The Star Wars universe is bigger than ever, thanks to Disney’s new mandate that everything that gets published is in canon, along with the movies. But if all you’ve done is watch the movies and TV shows, there’s a whole half of the universe you’re missing.
Here are all the new, notable and most interesting characters from all the Star Wars books and comics released so far, including Rebels, Imperials, Jedi, aliens, bounty hunters, and even a few droids. Spoiler warning, obviously—but if you want to know what else is going on in a galaxy far, far away, it’s essential to know about these characters.
Before A New Hope
Depa Billaba (Kanan)
She was the Jedi Master to Kanan (star of Star Wars Rebels, back when he was going by Caleb Dume.) Captured by space pirates at an early age, she was rescued by Mace Windu, who not only brought her into the Jedi order, but trained her himself. Eventually she also joined the Jedi High Council, and made background appearances in the Council scenes in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. She was fighting the Separatists on the planet Kaller with Caleb Dune when Order 66 was enacted; she was meditating at the time, which allowed her to receive a Force vision of the danger. She sacrificed herself to the clone soldiers, given Caleb enough time to escape.
Janus Kasmir (Kanan)
A Kalleran criminal and con artist who ran into Kanan, then called Caleb Dume, both before and after Order 66. He had no love for the Jedi or the Separatists— but when he found Caleb hiding in Plateau City, he fed and took in the young Jedi. After hearing a message calling all Jedi to return to Coruscant, Caleb actually stole Janus’ spaceship. When he discovered it was an Imperial trap, Caleb brought the ship back, but Janus banished him. The two later ran across each on Kaller, after Kanan had beat up some criminals Kasmir had intended on fleecing; as punishment, the Kalleran forced Caleb into his crew, telling him to get rid of everything that marked him as Caleb Dume, including his name—and that’s how he became Kanan Jarrus. The two made great partners in stealing and smuggling, skills Kanan continued to utilize later, but to help the Rebellion.
Isval (Lords of the Sith)
A former Twilek slave who helped lead a rebellion on the planet Ryloth alongside Cham Syndulla (whom you might recognize from Clone Wars, or as the father of Hera on Rebels). She loved Cham and hated the Empire, and gave her life for both causes. She even confronted Darth Vader, sacrificing her life so Cham could continue fighting against the Empire.
Ciena Ree (Lost Stars)
Born on the planet Jelucan, Ciena enthusiastically joined the Empire after it liberated her impoverished planet. She attended the Royal Imperial Academy, receiving top marks and going on the command track. She was assigned to Darth Vader’s flagship Devastator, where she narrowly avoided being killed on the Death Star along with many of her friends and fellow former students. Although she was appalled at what she considered the Rebellion’s act of terrorism, eventually she began to see that the Empire was evil. At first she thought maintaining order was the greatest good, then she hoped to change the Empire for the better from within, but she finally stayed purely because of her vow of service, as Jelucans take their honor very seriously. Ciena was the commander of the crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku, seen early in The Force Awakens.
Thane Kyrell (Lost Stars)
Thane was Ciena’s childhood friend who also joined the Royal Imperial Academy, following the pilot track. Their childhood friendship blossomed into romance, but while Ciena stayed in command ships among fellow Imperials, Thane flew TIE Fighters to various planets and into various battles, and saw the Empire’s evils first hand. Eventually he deserted, helped by Ciena, who had him declared dead. But Thane’s conscience eventually got the better of him, and he joined the Rebellion, pitting him against his love.
After A New Hope
Evaan Verlaine (Princess Leia)
A native Alderaanian, Evaan was mentored by Queen Breha growing up, giving her a love of its royal family and the Rebel Alliance it supported. After the Death Star destroyed the planet, she pledged her service to Princess Leia as they searched for other survivors who had been off-planet, while the Empire was hunting them down. She protected Leia as they traveled to Naboo, Sallust and other planets (since the Empire had a bounty on the princess’ head) and together they brought together thousands of Alderaanians. When this group came to together to discuss electing a new leader, Verlaine assumed Leia would take the role; instead, Leia nominated Verlaine.
Sana Solo (Marvel’s Star Wars)
Born Sana Starros, Sana is most notable for claiming to be Han Solo’s wife. Han Solo claims this is 100% not true. Who is lying? Well, more on that in a bit. We do know for certain, however, that Han has been avoiding Sana for years—which could just as easily be because she’s crazy and dangerous. At any rate, Sana tracked down Han—who was unfortunately hitting on Leia at the time—in the Monsua Nebula, right before the Empire attacked. Sana’s plans to turn Leia in for her bounty, and basically kidnap her husband, were dashed when Han reveals he is also a Rebel, and if the Empire lands he’ll be killed too—forcing Sana take both Han and Leia prisoner while escaping from the Empire until she figures out how to get rid of one and not the other.
Eventually Sana reveals that she and Han were married—but it was part of a scam job the two pulled together. When the deal went sour, Han ran off with Sana’s cut, and she’s been trying to track him down since. After Leia saves Sana from a monster outbreak in Grakkus the Hutt’s arena, Sana and the group part amicably—although there’s no mention as to whether she ever got actually got the money she was looking for.
