Thursday, May 24, 2007

Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit: The Special Edition

Thirty years ago tomorrow...and for the sake of this story, you have to ignore the fact that I'm only six-an'-three-quarter years old...thirty years ago tomorrow I plunked down my three dollars and stepped into the single-screen cinema of the Bayberry Theater (now sadly defunct, going out of business only a few weeks after I saw Octopussy there). In the half-darkness of the Bayberry, I snuggled my little stuffed butt into the seat, popcorn and sody pop on my lap...in those days we didn't have staidum seating or cup-holders, oh no, we wore out snacks on our laps and liked it that way! And when the movie started up, my eyes flew wide open as that bombastic music, brand-new at the time but soon to become iconic and familiar, burst onto the screen, the giant title of the movie flying at the audience, followed by action, adventure, derring-do, reluctant heroes, a beautiful heroine, rogues and scoundrels, hissable villains, amazing special effects, and weird strange creatures from a place far far away. Yes, folks, I truly did love my first viewing of Annie Hall.

Annie Hall


Haw! I kid you good folks. You all know I'm talkin' 'bout Star Wars. It wasn't episode one, it was Episode Four...but we didn't need a subtitle (that new hope came later). I sat glued to my seat for two hours and when it was over I saw it all over again. I saw Star Wars eleven times in the theater, including a couple times in the drive-in in a double bill with The Eagle Has Landed.

[EDIT on 5/26: in retrospect, I almost certainly didn't see it exactly on May 25, 26, or 27th. From Script to DVD.com has an excellent rundown of the relatively few theaters in which the movie opened, and the Bayberry wasn't one of them. It's much more likely that it didn't show up there until the film was more widely released in June 1977. I did see it opening night whatever day that was...the first time I ever saw a film the day it opened.]

I wanted to celebrate that momentous occasion and its thirtieth anniversary, so I went looking to see what the perfect gift for Star Wars would be. Let's see now. According to the internetmajig, you give the gift of aluminum for a tenth anniversary. So I will be buying a lovely roll of Reynolds Wrap for all my friends who got married in 1997. Twenty-fifth anniversary is silver. And thirtieth is...let's see...oh, the thirtieth anniversary is the gift of fan fiction.

'Cos, you see, I been thinkin'. I'm a big fan of the Marvel Star Wars comics from the seventies and eighties, and even when they're a little bit goofy, they're still relentlessly fun. Giant space station gambling casino? Water world with dragon-riding warriors? Fuzzy telepathic hoojibs? Yes sir, sign me up for those! But from all I understand, George Lucas wasn't too fond of all of the developments, plots, and characters in the Marvel Star Wars series...in fact, he downright loathed a few of them with his little CGI-designed-beflannel-shirted heart. And there was one he reportedly loathed more than any other Marvel character...you know who I'm talkin' about, don't you? Yes you do...
Star Wars #9
GIANT GREEN STAR WARS RABBIT!


Oh my oh my how Lucas loathed Jaxxon the Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit (or so the story goes)...so much that according to possibly-apocryphal Star Wars scuttlebutt and hearsay, Giant Green Star Wars rabbit creator Roy Thomas was off the book before you could say 'midichlorian." I ain't sayin' it wasn't a turn for the better...I started reading only after Thomas had left and been replaced by Archie Goodwin. My first Star Wars comic...in fact, my first Marvel comic of all...was issue #21, which I picked up fresh on the newsstand for the then-cover price of 35 cents, just because it had Darth Vader on the cover. The series went through some great ups (especially the Walt Simonson and Tom Palmer issues post-#50) and downs (those issues that were just redrawn inventory John Carter, Warlord of Mars stories), but I hung on to the very end. I'm glad, too, because #107 is worth a mint. Hoo hah! Put that in your space-hookah and smoke it, Jabba!

