Many fan-favorite Star Wars characters were introduced in the original trilogy, but who is the most popular character introduced elsewhere?
When asking a Star Wars fan about their favorite character, you’re likely to hear a variety of answers. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, Yoda, and Lando Calrissian are among some of the most common names. When it comes down to the most popular characters, most of them seem to have been introduced in one of the original trilogy films–A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi.
Many characters were made more popular through stories other than the original trilogy, though. The original trilogy introduced Obi-Wan Kenobi and Emperor Palpatine but they became even more popular because of how their characters were further fleshed out in the prequel films. These characters also became more popular because of how they were developed beyond the films in content like books, comics, television shows, and video games.
All of this begs the question of who is the popular Star Wars character who wasn’t introduced in the original trilogy? Over the years, countless characters have been introduced in Star Wars content beyond the original films, yet few seem able to stand next to that first cast.
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As such, I asked Star Wars fans in-person and online to share their opinions on the most popular character not introduced in the original trilogy. Any character introduced in content other than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi is considered fair game.
While there were a variety of answers, two names in particular reoccurred the most. Let’s take a look at who they are and how they’ve managed to become so popular despite not being introduced in the original trilogy.
Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] Lucasfilm, Cartoon Network
First introduced in The Phantom Menace, many fans consider Maul the most popular character to debut outside the original trilogy.
At first this may seem a bit strange as The Phantom Menace is one of the least-liked Star Wars film and Maul barely spoke in it. Initially a lot of the popularity had to do with his fearsome, unique, and stunning aesthetic. When the film released in 1999, Maul’s look was a refreshing change of pace and unlike anything fans had in a Star Wars movie before. There’s also the simple fact that Maul was a cool, tough character.
Maul’s popularity has staying power, though, because of the rich character arcs he received in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, made even better with the Son of Dathomir and Darth Maul comics. They kept what fans already loved about Maul and improved his character further by imbuing him with a compelling personality, backstory, and core drives lacking in The Phantom Menace. He remained a cool-looking, tough character, now with a complex and emotional story.
His surprise cameo in Solo is what many fans loved best about the film and they are eager to see more of Maul’s story. He was initially popular for simple reasons, but has stayed popular through rich character development.
Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] Lucasfilm
Considered by many to be the other most popular character not introduced in the original trilogy, Ahsoka Tano had a rougher road to popularity than Maul. Debuting in The Clone Wars movie and the television series of the same name that followed, many fans were not taken with Ahsoka, even finding her to be annoying.
Over time this changed drastically as Ahsoka became a fan-favorite. This is largely attributed to the fact that fans were able to watch her mature as The Clone Wars unfolded. As many fans grew up and matured while The Clone Wars aired, they were able to watch Ahsoka do the same, albeit in a galaxy far, far away. She went from being Anakin Skywalker’s brash apprentice to becoming an incredibly wise and powerful Force-user. She was always compassionate and brave, but how she channeled and acted on those traits changed while she grew as a character.
Ahsoka was a great character by herself, but she also added a lot more depth and fun to Anakin Skywalker. Many characters were not fond of him after the prequel films, but she helped elevate his overall character. Other characters such as Obi-Wan, Padmé, Yoda, and even Plo Koon were also enriched in The Clone Wars because of Ahsoka and her relationships with them.
All these elements made fans crushed when Ahsoka’s story seemed unfinished towards the end of The Clone Wars, and ecstatic when she returned in Rebels. Her character development and emotional arcs continued to excel as she became a wise mentor figure for Kanan and Ezra, played a role in shaping the Rebel Alliance – those particularly interested in that should read E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka, and she even faced off against Darth Vader.
Ahsoka has become the rare kind of character who instantly makes any Star Wars content even more exciting and highly anticipated. She achieved that with Rebels and now again with the return of The Clone Wars.
Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] LucasfilmMaul and Ahsoka were the most common answers for the most popular character introduced outside the original trilogy, but certainly not the only ones. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Kylo Ren, Rey, BB-8, Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Hera Syndulla, and Kanan Jarrus were among other characters that received some love.
Of course, this is all highly subjective and can definitely change with time. A decade ago very few people would’ve considered Ahsoka a popular character. Both she and Maul have benefited from further development over time.
That will continue as Ahsoka will definitely play a prominent role in season 7 of The Clone Wars, especially as that role looks to be related to the Siege of Mandalore, an arc Maul will be integral to as well.
It is also interesting to note that neither Maul nor Ahsoka are humans. Maul is a Dathomirian Zabrak and Ahsoka is a Togruta. Their popularity is not just because of their species, but it arguably indicates that fans are hungry for more well-developed alien characters as it is a refreshingly different from the constant influx of human characters.
Those who say all the best characters were introduced in the original trilogy need to reconsider when it comes to Maul, Ahsoka, and countless other characters out there.
In just a few years time this question may have completely different answers given the steady stream of new characters introduced, how existing characters are further developed, and because of time itself. Just as happened with Ahsoka, perhaps an unpopular character today will become a fan-favorite as the years continue.
Who do you think is the most popular character introduced outside the original trilogy? Let us know in the comments below!