|Jedi Academy Training Manual|
On November 28, the entire world waited with bated breath for the new Star Wars trailer to give us our first glimpse into a Lucas-free galaxy far, far away. Despite the lack of story or character information, the trailer showed that they at least got the aesthetic of the film right, although they didn’t really have to: even if the film were just two hours of C3-P0 lost in a Walmart shouting “R2-D2, where are you?”, it would still make a billion dollars at the box office. But with all of the good will that the trailer has gathered, there is one annoying thing that is causing fans on the Internet to complain…
What’s the deal with the cross-guard on the lightsaber being used by the (presumed) villain of the film? It looks really silly and impractical. The purpose of a cross-guard on a real sword is to protect the wielder’s hand when striking someone, which kind of goes out of the window when you are using laser swords that can cut through anything. While the films haven’t shied away from unusual lightsaber designs before, they are nothing compared to the stupidity inflicted on one of fiction’s greatest weapons in the Star Wars expanded universe.
The creators of the new films have officially decreed that the expanded universe is now out of canon, and after seeing some of the silly things the Jedi have been swinging in the comics, video games and novels, it’s probably best for us that they won’t be showing up in the new films. Well, maybe except for one…
7 – The Crossguard Lightsaber
|Jedi Academy Training Manual|
The crossguard lightsaber was not invented by the creators of the new Star Wars film, but was created in the series Star Wars Republic that was published by Dark Horse Comics. A cross-guard is defined as a piece of metal between the handle and blade; the lightsaber version is no different, except it also has a dagger-sized blade attached to the end…
Unlike a regular sword, however, the problem with using this on a lightsaber is that it would be more deadly to the person using it than their the opponent. When using a regular lightsaber you would have to be pointing it towards one of your limbs to slice it. Actually hitting your opponent with the extra blade would be tricky because of its small size, but it would always be within stabbing distance of your own body. You might think the existence of the cross-guard would stop an enemy from pushing their lightsaber down and cutting off your arm, but it has the problem of half the cross-guard being part of the handle rather than the blade. As the films have shown us time and again; these can be cut by another lightsaber.
The first known user of this style of weapon was Roblio Dart?, who was a military General as well as a Jedi Knight. So far he has only appeared in the comics, and is known for fighting during the Clone Wars and even surviving the Order 66 massacre. Fate caught up with him, however, when he died during an event known as the Conclave on Kessel. This was a failed ambush of Darth Vader planned by several of the surviving Jedi; they lured him to the planet Kessel with leaked information that Obi-Wan Kenobi would be there, but they all perished in the ensuing battle. Luckily for the Rebellion, Darth Vader never thought to check any Tatooine phone books (“Ben Kenobi…nah probably just a coincidence”).
6 – The Lightwhip
|Dark Horse Comics|
Despite its sadomasochistic overtones, the lightwhip is used as a weapon by both Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. In fact, of all the entries on this list, the lightwhip has appeared the most times and in every setting from the time of the Old Republic to the post Return of the Jedi era. It is also a victim of the lazy concept of sticking a lightsaber blade on a different medieval weapon. The whip is the most puzzling choice of all; in real life they are more often seen as either a sex aid or a tool for hitting people who can’t fight back rather than an actual weapon to be used in a fight. While some fictional characters love to use the whip (with Indiana Jones and Catwoman being the most prominent), it’s hard to imagine choosing one in a fight over a different weapon.
The classic style of lightsaber already carries a big risk of self-mutilation, even without being a flailing weapon. A whip naturally requires a whipping motion to hit its target; giving another Jedi plenty of time to stab them as they keep throwing their arms back and forth. In fact, you wouldn’t even need a lightsaber to fight a lightwhip wielder, as a gun would be even better; how could they even deflect blaster fire using a chaotic flailing weapon instead of a precise straight edge? One potential advantage that the whip could provide is the element of surprise because of how rarely they actually show up in duels; when a Jedi is used to fighting other lightsaber wielders, then they might be unprepared for going against a more exotic weapon. This benefit doesn’t last long, though, because of the sheer ineffectiveness of a whip in a one-on-one duel compared to a sword or a gun.
