Its been four years now since the Powers That Be at Disney/Lucasfilm have eradicated the old Star Wars Expanded Universe to make room for their own new movies, books, comics, shows and games.
From a business standpoint, this make sense because Disney paid a fortune for Star Wars and intends to milk the franchise until all that's left is the moo, but from another angle, it doesn't. They own the rights for all of the previous material, all the characters, planets, technology, vehicles, aliens and so on. All of these works are lying fallow in a vault until someone at Lucasfilm decides to go back there for some background detail that they can insert into the new material. Old Expanded Universe material is consistently re-printed under the “Legends” banner, but nothing new is being produced.
Being a Star Wars fan in 2018 is rough. The movies are terrible. There are only two video games out, and both are the same kind of multiplayer team-based shooter without variation (not counting cheap mobile games), the action figures are either poorer quality than they used to be or overpriced for deluxe figures, the tie-in novels are average at best atrocious at worst, and the fanbase has been alienated by a cult-like vocal minority that is in charge of story decisions and doesn't hesitate to insult fans who voice displeasure at being given an inferior product not worth the name “Star Wars.” Oh, and not to mention third-party trolls that circle any big internet slapfight looking to stir up trouble on either side for the laughs.
No wonder that Solo: A Star Wars Story would bomb hard in this atmosphere.
Its almost enough to make you want to go back to a time when none of this needless drama and conflict existed. That's what the Expanded Universe is for
Here are several reasons why the supplemental material released for Star Wars before 2014 are worth your time.
1) Its a closed loop. The Expanded Universe seems vast, spanning nearly forty years, but there isn't any more being produced for it. If you feel up to plowing through, you can catch up on it.
2) Beloved heroes acting like themselves. If Luke turning into a bitter hermit waiting to die or Han becoming a deadbeat dad who dies three years before he gets an origin movie or Lando Calrissian flying around the galaxy with the most unlikable sexbot in the galaxy aren't your thing, don't worry. Characters get into weird situations, but they're never written that badly out of character. Sure, Han fistfights a giant otter once, but it makes sense in context.
3) A wide variety of settings. Aside from the fall of the Old Republic and Galactic Civil War of the movies, the Expanded Universe dips into the distant past with Tales of the Jedi and Knights of the Old Republic, to the very, very distant past with Dawn of the Jedi, and a hundred years in the future with Legacy. Star Wars can be about more than just the Skywalker family, and the comics go to great lengths to show you how.
4) Good Video Games. Real-time strategy, first person shooters, flight sims, arcade actioners, 2-D platformers, and RPGs dot the landscape of good Star Wars video games. Most of them even have solid stories of their own.
5) Actual diversity. If you're sick of petite brunettes with English accents in every story, the Expanded Universe has you covered. Every shade of skin and hair on the human spectrum is found here, without elevating one at the expense of others. The men aren't incompetent boobs and the women are just as formidable to match them. There's also a ton of important alien characters with their own stories to tell.
6) Villain variety. It might come as a culture shock, but there actually are shades of gray within the Empire. From the blackest hearted Sith lords to cruel tyrants to selfish status climbers to genuinely good men and women wrestling with their consciences within a corrupt and evil government. The Empire in the Expanded Universe is still fated to lose, but they are never boring or one-note. This isn't even touching on the various criminals, upstarts, and Dark Side megalomaniacs dotting the franchise.
7) A genre for everyone. Military SF, mystic explorations, young adult books, Sword & Planet swashbucklers, spy thrillers, criminal misadventures, comedy, grim war drama, even a few horror titles. There's an Expanded Universe story to suit just about any mood.
8) Leia becomes President of Space. How does a mere general compare to that?
9) Everything interesting in Disney Canon was already done in the Expanded Universe, and generally better.
10) Satisfying payoffs. The heroes struggle against terrible odds, but good ultimately triumphs. Its Space Fantasy comfort food, and that's something sorely needed in this world.
11) Variety among the creators. Lefties, Righties, Athiests and Theists of all stripes worked on the Expanded Universe, and were able to coexist, because the emphasis was on the stories. Not only was there diversity among the characters, there was diversity of though among the creators.
12) More vehicle designs than revamps of Original Trilogy ships. Things get wild and crazy out there.
13) There's a lot of craziness to be found. Rancor-riding Force Witches. Lando teaching giant space whales how to play Sabacc. Force-Immune aliens from another galaxy. Leia talking to a giant clam to find out where Admiral Ackbar was in seclusion. The unbridled insanity of the Jedi Prince books. The Expanded Universe had a tendency to get crazy, and its rarely ever dull.
14) You know what you're getting. Continuity tended to be fast and loose in the Expanded Universe, and as time went on, the quality of the stories did dip considerably in places (with some genuine stinkers), but no matter what, when you read a Star Wars story, you got a Star Wars story.
So there you have it. Its easy to be disillusioned with the current state of Star Wars, but if you still crave the genuine article, give the Expanded Universe a try.