Female Protagonists in Star Wars

If you went to the comic book store this weekend looking for Dark Horse’s new Star Wars #1 from Brian Wood, then you probably met with some disappointment. While it is still available in digital format, unless fans want to fork out $40 or more, they will have to wait until February 5th for the reprint.

The comic is set just after the events of A New Hope and features the Big Three, with Leia taking the central protagonist role. In an action role. And it sold out in one day!

Late on Friday, USA Today posted an article on the comic that includes some new tidbits on what to expect going forward. Brian Wood sums up the premise for the storyline:

Wood catches up with Han, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia a week or so after the Rebels blew up the Imperial Death Star, which has led to the Emperor showing Darth Vader a little bit of his own dark side while chewing him out.

Leia is tasked by Mon Mothma to head up a stealth team of X-Wing Fighter pilots to find a suitable planet for a Rebel base and to hide out from the Empire, but many find themselves at a crossroads.

“Wedge is probably suffering from survivor’s guilt being the only one of his squadron to make it back” from the run on the Death Star, Wood explains. “Han hasn’t lost on the same scale, but the Empire totally knows who he is now so he’s lost a lot of freedom, and that’s really what that guys’ entire life has been about: moving around and doing his thing, and now he has a giant target painted on him.

“Everybody’s dealing with that,” the writer adds, “and Leia the most, which is why I have her as the focus of the story. She’s pretty much lost everything — she’s like a kid, basically. And top of all that, she’s like the figurehead of the rebellion. She has all this responsibility and everybody expecting leadership out of her. I find that to be really juicy stuff to write about.”

Following on the heels of 2012’s Year of the Heroine, 2013 starts out with proof positive that female action leads will meet with success.

There is already a rumor floating around that Episode VII will have a female protagonist. Lucy O’Brien over at IGN shared her thoughts on “Why Star Wars: Episode VII Should Have a Female Protagonist,” and I whole-heartedly agree.

In fifty years or so the very mention of a ‘strong female character’ could be a relic of an archaic media. Little girls could grow up thinking that they could just as easily be a space captain or a swashbuckling pirate or, indeed, a Jedi Knight, as any boy.

Because really, none of this stuff really matters to those of us who have grown up with Star Wars.  It matters to the girls who will go and see the first Star Wars sequel when it’s released in 2015, whose first Star Wars experience will be under the guiding hand of new Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Perhaps their Dad will take them and sit next to them and hold their hand and tell them how he remembers seeing a Star Wars movie for the first time.

And wouldn’t it be nice if those little girls could look up at the big screen as the credits roll to that John Williams score and – for a change – think to themselves: “that could be me?”

O’Brien hopes that in fifty years the “mention of a ‘strong female character’ could be a relic” of a by-gone age. With the Star Wars franchise, Lucas has left behind a legacy as an innovator and a visionary, who redefined the modern myth.  Princess Leia was a huge step forward for female characters, and this week’s comics sales indicate she still resonates with fans to this day. The franchise hasn’t always lived up to the gold standard of its #1 heroine, however. While the decision on the protagonist’ gender is most likely already decided, here’s to hoping that the potential to put to rest the “strong female character” discussion weighed into the calculus. If Episode VII, which will undoubtedly be a pop culture phenomenon, has a female protagonist, it won’t take fifty years.

Follow-up: The comments to this article only reinforce O’Brien’s assertion that “girls need heroes too.” Many thanks to the support from male fans for the idea in the comments and on Twitter.




Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.