How Star Wars fans made Mandalorians cool

To celebrate the release of The Book of Boba Fett, journalist Andrew Liptak used his Transfer Orbit newsletter to explore the history of Boba Fett and the Mandalorians — both in-universe, and out. Liptak is the author of the upcoming Cosplay: A History: The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life, and uses his intimate understanding of fan culture to examine the ways that the fandom helped inspire the development of the mysterious masked warriors, and deftly interweaves that story with the shifting Star Wars canon as it moves from the head of George Lucas to the Expanded Universe "Legends" to the modern Disney stories:

Following the introduction of Darth Vader in A New Hope, George Lucas wanted to bring in a new villain for the sequel, and repurposed Vader's original origins as an intergalactic bounty hunter for Fett. "The Boba Fett character is really an early version of Darth Vader," he told J.W. Rinzler in The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, "He is also very much like the man-with-no-name from the Sergio Leone westerns."

The character's design went through a number of changes during the film's preproduction, according to artist Joe Johnson. "Boba Fett was part of a force we called supertroopers; they were like these high-tech fighting units and they all looked alike. That eventually evolved into a single bounty hunter." An early version of Fett appeared in 1978's Star Wars Holiday Special, and debuted in his present form two years later, in The Empire Strikes Back, played by actor Jeremy Bulloch. Fett also appeared in The Return of the Jedi, only to quickly face an unceremonious end.

The character, anonymous behind his mask and array of weapons, radiates danger and suspense. He was mysterious, and more importantly, cool. As the Star Wars Expanded Universe grew in the 1990s, various authors found ways to delve into his backstory, spinning out tales of his work as a bounty hunter. He appeared in Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire, the novel that bridged The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as in a pair of short stories in Kevin J. Anderson's Tales of the Bounty Hunters and Tales from Jabba's Palace anthologies, the latter of which answered a long-simmering question: how did he escape from his apparent death in Return of the Jedi?

Liptak's Transfer Orbit newsletter is always a delightful repository of sci-fi and fantasy media journalism, and this post is a particularly fun and comprehensive look at how a first-draft scribble transformed into a nearly-silent side character which lead into a culture that conquered the Star Wars universe.

(The video above is just a history of the Mandalorians in-universe, if you're more interested in that. But it's long.)

A Brief History of Star Wars' Mandalorian Warriors [Andrew Liptak / Transfer Orbit]