One of my earliest and happiest memories is my parents renting out Star Wars on VHS from Blockbuster’s; my mind was blown and I was hooked. From then on, I soaked up anything and everything Star Wars, devouring the comics and books. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money at all but from a young age my Mum always made sure that I had the latest issue of the Dark Horse comic series and the newest of the young readers Jedi Apprentice books. My pride and joy was a ‘The Phantom Menace’ teaser poster which I still have up on the wall today! (I was only 9 when the first of the prequels was released so yes, I do love the prequels!)
For me personally, the comics have always been my favourite stories in the Star Wars Universe including the films, I used to spend hours arranging and re-ordering my collection and I loved the different alien characters that would make one-off appearances or just pop up here and there playing their small parts in the galaxy. I had it in my head that I wanted my own character, one of the many I used to imagine, to make an appearance in an issue (a Mandalorian Jedi, a Tusken Raider Bounty Hunter ect. I was only 10 or 11 but you get the idea). Being a time before social media and us not even owning or having access to a computer I wrote to Dark Horse or Lucas Film to see if they liked any of my ideas and to my surprise... I had no reply. Looking back, I’m not even sure if the letters had stamps or got posted but still, I was disappointed.
Fast forward 5-10 years and I now had a younger brother (15 years younger!), Theo. The best thing that could of happened to me, though that wasn’t my first reaction to finding out I was going to have to share my room with a younger brother. I loved having a younger brother who I could teach about Star Wars! Theo and myself are more into sport and music and have never really been into comics in general, super heroes, sci-fi films or anything similar but something about Star Wars just has us captivated. It was great re-exploring the Universe with my younger brother after a few years away. We watched all of the Clone Wars series together, played the video games (Battlefront & KOTOR), read a lot of the comics and books together and of course used to binge on the films regularly.
When I was getting married and moving out I knew it would be hard for my brother leaving him with 3 sisters so he used to stay over as often as possible and he would always bring me drawings or short stories he’d done of characters that we’d made up. Seeing as Star Wars meant so much to both of us I wanted to do something really special that we could both share together and I had an idea. I researched the current on-going Star Wars comic series and one in particular caught my attention, Star Wars Legacy Volume II. We were still reading through the first Legacy series and was really enjoying it so I wrote down the names of the authors and then googled their names to try and find a contact number or address. I couldn’t find any numbers or addresses but found the author of Legacy Volume II Corinna Bechko’s Twitter. I tweeted Corinna and asked if she had an email address I could contact her on, she kindly replied so I emailed her. I explained how me and my brother were fanatic Star Wars fans and I wanted to do something special and wondered if in one of Legacy’s issues Corinna could maybe combine our names 'Jared' & 'Theo' (Ja'Reo, Thared?) for a minor character which would just make us apart of the Star Wars Universe in some way. I patiently waited and then Corinna replied that she would love to give us a cameo, but unfortunately our email found her the same day that she found out about Marvel taking over the Star Wars license and that the series was to be cut short and wrapped up in 18 issues. I was disappointed but completely understood the situation. Then, another email from Corinna, ‘I certainly haven't forgotten about you guys! I think I've got it fixed up’! but Corinna understandably didn’t want to make any promises. And then a month later, a message from Corinna, ‘Check out the very last issue when it comes out... number #18. "Thared" is an Imperial Knight :)’! I was of course over the moon with Corinna’s kindness and couldn’t wait (only 6 months). Corinna did say though that a last minute edit out of her hands could possibly change the character so I decided to keep it a surprise for Theo in case it didn’t happen, I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Having read ahead of Theo I was already up to date with the series which was up to issue #10 but I had started to read through the first trade paperback story arc with Theo, not telling him that we could be a part of it. I also brought 2 Stormtrooper themed folders, 2 packs of plastic comic book wallets and ordered 2 copies of every issue of Legacy Volume II and even managed to get the 2 variant covers (one being signed by Corinna and co- author/artist/husband Gabriel Hardman) as well. Over the next 6 months I continued to collect 2 of each issue and put them in the folders (keeping them well hidden from Theo) and just kept reading the trade paperback versions as they were released.
Finally, the week of issue #18 was here, the last Star Wars comic of my era (Dark Horse) and the furthest point in the old Expanded Universe’s timeline. I had told my Mum and we had arranged for Theo to stay over the weekend where I would surprise him with the folder of the entire collection of the Legacy Volume II series including issue #18 with our character ‘Thared’. Being 5 hours ahead in the UK the night of the comics release I couldn’t sleep, (partly nerves and excitement, nerves that a last-minute edit might have taken Thared out and excitement that me and brother might actually be a part of the Star Wars Universe!). I woke up early at 5am (the time of the comic’s online release), logged onto my Dark Horse account, downloaded the comic and started to read. Second page in and there he was, ‘Master Thared’! I can’t explain how happy and emotional I was. That day I went to my local comic book shop who had promised that they would have a copy on its release day ready for me, I picked one up (as I had 5 on order!) and explained the story to the excited shop workers who asked why I was so keen to pick up this particular issue.
After picking Theo up from my parent’s, I told him that as usual I had some Star Wars comics for him and as usual he was excited to see them and start reading through. When I brought out the folder I could see the surprise in his face as he repeatedly thanked me; I explained how I had collected every issue of the series in this folder for him but the last issue wasn’t in there. He said thanks again and not to worry because we could wait for the last issue to complete the collection. I then told him that I had spoken to the author and had told her how it would be a dream come true to have a Star Wars character named after us, he was amazed that I had spoken to the author but still didn’t quite know what I was getting at. I then took issue #18 out of the bag and told him that I had the last issue and that the author had very kindly named a character after us! I showed him and for the first time in as long as I can remember he was speechless. He then gave me a big hug and told me to thank Corinna. Theo now has the comic book framed up on his wall where I used to hang my ‘The Phantom Menace’ teaser poster.
We even got to go and meet Corinna and Garbriel at a comic book signing in London where we got our comics signed and Theo got a personal sketch by Gabriel. For both my brother and myself it was a dream come true to be made a part of the Star Wars Universe that we love so much and we will always be grateful to Corinna & Gabriel for their kindness.
For me Star Wars will always be the George Lucas/ Dark Horse era so being a part of the last issue is that much more special. Even though I won’t be following the new EU as closely as I did the old I look forward to seeing more Star Wars in the future and hope to see Corinna & Gabriel back in the Universe in the future....