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‘Star Wars’ spinoffs

Videogames, novels, TV keep mythology alive

The long wait between films can be too much for fans who can’t wait for their next “Star Wars” fix. Fortunately, there’s plenty of comicbooks, novels and, increasingly, videogames and television that detail a universe only glimpsed at in the movies.

With more than 70 million “Star Wars” books in print, comics and novels are the dominant media of the spinoff fiction program begun by Lucasfilm in 1991. Lucas Licensing prexy Howard Roffman says the company has worked hard to carefully plan and coordinate what it calls the “expanded universe.” “We devote a lot of energy to developing continuity,” he says.

Fans prefer to read about characters from the movies, and overarching stories have been especially popular, such as the multi-novel “New Jedi Order” series and the new nine-book series “Legacy of the Force,” Roffman says.

Keeping track of dozens of novels, plus the hundreds of comics published by Dark Horse Comics since 1992, requires a full-time employee to maintain an internal continuity database called the Holocron, Roffman says.

That’s a long way from the early spinoffs, such as the original Marvel Comics series, or the 1978 novel “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.”

“They were making it up as they went,” Roffman says.

The small screen has been less than kind to “Star Wars” in the past. The campy “Star Wars Holiday Special” aired only once in 1978, and is heavily bootlegged by fans. Two Ewok TV movies and the short-lived “Droids” and “Ewoks” toons were too kid-centric for many fans.

That changed with the 2003 animated “Clone Wars” series, which won three Emmys and paved the way for a 3-D sequel series slated to air next year. A still-mysterious live-action series is set to begin in 2009.

But the real future of the franchise may lie in videogames. Jim Ward, prexy of game division LucasArts, says the company is focusing on fewer releases that deliver a richer story experience. Next year will see the release of “The Force Unleashed,” a next-gen game set between Episodes III and IV in which the player starts out as Darth Vader’s apprentice.

“What you’re seeing now is a transition into other media, from television to videogames, that are no less effective in leading the way and, frankly, as time goes by, might become more effective than even the movies for telling the ‘Star Wars’ story,” Ward says.

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