TRANSMISSIONS FROM A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY:

EPISODE VIII

This is the eighth column in a weekly series from The Rock Father James Zahn. Check back Fridays for the latest in what’s happening in the galaxy far, far away, or read them all here.

 

The Star Wars galaxy is a place that’s populated by countless characters, each bringing a robust backstory and history. That wasn’t always the case, however, and when George Lucas set out to make his original Star Wars movie in the mid-1970s, the young team of makeup artists and FX designers just populated the scenes with the coolest aliens and creatures that their imaginations could muster. Later, when a little toy company called Kenner made its famed deal to develop what would undoubtedly become the most influential toy line of all time, a lot of the characters that made the jump into 3.75-inch action figures had fairly generic names, like Hammerhead or Walrus Man. This continued all the way through the original trilogy, and by the time Return of the Jedi hit screens in 1983, kids were thrilled to find new toys like Prune Face and Yak Face on the pegs. In fact, it was those oddball, off-kilter, off-the-radar characters that became some of the biggest hits and most sought-after collectibles. They may have been a blip on the screen (hello, Amanaman!), but even with just a line or two and a cool look, a minor player could become as legendary as Boba Fett.

Eventually, those bit characters would be given proper names, like Momaw Nadon, Ponda Baba, Orrimaarko, and Saelt-Marae. They were assigned species, occupations, and histories that became further expanded upon through games, novels, and comic books. It became standard that new characters introduced into the franchise would receive the same treatment, regardless of medium, and by the time the 2015 release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens came along, giving backstories to what were essentially extras ran into an unusual problem for the very first time…

Constable Zuvio.

When the first-ever Force Friday took place in September of 2015, Star Wars fans flocked to retail stores to get their hands on the first toys from the first cinematic Star Wars tale in a decade. There on pegs, alongside the new stars like Rey and Kylo Ren, were curious aliens like Sarco Plank. But this Zuvio… fans thought he must be important, because he not only received a 3.75-inch action figure, but a 6-inch super-articulated entry into Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series.

Zuvio would soon hit the spotlight with features in EW and Empire—exclusive photo reveals about Nima Outpost’s badass lawman, who, along with two cousins, kept order in one of Jakku’s sandy trading posts and junkyards.

Then The Force Awakens hit theaters, and brought with it a question even stranger than “who are Rey’s parents?” For some, the more pressing issue was “where’s Zuvio?”

Articles began springing up en masse, each questioning the absence of this character, who surely must’ve been cut from the film—a subplot or additional scene that had fallen victim to timing?

Turns out, Zuvio didn’t have a story at all.

When The Force Awakens’ in-home release arrived, Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo tweeted (since deleted) the first evidence of Constable Zuvio appearing on-screen—a couple blurry screengrabs from the background of the chase in which Rey and Finn ran through the Outpost.

When EW eventually did some digging themselves, the mystery was apparently solved—even J.J. Abrams asked “Which character?” when asked where Zuvio ended up. The official story is that Zuvio was an extra that got caught-up in the marketing by accident. It was actually Hidalgo that named him and created the loose backstory while working alongside Neal Scanlan and the creature shop. There was no Zuvio subplot, and once Abrams realized who he was, he admitted that “he never had a line of dialogue.”

What happened with the toys is that Zuvio just looked cool and ended up in the first wave of figures due to the long ramp-up to getting toys on the shelves. No one could’ve known that he wouldn’t receive even the customary blip on screen. You’d think that the saga of Zuvio would’ve ended in April of 2016 when the “mystery” came to an end. Instead, mystery has become legend, and for Zuvio, that’s only continued to grow.

For a guy that was never intended to be, he’s shown up in a lot of stuff. He’s in a LEGO Star Wars video game and a coloring book; had an official short story, High Noon On Jakku, published as part of Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens – Volume 1; and appears in the line queue for Star Tours at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Park. He’s even been included in a sketch from Funny or Die, itself a parody of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. He’s also in behind-the-scenes books (two so far) and on Topps trading cards. Most recently, he’s been making occasional appearances (with dialogue!) in comics like IDW’s Star Wars Adventures.

But that’s not all…

There’s Constable Zuvio cosplayers starting to emerge on the convention circuit. A search for Zuvio on Twitter reveals thousands of tweets—current ones—including those calling for Zuvio: A Star Wars Story, and a regularly-updated parody account, nearly three years after the world first heard the name. On Instagram, the hashtag for #ConstableZuvio will surface thousands of photos, most commonly ones that showcase unsold Zuvio action figures clogging pegs at retailers around the globe, including those that are hanging on in the last days of Toys “R” Us.

At the Hasbro “Fan Media Event” at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in NYC this past spring, even the Star Wars design team acknowledged that Zuvio had become a running joke in the office – an oddity that no one can really be blamed for.

Personally, I think that the good Constable has a future. He has a fanbase, and on the off-chance that he shows up on-screen down the line in either Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars – Episode IX or Jon Favreau’s live-action Star Wars television series, he could become a big deal (like Finn with The Resistance). In the meantime, I expect that he’ll continue to make appearances in other Star Wars stories, and at the end of the day, his toys are cool, and here at our house – they’re played with. In fact, my daughters were just seen sliming Mr. Zuvio in Basic Fun’s new Jabba the Hutt Slime Lab.

Here’s to you, Constable Zuvio!