With The Mandalorian exploring a lawless corner of the galaxy far, far away, bounty hunters — the scum of the galaxy — are now at the forefront of the Star Wars universe. Certainly, it’s been a long time for fans of the most famous bounty hunter of all, Boba Fett. But, as the famous scene in The Empire Strikes Back shows, there’s a whole stable of bounty hunters working across the galaxy for the highest bidder.
Besides Boba Fett, the other intergalactic scum only had a few seconds of screen time in The Empire Strikes Back, but those brief ticks of a clock were unforgettable. The image of a few alien toughs, some truly salty looking armored humans, and even a few droids fueled the imaginations of Star Wars fans for generations. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to spotlight some of the coolest Expanded Universe tales featuring Dengar, IG-88, Boba Fett, Bossk, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM.
Now remember, most of these stories were wiped out of continuity when Disney took over the galaxy far, far away, but that doesn’t make them any less readable and awesome. And yeah, we may even have a few that are part of the current Star Wars canon.
We promise there will be no disintegrations as we turn back time and examine the coolest bounty hunter stories of the Star Wars galaxy:
Ah Dengar, we know kids of the 80s probably referred to you as Diaper Head, but you are still badass. Dengar was front and center when Vader gave the bounty hunters their marching orders and could also be seen chilling out in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. Dengar was played by Morris Bush, an actor who also appeared in Hammer’s Scars of Dracula (1970), the Christopher Lee pot boiler Creeping Flesh (1973), and the bizarre Ringo Starr musical comedy Son of Dracula (1974). Interestingly enough, Bush worked as a stand in for David Prowse in Star Wars (1977). According to Prowse, that is Bush’s foot you can see kicking Obi-Wan’s cape after Luke’s mentor is struck down by the Dark Lord of the Sith.
But where can you read about ‘ol Diaper Head? In the 1996 Kevin J. Anderson-edited Tales of the Bounty Hunters anthology (get ready, this isn’t the only time I’m going to mention this collection in this article), author Dave Wolverton related Dengar’s origin in a short tale entitled “Payback.” In this piece of essential Dengar fiction (yes, such a thing exists), Wolverton details that Dengar used to be a swoop bike racer who was injured as a teenager by his racing rival. Of course, that rival was none other than a young Han Solo. Wolverton makes Dengar’s vendetta against the captain of Millennium Falcon very personal.
But Wolverton’s hyper-readable story isn’t our Expanded Universe essential Dengar pick. That honor goes to the season four episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars entitled “Bounty.” In this toyetic installment of Clone Wars, an aimless Asajj Ventress joins up with a band of roguish bounty hunters that includes a teenage Boba Fett, Bossk, and the grizzled, weathered Dengar. Dengar plays a secondary role in this episode (doesn’t he always) to Fett and Ventress, but when Dengar springs into action, he truly shines. Better yet, Dengar is voiced by lifelong Star Wars lover Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek), and you just know that when Pegg was a wee lad he took his Kenner Dengar figure on many adventures. Pegg’s Star Wars enthusiasm shows as he fills the once tabula rasa Dengar with a salty, badass personality. “Bounty” was a Dirty Dozen-like adventure through the underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy and finally gave fans a sense of who the bandaged badass of Star Wars truly is.
With a scant few seconds of screen team, IG-88 showed the world that not every droid in the Star Wars universe is cutesy. Yeah, we saw a few black imperial R2 and R5 units and a smattering of Death Star sroids, but IG-88 was a different mechanical animal all together. IG-88 was all sharp edges with a surreal design and multiple big honking firearms. Fans only got one quick glimpse of this death machine, but it was enough to emblazon this oddly shaped engine of destruction in fans’ minds forever. IG-88 was built and operated by puppeteer and effects guru Bill Hargreaves, and by operated I mean that Hargreaves moved IG’s head a tiny bit in Empire. But, damn, what a creation!
So we’re going to take IG-88’s chosen chronicle from the aforementioned Tales of the Bounty Hunters. In a short story entitled “Therefore I Am,” it was revealed that everyone’s favorite murder droid had a great deal in common with Marvel’s Ultron. You see, in this tale, it was revealed that there were actually four models of IG-88 that shared the same malevolent consciousness. The IG master intelligence wanted to kick start a droid revolution and conquer the galaxy, but when it was activated, IG-88 murdered its creators and then built three duplicates of itself. One of those duplicates answered Vader’s call for bounty hunters while the others began plotting for the droid uprising. After Vader gave his marching orders, IG-88 stealthily downloaded Imperial files off the ships’ computer. Through this data theft, the assassin droid discovered top secret plans detailing the construction of a second Death Star.