One piece of information that will surprise no one is that lightwhip users are usually sexy female Sith Lords who dress in dominatrix style attire. It seems that the creation of these characters has less to do with making compelling villains than it does with helping the readers perform the old Jedi hand trick.
5 – The Lightsaber Pike
|Star Wars: The Force Unleashed|
“Here’s an idea for a new kind of lightsaber: let’s make the deadly part really small and make the handle so massive that the enemy can break it more easily”
That was the day that the lightsaber pike was born. This poorly designed weapon has mainly shown up in the Star Wars video games, and made its first appearance during the Clone Wars era along with showing up sporadically since then. There is absolutely nothing about the design that makes any sense; they took the long cutting blade of the classic lightsaber, and shrunk it down so it only makes up a quarter of the overall length. To say nothing of elongating the handle so that it’s easier to hit, removing any advantage that the length would have provided. Although Darth Maul style double bladed pikes do exist, the aforementioned problems with the design still stand. Not only does the lightsaber pike have a disadvantage against regular lightsabers; it also would struggle to stop blaster fire because of only a quarter of the weapon being able to deflect it.
Historically, the lightsaber pike was used by the Jedi Knights who guarded the main temple on Coruscant, and they would later be adopted by the red hooded Emperor’s Royal Guards who appeared in Return of the Jedi. As a matter of fact, all of the lightsaber pike wielders seemed to be Buckingham Palace guard-style Force users, who were given them to make them seem more threatening before being cut down. I guess this would explain how Anakin managed to kill everyone in the Jedi Temple, and why the Emperor is dead. Darth Vader ain’t gonna be jobbed out to a dude with a pike.
4 – The Tonfa Lightsaber
|Star Wars: The Force Unleashed|
Much like how George Lucas would steal ideas from Samurai movies; the creators of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed decided to throw a lightsaber blade onto a different weapon from Asia and claim it as their own. This lead to the creation of the tonfa lightsaber (also known as the guard shoto), which has an extra handle extending from the main hilt at a ninety degree angle; this allows the wielder to pretend to be a futuristic police officer wielding a laser billy club.
The real life version of tonfa never show up in fiction (except for the awesome arcade game Killer Instinct); this is because they are essentially two pieces of wood nailed together to make a weapon. When used as a weapon, they are made for blocking as well as striking; the problem with the lightsaber version is that the part being used to block is also the handle. As the film’s have shown, the handle is susceptible to being cut by other lightsabers; on top of that the blade part has to be shorter than usual so that the wielder doesn’t cut themselves in half when spinning it horizontally in battle.
All of these design flaws combined are what make the weapon redundant compared to the classic lightsaber. I think the best use they can provide is for making a non-copyright infringing Jedi version of Wolverine; all it takes is a roll of tape along with three tonfa lightsabers and soon Lo-Gan of the planet Claremont can stalk the galaxy without fear of being sued.
3 – The Lightclub
|Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II|
The lightclub might seem like an unusual choice for this list; at first glance, it looks just like a much longer version of the regular lightsaber. This may seem like an excellent idea on the surface because of the lack of weight; a metal sword of the same size would be too heavy to lift. In reality, the length of a sword-like weapon has to be relative to the wielder’s body in order to be properly used. This was why Yoda used a smaller one than everyone else. According to the Jedi Academy Training Manual, the blade of the lightclub is listed as being around three meters long, meaning it could only effectively be wielded by an alien that is bigger than the average human being.
Giant creatures are rarely used in fiction, especially in settings where they would have to mingle with regular sized people. This is because of how much of a pain it is to accommodate for them. In a setting like Star Wars, most characters travel inside tightly packed space ships and areas intended for average five to seven foot tall humanoids. Having a weapon with such a massive range that can cut through almost anything is likely to do more harm than good. Try using the lightclub inside the Millennium Falcon; you would cut a hole in the hull before getting sucked out into space. This leaves the lightclub user with a weapon that cannot be activated in most settings.