Star Wars panel


Thirty years later, however, you gotta look at the Marvel Star Wars comic and then look at the three "prequels"...episodes One, Two, and Three...and much as I liked 'em, those later three movies will never stand up to the power and inspiration of the first three. So, thinks my little bean-filled brain, with my usual optimism and action-oriented attempts to 'make things fun'...what can I, Bully, do to improve some of the weaker moments of, well, let's say, um, just off the top of my head...Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Hmm, what can I do, what can I do...?

There's a fan film floating around somewhere on the World Wide Web that consists of an edited version of Episode 1 in which everybody's "favorite new character", Mister Jar Jar Binks, has been completely excised from the film. That got me thinkin'. In this day and age of digital technology, CGI advances, and talking cartoon donkeys, why simply settle for removing Jar Jar Binks...

Why not replace Jar Jar Binks with a truly awesome and kickass character...?

Why not replace Jar Jar Binks with Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit?
Star Wars Panel


Here's the point where I say "and I think it would go something like this." But I can't draw, or else I'd do a comic book of Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit kickin' butt an' takin' names during the events of Episode 1. A few little moving slideshows aside, I can't direct films. What I can do, he said modestly, is write. But just as when George plopped new characters into Episodes Four through Six he really wasn't creating from scratch, neither will I. What follows is my own re-writing of Terry Brooks's novelization of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Think of it as a redubbed movie or a comic book remix. I'm fully aware that I didn't write most of the words in what's below, and I certainly don't mean to diss Mister Brooks, partly out of respect for the craft and skill of a fine writer, but mostly because if he finds out he's gonna wallop me on the backside with the Sword of Shannara.

So here it is, a remix of the novelization of Star Wars Episode I, in which Terry Brooks has done most of the heavy lifting but I've been paddling around in his puddle and tracking mud across his nice clean floor in order to bring you:

Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit:
The Special Edition!



Qui-Gon Jinn slipped wraithlike through the thick brush, listening to the sounds of heavy rustling and snapping branches behind him as the Trade Federation transports began to advance. Mixed with the deeper, heavier whine of the transport engines was the higher pitched buzzing of STAPs—single trooper aerial platforms—small, individually piloted mobile gun units used to transport battle droids as scouts for the main army. The STAPs whipped above the watery terrain of Naboo, fleeting shadows as they surged in front of the larger transports.

Animals of all shapes and sizes began to scatter from their places of concealment, racing past Qui-Gon in search of safety. Ikopi, fulumpasets, motts, peko pekos—the names recalled themselves instantly to the Jedi Master from his preparation for this journey. Dodging the frightened creatures stampeding around him, he cast about for Obi-Wan, then picked up his pace as the dark shadow of a transport appeared out of the mist directly behind him.

He was running out of firm ground and searching for a way past a large shrub when he saw a strange green rabbitlike creature before him. The rabbit was squatting on the ground, his furry body crouched over a small animal he had snatched up, his sharp incisors gnawing at the animal's soft underbelly as he ate its prey raw. Qui-Gon grimaced—while it was not the Jedi way to consume other living beings, he understood enough of the wide variety of lifeforms to realize that not every being in the galaxy felt as the Jedi did.

Casting aside the bloody fur, the rabbit stood to face Qui-Gon, towering well above the Jedi, his green furry and floppy green ears rising in alert at Qui-Gon's approach. The nostrils in his whiskered snout flared and the rabbit bared his incisors, speckled with mauve blood from whatever delicacy it had just consumed. His large pink eyes narrowed and a massive green paw paused over the belt slung on his hips. Qui-Gon's gaze took in the blaster hanging from the rabbit's belt and he hoisted his lightsaber in warning. A tense moment passed as the rabbit regarded the Jedi cautiously and then took his hand away from the blaster, his mouth squirreling up into a crooked grin.

Qui-Gon turned, lightsaber at the ready as he heard the crash of trees behind him, followed by the roar of the Trade Federation transport. For the first time the rabbit spoke, in a deep guttural growl: "Crummy droids!" he grunted, drawing and raising his blaster, standing shoulder to shoulder with Qui-Gon. "You take the left an' I take the right," he barked, nudging the Jedi. "Howzabout you an' me take these rustbucket Roger-rogers down together?"

