Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Mandalore Connection

'Some said he was a Mandalore warrior; others said he merely wore the Mandalore battlesuit because of its unrivalled killing power. The truth was impossible to confirm, for none had seen the face that gazed with merciless eyes from within that battered helmet - none, at least, that lived to tell the tale.'
John Wagner, Boba Fett: When The Fat Lady Swings (1996)

'Not much is known about Boba Fett. He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there aren't many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars. Whether he was a shocktrooper or not is unknown. He is the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, and cares little for whom he works -- as long as they pay.'
Bantha Tracks #5 (Summer 1979)

The in-universe origins of Boba Fett's wardrobe have been long debated, as much as, if not more so than any other aspect of the character. Every variation of the suit, even the original Holiday Special animation cells, carries with it some new questions about the history of the enigmatic bounty hunter - usually, "What is that, and where did it come from?" The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook first confirmed Boba's helmet and armour as once belonging to a race of mysterious warriors called the Mandalorians, an ancient nemesis of the Jedi Knights.

Throughout early Star Wars EU literature it was left somewhat ambiguous as to whether Boba Fett was an actual Mandalore warrior or just an extremely proficient bounty hunter - many stories even contradicted each other. For instance, the Marvel comics render Boba Fett as a Mandalorian supercommando alongside Fenn Shysa and Tobbi Dala, who put honour aside and became a bounty hunter for the Empire; whereas The Last Man Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett by Daniel Keys Moran paints Boba Fett as a failed lawman who had nothing to do with the Mandalorians.

In this splash panel from 1983, white-cheeked Boba Fetts frenziedly shoot in all directions upon being shown a polaroid of Carrie Fisher.
This all changed with 2002's Attack of the Clones, which revealed Boba's 'father', Jango Fett, wearing what appeared to be a brand new set of Mandalorian armour. While it was never actually made explicit that Jango was one of the shocktroopers wiped out by the Jedi, the Expanded Universe took the assumption that Jango (and by extension, Boba) was the last of the Mandalorians and ran with it. Our first good look at the Mandalorians as a people came with 2002's Knight of the Old Republic, in which ancient warriors sparked the celebrated cultural pasttime of losing wars to the Jedi. This soon led to author Karen Traviss' take on the Mandalorians as a highly individualized and nomadic group.
Traviss began exploring the Mandalorians in her Republic Commando novels and later her installments of the Legacy of the Force series. She went so far as to develop an entire language around the characters. Her portrayal was readily adopted by fans, affectionately (or perhaps not so affectionately) referred to as Fandalorians. The Traviss Mandalorians were best described as a motley crew of Viking mercenary badasses who all looked and acted differently (though they all chewed on space jerky and suffered from Mary Sue complexes): basically an army of Boba Fetts who could do no wrong. Predictably, everyone loved this.

But the heads at Lucasfilm were telling a different story. In 2010 an episode of the Clone Wars entitled The Mandalore Plot was aired. The Mandalore Plot rewrote the book on the Mandalorians, showing them not as an adoptive culture of fighters but rather a repressed and sterilized Cubist society struggling to preserve peace and maintain pacifism, mirroring the postwar uncertainty of 1930's Germany with an added Star Wars flair.

Instantly there was uproar. 'Fandalorians' pinned the radical change in characterization on the usual scapegoat: the cackling, plaid-adorned Mephistophiles that is George Lucas.

Pictured: George Lucas being told what Uj'alayi means.

Dave Filoni explains the logic behind the New Mandalorians:

'Were they a mercenary people? Yes, they absolutely [were]. Did they fight against the Jedi? Yes, they absolutely did. Is there a big battle where there is a cataclysm between them and the Jedi? Yes. Have we pushed that idea, that the cataclysm was so great that the surface of Mandalore was laid to waste? Absolutely, we did. Because to George, the Mandalorians, above all, dating back to The Empire Strikes Back, are supercommandos. They're a race of people that were a military. They can't be so vagabond as they've appeared in the EU. They can't be this group of people that are vastly different in personality and paint scheme, because if you do that they look too much [...] like a bunch of Boba Fetts. It robbed Boba Fett of his uniqueness. We needed a military, we needed an army. They have a very uniform look. They're trying to bring back the ancient Mandalorian ways of being the supercommando, and regain dominion for their mythology, their stories, with what you could call the EU is: that they are a warrior race, and, eventually, mercenaries.'
Dave Filoni, Clone Wars Supervising Director, Creating Mandalore (2010)

Finally, we get the real story behind these guys. As hard as those at LFL like Dave Filoni and Leland Chee have tried to smooth out the effects of the retcon on existing canon, the truth is that George's explanation of the Mandalorians gears with the story told in the films, and for all the naysaying is actually a far more daring, original, and intelligent portrayal of the Mandalorians than what the EU has presented. It gives the group an internal conflict beyond 'to be badass, or to be more badass'.

Another change that The Mandalore Plot brought was a return to the ambiguity of the Fett family's ties to the Mandalorians. In the first moments of the episode we are informed that Jango Fett was no Mandalorian, and the nature of his armour was a mystery.

'The idea that Jango Fett is not a Mandalorian, that's something that comes directly from George. I think when we first saw Jango in Attack of the Clones that a lot of us, myself included, we assumed, "Oh, he must be a Mandalorian. There he is in Mandalorian armour." So there is kind of this early assumption that Jango must be a Mandalorian, and that was interesting to see. But that was never stated in the film. It was never stated that he was Mandalorian. He's always just referred to as a bounty hunter.'
Dave Filoni, Clone Wars Supervising Director, Creating Mandalore (2010)

'Once you have that silver-blue, black and grey armour, of course, the first thing is, "Why is Boba's green? Where is that coming from?" And from the point that we've established in The Clone Wars from the point whenever Boba gets his armour, there's one thing that I think is important, [which] is that Mandalorian armour exists during the Clone Wars; Mandalorian armour that's very close to the design and use of Boba's armour. Boba has tricked his armour out. He's added a few things that our Death Watch guys don't have, because he's a bounty hunter. And much like a gunslinger in the old west who would shoot someone and take their hat or take their guns know, you win a victory over another warrior and you take something of theirs. Boba Fett's armour is probably made up out of different pieces of Mandalorian gear. It's a little hodge-podge and mix and match, which I think lends itself to the idea that he acquires different pieces of Mandalorian armour over time. Why does he do that? Because his dad wore it. That's the connection for him. So I imagine, since Mandalorian armour really isn't being created again and again and again when you look at the time of the Empire, Boba, whenever he finds some of it, he fixes it up, he uses it. He's probably got a bunch of it in Slave 1. Different rocket packs, we've seen that on Boba. Different wrist guards, we've seen that on Boba. So how do our Death Watch go from being these silver pristine-looking uniformed military guys [to what Boba Fett's armour looks like?]...there must be something that happens between here and where Boba's getting all this weird green and yellow and red armour. We'll just have to wait and see.'
Dave Filoni, Clone Wars Supervising Director, Creating Mandalore (2010)

Indeed we will.  After three decades we finally have the official story on the Mandalore supercommandos - and like the best answers, it raises a whole new set of questions about Boba Fett and the Mandalore connection.

Oh, and Karen Traviss? She's writing books for Gears of War now.

1 comment:

  1. There's some badass artwork that I've never seen before. Dayamn!

    These posts bring the "lolz" and the "FUCK YEA"s- keep it up!