|Star Wars character|
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 (December 2016)
|Created by||Kieron Gillen (writer) |
Salvador Larroca (artist)
|Voiced by||January LaVoy (From a Certain Point of View, audiobook)|
|Full name||Chelli Lona Aphra|
|Family||Korin Aphra (father)|
Lona Aphra (mother)
|Significant other||Magna Tolvan|
|Origin||Second moon of Thrinittik|
Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. Created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, she first appeared in Marvel Comics' 2015 Star Wars: Darth Vader comic book series. The character began appearing in her own comic series, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, in December 2016. Doctor Aphra is a morally questionable, criminal archaeologist initially in the employ of Darth Vader, but later in hiding from him. She is the first original Star Wars character not from the films to lead a Marvel comic series.
Doctor Aphra is "a criminal archaeologist with an expert knowledge of droid and weapons technologies", with a particular interest in ancient weapons and Jedi artifacts. StarWars.com described the character as "a (mostly) morally bankrupt, in-over-her-head archaeologist", and Slate called her "driven, selfish, decisive, and wildly unpredictable". SyFy Wire called Aphra an anti-hero who "shares the snark of Han Solo and sexual charisma of Lando Calrissian, but toes the line between right and wrong far more regularly than these two characters—and more often than not steps over it into the downright naughty." IGN explained, "Aphra has all of Han's swaggery, scoundrel-y charm, but little of his noble streak." Gillen noted that the character's main interest is "this weird obsession she has with uncovering old stuff", and said that Aphra falls somewhere between a hero and a villain in that "You do see her do good things and bad things." Gillen said:
The thing about Aphra for me...is always: what will she do and what won't she do? You can never be quite sure what she will or won't do. It's these moments of horror when she's going to do that awful thing and there's also moments when oh no, she's chosen not to do that thing.
Doctor Aphra writer Si Spurrier said:
There's an expectation when you look at the big expensive movie stuff we're so familiar associating Star Wars with, that characters will always do the right thing, that they'll always hit the right beats, and, not that they're necessarily predictable, but characters will behave in a way that a character suggests. But one of the many beauties of Aphra is that she does get it wrong. She [messes] up...she'll be put in a position where it's either A or B and, you know, because she's Aphra, that she's going to choose A. And then she chooses B.
Gillen compared Aphra to Darth Vader in that Vader fans "root for like, basically, one of the greatest villains of all time ... She's a bad person in many ways. At the same time, she's in a universe with the worst people." Gillen added, "you can root [for her], because she makes really bad life decisions and sort of rolls with them. In the universe, most people are worse than her. She doesn't like killing people. She's not like a random murderer. She just has her needs." He said:
You kind of get to the point where she's very pro people having weapons. Why the hell is she—what's her take on the Empire? And you start thinking on why she's adamantly pro-Empire. She completely does not obey the rules of the Empire but she still thinks the Empire is probably a good thing. And at the end of it, there are complexities to her.
In creating the character, Gillen looked to what he called "The Indiana Jones archaeologist archetype", which he believed "makes perfect sense in Star Wars." His original description for Aphra was, "Imagine Indiana Jones, how he goes about problems in that ramshackle kind of [way], but with his ethics inverted." Gillen said, "I'm trying to work out an archetype that I have not seen in Star Wars and give a spin on it...Dropping an archaeologist in Star Wars makes sense and that she's morally unpredictable, that makes sense, as well. She's kind of fun but at the same time, there's a really dark heart to her. He explained, "She has this very fun-loving attitude, she's very fun to be around, but she's really bad as a person. She became much more than that as she went through, and the push and pull between her and Vader, and she very much became an original person." He added, "Aphra ... was designed to be Darth Vader's foil ... she has to do a lot of the talking when Darth Vader doesn't. Darth Vader will not make jokes. To be even a fun book to read, you need her to lighten it. But when you introduce her as a lead, that kind of changes the dynamic entirely. A) she becomes slightly more serious, and B) everyone else around her becomes a lot more deadly". Spurrier said, "she's all of those things that are problematic, but there's also just this tiny, probably doomed, forlorn glimmer of redemption precisely because she's smart enough that she understands conventional morality. She knows that Vader is probably not a nice person. She's aware that space fascism is not necessarily a good thing but it may be the right thing for a chaotic universe".