Qui-Gon had no intent of facing off against an armored Federation transport, even with a giant green rabbit covering him. He broke left past the strange creature, anxious to get out of the path of the approaching transport. The rabbit dropped the blaster, eyes scowling, and grabbed onto Qui-Gon's robes.

"Where you goin', Grandpa?" he scolded tauntingly, furry face contorting in scorn and derision. "'Fraid of a few tin cans?"

"Let go!" Qui-Gon snapped, trying in vain to break free. The transport thundered toward them, skimming the surface of the swamp, flattening grasses and stirring up water spouts in the wake of its passing. It bore down on Qui-Gon as he fought to break free of the creature that clung to him, dragging it sideways in a futile effort to escape.

Finally, with the transport only meters away and looming over him like a building about to topple, the Jedi Master pushed the rabbit into the shallow water and sprawled facedown on top of it. The Trade Federation transport passed over them in a wash of sound and shocked air, the vibrations hammering into their prone forms, flattening them into the mire.

Almost before it was even safely past, Qui-Gon was bodily lifted out of the water by the rabbit-creature, its towering strength pushing the Jedi back out onto the muddy ground. "What's the idea, pal? Little eeny-weeny robot-carrier too scary for the big fraidy-bantha Jedi Knight?" He gave a quick glance after the departing transport, and shook himself frantically, water spraying from its sodden green fur everywhere. "Sheesh. It's like I say: never send a man out to do a rabbit's job."

"Stop that!" Qui-Gon huffed. "Are you brainless? You almost got us killed!"

The rabbit's eyes glowered. "Brainless? Look who yer talkin' to, Beardo! Where I come from, them's fightin' words!" He tapped his large skull with one oversized paw, producing a resounding and solid thunk. "This sound like I'm brainless, grand-dad? It ain't fluff an' pleasant thoughts holdin' these big beautiful ears up, ya know!"

"The possession of giant ears does not make you intelligent!" Qui-Gon was having none of it. "Now let go of me and get out of here!" He pulled his robe free from the rabbit's clutch and began to ran off, glancing around uneasily as the high-pitched buzz of STAPs sounded in the distance.

The creature scowled, then began stomping after him, its gigantic green feet thudding on the soft ground as it easily kept pace with the running Jedi. "My name's Jaxxon. You can call me Jax for short—which I ain't. An' I ain't no fluffy bunny. Lepus carnivorous, if you gotta know. Do these floppy ears'a mine detect that you might need a li'l help help 'gainst these bolt-buckets?"

The Jedi Master barely glanced at him, watching the shadows' searching now for Obi-Wan. "Thanks, but that won't be necessary. Better be off with you."

Jaxxon snorted and splashed after him, his powerful thighs almost springing him along Qui-Gon's sprinting pace. "What do ya think, pal, my mother raised me to run away in a fight? Not on yer life. Like mama always told all eighty of us kids, when yer in a jam, put yer fluffy tail to the wall and start shootin'. An' don't stop 'til everybody else is more fulla holes than a Caiyan milk-beast cheese log."

The swamp reverberated with the sound of STAP engines, and now two of the gun platforms burst from the mist, bearing down on a fleeing Obi-Wan Kenobi, battle droid drivers wheeling their speeders to the attack.

Qui-Gon pulled free his lightsaber, motioning Jaxxon away.

"I have no time for this now--"

"No time for jawin', ya mean," Jaxxon growled. "Only time we got is to do or die, pallie..." He glanced up, hearing the STAPs, turning to see them bearing down, eyes narrowing again. "And it looks like it's gonna be die!"

Qui-Gon grabbed the rabbit by his gunbelt and pulled him out of the path of the enemy laser fire. "Stay put." He flicked the lightsaber back on, bracing himself as Obi-Wan and the pursuing STAPs approached. "I suggest you stay out of the line of fire."