The lightclub was first used by a Gamorrean Sith Lord named Gorc who appeared as a villain in the game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2, for seemingly no other reason than to have a Warhammer Orc knock-off for you to battle. Recently a dual bladed version of the weapon appeared in the Star Wars:Clone Wars TV show, wielded by General Pong Krell; he fought with one in each hand in a manner that is in no way compensating for something.
2 – The Implanted Lightsaber
|Jedi Academy Training Manual|
At what point was the Star Wars franchise so desperate that characters needed to have a lightsaber implanted into their knee? This whole design looks like it were created by a seven year old. One who thought General Grievous just wasn’t extreme enough.
The happy looking chap in the picture above is Lord Nyax (formerly known as Irek Ismaren), who has made several appearances in the expanded universe novels. He is in fact rumored to be Emperor Palpatine’s son, and several former high ranking members of the Empire groomed him for leadership at an early age. His patrons placed numerous cybernetic implants into his body over the years; including two lightsabers each in his elbows, forearms, wrists, and knees. After a failed bid at taking the Imperial throne caused him to lost his mind, he began calling himself Lord Nyax, and went on to feud with Luke Skywalker.
Essentially the design philosophy behind implanted lightsabers is: strap lots of them to your body, run head first towards the enemy, wave your limbs around, and hope they die. All of the problems with this design are things that should have been caught at the blueprint stage, most notably the increased chance of cutting yourself into pieces. Conversely all of the blades are tiny compared to a regular lightsaber, so you would have a serious disadvantage in reach (which would admittedly give the lightsaber pike time to shine). Simply having a lot of lightsabers doesn’t automatically make you a more fearsome opponent; it requires great skill, courage and knowledge of the Force to become a true threat as either a Jedi Knight, or a Sith Lord. Just sticking a bunch of lightsabers on a villain doesn’t immediately make them a threat; nor does retroactively making them related to a classic villain from the franchise. In the end, all that is left is something that looks like the end boss of a UFC fighting game set in a dystopian future.
1 – The Protosaber
|Jedi Academy Training Manual|
The classic lightsaber we all know and love used to look very different in the ancient history of the Star Wars universe. They had to be powered through a long ass extension cord; connected to a bulky battery pack that was worn on the belt. All of the original Jedi were stuck looking like part-time members of the Ghostbusters. Nowadays this version of the weapon is called a protosaber, and they show up in stories set during the founding of the Jedi order. It doesn’t take Gordian to figure out how to beat these original Jedi Knights; all you need to do is cut the cord, or damage the battery pack. All that will be left is a useless handle once either of those have been hit. When the classic designs were invented; the originals were phased out in favor of a model with less obvious weak points.
In 2009, there was a sourcebook released called Jedi Academy Training Manual that contained material for the Star Wars Saga Roleplaying Game. The book is a comprehensive guide on Jedi-related materials that can be used in the game; most notably, it contained a section on all of the different kinds of lightsabers used throughout the years. Here it was revealed that a member of Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order went on to revive the protosaber, and would go on to improve it, eventually making it strong enough to compete with the more familiar style of lightsaber.
That’s right fans; the time has come to forget the Ewoks, and say goodbye to Jar Jar Binks. A new worst Star Wars character has been in our midst this entire time. This unnamed Jedi made a new version of the protosaber and named it the “Retrosaber.” Yes, you read that right: hidden among the massive amounts of expanded universe material is a terrible villain, who you have probably never heard of… the Hipster Jedi!
Every Star Wars fan around the world is waiting for more information about the next installment in the saga. All that J.J. Abrams has proven so far is that he can make a film that looks like Star Wars, but it remains to be seen if he can create a story as compelling as those of the franchise’s heyday. With the expanded universe officially declared off limits; we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no Hipster Jedi using an outdated lightsaber as an ironic accessory. Much like Luke Skywalker looking up at the Tatooine sky; we can all have a new hope for the future of the franchise, now that the worst is behind us.