Long before every tertiary character in the franchise was guaranteed their own origin story movie, there were these things called books that some Star Wars fans would seek out in order to spend more time with their favorite heroes from a galaxy far, far away. Some of the most successful installments in this literary canon were also some of its earliest, and they explored the humble beginnings of everyone’s favorite blaster-wielding smuggler, Han Solo. We’re talking about the original, pre-Disney origin story—The Han Solo Adventures trilogy by Brian Daley—which totally ruled.
A new article from The Ringer takes a deep dive into these late-70s sci-fi novels, which followed Han and Chewie on their gritty, sardonic adventures through space. Though only the original 1977 film had been released at the time they were written, the trilogy went on to influence the Star Wars franchise and fandom for decades to come. As the story goes, Del Rey Books (an imprint of Ballantine that still prints Star Wars books to this day) had made a killing on their novelization of the original Star Wars film and were looking for more stories to tell in that same universe. Ballantine editor Owen Lock approached Vietnam vet and aspiring science fiction writer Brian Daley who jumped at the chance to write a book based on his favorite character from the film—Han.
“Han was the only one who made a moral decision. He started out on the wrong side of the law, but joined with the good guys,” Daley’s wife Lucia Robson tells The Ringer. Interestingly enough, Solo was completely left out of the follow-up to the paperback novelization of Star Wars, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, because Harrison Ford hadn’t yet agreed to be in the next movie. So Daley was really the first one to flesh out this character beyond what people had seen in that first film.
That’s not to say that he had free reign. Even back then, George Lucas had strict control over what could and could not be considered canon. Rather than fight a losing battle with the franchise creator, Daley opted to rewind the clock a bit and have his novels take place in the years preceding the original film. Han Solo At Stars’ End, Han Solo’s Revenge, and Han Solo And The Lost Legacy all find our scruffy hero attempting to scrape by a living on the fringes of space, where he inevitably gets wrapped up in some larger conflict. As The Ringer notes, these books occasionally get darker than any Disney property would dare, but they’re also oddly prescient. “I happen to like shooting first,” Han says in Stars’ End, decades before the debate around his trigger happiness ever began.
Given how little source material he had to go off of, it’s impressive how well Brian Daley nailed the ethos of Han Solo. He’s a man out for himself but will begrudgingly make the right moral choice. He’s not here for your Force mumbo-jumbo but will almost always go with his gut. And while these characters’ stories continue to evolve and be retold over the years, for better or worse, there are certainly some fans who will always look back at this trilogy and say, “That’s my Han Solo.”
You can read the whole article here, which includes a lot of interesting tidbits about Daley himself, a talented writer we lost way too soon.