When it comes to iconic helmeted characters in the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader’s only competition is Boba Fett. Introduced to most people in The Empire Strikes Back (he technically first debuted in the Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978, but the canonical importance of that tale is hazy at best) as one of many bounty hunters chasing the Millennium Falcon, Fett’s notoriety rests on his unique ability to best the biggest badass in the galaxy, Han Solo. Evocative as he was, Fett’s reputation was immediately torpedoed in Return of the Jedi when a malfunctioning jetpack sent him soaring into a Sarlaac pit to be swallowed alive.
How does a character this cool go out in such a lame way? Turns out, the rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. After appearing in Season 2 of The Mandalorian last year, Fett will headline The Book of Boba Fett series, which hits Disney+ at the end of this month. As die-hard Star Wars fans know, this is just the latest attempt to revise the fate of this storied character after a string of fits and starts throughout a nearly four-decade period.
The show will focus on Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his partner Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) as they position themselves as the new crime lords of Tatooine, the planet where Luke Skywalker grew up—a move that places them in the crosshairs of the criminal underground of the Star Wars world, which has a history that’s just as complicated, complex, and expansive as Fett’s. Before we crack the spine on The Book of Boba Fett, it’s worth exploring the rich text of both worlds.
Fett’s overwhelming popularity as a toy inspired the Star Wars creative team to bring him back for more. His first resurrection came In December 1983, in issue #81 of the Marvel-published Star Wars comic, which continues the saga past the end of Return of the Jedi. In Mary Jo Duffy and Ron Frenz’s story, Han, Luke, and Leia return to Tatooine and cross paths with Fett, who has survived the Sarlaac, but not without consequence—he’s suffering from short-term memory loss and ends up captured by some Jawas, who believe Fett to be a droid. The trio discover Fett as he regains his memory and attacks Han, only to be defeated once again when he’s trapped on the Jawa’s Sandcrawler, which careens into, you guessed it, the Sarlacc.
The second revival came in 1996 from J.D. Montogmery’s “A Barve Like That,” which is part of a Tales From Jabba’s Palace anthology book. The story involves a telepath named Susejo, who first tries to basically troll Fett to death before mind-controlling the Sarlacc to kill him. Fett survives, using his jetpack to fly out of the monster like a bat out of hell.
From there, it became standard operating procedure for Fett to get a new survival tale every few years. Some are more interesting than others; the Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction comic involves a bounty hunter named Jodo Kast who has been impersonating Fett (which loosely inspired the Cobb Vanth storyline in The Mandalorian’s Season 2 premiere). Others read like bad fan fiction; a storyline in the Legacy of the Force novel series includes Boba Fett training Han and Leia’s daughter to defeat her corrupted brother—which is kind of the plot of The Rise of Skywalker.
These stories were all sidelined and de-canonized in 2014, after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and cleaned up the many disparate elements of the Star Wars saga. At this point, Lucasfilm was actively developing the new trilogy, with an intention for “all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward” to be connected. The various Boba Fett tales of yore wouldn’t work—but that didn’t stop Lucasfilm from moving forward with a newly definitive account of Fett’s survival. Before the de-canonization announcement, Entertainment Weekly learned of plans to create a spin-off for Fett. Lucasfilm tapped Chronicle director Josh Trank for the job, who then famously left the movie in the wake of bad press around his much-maligned Fantastic Four reboot. Logan director James Mangold stepped up in May 2018 before Lucasfilm axed the film later that same year and shifted its attention to developing The Mandalorian. Fett’s quest for a solo title felt a bit like his first adventure out of the Sarlacc—just when you thought he was out, he got swallowed up again in the most embarrassing fashion possible.
Parallel to Fett’s series of stop-starts, there were a few different projects focused on the seedy Star Wars underbelly that also faced troubled development. In April 2005, George Lucas detailed plans for a live-action Star Wars television series that would focus on a period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Known as Star Wars: Underworld, Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum described the series as “Deadwood in space,” adding that he and Lucas envisioned it spanning “100 hours between Episodes III and IV with a lot of characters that we haven’t met that have been developed in some of the novels and other things.”
The scope of Underworld was eventually clarified: it would involve rival families jockeying for control in the disreputable parts of Coruscant (the Empire’s sprawling urban center, as seen in the prequels) with a bounty hunter as the main protagonist. A staggering 50 scripts were produced, but left in limbo due to financial concerns. By all accounts, Underworld would have marked a radical departure from the kid-friendly tone of the original movies. But after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, it was left for dead.
Hope for a more mature Star Wars project lived on—albeit in a radically different form. LucasArts (the video game wing of Lucasfilm) was actively developing Star Wars 1313. Revealed ahead of 2012’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, 1313 was a third-person shooter in which players took on the role of a bounty hunter stalking targets in the 1313 level of Coruscant—Assassin’s Creed and Gears of War by way of Star Wars. In perhaps the most winking nod, a developer diary titled “Descent into the Underworld” suggested that elements of the Underworld series influenced the game’s development. But it was another post-Disney casualty: In 2013, LucasArts closed, taking 1313 with it. A gameplay trailer found its way onto the Internet later that year, giving a glimpse of what could’ve been: a kinetic, action-packed game whose main character was now none other than Boba Fett.
After all of this development hell, The Book of Boba Fett has been positioned by showrunner Robert Rodriguez as a Godfather-like epic.The trailers (which Rodriguez confirms only include footage from the first few minutes of the premiere) highlight Fett’s tenuous grasp on power, showing the battle to control the underworld is going to be far more complicated than he likely imagined. The show could also resolve Solo’s cliffhanger, which saw Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra take over the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate alongside a resurrected Darth Maul—a recent Star Wars comic book crossover (set before the events of Return of the Jedi) brought her in direct contact with none other than Boba Fett. If Book of Boba Fett functions as a deep-dive into the criminal underworld Qi’ra aligned herself with and as a reclamation of decades of forgotten and discarded Star Wars history, don’t be surprised if the series tries to salvage Solo by bringing back Clarke in some capacity.
While some critics insist on letting the past die, the fractured history of Star Wars may end up becoming the foundation upon which a bold new future is constructed. It would certainly be poetic justice if a badass who went out like a bum wound up solving some of the Star Wars’ universe’s biggest sins.