I recently completed an article try-out for ScreenRant, a website in the Valnet family of sites. I enjoy the website, and I’ve done some work for one of its sister sites in the past, so I thought I’d give it a swing.
Back in the dark ages, I took some film and media studies courses as a cognate to my rhetoric and composition focus, and I’ve done a fair amount of writing on motion pictures, so I thought I’d be a good candidate to sling some syllables for them.
Alas, it was not to be. I got a very nice email letting me know that my style of writing isn’t a fit for what they’re looking for right now.
I don’t want the words to go to waste, though, so I am sharing them below. I’m spending a lot of time these days thinking about Star Wars’ Doctor Aphra because I am making a presentation at this year’s Northeast Popular & American Culture Association conference (virtually, of course) that discusses Aphra’s introduction into a larger, already-established universe.
This is a bit of a sneak peek into some of the ideas I am working through for the conference, with the specific concept and title of this piece provided by the ScreenRant editors.
Enjoy what might have been . . . .
Who Is Doctor Aphra? Star Wars’ Comic Character Explained
Since reacquiring the Star Wars license from Dark Horse in 2015, Marvel Comics has been releasing a steady stream of new material, some of which fills in the gaps of the original film series. One of the books that presents stories concurrent to the first Star Wars trilogy is Darth Vader. Issue three of Vader’s first volume introduced what’s come to be the breakout star of these new comics, Doctor Chelli Aphra. Aphra practically stole the series from Vader, and has since gone on to star in two volumes of her own series and become the subject of Disney+ – series rumors.
Doctor Aphra is introduced as an archeologist specializing in ancient weaponry. Presented as a sort of Indiana Jones-like scholar adventurer, she comes into contact with Vader because he needs her help in securing an army of droids of his own post-A New Hope. Aphra is quick to accept the offer to work with Vader because a) he offers her little choice, b) she has an obsession with recovering ancient artifacts, and c) she’s a bit of a criminal.
Aphra is more than a bit of a criminal, actually. She’s a full-blown bad guy at times, willingly sacrificing the people around her to feed her need for money and archeology. She understands it’s a harsh universe, and she does what she needs to survive, even if she has pangs of guilt later on.
As Aphra’s character gets fleshed out in Darth Vader and later in Doctor Aphra, her history gets revealed. She’s the daughter of a similarly obsessed archeologist father, and a mother who stole away with her when her dad wasn’t looking. Her mom’s death feeds into Aphra’s belief in the coldness of the world, giving her some measure of appreciation for the stability the Empire promises to provide.
Her books have made a point to explore Aphra’s sexuality. Aphra’s pursuit of same-sex relationships, and the reckless abandon she uses to destroy those relationships to reach her own ends, has earned the character accolades for her depiction as a fully-formed—warts and all—member of the LGBTQ community. Her style, good humor, and rugged competency have made her a reader and cosplayer favorite.
As Aphra’s character continues to develop, the main question is whether writers allow her to continue to develop into a more traditional “good guy,” or insist that she continues to leave the wreckage of past relationships strew across space like the remains of a blasted TIE fighter. Recent issues seem to suggest that Aphra’s growth is, at best, slow, and it’s reasonable to expect her roguish behavior will continue at least for a little while.