SyFy Wire described Aphra as a "queer woman of color", noting her affinity for women and slightly Asian appearance. Slate agreed that the character is "drawn with a suggestion of Asian heritage", and also noted, "She aches for two different women who have claims to her heart—two women whom, inevitably, she must betray to survive." Gillen confirmed Aphra's sexuality, saying:
I normally say Aphra's a lesbian. I've never written her with any romantic interest in men...I've written her primarily romantically interested in women. I think that would be fair to say. Star Wars doesn't really have the terminology that we do either. One of the things we wrote inside the first arc was that homophobia as we know it doesn't really exist in the Star Wars universe. No one raises their eyebrow, no one seems surprised when it happens. It's kind of just something that's there, so the way that they process sexuality has got to be different anyway, and how they choose to identify, as well."
Of Aphra's relationship with Magna Tolvan, Gillen said:
When I invented Tolvan, I was explicitly thinking...This hard-bitten, kind of very serious kind of person chasing down this more whimsical person and the sexual tension. That was the thing. I wanted to have this sexual tension between the person being pursued and the person who is doing the pursuing. And, of course, the flip of it is, Aphra's the person who's also pursuing Tolvan. Kind of like, I want to arrest you but also I'm crushing on the person trying to arrest me. That struck me as a really cool dynamic.
Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015–2016)
Doctor Aphra first appeared in Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 (March 2015), and was created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca. In the story, she is recruited by Darth Vader to aid in his schemes. At the end of the series Vader attempts to kill Aphra, but she escapes, leaving him thinking he succeeded. Gillen said:
I was pretty sure that I was going to have to kill Aphra, you know? Vader is very good at what he does...I looked at that and went, 'Wait. Aphra has completely left a way that she can do this.' I completely buy that Vader would fall for that because Vader gets angry. You know what I mean? It's almost like Aphra planned her own escape for me. That was one moment that she kind of escaped, which is such an Aphra thing to do.
Star Wars (2016)
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2016–present)
The character began appearing in her own comic series, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, in December 2016. Doctor Aphra picks up after Darth Vader's attempt to kill Aphra at the end of the Darth Vader series. She is in hiding so that Vader will not discover that she is alive, but needs to get back into her life as an archaeologist so she can repay her enormous debts to the Wookiee Black Krrsantan, and fulfill her promise to help locate the people who tortured him in the past. Gillen said he wanted to do the Doctor Aphra series to explore "what makes her tick and why she's doing what she's doing". Spurrier said:
The particular beauty and the particular attraction of something like Aphra is that...we all grew up with Star Wars and we all love that world and we recognize it and we respond to its particular aesthetic and its particular vibe. But at the same time, Aphra is very much in her own funny little niche and off doing her own thing and, yes, occasionally overlapping with stuff in the wider universe in a way that always feels like a cute Easter egg rather than a continuity obstacle...She's the thing that allows us as comic creators, especially in a shared universe, to tell very different, very unique stories that you just couldn't necessarily get away with, with any of the more mainstream characters and groups.
"The Trigger" (2017)
"The Trigger" is a short story written by Gillen, published in the 2017 Star Wars anthology From a Certain Point of View. Set during the 1977 Star Wars film on the day that the Empire destroys the planet Alderaan with the Death Star, the story finds Aphra captured by Imperial troops and reacting to the news of Alderaan's destruction. Slate noted:
Her reaction to the news is complex: She's awed, even a little turned on, at the thought of such destructive might. She annoys the Imperials by excitedly gaming out what tech could have possibly achieved it. She wonders aloud whether the Death Star has a "trigger"—whether any one person flipped the switch that murdered billions. She wonders if killing that many from a distance is easier than killing one person in front of you.
