The first generation of Star Wars fans seldom fails to let the younger groups know how good they have it. Groans about content droughts are met with the usual "back in the day, we had to wait three years for a new movie - and that was all we had." It's a tale as old as the 'walking to school in a pile of snow uphill in January' line that every kid has gotten.
But their point is true, and even more lengthy was the 16-year wait for the prequel trilogy.
To hold themselves over until The Phantom Menace arrived, fans turned to the Expanded Universe books. Now falling under the Legends moniker, the EU largely explored the time just after the events of Return of the Jedi, with a few notable exceptions. It was during this span in the '90s that The Thrawn Trilogy came out, an iconic story that many credit for revitalizing the franchise.
Recent years have taken a different approach. In 2014, the canon was established, leaving just George Lucas' six films and The Clone Wars as part of the official Star Wars story. Nearly everything produced since has also been added to that timeline, with much of the new books' stories serving as tie-ins and ancillary material to the movies and shows. There's so much more being produced for fans to enjoy, but the publishing remains vital to many.
By and large, the canon story has remained fairly consistent. While there have been retcons and inaccuracies, those tend to happen in the changing narrative of the films. The books have stayed connected, and Lucasfilm has rewarded the biggest fans with cameos and nods to those stories in the visual media. Fans of The Mandalorian specifically have grown accustomed to this, and it's thanks to the respect for the efforts of so many, and those who consumer their work, held by the series' creators.
Favreau Talks Discovering Cobb Vanth and Importance of EU Stories
In The Art of The Mandalorian: Season 2 book, executive producer Jon Favreau revealed that he learned of Cobb Vanth while researching what was known of Boba Fett's canon story:
"I happened upon Cobb Vanth as I was investigating what was out there about Boba Fett and figuring out the best way to bring that character in. Cobb Vanth's is a story told within the [Aftermath] story. It felt like a western."
The showrunner also shared how valuable he sees the canon and EU in honoring Star Wars fans and the work of others:
"When you dig into the deep lore, you want to make sure that you're not excluding fans who don't know about it. But looking for inspiration in every corner of the Star Wars canon and Expanded Universe is a good way to acknowledge that people have spent a lot of time with these stories."
Think It Through
Experiencing the reactions to Cobb Vanth's live-action debut in "Chapter 9 - The Marshal" was fascinating. For diehard Star Wars fans, seeing the thin figure donning Boba Fett's armor in the doorway of Mos Pelgo's cantina led to elation. Those who aren't as versed on the larger story shared in the galaxy far, far away's books largely accepted the character's role for what it was and said "huh, he's cool.'
Cobb Vanth was a fairly obscure character introduced in the interludes of Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy. The story he tells about how he acquired his armor was more or less accurate to the way things were presented in the books, barring a few creative liberties (or, perhaps, some twisting of the truth on Vanth's part). But his segments in the novels remained memorable, specifically because of the prevailing assumption that the armor he obtained had belonged to Boba Fett.
While he survived in the EU and went on to have major roles in stories for the ensuing 30 years, Fett's fate in canon was left untouched until The Mandalorian. His inclusion in the series was natural given the influence he's had on the titular character, but the only way to bring him in was to introduce Cobb Vanth as well. This move turned out to support both characters, as Fett got the epic return everyone wanted to see and Vanth became a popular character with a much bigger story.
And that isn't the only element the shows have taken from the books. In The Book of Boba Fett, Mando's visit to see Vanth comes with the news that Mos Pelgo's citizens have changed the small cities name to Freetown - another thing brought over from Aftermath. The series also took the Wookie gladiator Black Krrsantan straight out of the pages of Marvel Comics, giving him a significant role as one of Lord Fett's allies.
Doing the homework as creator paid off for Favreau, as the reception to these inclusions has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans who dedicate free time to reading the books and comics are thrilled to recognize characters making on-screen debuts, an acknowledgment of their passion. There have even been nods to the old Kenner toys and the infamous Holiday Special, deep cuts that only diehards would recognize - but not things casual viewers would be confused by
As Favreau noted, the EU and canon is a great place to find inspiration. There's collectively 45 years worth of storytelling shared between the two continuities, and many things are worthy of higher recognition. Dave Filoni already brought back Grand Admiral Thrawn in Rebels, and the character has since received two book trilogies and is poised to be the main villain of Ahsoka.
Everything is important in the Star Wars canon. There may not be immediate payoffs for concepts introduced in the publishing realm, but when a window opens, there's a slew of options for creators to draw from. The Mandalorian's creators largely have free rein to do whatever they want, so long as things line up with what precedes and follows it. In an ever-expanding narrative full of exciting possibilities, anyone and anything can show up to aid the narrative and enrich the Star Wars lore.
Fans can check out what other influences will join the story when The Mandalorian Season 3 debuts on Disney+ in late 2022.