You know what fits in the battery compartment of a 1983 Y-Wing Starfighter toy? Two “C” batteries. You know what else fits in there? A Boba Fett action figure.
I know this because, in my world, that’s how Boba Fett showed up to save the day from the combined forces of the Empire, Cobra, Decepticons, Ming the Merciless and any other toy I decided were the bad guys that day.
The best part of being a kid was that all your toys could be in the same world. Imagination meant you could create your own stories with your own continuities without fear of a lawsuit. It was fanfic before fanfic was a thing.
For me it meant Soundwave was a good guy and Mr. Spock was a villain. It meant Princess Leia was friends with Destro. It meant Tonka trucks transported heroes to the fight.
And it meant the protagonist in all my stories was my favorite Star Wars character: Boba Fett.
See, I was born in 1976. Alive before A New Hope was first released, but too young to enjoy it during its initial theatrical run. But I was 4 when Empire Strikes Back came out. And 7 for Return of the Jedi. My formative Star Wars fanatic years were right there between Episodes 5 and 6 (V and VI for the purists).
As a cinephile, Empire is my favorite of the films: it has the deepest story line, the richest character development and AT-ATs. But Empire stood out for me as a kid because it had one of pop culture’s coolest characters ever: Boba Fett.
Empire wasn’t actually Fett’s debut. He was first seen in a parade in September 1978. That November, he also appeared in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which is a lot like Fight Club in that we DON’T TALK ABOUT “HOLIDAY SPECIAL.”
Outside of his name, no one knew much about this new character, except that he looked different than every other character.
Luke Skywalker is the hero, so of course he’s dressed in white; Darth Vader, the villain, is naturally clad in black. Han Solo, on the other hand, sports a beige shirt with black vest – telling us he’s mostly light, with a little darkness thrown in for shooting greedy bounty hunters. First.
Similarly, Boba Fett wears a neutral grey flight suit with green, battle-scarred armor that tells us he’s also somewhere in the middle morally. But while Han comes around to becoming the smuggler with a heart of gold, Boba Fett is the bounty hunter who just wants to get paid. His iconic T-visor dented helmet is clearly inspired by the Spartans of old, telling the audience he’s a warrior. His armor has all kinds of weapons on it (which is why, in my world, Scarlet from G.I Joe had a crush on him!). He also has a jet pack. That’s right. A freakin’ jet pack. Somewhere Benny from the The LEGO Movie is yelling, “JET PACK!”
Then there’s his attitude. Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett, said his inspiration for his performance came from westerns, particularly the Man with No Name movies. Show up, look cool, do a thing, ride (fly?) off into the sunset.
But there’s more to it than that. In A New Hope and Empire, Darth Vader doesn’t take crap from anyone: he chokes out Admiral Motti for mocking the Force, Admiral Ozzel for “coming out of lightspeed too close to the Hoth System” and Captain Needa for, well, apologizing. Being an Imperial officer is seriously hazardous to one’s health. But as unapologetically brutal as Darth Vader is – even against his own people — he has to tell Boba Fett to keep calm and bounty on.
“Sure, I’ll kill an Imperial Admiral for looking at me funny, but … YOU … look … you need to tone it down a little!”
Case in point:
- Darth Vader invites six bounty hunters to hunt down the Millennium Falcon, because, well, Captain Needa. As Vader delivers the orders, he makes a point of stopping and telling Fett, “NO Disintegrations!”
- Later, it’s Boba Fett who leads Han, Leia and Chewbacca into in the carbon freezing chamber, not Vader’s own guys. That’s how much he trusts the bounty hunter.
- Boba Fett then tells (TELLS!) Darth Vader that if the freezing process kills Han Solo, it’s going to rip into the expected payday Fett’s expecting from Jabba the Hutt. That’s right. He sasses Vader. “What if he doesn’t survive, he’s worth a LOT to ME!” Vader has to reassure him, “The Empire will compensate you if he dies.”
- And right when they’re about to freeze Han Solo, Chewbacca throws a temper tantrum. Boba Fett casually brings up his BlasTech EE-3 carbine to put him down – Vader has to stop him from taking the shot, even as the wookiee is taking out stormtroopers.
So while Darth Vader is menacing and ruthless, Boba Fett has a reputation even the Dark Lord of the Sith recognizes, respects and acknowledges. He’s the guy Darth Vader has to tell to be cool.
No problem. Boba Fett looks cool, acts cool, has a cool ship and bests the cool good guys.
But then Return of the Jedi happened.
There is no greater evidence that George Lucas was burned out on Star Wars than when he took his newest, awesomest character and hand waved him away:
“Then the heroes easily rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt.”
“But … what about Boba Fett?”
“Meh. He dies.”
“What do you mean? He just dies?! HOW?!”
“Uh, Han Solo hits him with a stick.”
“Fine, the stick sets off his jet pack and he crashes into the side of Jabba’s sail barge then tumbles down into the Pit of Carkoon where he’s eaten by the almighty Sarlaac.”
“… but … but … jet pack …”
“Then the Sarlaac burps.”
None of that mattered to kid-me. In my world, Boba Fett was not only alive, he was the hero. When the good guys had to rescue POWs, take out the Weather Dominator, steal an experimental jet or any other special mission, they would deploy The Fett. Here was the plan:
- Find a willing pilot to fly a Y-Wing over the nightstand/evil lair
- Open the battery compartment/drop bay
- Boba Fett would jet pack (JET PACK!) his way down to kick ass
- THEN everyone else shows up for the battle
That was essentially my plot for years and it never got boring to me.
But at some point, we all stop spending our weekends playing with our action figures. Sometimes they get sold, sometimes they get packed away, sometimes your girlfriend leaves all your Star Wars toys in someone’s garage while you’re moving and then they disappear and she has no idea how that could have happened and no way to track them down, but that’s okay, “they’re old and why would you need those anyway?”
The cruel irony is that when you’re a kid, you have the time, but no money; as an adult you have money, but no time. But what you can do is put your toys on display. And at least up on the shelf you get to do something with the stuff you spend your money on.
So Boba Fett gets put on display in my home.
I collect just about anything I can find: toys, key chains, mugs, t-shirts, a bathrobe, LEGO sets, hats, statues, artwork … there is probably a line to cross where something with Boba Fett on it doesn’t have a place on my shelves. I have yet to find that line.
With Disney at the helm, there’s only a promise of even more merchandise. And since they threw out the old canon where Boba Fett survived the Almighty Sarlaac, he’s back to being officially dead.
There was talk of a stand-alone Boba Fett movie and rumors that the cancelled game 1313 was going to feature him prominently. There was a hint in the book Aftermath, which is part of the burgeoning official canon, that he might have survived. So we’ll see.
But whatever the new storylines reveal about Boba Fett when (yes, WHEN!) he returns, I’ll be excited.
Because he’s not the Man with No Name.
He’s Boba Fett.
A man just trying to make his way in the galaxy. A bounty hunter without equal. The heir to his father’s legacy, for Jango so loved the galaxy, he gave us his only begotten son.
He’s the guy Darth Vader relies on for results. He’s the guy Han Solo fears. He’s the guy other bounty hunters want to be.
Boba Fett is my favorite Star Wars character.
And he’s no good to me dead.