Star Wars panel"Yeah?" challenged Jaxxon, raising his blaster. "Then I suggest we get up off our fannies an' cotton tails," he growled, firing a few well-aimed shots at the STAPs, "'Cause I got a hunch trouble's on the way!" The battle droids opened fire with laser cannons from their gun platforms just as Obi-Wan reached his friend. Qui-Gon blocked the blots with his lightsaber and deflected them back into the attack craft. Between his deflected fire and Jaxxon's blaster bolts the STAPs exploded in shards of hot metal and fell into the swamp.

An exhausted Obi-Wan wiped his muddied brow, gasping for breath. "Sorry, Master. The swamp fired my lightsaber."

He pulled out his weapon. The business end was blackened and burned. Qui-Gon took the lightsaber from Obi-Wan and gave it a cursory inspection while Jaxxon's whispered nose scrunched up and sniffed the air at the sight of it.

"You forgot to turn off your power again, didn't you, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked pointedly.

Obi-Wan nodded sheepishly. "It appears so, Master."

"It won't take long to recharge, but it will take some time to clean it up. I trust you have finally learned your lesson, my young Padawan."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan accepted the proffered lightsaber with a chagrined look.

Jaxxon snorted, his long ears bobbing and pink eyes scrunching in disdain. "Some Jedi Knights. One guy who doesn't know when to stand and hold his ground an' another one who can't find an 'off' switch."

Obi-Wan gave a sideways glance at Jaxxon. "Who's the rodent?" he asked Qui-Gon.

Jaxxon grimaced menacingly. "I ain't no rodent!"
Star Wars panel


Qui-Gon held out his hands calmingly. "This is one of the locals. His name's Jaxxon." Qui-Gon's attention was directed out at the swamp. "Let's go, before more of those STAPs show up."

"Bring 'em on," snorted Jaxxon. "Bring 'em all on, I say!"

Qui-Gon was already moving, shifting into a steady trot through the mire. Obi-Wan was only a step behind, but even though it took Jaxxon a few moments to start moving after him, with his powerful legs working effortlessly he caught up with them in seconds.

"You 'warriors' are so intent on running," he snarled, "Then at least you oughta retreat to a safe hidey-hole rather than makin' yourselves easy target. Best place to hunker down an' rest yer fluffy tail is the Great Hutch." All about, lost in the mists, STAPs sounded their high-pitched whine. "It's where I grew up. Safe city."

Qui-Gon brought them to a halt, staring fixedly now at the rabbit. "What did you say? A city?" Jaxxon nodded sharply. "Can you take us there?"

The rabbit seemed suddenly distracted. "Ah, um...well, maybe there's better places to stuff our ears into. Naw, the Great Hutch ain't the place you want. C'mon, I'll take ya someplace even safer." His eyes shifted from side to side nervously.

Qui-Gon leaned close, his eyes dark, his hand raising and waving slowly before the rabbit's face. "But you want to take us to the Great Hutch."

A buck-toothed grin broke out in Jaxxon's fuzzy face. "Grandpa, you can stop it with the Jedi mind tricks right there. They don't work on us lepus carnivorous. Too much brain stem in our beautiful ears." He stroked his left ear almost fondly.

"Then stop distracting us!" snapped Qui-Gon, lowering his hand. "Can you take us to this Great Hutch or not?"

Jaxxon glanced sideways, his eyes darting evasively. "I ain't exactly welcomed there no more, is all," he grunted reluctantly. "They ain't rolling out the bunny hail and welcome for old Jax at the Great Hutch no more."

"What happened?" Obi-Wan asked, in spite of himself. Qui-Gon shot him a sharp look, but Jaxxon had already begun to reply:

"Let's jus' say Boss Grass...he's the king o' all us meat-eatin' rabbits...well, he ain't likely to welcome the guy who got his daughter pregnant." He looked sheepishly at his large feet. "He's got a powerful mad-on for yours truly here."

