EU Action/Reaction: The Evolution of Boba Fett

weekly-column-v2Welcome to another installment of EUCantina’s weekly opinion column, EU Action/Reaction! Each week, I tackle a specific Star Wars EU event that has garnered a significant reaction from Star Wars fans and offer my own view to further the discussion. Once you read the article, feel free to leave a comment and offer your own thoughts!

This week, I’ll be discussing Boba Fett. He’s everyone’s favorite bounty hunter to either love or hate, and the product of an Expanded Universe that constantly redefines his character. Do we, as fans, identify more with his silent film persona? Do we appreciate his time as a Mandalorian meatbag? Or maybe as a cloned kiddo? It’s time to analyze Boba Fett and find out just what it is about him that we love and hate.

Everyone had a favorite Star Wars character growing up. Mine was always Boba Fett. That’s not to say I loved him more than the heroes and villains that had major screen time, though. There was just something about this bounty hunter, with a really cool helmet, that I was drawn to. Oh, and the fact that he had a jetpack, Wookiee scalps, grappling hooks that fly out of his wrists and a freaking rocket launcher on his back. This was long before my first dabbling with the Expanded Universe, when all I knew about Boba Fett was that he didn’t talk much and he got the job done. Oh, and what the heck did he look like under the helmet?

Boba Fett in The Essential Atlas

Back then, Boba Fett didn’t have a whole lot of people who disliked him. He was a man of mystery, so people could be drawn to him… but there wasn’t a whole lot of ammunition for haters. These days, things are a lot different. Thanks to Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Boba Fett’s past has been drastically rewritten to the point that the Expanded Universe has a few distinctly different portrayals of the galaxy’s most famous bounty hunter. I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at the different versions of Boba Fett. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to find some common ground for those who love and hate of the character.

Boba Fett in the Early EU

Back when all we had was the Original Trilogy, Boba Fett started to pop up more and more in the Expanded Universe. Granted, he wasn’t a big presence in the novels. Honestly, it’s easy to see why. Boba had less than 10 lines in the entire trilogy, and was portrayed as being a silent (but deadly) bad guy that you wouldn’t want to cross. He had some limited success in the Tales Of… books, but his real shining moment was in comics. There was something about his appeal that must have been too much for creative minds to pass up, because he shows up in Dark Empire claiming: “The Sarlaac found me somewhat indigestible…” Right off the bat, the coolness factor of this character shoots through the roof. His popularity must have been noticed by George Lucas too, because the bounty hunter was placed in the special edition of Episode IV: A New Hope – again, without speaking a single word.

The problem with a character like Boba Fett, though, is that he becomes so cool that you want to root for him. But… he’s a villain. Well, the writers found an answer for that too. Essentially, they turned him into antihero. He had a strict moral code, and was shown often pursuing his bounties to highlight him as the character to root for. His most memorable moments were in two comics particularly. Enemy of the Empire pitted Boba against Darth Vader as the two squared off for a prized possession. This was probably the height of Boba Fett’s coolness, when he fought Darth Vader and emerged (predictably) unscathed. It may not have been a believable fight, but I thought it really went to great lengths to put the spotlight on both villains. The shining moment of Fett, though, has to be Twin Engines of Destruction. This entry in the Expanded Universe sums up Boba Fett’s entire existence prior to the Prequel Trilogy. The story follows Boba Fett, who escapes from the Sarlaac Pit… only to find that an impostor (Jodo Kast) has been busy wearing matching armor and stealing his identity. Fett concocts a ruthless revenge, and utterly destroys the man – both physically and psychologically.

