Celebrating 20 years of Asajj Ventress

Asajj Ventress image courtesy of Starwars.com
Asajj Ventress image courtesy of Starwars.com /

It’s November 14, 2003. The latest episode of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars airs, and fans gather to watch the newest installment, “Chapter 6.”

Count Dooku arrives to witness the gladiatorial matches on the planet of Rattatak. He looks down upon the warriors brawling in the pit from his high seat. Then, a shadowy figure appears in his booth, impressing the Sith Lord. However, when he says he’s not looking for a spy, the figure springs into the fray to show off her skills.

Casting off her cloak, the figure is a bald woman who fiercely wields the Force. With vicious speed, cunning, and brutality, she systematically decimates her opponents one by one. With only one massive foe in her way, she drawls two lightsabers to challenge him.

It’s no challenge at all, as he falls in seconds. Standing as the victor, she bows to Dooku and claims to be a Sith. Just like that, the world was introduced to Asajj Ventress.

20 years later, Ventress is still one of the Star Wars franchise’s most beloved characters.

Originally a concept for Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the idea of Ventress as the main villain would be scrapped in favor of Count Dooku. Still, she would become part of the Clone Wars multimedia project, which included books, comics, video games, and, of course, the Tartakovsky series. All of which would connect Episode II and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Of course, this is where she would debut.

Her first name would originate from the Akira Kurosawa film Throne of Blood, as he always inspired George Lucas and the creators around him. The Lucasfilm Story Group’s Leland Chee suggested “Asajj” as an homage to the character Asajj in the film. “Ventress” came from the mind of former Senior Manager of Global Product Development Samuel C. Spitale. He shared on his Twitter account that she was “Named after the town Ventress in Louisiana. I wanted a word reminiscent of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen. And Ventress fit the bill.”

From her stories in Star Wars Legends to George Lucas and Dave Filoni’s take in The Clone Wars, Asajj Ventress’ staying power in Star Wars is unmatched. Grey DeLisle and Nika Futterman’s portrayals helped bring this character to life. Asajj would also be the inspiration for other creations in Star Wars. The character of Mika Grey in Star Wars Resistance was an imagining of what if Asajj would have survived to the sequel trilogy era.

Asajj Ventress would be the vessel for some of the most horror-inspired Star Wars stories. While Nightsisters had existed since the 1994 Legends novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, Ventress would be one of the most prominent faces for these Dark Side witches in The Clone Wars. Her story fleshed out much of what we know on screen as she returned to her sister on Dathomir and witnessed their destruction. It would lay the groundwork for future stories like Jedi: Fallen Order and Ahsoka.

Ventress also has one of the best redemption arcs in Star Wars. She’s the personification of a morally grey character, which would be fantastic to explore more in something like Tales of the Jedi. While she never truly fully steps into the light, she chooses her own path. No Jedi or Sith tells her what to do, and, in her own way, she fully gets to be herself. Ventress even finds love, as Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is one of the best tragic romances that has ever graced the franchise.

While she is only in a small portion of the greater narrative, Asajj Ventress is one of the most significant characters in Star Wars. From her painful upbringing to her struggles under the Sith to her personal liberation of choosing her own path, Ventress is an inspiring story of perseverance and strength.

Happy 20th birthday, Asajj Ventress. Here’s to the next 20 years.