconic role, we get a chance to see just how close those writers came to how the role will appear in the film.

Through it all I think that the Han Solo in my head is the one from the original movie and the Brian Daley novels. He hasn't changed much over the years. He hangs over my own writing and I try to both be different and true to that image in my head at the same time. There are many other influences in my writing, but Han has been there since before I can remember putting pen to paper. He has been joined by many others; The Doctor, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Stringfellow Hawke, Picard, Riker, Worf, Sinclair, Garibaldi, Ivonova, Sinclair, Delenn, Janeway, Sisko, Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, and a pantheon of characters from written fiction.

So while Han Solo, the character has gone through many changes from inception to now (with more possibly on the way), my picture of him hasn't. I think that is because, like many good characters, he resonated with me stuck in the form he first appeared.

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