After IG sent that info to his duplicates, it tracked Solo to Bespin where it had a violent encounter with Boba Fett. Hey, remember the IG carcass in the background of the Ugnaught smelter sequence in The Empire Strikes Back, the one where the little pig people played keep away with Chewbacca? Yeah, this short story explains that carcass, as Fett blasts the IG unit to oblivion. But there were still three IG-88s out there. Two of them went after Fett but the last remaining IG-88, get this now, downloaded itself into and took over the freaking Death Star. Yes, according to Anderson’s “Therefore I Am,” at the end of Return of the Jedi, the Death Star gained sentience thanks to IG-88. Of course, this was right before Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, and Nein Numb blew the sucker up, but still, a malevolently intelligent Death Star is about as badass as it gets. That certainly would have led to the droid uprising, if not for fate and a fateful, last ditch bid at freedom by a desperate band of rebels.
IG-88—from a blink and you’ll miss it first appearance to a bee’s eyelash away from wiping out all non-mechanical life in the galaxy. Awesome.
Can you imagine Star Wars without Fett? Honestly, the whole saga wouldn’t have been much different on screen, but it certainly would be fundamentally altered in the hearts and minds of fans, because Boba Fett’s legend lives in the Expanded Universe, or fans’ own personal expanded universes at least. There is a mystique to Fett. Maybe it’s because Boba Fett was the first mail away action figure which signaled to SW fans everywhere after 1977’s Star Wars that there would be more adventures in a galaxy far, far away to come. Perhaps it’s the fact that the Fett figure was supposed to feature a rocket-firing backup until Kenner grew worried that kids would choke on Fett’s spring loaded missile. Dude, Fett is so dangerous he was considered a threat to real world children before he made his film debut. Take that Dengar!
Perhaps it’s that badass souped up Stormtrooper like armor that Fett wears or perhaps it is because every inch of this gravelly voiced outlaw is covered in dangerous armaments. There are countless reasons that the whole world has a Boba Fettish and the stories we are about to list take advantage of this rarified adoration. It’s hard to narrow down just one great Boba Fett Expanded Universe story, so we won’t. We’ll hit you with a few.
Boba Fett was played by Jeremy Bulloch in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. For years, no one knew the lethal bounty hunter’s origins until George Lucas detailed Fett’s clone birth in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002), but before that, Fett was a mystery than many Expanded Universe creators tried to shed some light on.
First up is a yarn entitled “Prey” that appeared in Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars Tales #11 (2002). This flashback story written and drawn by Kia Asamiya features Fett being dispatched by Moff Tarkin to retrieve Han Solo after the future hero of the Rebellion defects from the Imperial Navy. Darth Vader disagrees with giving this assignment to a bounty hunter and goes after Solo himself. This leads to Fett and Vader engaging in an eye popping lightsaber battle in the middle of the Mos Eisley Cantina! Fett, who had procured a lightsaber from a dead Jedi (awesome), held his own against Vader, proving that this bounty hunter backs down from no man. Solo escaped by attaching his ship to a Star Destroyer and floating away when the warship dumped its garbage. Hmm, that sounds familiar, huh? This battle also built that subtle grudging respect that can be felt when Vader addressed Fett aboard the Star Destroyer Executer in Empire.
From the Dark Horse era to the first Marvel Comics era, let us go back in time to Star Wars #81 (1984) by Jo Duffy, Ron Frenz, Tom Palmer, and Tom Mandrake. There have been a number of Expanded Universe accounts of Boba Fett escaping the Sarlaac Pit, but this semi-classic published by Marvel just happens to be the first. The issue was entitled (get ready for it) “Jawas of Doom!” Let that sink in for a moment.
The story takes place just after the Battle of Endor and sees Han Solo searching for some extra cash. Han, Chewbacca, Leia, R2, and C-3P0 fly to Tatooine so Han can withdraw his credits from a Mos Eisely bank. Sadly, Han’s credits were frozen at the same time he was (in carbonite, natch!). Meanwhile, Boba Fett was spat out by the Sarlaac Pit and picked up by aggressive Jawas. It seems that since Jabba the Hutt’s demise, the Jawas have become more and more aggressive. In other words, the only thing that was keeping these hooded desert rodents in check was a mob boss, and now that Jabba is gone, the Jawas have become a gaggle of little murder bundles. So the Jawas droidnap R2-D2 and Boba Fett, whom they mistake for a droid due to his strange armor. Boba Fett has amnesia because comics and becomes the Jawas hapless prisoner (this is like an action figure adventure I would have had with a 103 degree fever).