Fett battles Darth Vader

All throughout these stories, Fett’s past is barely delved into. Hints of it are scattered about, particularly in A. C. Crispin’s The Hutt Gambit, but overall, he remained very much the enigma that he was in the films. Author K. W. Jeter did attempt to bring Boba Fett to life in a novel trilogy, but the attempt fell flat. As a one-note character, Fett couldn’t hold the story on his own. Appearances by decidedly more three-dimensional characters, like Dengar and Bossk, helped the story along, but it ultimately was only as strong as its weakest point – that being Boba Fett. The problem, simply put, is that Fett isn’t interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention for a long period of time. He may have been really awesome when he was tearing through his enemies, but the dilemma becomes how to highlight the character when he has his downtime. Jeter didn’t even have the ability to describe Fett’s face, since no one knew what he looked like. At one point in Twin Engines of Destruction, Boba exclaims, “This is my face,” in reference to his helmet. It’s an extremely accurate statement for that time period – and something that I still believe today. His character was always the man of mystery, though usually with a really clever one-liner that served to enhance his coolness. There have been entire one-shot comics devoted to Boba Fett just going around and killing everything – seriously, check out Agent of Doom or Overkill.

But then, Attack of the Clones happened… and it changed the character of Boba Fett forever.

Boba Fett: The Cloned Boy Wonder

Boba and Jango

When I heard that Boba Fett was going to be in Episode II, I was ecstatic. I had thoughts of him killing some clones, or maybe even killing some Jedi. It never even occurred to me that he’d be much younger in this time period. To be frank, I was shocked and appalled to learn that Boba Fett was a cloned child with daddy issues. I had all sorts of different backgrounds in mind when I thought of who the man behind the mask was, but the truth was something I never would have guessed. I found myself annoyed with Boba in Attack of the Clones, everything from that annoying little laugh he utters in the Slave I to just his general whiny voice. It’s tough to see your favorite character get downgraded like that. The further complication with a young Boba is that in every Clone Wars appearance, he’ll still be a child. Too young to do anything convincingly cool or fearsome. It also means we’ll have to experience him without the iconic armor.

Which brings me to my next point: we now know what Boba Fett looks like. Sure, his face is probably a lot more damaged following his tumble into the Sarlaac Pit, but he overall looks exactly like Jango Fett. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Jango Fett. I didn’t care for his character in Attack of the Clones, and I absolutely hated how the Expanded Universe tried to force this notion down the throats of fans that Jango Fett was the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy. We already have one of those, and his name is Boba Fett. I felt like having Boba be a clone of Jango Fett was the twist of the knife that Lucas planted in my gut. The guy couldn’t even be an actual human with his own goals and aspirations; now he had to live up to the legacy of his father. And while a part of me, from a storytelling aspect, likes the idea of Boba growing up and surpassing the legacy of his father as a great bounty hunter – the rest of me thinks it just really takes his character down a few notches. It humanizes him, sure. But I didn’t ever think I’d pity Boba Fett.

Boba Fett: Mandalorian Family Man

Once Attack of the Clones hit theaters, it was like Boba Fett was reborn. In several different comic appearances, Boba would appear without his helmet. He would question his worth as a man, and constantly lamented his father’s death. In a flash, he went from an ice cold antihero to a sympathetic (and rather pathetic) man just trying to make his way in the galaxy. I’ve never much cared for the latter personification, even if it is that portrayal that allowed him to make a comeback in the novels. For the fans who read The New Jedi Order, you may have asked yourself: Where is Boba Fett during all of this? I know I did, and reviews of the books asked the same question. He did get a cameo appearance (finally!) in the last book of the series, leading a squad of Mandalorian warriors against the Yuuzhan Vong. Oh, and he uses a little post-AotC magic and tells Han that his previously obsessive beef with the smuggler-turned-hero was nothing personal. Yeah, apparently Boba Fett just hates the Jedi.

But overall, the appearance was pretty great. Fett turned out to be able to make the jump to novels with little problem, and it was great to see the older guy still being an undeniably great character when it came to kicking butt. It was the fan outcry, and positive fan reaction from The Unifying Force, that made Boba Fett a shoe-in for the Legacy of the Force series. Little did the readers know that Fett would become a pet character of the increasingly polarizing Karen Traviss, and that he would make his debut in incredibly odd circumstances. First off, Boba Fett really only appeared in a Mandalorian subplot that none of the other authors in the series picked up on. With the exception of Troy Denning’s series finale, Invincible, Fett only appeared in Traviss’s books. It was very jarring, because a reader would expect to have a storyline continue in the next book, not three books later.

