Fans of the old expanded universe got a couple of bits of good news this month. First, at Celebration Europe it was announced long-time favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn was making his debut on “Rebels,” starring in a new novel penned by Timothy Zahn, and getting a new action figure from Hasbro. Then, it was announced shortly before this past week’s SDCC that Jaina Solo won the Hasbro Fan Poll and therefore, will also get an action figure.
Not every expanded universe/Legends fan is going to be entirely placated by these events but when Lucasfilm ended that continuity a few years ago, it was hard to believe even these developments were possible. It shows that at the very least somebody at Lucasfilm is beginning to try to build a bridge with those fans, even if I am skeptical Lucasfilm is going to give them everything that they want. It certainly opens the door to more of the Legends characters and situations being refitted for this new era.
So, what accounts for this small victory? It’s simple: the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Legends fans might not be the biggest faction in Star Wars fandom and their displeasure over their timeline being junked for a new one didn’t stop TFA from being a hit. But they are 1) vocal and 2) organized. Not every Legends fan has the same goal but at least as a group they have goals and have coalesced behind various campaigns. Star Wars fans who want better for the prequels and want more of their fandom interests represented need to pay attention and take notes because otherwise, we will continue to be taken for granted and ignored because we’re not vocal and we’re disorganized. I didn’t know about the Hasbro Fan Poll until after I got back from vacation and by then it was too late to vote. Legends fans voted early and often to get what they wanted. It might be a little churlish to complain because Hasbro has consistently made prequel and Clone Wars toys for years, but I’m citing that as an example of what can happen when people are motivated and unified.
There have been Legends fans who took their enthusiasm too far. We’ve heard the horror stories about people aggressively distributing flyers at cons, spamming the Star Wars Books Facebook page, bothering actors who have no control over any of this stuff, and making loony threats. I am not saying we have to emulate the worst behavior of some of those fans. I’m not even saying we need to take out a billboard across from Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus, yet.
What we need to realize is we can’t assume somebody somewhere is going to make it better for us without our bothering to put any effort into it. We have to shake off the assumption that either Lucasfilm and its affiliates simply hate our guts and won’t do anything for us anyway (but I am getting to the other side of that coin in another piece), or that Lucasfilm and its affiliates will get around to making us happy when they’re not so busy (hint: with movies coming out rapid fire that time will be “never”).
At SDCC, I sat through the Business of Geek Fashion panel, which featured Ashley Eckstein along with top execs from Hot Topic, Think Geek Solutions, and We Love Fine, plus an entrepreneur who within the last year started a men’s geek fashion company, Hero Within. It was asked what consumers can do if we’re not seeing the products we want. They all pretty much said the same thing: you have to ask for it.
Let me emphasize that point again:
A lot of these companies do not know the fandoms they are working with the way you and I know them, so they will go with what’s safe because that’s what sells. Ashley added that when these companies do make these items, it’s important to vote with your dollar because there’s so much risk involved in making and selling these things. In other words, if they do make prequel stuff:
It’s not only a risk for Hot Topic, it’s also a risk for the hipsterette or college student making items for her Etsy shop. Prequel items can be easier to find on Etsy, Redbubble, and other places where small-time, independent designers and crafts people can fill gaps in the market but if you’re not buying from them either, they won’t make more. The word will go out that prequel stuff doesn’t sell and prequel fans are too few, too cheap, or too poor to bother with. There’s a reason why I keep pointing out who’s selling cool shirts or whatever. Not just from the stuff I’m doing on Teespring but other people too.
Do you want to know why Sideshow has continuously made prequel items, even very expensive ones? Because somebody is buying them. Hasbro keeps making Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul action figures because people are still buying them. SH Figuarts makes those awesomely-detailed figures because we the people are buying them (more are planned, including Maul, Jango, and Padmé). As for companies that are not making prequel stuff, it could take a lot of time and effort to convince them the market is there. Some companies might not be doing them because not enough fans have expressed an interest in those products so they don’t think there’s a market. As I’ve noted before, I have gone up to these reps at Celebration and at SDCC to ask for prequel products. If I’m the only person who does this, I’m just one crank. If they get dozens of people asking at every con and they get letters, e-mails, Tweets, etc., they might start thinking about serving our market.
Legends fans feel that what happened to their end of fandom is an existential threat. Urgency fuels their action. Prequel fans need to realize it’s existential for all of us too. If there’s no prequel market then Lucasfilm won’t think there’s a market for books, comics, spinoff movies, or even having much inclusion in the saga going forward.