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Darth Maul Must Die, Boba Fett Must Live

JediCole here with observations on the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Specifically on the subject of two characters who met their actual or apparent demise on screen. And if you know me you know that on a personal level, if it did not happen on screen (that is the big screen, and live action at that), it never happened in the Saga. And while I will grant that there is much that should never have happened there, I am at least more willing to accept the events of the movies as actual canon than anything in the Expanded Universe.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the term, “Expanded Universe” was a banner title developed to apply to the ever-growing volume of novels, comic books, television shows, and other non-movie incarnations of the Star Wars universe, characters, and situations. What is remarkable is how quickly that term caught on. It really is a clever term as it easily speaks of exactly what it is intended to encompass and does so very well. What is curious about the term is how easily it reaches back to cover all that came before. In a sense the Expanded Universe existed long before there was an umbrella title to consolidate the literary and other works. Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and the entire 125 issue/3 annual run of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series are good examples of the Expanded Universe before the title existed. Here endeth the history lesson.

My focus for this article is more about the points at which writers of Expanded Universe tales have joined the ranks of those who just can’t let go. It is a difficult truism that authors must always be prepared to kill their (literary) children, and so at times a phenomenally popular character is killed off much to the chagrin of fandom. Look what happened when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tired of his most famous creation and sought to facilitate his demise. Certainly fan outcry is nothing new! And like Sherlock Holmes before them there are two Star Wars characters who met their end on screen and caused considerable angst among fans. And led to any number of survival scenarios some of which make Holmes’ chance recovery from the jaws of Death seem all the more sensible. I am speaking of course of Boba Fett and Darth Maul.

I will concentrate on Boba Fett first as his death was chronologically first from the standpoint of release dates of films, if not first in the timeframe of the Saga. And his demise, or seeming demise, was by far the more disappointing. In two brief movie appearances the Fett Man more than made up for the precious few spoken lines he was afforded with his indomitable screen presence. Boba Fett owned his every scene! At least in The Empire Strikes Back. By Return of the Jedi he had been remanded to mere set dressing within Jabba’s palace, yet he still made his presence known. And when they finally got out of the house he is played as something of a buffoon with the poorly realized depiction of his jetpack in action and the ham-fisted blocking of the fight scene on the deck of the skiff. And all of this serves to make his pathetic tumble into the gaping maw of the Sarlaac all the more dissatisfying. From his whiney cries as he meets his doom to the ridiculous belch that follows, the famed bounty hunter’s end leaves a bad taste in the mouths of hardcore and casual fans alike.
It is little wonder therefore that all fans of the mighty Fett began to formulate the all-too-logical scenario of his escape from the belly of the beast. Unlike any of Jabba’s intended victims past and present or indeed any of the hapless henchmen who were paid the wages of sin on the day that Solo, Skywalker, and Chewie were to be executed, Boba Fett was a walking (sometimes flying) arsenal! Resourceful beyond words his very attire had him equipped for any situation. Like his father before him he was a born (or cloned as we would find out) survivor. His salvation was quite literally at hand from the moment he slid into the tooth-ringed gullet of the Sarlaac.

And so he would make good his escape in the minds of fans and years later in the pages of a Dark Horse comic. Being decidedly unfamiliar with the content of that story I will say only that I am willing to accept the concept of Boba Fett having utilized the tools and weapons at his disposal to extract himself from that toothsome dilemma. It may well have digressed into a terrible tale after that but the important thing is that there is every reason to think Boba could achieve freedom by his own means. It is not an insult to logic and reason for him to go right on living after what would be the death of many others.

So it is that we come to the fanboy denial that is and always will be any hope or ambition to resurrect Darth Maul. Darth Maul is, in the words of Jules Winfield, “deader than fried chicken” after being clept in twain by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Like the parrot in the Monty Python sketch he is deceased, demised, gone to meet his maker! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! He’s wrung down the curtain and gone to join the Choir Invisible! He is an ex-Sith Lord! But I digress…

Like many who choked down Episode I amidst high anticipation and often equally high disappointment I found in Darth Maul something of a saving grace. He was a sexier and far more kick-ass Dark Lord than Darth Vader and he leapt about Theed Palace’s power station like an alien Spring-Heeled Jack! On screen he made a light saber duel with a Sith look cool beyond words. Who didn’t marvel at his prowess with his remarkable double-bladed saber and his acrobatic nature and start to formulate his even greater screen presence in Episode II? We all began to look upon him as Vader Plus as the with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon drew to a close. His status as the chief protagonist of the prequel saga seemed vouchsafed.

