The "Cowboy Jedi" of Star Wars Rebels is in Good Company

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Kanan, one of the stars of the forthcoming animated series, Star Wars Rebels. Images: © Lucasfilm.

The forthcoming Star Wars animated series, Star Wars Rebels, has been getting quite a bit attention lately, including its hard-nosed rogue character, Kanan, who is voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Having been underground for years, ever since Order 66 triggered the Emperor’s Jedi purge, Kanan’s Jedi side has been deeply buried. Keeping his past a secret, he is more likely to be seen with a blaster than his lightsaber, and comes across a little more sarcastic than the average Jedi.

When Lucasfilm Animation first introduced the character in February, Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni called Kanan a “cowboy Jedi.”

“He’s a gunslinger that needs to put the gun away and pick up the sword again—and fight for noble causes and selfless causes,” Filoni said.

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Star Wars universe characters who harken the cowboy spirit (clockwise from top left): Cad Bane, Han Solo, Kyle Katarn, Quinlan Vos, and Jan Ors.

Kanan may be the first character in the Star Wars universe to be officially described as a “cowboy,” but there have always been tributes (some more subtle that others) to the gunslinging silver screen cowboy and western genre in Star Wars‘ films, comics, books, television series, and video games:

• Han Solo. Han has been described as a knight, a soldier, and a pirate. His cowboy side, however, is obvious with his low-carried blaster, cocky comebacks, sideways smile, and first appearance at the local watering hole. Also, observant fans know it was Han who “shot first” in true spaghetti western form.

• Cad Bane. First introduced in the Clone Wars series, this bounty hunter and mercenary from the planet Duros is the classic outlaw. Long, tall, and ruthless, Bane’s loyalty is to himself, as well as to the occasional highest bidder. With his wide-rimmed hat and flowing duster, Bane would fit in just as well roaming the dusty back roads of Tombstone as he would combing the galaxy.

• Quinlan Vos. Where Kanan has been described the “cowboy,” powerful and smart Jedi Master Quinlan Vos’ persona is homage to the Native American culture, from his simple war paint to his long black locks. His appearance was inspired by a briefly-glimpsed Tatooine background character in The Phantom Menace. However, he’s evolved into a very popular and complex character, whose Jedi side is in constant struggle with his dark side, both of which are equally formidable.

• Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors. Created for the video game series Star Wars: Dark Forces, Katarn and Ors are like the perfect Old West-style sheriff (Ors) and deputy (Katarn) team. Katarn has worked the field, to say the least, and has served as both a stormtrooper and rebel, before becoming a Jedi. His tragic past and roguish nature made him an instant hit with gamers and blurred the lines between “good guys” and “bad guys,” similarly to some of the western genre’s greatest heroes. Ors, a respected operative with the Rebel Alliance, was instrumental in recruiting Katarn for their cause. She is teamed up with him as a supporting character in the games. Katarn may be the primary playable character in the Dark Forces saga, but Ors certainly comes across as the brains behind the brawn. Although the romantic element between the two slips through, it is Ors’ no-nonsense demeanor and Katarn’s rebellious attitude working together to reach a mutual goal for the good of the galaxy that is the more intriguing story, even for a video game.

Kanan and his cowboy ways will find a greater purpose in Star Wars Rebels, scheduled to premiere this fall as a one-hour special on the Disney Channel, followed by the series on Disney XD.

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site ihogeek.com and maintains her own blogsite at lisathegeekmom.wordpress.com. She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.