Grakkus the Hutt (Marvel’s Star Wars)
He was a Hutt crimelord on Nar Shaddaa—known as the “Smuggler’s Moon,” since it was basically one big criminal underworld. He controlled a legion of bounty hunters and smugglers, indulging in crimes and contract killings all over the galaxy, which funded his passion for collecting Jedi artifacts. When Luke Skywalker visited Nar Shaddaa in the hopes of hiring a pilot to take him to Coruscant, Luke got into a bar fight and was forced to use his lightsaber. One of Grakkus’ operatives pretty much immediately stole the weapon and gave it to the Hutt. It actually worked out kind of all right for Luke; trapped in the Hutt’s massive collection of artifacts, Luke had access to over a dozen of Jedi Holocrons containing recordings of past Jedi masters. Then Grakkus decided Luke would better serve him fighting to the death in the crimelord’s arena. This decision didn’t work out well for anybody.
Doctor Aphra (Darth Vader)
The “rogue archaeologist” came to Darth Vader’s attention for her technological ability, particularly with droids—she managed to find and reactivate 000 and BT-1, two of the deadliest droids in the galaxy, without being murdered by them. Vader sought her out to help him acquire an army, having fallen out of favor with the Emperor after A New Hope. Aphra took him to Geonosis and commandeered the last remaining droid factory there. Later, after learning the name of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, Vader sent her on a sensitive mission—find the Naboo doctor who performed the autopsy on Queen Amidala’s corpse, to confirm whether she had still been pregnant when she died. Aphra is young and spunky, and is an odd match for Vader, but the Sith Lord has spared her life on several occasions, while Aphra has also gone out of her way to rescue her new master.
0-0-0 and BT-1 (Darth Vader)
Like C-3PO, 000 is a protocol droid; like R2-D2, BT-1 looks like an Astromech. Also, they tend to squabble with each other. Other than that, though, they are totally different—because both droids basically want to kill all humans (and frequently ask their master Dr. Aphra for permission to do so). Triple-Zero is programmed for etiquette and torture, which he enjoys quite a bit—he has been known to laugh while setting droids on fire—while BT-1 is an assassin droid, created by the Empire in a program that was shut down immediately after BT-1 killed all his creators and blew up the base it was housed in. They are, without a doubt, the greatest characters in the new Star Wars continuity—not least of which is because of the time they manage to capture Luke Skywalker after painting the normally black 0-0-0 gold, disguising him as C-3PO.
Nakari Kelen (Heir to the Jedi)
One of Luke Skywalker’s new love interests in Disney’s new Star Wars canon. After her mother was jailed for writing a presumably dirty song titled “Darth Vader’s Many Prosthetic Parts,” Kelen joined the Rebel Alliance. Her slugthrower skills got her paired with Luke on a mission to rescue the cryptographer Givin Drusil Bephorin from Imperial clutches. The two fell for each other, and Luke even told her about his burgeoning Force talents. Alas, she was killed in the line of duty.
After Chewbacca crash-landed on Andelm-4, he came across a young girl named Zarro, who managed to enlist the Wookiee into helping her free her people from the evil crimelord Jaum. Jaum had enslaved the planet’s inhabitants into mining Andelm beetles and selling them to the Empire (they power blasters, somehow). Chewie and Zarro basically liberate the entire planet themselves—including Zarro’s dad—and even take out a Star Destroyer. But the real reason you need to know Zarro is that she’s the person who’s currently hanging onto Chewbacca’s medal, after the Wookiee gave it to her to remember their adventure by.
Chanath Cha (Lando)
This female bounty hunter was hired directly by the Emperor when his royal yacht, the Imperials, was stolen. Her mission: To kill the thieves, and destroy the vessel if need be, lest certain items fall into the wrong hands. The emperor gave Cha a ship, use of an Imperial space station and a droid, although the bounty hunter had to take several precautions with them to make sure the Emperor couldn’t have her killed after she had completed her task. When she located the yacht, she entered it and prepared to complete her mission… until she discovered the thieves were Lobot, her former lover, and his companion Lando Calrissian. Chanath eventually reneged on her mission and sided with Lando and Lobot, eventually helping them destroy Palpatine’s yacht.
Sarco Plank (The Weapon of a Jedi)
A Melitto alien who lived on the planet of Devaron (home of the aliens who look a lot like devils), who lived by scavenging and selling items as well as working as a guide to the planet’s jungles—although he wasn’t above killing his fares and stealing their valuables. Sarco mainly stayed on Devaron as he was convinced that the local, abandoned Jedi Temple of Eedit contained great riches, but he could never get into the temple to retreive them. When Luke Skywalker arrived, eager to search the temple, Sarco volunteered as the hero’s guide; eventually he revealed his plan to Luke, and the two fought. Luke knocked him into a pit inside the temple and left him (there was no treasure). Eventually, somehow Sarco Plank escaped and moved to Jakku, as he’s seen early in The Force Awakens at Niima Outpost, with fellow scavenger Rey. (Making him the only character on this list who appears in Episode VII.)