Then the unthinkable happened! With a look of astonished anguish Maul realized what the audience would all too soon learn, he had fought his last duel. As his dismembered body fell down the seemingly bottomless shaft it was time to bid farewell to Darth Sideous’ current apprentice…forever! But alas there are those who can not abide the passing of favorite characters. And Maul in his brief screen life certainly found himself elevated to fan favorite status. I should not have been in the least bit surprised that when I stumbled upon an online fan-produced Star Wars comic it focused on events following the fateful duel and its aftermath.

The adventure began with the Sith Lord clinging by one hand to one of those curious protrusions that had saved Obi-Wan’s life. That is it was Darth Maul from head to trunk. His lower body still tumbled into oblivion but was halted by the timely application of the Force mid-fall! Yes, Maul had utilized the power of that mystic energy field (or infinite colony of microorgamisms) to check the tumbling of his hips and legs and further to draw them up to his upper body as if by tractor beam. But this use of the Force becomes insignificant to the point of novelty when compared to what followed. Presumably still tapping the Force he willed his lower body to slam into the upper portion of himself and miraculously knit the two halves back together in a viable fashion that would allow his further pursuit of the Queen of Naboo!

Amazingly it was not this that caused me to close the website that contained this poorly conceived love letter to the late Dark Lord of the Sith. No, I was willing to soldier on a bit further until the next part of the story proved far too off-putting for me to consider subjecting my mind to further exposure. I only regret not bookmarking the site for future reference so that others could experience the pain. But indeed it would only be a few years later that something akin to that very concept would be given a more legitimate face. Again in the pages of a Dark Horse comic!

Like the one featuring the self-rescue of Boba Fett I am only aware of this particular issue, I have not read it myself. But as it recently became the basis of an exclusive action figure boxed set that came with a reprint of the comic, I am even more aware of it and its affront to the intelligence of Star Wars fans who are not of the “bring back Maul” camp. I speak of a story that features the upper portion of Darth Maul now turned cyborg with an exaggerated lower body that invokes a vision of General Grievous’ nether region and legs in the prior year’s model. Yes, this techno-satyr monstrosity graced the pages of a published comic book! It would appear that during his convalescence Maul let himself go as his trademark ring of horns had grown out to a considerable length beyond that seen in Episode I. Or perhaps the story simply took place during rutting season, so it is little wonder that the already bellicose Maul would have been a rampaging juggernaut of rage absent any reproductive organs.

I do not know the plot or outcome of this particular tale save only for that it appears to have included Owen Lars (as evidenced by the companion action figure in the set). To the author of this story I say, “No thank you sir! Do not disgrace the memory of Darth Maul with this fanciful tale of his return from beyond the grave. You hurt the saga with your contribution!” And to LucasFilm Licensing I can only ask if the process of signing off on literary works under the Star Wars banner has digressed to the level of mortgage robo-signing that was an integral part of the present global financial crisis. Did anyone actually read this thing before it was greenlit? Shame on LucasFilm and shame on Dark Horse! And Hasbro too for further qualifying this madness with an action figure!

Now I realize I have stepped on the toes of a great many Star Wars fans with this particular article. If you found the story of the Maulborg a compelling work then congratulations. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “For those who like this sort of thing it’s just the sort of thing they like.” To me there is nothing to suggest that Darth Maul is anything other than stone dead. While on the opposite side of this equation there is every reason to suggest that Boba Fett lived to fight (or bounty hunt) another day! It just makes too much sense to be otherwise. And besides, his on-screen “death” left so much to be desired as to elevate Captain Kirk’s lackluster parting in Star Trek Generations to the Cinematic Death Hall of Fame!

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