Han Solo has long been the coolest, scruffiest, and most compelling smuggler in the galaxy, and we learn a whole lot more about the captain of the Millennium Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
In this blockbuster, fans get to experience the secret origin of the man who shot Greedo (first!), saved Luke Skywalker’s bacon at the Battle of Yavin, was frozen in carbonite, and ended up becoming royalty by marrying a princess. The movie also shows how Han met Chewie, how he became captain of the Millennium Falcon, and why he became a smuggler.
That’s not to say that Lucasfilm hasn’t explored Han Solo’s earliest adventures before. In fact, there are quite a few Legends novels and comics that explore Solo’s days with a band of pirates and his days at the Imperial Academy. These stories are no longer canon but they remain compelling looks at the life of Star Wars’ coolest cat.
And since Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars, the company has continued to explore the life of the scruffy-looking nerf herder in his very own Marvel miniseries and the ongoing Star Wars comic. Even though, Han might be dead on the big screen – at least when it comes to the Harrison Ford version – the scoundrel lives on in the Expanded Universe.
So hit light speed and join us as we look at the greatest Han Solo tales from the non-canonical past and the Disney present:
The Han Solo Adventures (1979-90) – Legends
Han Solo at Stars’ End, Han Solo’s Revenge, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
Writer: Brian Daley
Journey with us to the bygone days of 1979, when the Star Wars universe consisted of a handful of comics, a really big film (you may have seen it), and a couple of novels. That’s pretty hard to imagine now, when a new Star Wars film is announced or released every year, along with several novel and comic book tie-ins, but that was the nerd landscape back in the end of the ’70s.
Into this world of non-prolific Star Wars canon came Brian Daley and The Han Solo Adventures. Yes, a series about Han and Chewie’s adventures before they met that young farm boy and crazy old Jedi in the Mos Eisley cantina was an exciting prospect back then, and Daley presented a powerful prequel trilogy before prequels were a thing. In The Han Solo Adventures, Han, Chewie, and their loyal droids – the elder maintenance droid BLX-5 and the box-like computer probe Blue Max – go on a series of adventures and heists before the events of A New Hope.
Daley, who also collaborated with fellow Star Wars writer James Luceno on a series of Robotech novels, was a master world builder and really had a handle on the Han and Chewie character dynamics before countless EU novels and comics fleshed the pair out. Daley captured the Solo voice perfectly, and even the author’s Chewbacca was a compelling character and not just a fun background.
These novels were basically breaking the prequel ground twenty years before The Phantom Menace even hit theaters, the clones had not yet attacked, and the Sith had not yet had their revenge. Han and Chewie were flying high in these rollicking disco era adventures that tonally still hold up even in this modern era of constant Star Wars. In fact, when we saw the first Solo trailer, the feeling we got when we first read these books came bubbling to the surface.
The Corellian Trilogy (1995) – Legends
Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, Showdown at Centerpoint
Writer: Roger MacBride Allen
From Han’s past to his future, set eighteen years after Return of the Jedi, the Corellian trilogy gave readers a worthwhile adventure featuring the non-canon Solo family. That’s right, before Star Wars belonged to Disney, Han Solo and Leia Organa had not one but three children. Back in the old canon, Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo were three of the most important members of the next generation of Star Wars heroes. (Check out The New Jedi Order series for their most bonkers adventures.)
In this Solo-centric series of novels, Han takes his family on a trip to his old stomping grounds of Corellia. While Han tries to show his kids where ‘ol dad cut his teeth, a vast conspiracy arises on Han’s homeworld that threatens the New Republic. In fact, Thrackan Sal-Solo, Han’s evil cousin, is at the center of this vast plot to return the Empire to universal glory.
Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando also come along for the ride, as Han must deal with a very personal threat to all he holds dear. With all the Kylo Ren/Ben Solo stuff at the center of the Sequel Era, the Corellian Trilogy stands as a fascinating alternate look at what a post-Return of the Jedi future held for the Solo clan pre-Disney.
