As in life, the Star Wars universe continues to grow and evolve into an increasingly complex ecosystem. It all began in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope and has since forked and branched onto variant pathways, twisting and turning more times than the Millennium Falcon.
So how to make sense of it all? What’s Canon versus Legends? Is The Bad Batch canon? Do we need our very own Jocasta Nu of the Jedi archives to keep it all straight? Nope. That’s where Youtini comes in! Consider us the timeline wizards. We are here to help.
A Brief History of Star Wars Publishing
A long time ago in our very own galaxy, George Lucas created the original trilogy of Star Wars films beginning with A New Hope. This was 1977 and it kicked open the door to a flood of novels like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and the Han Solo Trilogy by Brian Daley. These stories thrummed with life, exploding with Jedi and Sith, space pirates and bounty hunters, and screaming space creatures beyond our wildest imagination. All kinds of crazy things happened in these stories spanning 25,000 years. Luke fell in love with a sexy red-headed assassin. Han and Leia had twins. Dark Lords pulled starships out of the sky.
Meanwhile, George Lucas continued to make Star Wars movies. Next came the Prequel Trilogy and even more stories, comics, and video games followed. Then in 2014 the entire Star Wars universe shifted on its axis for the Legends/Canon split was born.
Walt Disney Co. acquires Lucasfilm
George sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company in late 2012 and nothing was ever the same. (When is it ever really?) Disney chose to usher in a new era of Star Wars storytelling with a more cohesive and planned timeline, but they understood, of course–how could they not!--that the previous epoch of stories were intensely loved by deeply loyal fans.
What was Disney to do?
Instead of shuttling these stories into the outer reaches of dead space where they’d languish and die, Disney chose to keep them alive and created an entirely new classification for them: Legends.
Again Star Wars mirrors life. For every culture has their “official” history and their legends. Legends are the popular but unofficial tales that arise around people and events. Even the world's sacred scriptures have official canon and apocrypha–in other words, legends. Now so does Star Wars!
Here’s how it works:
What is Star Wars Canon?
First things first! All Star Wars saga films, episodes 1-9 are Canon, as are most of the TV shows, such as The Clone Wars and Rebels. Films and TV produced after the Disney purchase are Canon too including Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rogue One, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
So, is Star Wars Resistance canon? Yes!
Sheesh, you’d think we’d need an entire website to sort this out. Oh wait, we’ve got Youtini!
What about novels, comics, and video games?
The first Canon novel to be released was A New Dawn in September 2014. Star Wars books, comics, and video games published after this are also considered Canon.
So, is Bad Batch canon? Yes!
Here’s some more Canon examples:
- Films–All of them! Yep, every single one.
- TV Shows–The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc.
- Comics: Darth Vader Marvel titles such as Darth Vader (2020), and Doctor Aphra; IDW with The High Republic Adventures and Viz Media with the manga, Edge of Balance.
- Books: The Thrawn Ascendancy Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, published in the 2020s; Dark Disciple by Christie Golden; Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed.
- Games: Star Wars Squadrons, Jedi: Fallen Order, Vader Immortal.
For more on Canon check out our “Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Canon.”
Star Wars: The High Republic
This grand publishing initiative began with Light of the Jedi in January 2021 and continues to unfold with novels, comics, manga, and other media that depict the Jedi at the peak of their powers centuries before their fall. What’s exciting about this initiative is that it’s deeply thought out and every book, comic, and piece of storytelling ties into each other like a glorious, tangled web.
If you’re fascinated by this era, you can discover more at our High Republic HQ.
What is Star Wars Legends?
Star Wars books, comics, and video games published prior to September 2014 are Legends. Many people used to consider this the EU or Expanded Universe, but after the Canon/Legends split the EU now encompasses both Legends and Canon. More on that later!
Here’s some examples:
- Comics: Marvel’s Tales of the Jedi and Dark Horse comics The Old Republic series.
- Books: Darth Bane; Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn, Kenobi by John Jackson Miller; The original Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn published in the 90s.
- Games: Rogue Squadron, Knights of the Old Republic, The Force Unleashed.
For more on Legends, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Legends.”
What about Thrawn and other characters that exist in both Canon and Legends?
Many beloved Star Wars characters live in both Canon and Legends. We can think of this as multiple potential pathways that a character may take. And so there is Legends Thrawn and there is Canon Thrawn.
I know, I know, it’s a little confusing, kind of like life.
In other words, Legends Thrawn does things that Canon Thrawn does not, but the two share a number of personality and story similarities - they’re written by the same author, after all!
Legends is a deep well shimmering with magic. Occasionally, writers like to dip into it. Why not? This means the potential always exists for other Legends characters to appear in Canon!
The Places In-between
How about stories published after 2014 that aren’t clearly Canon?
The Star Wars universe is never as black and white (or red and blue) as it may sometimes seem. Always in motion the galaxy is, unfurling beyond Canon vs. Legends, even Jedi vs Sith, into a kaleidoscope of places in-between.
Take the anime series Star Wars: Visions for example, or Ronin: A Visions Novel. Both were created after 2014 and yet are not officially Canon. These stories exist in an alternate history of a reimagined galaxy and you won’t normally see them on official Canon timelines.
Then there’s the trilogy of tales such as Star Wars: Myth and Fables, Star Wars: Dark Legends, and Star Wars: Life Day Treasury that blur the line between Canon and Legends. Although these stories contain Canon characters within Canon timelines, they’re more akin to Star Wars apocrypha–folktales and legends whispered at night around campfires–than actual retellings of galactic history. Maybe they’re true, maybe they’re not; regardless, they expand our love of Star Wars stories and deepen our insight into the characters and worlds.
How to recognize a Legends or Canon book?
- Check the front cover for a gold banner across the top that reads LEGENDS or THE ESSENTIAL LEGENDS COLLECTION. This works if a book was printed after 2014 when the official Canon/Legends split occurred.
- If it’s an older book and there’s no gold banner, check the publication date on the book's copyright page in the front of the book. Remember, if it’s published before September 2014 it’s Legends, otherwise it’s Canon!
- Check Youtini’s Complete Canon and Legends Star Wars timeline. We have the most complete timeline anywhere organized by Canon, Legends, and Era.
Let’s take Kenobi for example. It was first published in 2013 without the Legends banner...
And then it was reprinted after the Disney acquisition with the banner...
Now, the most recent printings even have an Essential Legends banner!
We know it can be confusing; that’s why Youtini was created in the first place. If you ever have any doubt, hop onto our timeline and confirm your suspicions. Our intel is up to date!
The Expanded Universe or EU–What does it mean?
Here at Youtini, we use the term Expanded Universe and EU to describe anything that expands the stories of the Star Wars universe beyond the films and tv shows.
Before the Legends/Canon split, the EU referred to Legends content because no official Canon content existed. But now that Canon exists as well, we at Youtini may refer to Canon EU, Legends EU or simply the EU.
It’s simple really. If it expands the stories beyond the films and tv, it’s part of the Expanded Universe.
So which is better, Canon or Legends?
That’s like asking who’s the best: Boba Fett or Din Djarn, Anakin or Luke, Padmé or Leia? Neither is better than the other. It’s just personal preference. Some devotees are crazy for Legends. Others adore Canon. Which should you read? Whatever excites you, ignites your imagination, and expands your universe.
There is no right or wrong here. It comes down to what brings you joy. The Star Wars story contains multitudes and is ever expanding. There is something here for everyone. All are welcome. Jump in, explore, and most importantly, strap in because it’s going to be an exciting ride.