It’s like 1999 all over again.
Star Wars fans have been getting a crazy amount of content since the entire franchise was bought by Disney. Though Clone Wars ended, and canon was subsequently reset, there’s been multiple novels, comics, and the new Star Wars Rebels cartoon released (which ended its first season on a high note, including the return of Clone Wars character Ahsoka Tano). Information on upcoming media continues to pour out, from long-awaited Battlefront 3 to rumors of Episode VII‘s plot.
Today, Episode VIII got a release date (subject to change, I’m sure, given how far out it is) and, more interestingly, the first stand-alone Star Wars movie was announced: Rogue One.
For readers who aren’t big Star Wars fans, the title doesn’t mean much. To longtime fans, though, this is an extremely exciting announcement.
Pre-canon wipe, Rogue Squadron was an elite fighter squadron led by Wedge Antilles in the war against the Empire. Founded by Luke Skywalker, they were the “best of the best” X-wing unit and were the spearhead of offensive operations.
Rogue Squadron featured in a series of comics by the same name, plus a set of four novels written by Michael Stackpole. The late Aaron Allston wrote a trilogy of X-wing novels that immediately followed Stackpole’s Rogue Squadron, though Allston’s relegated the Rogues to secondary status to focus on the screwups of Wraith Squadron.
Among the original expanded universe novels, the X-wing series is consistently listed among the best and most-loved, often just after Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series that kicked off the entire EU.
Before The Phantom Menace, the Rogues also inspired a series of games also collectively referred to as X-wing – the titular game, which started it in 1993, followed by TIE Fighter (often considered the best of the series), X-wing vs TIE Fighter, and finally X-wing Alliance. The final game came out just before The Phantom Menace, and the series has never been revisited, though it had a spiritual successor of sorts in the Star Wars Galaxies MMO’s Jump to Lightspeed expansion.
Among the Star Wars fandom, there are distinct groups (though they’re seldom spelled out as such). Jedi and Sith are definitely one group (and arguably the most popular); there’s also the stormtrooper cosplayers (most notably the 501st, which does a large amount of charity work); and a smaller segment of X-wing fans.
So, at least a part of the fanbase is very fired up to see an X-wing movie. And this is a huge change of pace – for the first time since The Phantom Menace released in 1999, there’s a major Star Wars project that isn’t based on Jedi or Sith.
And pilots everywhere rejoiced.