The Han Solo Trilogy (1997-98) – Legends
The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, Rebel Dawn
Writer: A.C. Crispin
Back in the late ’90s, A trilogy of books by sci-fi author A.C. Crispin presented the secret origin of Han Solo. These books are no longer canon, and we’re sure the upcoming Solo film will cover some of the same ground (there are definitely some notes from The Paradise Snare in the trailer) that Crispin’s trilogy hit in the late ’90s, but these Expanded Universe adventures are still rollicking reads that, like Daley’s early novels, perfectly capture the tone of what a Han Solo adventure should be.
Crispin’s novels scratch every itch Solo fans want scratched (except for seeing Han punch his quivery lipped, weirdly nippled son off that bridge in The Force Awakens). In The Han Solo Trilogy, fans will witness the days of Han as a street urchin on Corellia, Han joining and betraying the Imperial Academy, Han’s rescue of Chewbacca and the ensuing life debt that led to the most enduring friendship in the galaxy, Han’s first encounter with Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett, Han’s first meeting with Lando Calrissian, and how Han came to own the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
Crispin takes fans on a complete Han Solo origin tale that fits seamlessly into the Original Trilogy. Think of Crispin’s work as the spiritual successor of the coming film.
Tales #19 “Into the Great Unknown” (2004) – Legends
Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Artist: Sean Murphy
And just because it’s too insane to be true, we have to mention “Into the Great Unknown,” a one of a kind, mynock-shit crazy story from Dark Horse’s Star Wars Tales series. In this totally non-canon (even back in the Legends days) story, Han and Chewie get shot down by Imperial forces over a planet with a breathable atmosphere. The Falcon crashes in a lush jungle and the heroic pair is attacked by primitive natives. Han takes an arrow to the gut while Chewie fights off the attackers. A mortally wounded Solo asks his hairy pal to place him in the chair of the Falcon, where he passes.
Over a century later, an archeologist comes to the region in search of a big foot-like monster – and yes, that archeologist is Indiana frikkin’ Jones! He finds Han’s skeleton and says it feels strangely familiar.
So yeah, Han meets Indy, Chewie is Bigfoot, and the Falcon comes to Earth and whhaaaa? “Into the Great Unknown” might be as outside of canon as the Star Wars Holiday Special, but it has to be experienced to be believed.
Scoundrels (2011) – Legends
Writer: Timothy Zahn
The Solo film trailer totally had an Ocean’s 11 vibe, didn’t it? Well, Timothy Zahn, the man who led the ’90s Star Wars literary movement with his seminal Thrawn Trilogy, did it first with Scoundrels, a heist novel that features Han, Chewie, and Lando putting a crew together to crack the galaxy’s most unbreakable safe.
Scoundrels has everything a Solo fan could want. Crime, space battles, scum, villainy, and more crime, as Han must complete the impossible heist to pay off Jabba the Hutt in the days after A New Hope. This novel is Frank Sinatra by way of George Lucas and is a cheeky and fun romp through the Star Wars underbelly.
Smuggler’s Run (2015) – Canon
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Phil Noto
Heck yeah, Greg Rucka, writer of Wonder Woman, Lazarus, Black Magick, Old Guard, Gotham Central, and so many other great comics, penned a Han Solo novel. This YA adventure is the first Solo novel of the Disney era and features Han and Chewie going on a top secret mission in Imperial territory to rescue a lost Rebel recon specialist.
Rucka masterfully presents Solo as the smuggler still conflicted with either returning to his life on the run or serving his Princess in the Rebellion. A reader can see the utter love that Rucka has for Solo and his struggles. Smuggler’s Run serves as a perfect tonal prequel to The Force Awakens. Most of all, Rucka’s take on Solo presents the brash captain of the Falcon at his battling best.
Star Wars: Han Solo (2016) – Canon
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mark Brooks
If there are two things that define George Lucas, it’s space battles and drag racing. This 2016 Marvel series by Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks features both, as Han Solo uses an intergalactic space drag race as a cover to rescue some very important Rebels from the Empire. This adventure has an awesome ’50s vibe and really feels like the Solo story Lucas forgot to make. Most importantly, this Marvel miniseries is the type of pedal to the floor action Solo fans have grooved on for decades.