Disney’s 2012 acquisition of the Star Wars franchise obviously proved consequential, especially after it redefined the Skywalker Saga with a Sequel Trilogy, two standalone films, a successful live-action series, and an array of animated shows. Yet, one sore point (of many) for longtime fans has been the company’s erasure of decades’ worth of beloved Expanded Universe Star Wars novels, comic books, and video games, which were relegated to the non-canon label Legends. However, said erasure doesn’t mean the old canon is gone completely, as exemplified this week by Hasbro, which is dedicating a whole new wave of action figures to the Legends Expanded Universe.
Hasbro has revealed an intriguing quartet for its 6” scaled Star Wars: The Black Series line: Jaxxon, Darth Maul (Sith Apprentice), Carnor Jax, and Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Empire)—each character—or character iteration—hails from the Legends lore that Disney unceremoniously scrapped. Indeed, the fact that an action figure is finally (after decades of niche fan demand) being made for Jaxxon, the space-traveling bunny smuggled from Marvel’s Star Wars comics of the late-1970s/early-1980s, is indicative of a reemergence of the Legends lore.
Moreover, Hasbro’s choices—notably approved by Disney—do not seem random. Rather, they seem complementary to the return of other blasts from the pasts, including Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars, Star Wars: Droids, and Star Wars: Ewoks to the Disney+ library as well as the debut of Clone Wars bounty hunter Durge to the Disney canon.
Why are these choices significant? Because they reflect a growing trend for the franchise—specifically in the aftermath of The Mandalorian season 2, which further embraced forgotten Legends story elements, such as the Dark Troopers.
The aforementioned characters—save for Jaxxon and the black-clad Heir to the Empire Luke—had been turned into 3 ¾” scale action figures in the years before 2012, and Hasbro has since sporadically released other Legends characters in the Black Series (Grand Admiral Thrawn, Jaina Solo, Darth Revan, Darth Nihilus, Tartakovsky Clone Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi et al). Yet, the act of dedicating an entire wave of the Black Series—Star Wars’ de facto current main action figure line—reveals a mainstream popularity for these characters that extends well beyond the realm of elegiac fanboys. And perhaps an interest in bringing more Legends elements to the Disney canon.
“I’ve been a fan of Star Wars comic books since the 1980s, so the very idea of having action figures based on Star Wars comics publishing is mind-blowing in the very best way,” said Jennifer Heddle, executive editor of Lucasfilm Publishing, in a statement on StarWars.com. “Seeing these figures takes me right back to memories of sitting on my bedroom floor, paging through the latest Star Wars comic, hardly able to believe I was reading original adventures about my favorite characters. 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.”
In a divergence from Jaxxon’s classic cartoonish appearance in Marvel Comics or IDW’s current canon-adjacent Star Wars Adventures series, his debut figure is rendered in a quasi-realistic style, as if to emulate how he would appear in live-action form, a curious choice that leaves one to ponder if such a thing is destined to occur. (Don’t bet on it it.)
It’s no secret that Thrawn, who returned to canon as a villain in the acclaimed animated series Star Wars Rebels, now has live-action prospects glistening after being prominently name-dropped in a season 2 episode of The Mandalorian. It now appears that the evil azure admiral of Timothy Zahn’s classic novel trilogy will manifest in person for the upcoming spinoff series centered on Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano. Moreover, the inclusion of Luke Skywalker from Heir to the Empire is pertinent to this point, since he comes with Thrawn’s pet ysalamiri, a lizard-like creature that the villain kept with him at all times in the story—usually draped around his neck—because it has an innate property that nullifies a Jedi’s Force abilities. The existing Black Series Thrawn figure—which was recently reissued—was notably missing his pet (a 2017 SDCC exclusive deluxe version included his ysalamiri statues seen on Rebels). It’s possible this is all stage-setting for a future Thrawn live-action storyline.
The shirtless version of Darth Maul is a nice post-Disney callback to Dark Horse’s 2000 comic series, Star Wars: Darth Maul, which showcased the double-blader’s time under the tutelage of Darth Sidious before the events of The Phantom Menace. This rendition of Maul, whose Legends lore resurrection was adapted by the Disney canon via animated shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and live-action movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, has always been popular, showcasing the fuller extent of his intricate body tattoos. It had already inspired multiple action figures in the 3 ¾” line.
Similarly, the inclusion of Carnor Jax revives the once-popular villain from Dark Horse’s 1997 miniseries, Star Wars: Crimson Empire. The character, who survived the destruction of the Second Death Star, is a would-be Sith lord who rose through the ranks of the crimson-clothed Royal Guards and was vying to fill the power vacuum left in the wake of the Emperor’s demise. The imperious endeavor would thrust him into a conflict with fellow former guardsman Kir Kanos, who eventually defected to the Rebels.
After the tumult that followed the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, Disney has been doing some serious soul searching about its $4 billion investment, and as The Mandalorian has proven, a back-to-basics ethos is something that fans, young and old, can embrace. Likewise, the arena of toys has always been the franchise’s most reliable popularity metric ever since the 1977 marketing milestone in which kids were sold a piece of cardboard containing an “Early Bird” certificate for unproduced action figures from that year’s surprise biggest box office hit. It will be interesting to see if this Legends Expanded Universe wave of Star Wars’ Black Series figures proves indicative of the franchise’s live-action direction.