There won't be another Star Wars movie until Rogue One next December, and there won't be another installment of the main trilogy until five months after that. But given that we're actually talking about whether Star Wars: The Force Awakens' box office total stands a chance of dethroning Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time since 2009, it's safe to say that a lot of you out there are feeling pretty starved for more Star Wars.
if you can't find out what happens next, find out more about what already happened
There's never been a better time to get started with the world of Star Wars outside of the films. For one thing, it's a lot easier to get a grasp on the expanded universe than it used to be, since Lucasfilm declared that most of the Expanded Universe was no longer considered canon. The state of Star Wars outside the movies currently consists of a handful of books, a smattering of comics, two cartoon shows and precious little else.
For another, a lot of what's out there is fun and fascinating, giving 40-year-old heroes (and villains!) new adventures, or significantly fleshing out the changed setting of the new trilogy. If you can't find out what happens next, there's only one thing left to do: find out more about what already happened.
Oh, and if you haven't yet figured out that this post will contain spoilers, you deserve what you get.
If you want more Star Wars right now, you probably want more of the new Star Wars, and your first stop is Before the Awakening. A young adult novel in three parts — written by Greg Rucka with illustrations by Phil Noto — it contains one section for each of the new Star Wars trilogy's lead characters, Finn, Poe and Rey.
Want to know how Rey learned to fly? Want a window on stormtrooper cadet training, or Finn's state of mind leading up to his betrayal of the First Order? Would you like to see the first time Poe met General Leia Organa, or the political relationship between the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order? You'll want to pick up Before the Awakening. Though the novel is for ages 12 and up, Rucka never allows that to feel like a limitation, and it'll even tell you who TR-8R is.
And speaking of Rucka and Poe Dameron, your next stop for insight on The Force Awakens should be Shattered Empire, a four-issue miniseries from Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm, written by Rucka and drawn by Marco Checchetto. Empire picks up shortly after the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star, and follows the adventures of two Rebel soldiers — Poe Dameron's parents — alongside Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. For the full story of the transition from Imperial rule to the New Republic — though, since it was published before The Force Awakens came out, it's tantalizingly vague — read Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath, or Claudia Grey's Young Adult novel Lost Stars.
That's all we've got for extra Force Awakens stories at the moment — next month we'll finally find out how C-3PO got his red arm — but if you're really looking for every drip and drop there is to learn about The Force Awakens, there are a few more stops you can make. There's the official novelization of the film, which includes some extra Poe Dameron cheek at least; Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, source on everything from the workings of Kylo Ren's lightsaber to the life of Max Von Sydow's Lor San Tekka; and The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which clever people have mined for all sorts of abandoned plot lines and ideas that didn't make it into the movie. Even the lore of Star Wars Battlefront has a few hints about Jakku.
When Lucasfilm announced that it would be wiping the slate of Star Wars canon nearly clean — that only the six movies, the Clone Wars animated series, and anything published after the announcement would be considered a "true" story in the setting — it didn't just erase everything that happened after the original three films. It also erased everything that happened in between them.
Luckily, that means that there are a ton of brand new stories about Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando and Darth Vader out right now. For example, Greg Rucka's young readers novella, Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo Adventure — and then there's the comics.
For 24 years, the license to publish Star Wars comics rested in the capable hands of Dark Horse Comics, but once Disney — already the corporate parent of Marvel Comics — bought Lucasfilm, the writing was on the wall. The license returned to Marvel, the company that had produced the first licensed Star Wars comics in the 1970s, and Marvel has not rested on its laurels.
Beyond its ongoing series, Marvel has also been producing shorter miniseries featuring the solo adventures of the heroes of Star Wars. Princess Leia follows Leia's efforts to unite all surviving Alderaanians. Lando picks up with the suavest player in the galaxy before he became the leader of Cloud City. Chewbacca follows everyone's favorite wookiee as he attempts to escape the Imperial-occupied planet he's crash landed on, a(nother) scrappy young orphan in tow.
But if comic books just aren't your thing (you monster), you've still got a couple options. The 2008 cartoon series Clone Wars follows Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Anakin's apprentice Ahsoka Tano between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and it's one of the few pre-2015, non-movie Star Wars properties to remain a part of the modern canon.
Clone Wars was "wound down" as Lucasfilm Animation was incorporated into Disney Animation proper, but the division wound up shortly thereafter for the well-received Star Wars: Rebels. In Rebels, a rag-tag group of fighters, pilots and mechanics are a thorn in the side of Imperial troops on the planet of Lothal, 14 years after Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope.
But lets say you've devoured the tie-in novels. You've plowed through the Marvel Comics. You're a Clone Wars fan, and you can't wait for Rebels' second season to come back from hiatus. And yet I sense more hunger in you. Before you turn to the Dark Side, let me make two more recommendations.
They're not actually about Star Wars, but they're both beautifully drawn, sharply written comics about misfit bands rocketing across a colorful galaxy on the run from forces that stand every chance of crushing them... and they just might scratch that space opera itch.
Saga is a riveting tale of war and family — with plenty of frankly depicted sex and violence. Above all, its opening panel — Alana shouting "Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting!" while in the throes of labor — lets the reader know right away that despite it's name and genre, Saga is no fairy tale.
Compared to Saga, Descender (which placed tenth on our list of best comics of 2015) is an infant at a mere eight issues old. But its story, of a young android who becomes the focus of a galaxy-wide manhunt, is deliciously reminiscent of the background trappings of Star Wars.
The comic is loaded with bounty hunters, rogue droids, bizarre aliens, abandoned outposts, ancient alien mysteries and a government that barely has a handle on simmering galactic conflicts. The theme of family is touched on in a lighter way than Saga and the Star Wars films, but given [spoiler!] it seems likely to become more prominent to the series very soon.
And, if after all that, you're still starving for more Star Wars, well... There's always fan fiction.