Han, who sets on a rescue mission, boards the Sandcrawler and is shocked to see Boba Fett. The two former enemies work together to defeat the Jawas (no, really) until Fett regains his memory and takes a pot shot at Han. Han leaps to safety just as the Sandcrawler plummets into, you guessed it, the Sarlaac Pit. Wahh-wahh-wahhhhhh! What a strange little must-read story. First off, it featured the first post-Return of the Jedi appearance of Fett and, secondly, it then almost turned Fett into a kind of tragic hero before depositing him back into the same pit of death in which he met his ignominious film demise. One has to wonder if Marvel was under marching orders by Lucasfilm to make sure Fett stayed in the Sarlaac, and if so, what kind of plans did Lucas have for the fan favorite hunter killer back in 1984? And what about those killer Jawas. How are you not eBaying this right now?
Let’s move on to some alternate escapes from the Sarlaac Expanded Universe fiction, shall we? We have discussed Tales of the Bounty Hunters ad nauseam (and we will again), but now, let’s take a look at Tales from Jabba’s Palace (1996), another Kevin J. Anderson-edited anthology. In “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett” by J.D. Montgomery, readers get to experience Fett’s time in the Sarlaac. This short story features the most backstory that was ever revealed about the mysterious bounty hunter pre-Attack of the Clones, as fans are welcomed into Fett’s thoughts for the first time. Most of these thoughts consist of “Oh my lord, I’m slowly being digested over a period of a thousand years. It hurts. It hurts. Solo is a dick!” but there is also a great deal revealed about the heart and spirit of the hunter.
This tale mostly takes place within the Sarlaac, as a trapped Fett is able to converse with the Pit’s first victim, a being named Susejo. Through Susejo, Fett learns how hopeless his plight truly is—but guys, this is Boba Fett, the most lethal bounty hunter in the galaxy, a walking weapon, the first mail away action figure! Fett isn’t having any of that noise and tricks the Sarlaac into digesting his rocket pack. Well, Kenner was right, that backpack was dangerous, and when the thing explodes, Fett is freed of the Sarlaac. Pretty intense and much better than dying while fighting rabid Jawas. Montgomery’s tale really highlighted what Star Wars fans new all along—that nothing can stop Boba Fett, the most lethal bounty hunter in the galaxy.
Boba Fett is so badass he couldn’t even be stopped by the The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978). For real, the haphazardly animated nine-minute animated short featuring the introduction of Boba Fett is the only watchable part of the infamous Christmas special. In this short, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker fall victim to a sleeping virus and Chewbacca and the droids must team with a mysterious armored figure named Boba Fett to save the heroes.
Over the course of the stiffly animated feature, Fett fights a lizard dragon thing and is still a menacing presence despite the fact that he barley moves in this unbudgeted production. Now imagine, kids everywhere sending away for the Kenner figure and encountering Fett for the first time in the Christmas special. Even though the rest of the special is unwatchable, Fett’s animated debut must have been pure magic for Star Wars fans of a certain age. And that’s why we love Fett and his mystique, because his uniquely marketed pre-The Empire Strikes Back introduction into the Star Wars galaxy introduced the very idea of an Expanded Universe. Expect more Fett very soon, possibly in his own feature length film in the next few years.
Bossk, possibly the most fearsome looking bounty hunter to gather on the Executor in The Empire Strikes Back, has long been an iconic but minor adversary in the Star Wars saga. Like Fett, Bossk was a Kenner mail away action figure, which just adds to the aura of this Trandoshan villain. Bossk is so tough, he doesn’t have time for footwear, and his arms and legs barely fit into his famous yellow space suit. You just know that Bossk ripped apart some poor pilot to score his flight gear, and the lizard-like bounty hunter really pops in the few seconds he is onscreen in Empire.
Played by British actor Alan Harris, Bossk also pops up in Return of the Jedi and has appeared in many Expanded Universe tales. By the way, that Bossk’s famous space suit was a leftover costume used in the 1966 Doctor Who episode “The Tenth Planet Part 1” is pretty cool sci-fi synergy, huh?