Gillen said he wrote the story with the intent of "working out a fairly logical reason, why with her background, she thinks the Empire is bad to the alternative. If you grew up in a galactic civil war, I think peace by any means might be better than war. That's kind of Aphra's take. Aphra can handle everything. She lies to herself. But normal people? Normal people would probably like to live under a fascist regime rather than actually people just killing each other in a war. And that's a really dark hole to think about but I can buy someone believing that with Aphra's background."
Star Wars: Force Arena (2017–2019)
Impact and reception
Increased sales of Darth Vader #3 convinced Gillen of Doctor Aphra's instant popularity, and he called the character "a big part" of the unexpected success of the Darth Vader series. The Doctor Aphra series is the first ongoing Marvel Star Wars comic focused on an original character not from the films. Gillen said in April 2018, "[Doctor Aphra] was the number two trade in February. A completely new character selling that well is shocking in comics. That kind of response is enormously impressive, as it doesn't happen often." He added, "Sal[vador Larroca] and I cooked her up but enough people have written her now to make [her] bigger than me. She definitely feels like she's outgrown me, essentially. So I quite like giving her away to other people who'll get to play with her." Aphra has also become a popular cosplay. Gillen said of Aphra's popularity:
Of all the characters I've created for other people's universes, she's by far the most successful one...She's kind of fun but at the same time, there's a really dark heart to her...All those weird kind of contradictions to her, I think they're quite appealing. At the same time, she's got a very core thing people can get. She's quite complicated and not complicated at all. With Luke or Leia, they've got that core archetype you get, you get what they're like. You get that with Aphra but at the same time, there's an underlying...all this weird, twisted stuff in there that kind of gets under people's skin."
Most of what we've seen so far in Star Wars is goodies versus baddies. And Aphra ain't that. And I would suggest that the reason people...respond more to Han Solo than they respond to Luke Skywalker is because he's not just playing the goodie. He's a little more complicated than that. And Aphra is 100% the same but from the other direction."
Hanna Flint of SyFy Wire called Aphra "an edgy, cool and refreshingly diverse character", and Bria Lavorgna of StarWars.com described her as "one of the coolest characters in Star Wars right now." Noting that Aphra's first appearance was an homage to Indiana Jones, Alan Scherstuhl of Slate said that she subsequently "gains a depth that Indiana Jones never quite did", and praised the fact that Gillen has "never exploited or exoticized her sexuality."
- Flint, Hanna (June 15, 2018). "We want our Doctor Aphra solo movie, Lucasfilm". SyFy Wire. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- Scherstuhl, Alan (April 12, 2019). "The Best Star Wars Character of this Millennium Is a Lesbian Archaeologist". Slate. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- Brooks, Dan (October 12, 2016). "The Doctor Is In: New Doctor Aphra Ongoing Series Coming This December". StarWars.com. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Schedeen, Jesse (December 7, 2016). "Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 Review". IGN. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
- Lavorgna, Bria (April 26, 2018). "Doctor Aphra Creator Kieron Gillen, Co-Writer Si Spurrier Discuss What's Next for the Fan Favorite". StarWars.com. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Lake, Jeff (March 26, 2015). "Darth Vader #3 Review". IGN. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
- Newsarama Staff (December 16, 2014). "Marvel Comics Full March 2015 Solicitations". Newsarama. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
- Whitbrook, James (January 26, 2019). "Deadpool 2, She-Ra And Black Lightning Highlight GLAAD's 30th Annual Media Awards". Gizmodo Australia. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- Johnston, Rich (January 17, 2017). "Dr Aphra, OOO And BT-1 Make Their Way Into The Wider Star Wars Universe". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- Whitbrook, James (June 5, 2018). "Hasbro Is Bringing Some of the Star Wars Comics' Best New Characters to Comic-Con". io9. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- Knight, Rosie (June 5, 2018). "Hasbro Is Bringing Star Wars' Doctor Aphra and Her Evil Droids to Life as SDCC Exclusives". Nerdist. Retrieved April 26, 2019.