How much of Star Wars is canon?
There are so many spin offs, from comics to books to cartoons to computer games to internets fanfiction, that the answer will differ for every fan of Star Wars. My friend Starcat, like all cats, only considers the core six films to be truly canon. In case you don't know much about Star Wars, the "core six films" consist of:
- Star Wars, 1977 (sometimes called A New Hope by mannys to differentiate it from Star Wars as a whole)
- The Star Wars Holiday Special, 1978
- The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
- Return of the Jedi, 1983
- Caravan of Courage, 1984
- The Battle for Endor, 1985
By 1984 there were already comics being made for those Star Wars fans who wanted more stories but did not yet have the internets to read fanfiction on, because in those dark times there was hardly any internets!
One such comic was Return of the Jedi #49, and in it there was a very unusual story that seems to lay the foundation for the (non-canonical, at least in the opinion of all cats) fanfiction films known as the 'prequel trilogy' - The Phantom Menace (1999), When Clones Attack (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
The story is presented in the form of a quiz with 20 questions and answers - some of the questions refer to events which appear in the core six films, but not all of them.
For example, question 1:
What was the Emperor's name and title before he declared himself Emperor?The answer given is "Senator Palpatine" and that is also the name of a character in the prequel trilogy who goes on to become the Evil Emperor in the end. If we confine canon to just the core six films, then the Evil Emperor is just called the Emperor, so it seems that the makers of the prequel films decided to accept this as canon for their films.
How did Darth Vader become 'more machine than man'?Answer:
When Obi Wan Kenobi defeated him, Vader fell into a volcanic crater and nearly died.While the phrase 'more machine than man' is paraphrasing a quote from Return of the Jedi, the events in the answer are not seen, described or made explicit in any way in any of the core six films. But events that fit that description* do occur in fanfiction film Revenge of the Sith.
However, if we look at question 15...
Who trained Obi Wan to be a Jedi?...we will see that it backs up the answer given in The Empire Strikes Back as "Yoda" - no mention is made of Qui-Gon Jinn - so it seems that the makers of the prequel films are happy to contradict both the original films and the expanded universe of the quiz when they want to.
In conclusion, me and Starcat would like to finish by saying that Star Wars has a complicated relationship with canon and continuity, and that the prequel films are still rubbish. So there.
* Very loosely. A more fitting answer would be phrased "When Obi Wan Kenobi defeated him, Vader lay in a volcanic crater with his arms and legs chopped off and nearly died."