To find our Bossk highlight, we look to the recent past and to the young adult Star Wars Rebels novel Ezra’s Gamble by Ryder Windham (2014). Before this EU tale (which is part of the new Disney canon), Bossk was traditionally portrayed as an almost mindless, cannibalistic brute. While this has added to the infamous legend of Bossk, it didn’t leave room for character subtleties. Windham took care of all that by portraying the Trandoshan as a morally ambiguous hunter with a unique sense of honor.
In this recent prose Rebels adventure, Bossk is depicted as a reluctant anti-hero with a conflicting sense of right and wrong. Bossk helps Ezra Bridger and is presented to fans in a heroic light for the first time. But in Empire and in other Expanded Universe fiction, Bossk is a flesh-hungry monstrosity who uses his personal ship, the Hound’s Tooth, to track his prey across the galaxy. So whether you like the new, more complex Bossk or the slavering, blood hungry scum of yesteryear, you’ve got to admit that with a few short seconds on screen and one garbled line that almost caused ‘ol Admiral Piett to poop his Imperial trousers (Res luk ra’auf!), Bossk has long captured the imagination of Star Wars fans.
Zuckuss and 4-LOM
Before we delve into our final pair of bounty hunters, let us play the name game. When Kenner produced its last two bounty hunter action figures in 1982, the toy company made a bit of a boo boo. Kenner used the Zuckuss name for a character that was clearly a droid and used an alpha-numeric droid designation for a character that was clearly an alien. Yes, according to Kenner, 4-LOM was an alien and Zuckuss was a droid, but history now tells us that Kenner done screwed up. In recent years, 4-LOM has been correctly identified as the bug eyed droid aboard Vader’s Star Destroyer in Empire, and Zuckuss has become the robed, bug eyed alien and all is right with the galaxy.
But this name confusion just adds to the mystery of these two strange beings. The two bounty hunters in question appear in the same shot together and thus, have always been associated with each other. So when the two made their first appearance in the Expanded Universe, they did it as partners, as the Lenny and Squiggy of the Star Wars universe, but with an intense blood thirst and lots of guns. Before we delve into our 4-LOM and Zuckuss highlight, let us mention that 4-LOM was played by actress Cathy Munroe while Zuckuss was played by Chris Parsons (who also played the white protocol droid that appeared on Hoth, K-3PO—because if we’re going to go SW obscure, we might as well take it all the way to the extreme).
Okay, of course our 4-LOM and Zuckuss tale comes from Tales of the Bounty Hunters because quite frankly, neither of these scums has made many Expanded Universe appearances. You would have thought that with their really awesome costumes 4-LOM and Zuckuss would have popped up in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, but nope, it was one and done for this pair of assassins.
In the Tales of the Bounty Hunters story, “Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM” by M. Shayne Bell, fans learn the complex histories of both of these blink and you’ll miss ‘em bounty hunters. 4-LOM and Zuckuss ambush a group of Rebels as the freedom fighters are attempting to escape Hoth during the first act of The Empire Strikes Back. The pair planned to sell the captives to Vader and the Empire.
During the mission, fans learn of the background of both bug-eyed bounty hunters. 4-LOM was once a simple protocol droid whose programming became compromised. At first, 4-LOM began stealing from passengers of a luxury liner he worked on and before long became proficient in all sorts of mayhem. Eventually, 4-LOM embarked on a career as a thief and a bounty hunter and became so infamous, that even IG-88 considered recruiting 4-LOM into the droid revolution but thought better of it because the former protocol droid’s personality was too unstable.
As for Zuckuss, this diminutive killer was a member of the Gand species, a group of insectoid aliens that breathed pneumonia and had to wear specially-made breathing apparatuses or suffocate in oxygen rich atmospheres. Gands also used special chemicals called the Mists to help them reach precognitive trance states. Whether Zuckuss really had mystical powers or just kind of got high and hunted people is unclear, but it was clear that this alien and droid made a formidable pair.
In Bell’s tale, Zuckuss and 4-LOM are also shown to have a sound moral compass as, after the bounty hunting duo capture the Rebels, they free them and help the fugitives escape the Empire. So there you have it, according to the now out of continuity Expanded Universe tale, two of our infamous bounty hunters in question possessed the heart of heroes even though they looked like things that crawled out of an H.R. Giger fever dream.
Most of these Expanded Universe tales are now expelled from the Star Wars canon, but the wonder that surrounds these six bounty hunters remains. As we move towards countless more Star Wars films, books, comics, and cartoons, you can be assured that these six characters that captured fans imaginations in about six seconds will continue to fascinate Star Wars fans of every age. Happy hunting.
Marc Buxton is a freelance contributor. You can read more of his work here.