After Return of the Jedi
Norra Wexley (Aftermath)
After her Rebel husband was dragged off by Imperial troops, Norra Wexley left her young son Temmin in the care of her sister, and joined the Rebel Alliance herself in hopes of finding him (she is unsuccessful). Years later, after the battle of Endor, she returned to her home planet of Akiva to reunite with her son, who in the meantime has become a skilled pilot, inventor and criminal—even stealing a mysterious weapon from a local crimelord. Temmin was bitter his mother abandoned him, but when Norra realized a group of high-level Imperials are having a secret meeting on Akiva, she, Temmin and a group of others banded together to capture them, striking yet another crippling blow against the Empire. Years later, Temmin would be better known as Snap Wexley, the Resistance pilot played by Greg Grunberg in The Force Awakens.
Sinjir Rath Velus (Aftermath)
An Imperial Loyalty Officer who was at the battle of Endor and deserted following their horrific loss. He hid from the Empire ever since, knowing he’d immediately be executed for treason (or handed to another Imperial loyalty officer), and was getting drunk on Akiva when he heard of the arrival of Star Destroyers. In his attempt to get off planet, he got captured by a local crimelord, and rescued by a bounty hunter and the Wexleys, and then also got caught up in the attempt to capture the high-level Imperials meeting on the planet, using his intimate knowledge of the Empire to break them into the meeting’s location. Sinjir is homosexual, which has proven to be quite controversial among horrible people.
Jas Emari (Aftermath)
A bounty hunter who was at the battle of Endor to assassinate Princess Leia, who only stopped when she realized the battle had shifted to the Rebels’ favor. Later, she came to Akiva to assassinate Arsin Crassus, a rich slaver who funded the Imperials; but when she spied Admiral Sloane, Grand Moff Pandion, former advisor to the Emperor Yupe Tashu, and other major Imperial targets, she decided to take them all out at once—before unfortunately being captured by a local crimelord. She partnered with the Wexleys and Sinjir for their skills, and led the attempt to capture and kill the Imperial leaders.
Mr. Bones (Aftermath)
A Battle Droid repurposed and reprogrammed by Temmin into becoming his bodyguard, Mr. Bones was actually a terrifying killing machine when need be, and Temmin, who regularly ran afoul of many bad people, often needed him to be. His name came from the bones Temmin decorated the droid with, which frankly just makes him more terrifying. Imagine a battle droid that could move like Darth Maul but also had a habit of creepily humming to itself, and you get the idea.
Rae Sloane (Aftermath)
The Admiral of the last Super Star Destroyer and the highest ranking officer left in the Imperial Navy after Endor, Sloane took it upon herself to gather the remaining major leaders of the Empire to figure out what direction in a secret meeting upon Akiva. Unfortunately for her, trying to get the many disparate, often power-hungry Imperials to agree on anything proved impossible, and she was forced to abandon the idea—and them, literally, when the New Republic fleet got wind of the meeting and arrived in force. Having served Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader and even the Emperor himself during her long career, she will undoubtedly be a continued force for the New Republic to deal with.
The Operator (Aftermath)
This mysterious person is an unknown high-ranking Imperial officer who gives Admiral Ackbar and the New Republic forces information on Imperial troops, but for unknown reasons. Although Ackbar doesn’t trust him, his information has always been good—including that of the Imperial meeting taking place on Akiva. At the end of the novel Aftermath, it’s revealed that the Operator’s motives are pretty simple: He wants to eliminate his competition for control of the remaining Imperial forces. His identity is as yet unknown.
Shara Bey and Kes Dameron (Shattered Empire)
The parents of The Force Awakens star Poe Dameron, who likely conceived the eventual Resistance pilot immediately after defeating the Empire during the celebration on Endor. Shara Bay was an elite Rebel pilot who flew Princess Leia to Naboo when she asked them to join the New Republic. The Empire got wind of her journey, it attacked Naboo, and Bey was instrumental in stopping their assault. Meanwhile, Dameron was a member of the Pathfinders, a special strike team led by Han Solo that specialized in rooting out entrenched Imperial forces; they also stopped Operation Cinder, an Imperial plan to destroy several worlds in retaliation for the Emperor’s death. Shortly thereafter, Dameron left the Rebel Alliance, and Bey more reluctantly did the same, relocating to Yavin-IV to raise their son, Poe—and brought along a Force-sensitive tree originally planted at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, gifted to Shara by Luke Skywalker, after they liberated two of the trees from Imperial control.
The Messenger (Shattered Empire)
A mysterious being tasked with delivering messages from the Emperor. When the Emperor died, he brought the order to enact Operation: Cinder to Captain Lerr Duvat, who began by attacking Naboo (where Leia and Shara Bey happened to be). There’s not much to know about the Messenger yet, but between his obvious importance and his very distinct look, I believe he’ll be showing up in the new canon again soon.