“I desperately wanted to die,” Ford says. “I thought it would give the myth some body, and that Han Solo, in fact, really had no place to go. He would have best served the situation by giving it the weight of sacrifice, but that was the one thing that I was unable to convince George of. George has a predisposition to happy endings. There’s no less enthusiasm on my part because my idea didn’t pan out. I just say that to illustrate the fact that I feel I am finished with the story.”
It’s my opinion that this is where the character of Han Solo really began to grow; however, it’s not until the ancillary material that Han’s story really started to fill out.
The Star Wars saga is full of mythological references, but the DNA of Han Solo comes from a different source; the cowboy. The cowboy’s of the American west were looked upon as independent, self-reliant, and the fact that they depended on no one else but themselves. Usually running from the law, but fundamentally good people. Captain Solo was a cowboy in a John Ford film transported to a galaxy far, far away.
For much of the Legends canon, Han Solo’s portrayal was on par with what we saw in the films. From the Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley to the Corellian Trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen, to the Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin, Solo followed the path of a faithful husband to Leia Organa and a loving father to his three children; Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin. However, in the new canon Solo’s character has experienced a much bumpier ride.
The expression on Han’s face as he watching Qi’ra fly off in Dryden’s ship, hard to read as it is, really give us a hint of how Han will live his life in the future; focused on running shipments for Jabba and not letting anyone in because he remembers how much it hurt when Qi’ra left. Of course along the way Han meets Sana and they pretend to be married to pull a scam. It’s not until Han meets Leia that he begins to settle down.
I’ll refrain from summarizing the life-changing events that Han experienced, I want to focus more on the fact that we got only one version of Han for such a long time and now we have nearly his entire life story to experience along with him. Yes, the Legends books did give us a glimpse into Han’s family tree (remember Thracken Sal-Solo?), but those were Legends and me for one, never took those literally.
We can now witness Han’s growth from a scrumrat on Corellia working for Lady Proxima to a friend, to a smuggler, to a Rebel General/Hero, to husband and finally a father. Han was so used to living on his own and doing what he had to do to survive, including smuggling goods for Jabba the Hutt. He lived that life for so long, he knew nothing else existed. It was the best way for him to stay alive. To mind his own business. Until the day he meets a young farm boy, an old fossil, and a princess. Everything changed for Han. Kicking and screaming of course:
Han: “Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution. I’m not in it for you Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”
How quintessentially Han. Of course, by the end of A New Hope, we see the real Han coming back to help his friends – as a good cowboy does. Han has a heart that he tries to deny. He’s a good man or at least started out that way. In Legends continuity whenever Han encountered a pirate Han always maintained his honor in that he despised pirates. Legends or not, I believe this aspect of Han’s character is consistent.
In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Han’s character continues to grow. He is maturing and allowing himself to experience friendship. He realizes he’s part of something bigger. But this is only temporary as we know after Ben is born, Han still enters races and stays away from his family for extended periods of time. Growing up without a father, Han did not have a guide as to how to be a father when Ben was born. I’m not excusing his lack of presence in Ben’s life, but sometimes parentage flaws can be passed down through generations. Han's arc comes full circle when he becomes a mentor to Rey in The Force Awakens, and then tragically comes to an end as he attempts to rescue his son Ben from under the influence of Supreme Leader Snoke.
There is one particular moment I want to highlight in Han’s growth. In Han Solo #5, written by Marjorie Liu with art by Mark Brooks (2016), there is a scene that builds upon their bickering from the trash compactor to where the couple ends up by the end of Return of the Jedi. There is a touching moment at the end of Han Solo #5 where Han and Leia’s hands touch as they trade insults. It’s subtle but I personally really appreciate the growing relationship between Han and Leia. The comics are able to delve a little deeper into their courtship than the films. If you’re looking for an excellent source of Han Solo material, I highly recommend this comic series.
Han Solo consistently comes across as slightly clueless and ignorant to what’s going on around him. He doesn’t possess any special powers nor does he need them. Much like Jango Fett, he’s a simple man, trying to make his way in the universe.
Liu, Marjorie, et al. Han Solo. Marvel, 2016.
Rinzler, J. W. The Making of Star Wars Return of the Jedi: the Definitive Story. Del Rey, 2013.
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