Obi-Wan grinned. "So you gave her a kid. Forgive and for..."

Jaxxon shook his head, his ears whipping back an' forth. "A kid? Ain't the work it works with us, cloak boy.m Sixty-six kids. We have litters. No, Jedi pallie, I ain't goin' back to the Great..."

A low, deep, pulsating sound penetrated the whine of the STAPs, rising up through mist and gloom, growing steadily louder.

"You hear that?" Qui-Gon asked softly, placing a finger on the rabbit's furry barrel chest. Jaxxon scowled but nodded. "There's a thousand terrible things heading this way, my green friend..."

"And when they find you, they will crush you into dust, grind you into little pieces, and serve you up as piping hot rabbit stew to Nute Gunray," Obi-Wan added with more than a little glee.

Qui-Gon nodded. "Is that truly a better fate than facing up to your responsibilities, Jaxxon?"

Jaxxon rolled his eyes and snorted through his fuzzy nose. "Yeah, yeah, I get the point." He gestured grumpily. "This way. Jus' a hop, skip, and jump to the entrance to the Great Hutch. But I'm tellin' ya, Boss Grass's gonna serve us up for lunchmeat himself when he sees I came back..."

In a rush, they raced away into the twilight mist.

To be continued? Maybe. Yes, someday, if little stuffed me isn't sued into the ground by Lucasfilm. And incidently, why am I doing this post thirty years from tomorrow instead of on the actual thirtieth anniversary? Well...tomorrow's an even more important anniversary, folks. Stay tuned!...


7 comments:

Michael said...

This? This is awesome.

Ornery tough-talk coming from a blaster totin', bloody fanged lepus carnivorous beats the hell out of insulting "meesa yousa" pidgin and bantha poodoo jokes.

Han, Chewie and Lando put the cool in the original trilogy. The prequels could have used a dose of it.

And yes, when I played Star Wars Galaxies I had a character named Jaxxon.

myron said...

Not to get too distracted, but in the Annie Hall image, notice the creases in her pants - wardrobe neglected to iron them. This has been the wallpaper on my desktop for years, so I've spent an inordinate amount of time staring at it.

Anonymous said...

bucky o'hare?

Joe said...

This is GREAT! Definitely print the rest! I've always been a big Jaxxon fan and it's a treat to see him take over from Jar Jar with the cynical Han Solo role many felt was missing from TPM.

Roy Thomas commented recently that when he saw Jar Jar he felt vindicated and said that Jaxxon would have fared much better from audiences than Jar Jar did.

For clarification purposes, Roy says he left the comic because he recoiled at receiving direction from Lucas (Roy admits he wasn't too good at taking creative input) who thought he may have gone a little too close to Seven Samurai and that Jaxxon might have been a bit too over the top. Roy was a little surprised (and annoyed) to see the Archie brought the character without a problem in issue 16.

Eyrezer said...

This is brilliant. I really enjoyed reading Jaxx kick butt. Shame he didn't knock down Obi-Wan like he did Warto.

~Eyrezer

Anonymous said...

I always seem to find myself gravitating towards this post after watching [i]The Phantom Menace[/i] (that is, the couple of times I've seen it since you posted this), and today is no exception. Jaxxon makes so much sense! It'd be easy to believe that he gets duped into making a motion for the creation of an army of the Republic in [i]Attack of the Clones[/i], because "no one else has the guts to do it." And that Gungan battle at the end of [i]TPM[/i] would've been awesome if it had been a Scrappy Doo-style meat-eating rabbit instead of Jar Jar we were focusing on.

Here's hoping you continue what you've started, and do indeed come out with further editions to this!

Zarm said...

Fans of the early Star Wars Marvel comics line may be interested to know that Jaxxon has made his internet premiere; Star Wars: Marvels, Chapter One, featuring everyone's favorite Lepus Carnivorous, is now available at www.nolinecinemas.com/marvels.htm.