Boba Fett on the cover of Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines

But honestly, that was small fries in comparison to the radically different Boba Fett that Karen Traviss introduced readers to. Now I’ve gone on the record before saying that I’m a fan of Traviss and I generally enjoy her work. I think I can understand her reasoning for making Boba Fett something of a family man and having him take up the mantle of Mandalore. It made him a more interesting character to read, and it offered a chance for readers to invest in, and care for, him. That said, I think it was the entirely wrong approach. Sure, Fett was still a feared bounty hunter and he did still have some great action moments. But what made me so excited to see him in comics and in The Unifying Force was largely absent from Legacy of the Force. Fett’s portions of the novels, while entertaining for me, were also extremely melodramatic – like a soap opera, as he fought with his daughter and had to deal with the return of an amnesia-stricken, long-lost wife. Then, of course, there was his attempt to embrace the Mandalorian culture. Now that’s not something I disliked, as “Mandalorian” has been a buzzword surrounding Fett since the 1990s with regard to his armor. But I thought his attempts to learn the Mandalorian culture were a bit forced, even if it did make sense from a realistic standpoint. After all, how many of the older fans have stopped and attempted to retrace their roots and learn a little about their heritage? Like Fett, it is often a fruitless endeavor. Frankly, I hate the idea of Boba Fett as a family man and a leader of an entire group of people. It goes against everything that the man stood for. And then he proved to be a horrible leader, as well as a horrible husband and father – further blows to his character.

The Future of the Fett

Right now, the future of Boba Fett is unknown. He hasn’t been seen since Invincible, something that frustrates me as a reader because the entire Mandalorian subplot of Legacy of the Force was left dangling. We are now five books into Fate of the Jedi, and it appears that there is no intention of resolving the loose ends. When we last left Boba Fett, the Imperials had attacked Mandalore with a genetic virus that left Fett unable to step foot on the planet without immediate death. What that meant in regards to his future as Mandalore, and how that affected his relationship with his family, is completely unknown. The Mandalorians have appeared in Fate of the Jedi, serving as little more than hired thugs, but with no reference to the leadership or Fett. Once more, he has simply vanished from the scene.

Young Boba in The Clone Wars

Now, it would appear as though the future of Boba Fett is in the past. He made an appearance in the second season of The Clone Wars television show, to much acclaim from his fans. He also appears in The Force Unleashed II – and the graphic novel focuses particularly on him. In both TCW and TFUII, Fett appears without his armor for certain portions (for TFUII, I am referring to the preview pages of the comic, available at Dark Horse’s website). To me, that suggests we’ll be getting a more humanized portrayal of Boba Fett for the very foreseeable future. I’m not a particular fan of that, but it does suggest that LucasFilm is thinking of utilizing Fett’s character in the long run. As for fans who don’t particularly care for Boba Fett, I’ve never understood why – aside from lame canon issues regarding the number of times he’s fallen into the Sarlaac Pit, which I fault with the decision makers and not the character himself. I’ll admit, I am definitely biased – but that doesn’t stop me from trying to see where my fellow fans are coming from. With such varied portrayals of the character, I would think that fans would be more at odds over which portrayal was better, rather than the “all or nothing” approach. Take me, for instance. I still consider Boba Fett to be one of my favorite characters in Star Wars, but I believe his portrayal in the early years of the Expanded Universe is far superior to what we’ve got now.

What about everyone else? Are you a fellow Fett fan? Like one version over the other? Or, for those who just don’t like him at all, I’d love to learn more about what makes this character so polarizing. Leave a comment!

- Chris

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About the Author

Chris Carey contributes to EUCantina as a writer and editor. He pens our popular column, EU Action/Reaction, and also contributes to our novel and comic reviews. Chris joined EUCantina in 2010 to help edit articles, but it quickly became obvious that his writing skills needed a more visible platform. He currently resides in Maryland, and has a degree in journalism.