Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Heroes: Wedge Antilles

Okay, so maybe I do have strange taste in heroes. But I distinctly remember the character of Wedge from the original Star Wars movie—even though I was only seven at the time. I didn't really come to idolize the character until the Empire Strikes Back came out—and you get to see Wedge really show off his skills. My admiration for the character only grew as he appeared yet again in the finale of Return of the Jedi and became a recurring character in the various Star Wars books and comics that followed.

Why do I like Wedge? There are a lot of reasons, most of which I only realized after the movies came out. I guess the main reason is the fact that he is such an unassuming hero. He's one of the 'background' characters in the stories, but one who proves to be exceedingly competent. He may not have the flash of Luke or Han, but he's the guy you can count on to always be there. In Star Wars, he bailed Luke out of a jam by (quite dramatically) taking out the TIE fighter that was on the fledgling Jedi's tail. In Empire, he was the ONLY pilot to successfully take down an AT-AT Walker with the tow cable maneuver ("Good shot, Janson!"). In Return of the Jedi, he accompanied Lando into the second Death Star, helping take out its main generator. That is an awful lot of coolness for a background character. 

For me, it says a lot about the writing of a movie when it allows even the supporting characters to have their moments. It adds depth to the setting—giving an inclination that the main characters are in a world populated by lots of other people with their own stories to tell. That's kind of a gripe that I have with a lot of movies: Background characters seem to exist only to A) die, B) make the main characters look good or C) die to make the main characters look good. Star Trek is one of the worst examples of this. It seems as though anyone NOT on the Enterprise is inept, usually suicidally so.

Along the lines of Luke, Wedge is that 'uncool' kind of hero, the one you just don't realize is a hero until you look back on all he's managed to accomplish. I mean...he's the only guy in the Rebel Alliance with TWO Death-Star Kill markers on the side of his fighter. 

As far as Wedge's appearances go in the novels? To me, they seem just a bit lackluster. He doesn't even get top billing in the 'Rogue Squadron' series, even though he's the squadron's CO. No, it isn't until the superb Rogue Squadron Comics (by Dark Horse) that Wedge truly comes into his own, backed up with several other 'secondary' characters from the movies: Janson and Hobbie. I guess the reason these comics connect with me most is that they portray the character much as I thought of him. Soft spoken, professional and yet personable—with a strong sense of duty and concern about the pilots under his command. The comraderie the pilots share, their interactions and personalities is exactly what I'd hoped the novels would be like—and the art has been very good through the series. As a Wedge fan? I couldn't ask for more.

Of course, its geeky to add this (wow, this whole blog already is, so...does that really need mentioning?), but those times where I have been able to play Wedge and his squadron online stand out as some of the best and most enjoyable RP I've had. But then, that's kind of the joy of being a GM: inhabiting the bodies of your favorite NPCs, presenting them just how you always thought—fleshing them out and letting them interact with your player's characters—bringing them to life.

So in closing, I am a very big fan of Wedge "Veggies" Antilles, and I hope Lucas and the other cronies who are picking apart the franchise will just leave him alone (or turn him over to someone who really cares).

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