In commemoration of The Empire Strikes Back‘s 40th anniversary, Star Wars Obscura is proud to present an extended look at the early Legends histories of the film’s six iconic bounty hunters up through the events of Episode V.
It’s the year 1980. You’re sitting in the theater watching the newest Star Wars movie for the first time. Six mysterious figures stand before Darth Vader on the bridge of his mighty flagship, the Executor. Humans. Aliens. Droids. Bounty hunters. While none are named on-screen, you might recognize Boba Fett from 1978’s infamous holiday special (provided you saw it the one time it aired) and the others from merchandising. From left to right:
A former gladiator, the cyborg Dengar was battle-scarred by innumerable, unspeakable adventures. Wearing a distinctive headwrap and scavenged Imperial armor, he had twenty-three captures when his services were acquired by Darth Vader, six of them alive.
A battered and tarnished chrome war droid, some early sources described IG-88 as the property of an unseen master who would loan the droid out to the highest bidder. However, storytelling from this era would instead portray the modified pursuit droid as his own person.
One of the most prolific bounty hunters in the galaxy during the time of the Empire, they had stopped keeping count of the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett’s successful captures. Wearing a weapon-laden armored spacesuit covered in braided scalps, he was known for his extremely ruthless methods.
An amphibious monster and Monarch of the Qotile system, the tentacled, flight suit-wearing Bossk had twelve captures, eight of them alive, when he stood before Vader aboard the Executor. The reptile’s soft, baggy face was dominated by a pair of gawking, bloodshot eyes.
4-LOM and Zuckuss
The final two bounty hunters, 4-LOM and Zuckuss, were scarcely explored in early Legends storytelling and wouldn’t receive any focus until the publication of Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back, a 1989 supplement for Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. Their names were accidentally swapped by Kenner, which led to a generation of fans knowing the droid as Zuckuss and the insectoid alien as 4-LOM. While 4-LOM was left out of the novelization (which described Zuckuss as a human), Zuckuss was in turn omitted from Marvel’s adaptation of Episode V. When 4-LOM reappeared in issue 50 of the comics, he was mistakenly referred to as “Zuckass”. Dengar was also incorrectly identified as Zuckass in Showdown, a serialized comic strip that ran in the Los Angeles Times Syndicate from December 26, 1983 to February 5, 1984.
While the early Marvel run and A New Hope before it had previously explored bounty hunting with the likes of Greedo and Valance the Hunter, it was The Empire Strikes Back that thrust the complicated profession and those who made it their livelihood into the spotlight, where they have remained for the past forty years. Most of Episode V’s bounty hunters became reoccurring characters in the comics set after the film which followed the rebellion’s hunt for Boba Fett as they attempt to rescue Han before he can be delivered into the clutches of Jabba the Hutt. In addition, the newspaper strips and 1986 Droids animated served to give several of the bounty hunters adventures set before the events of The Empire Strikes Back, often tangling with the heroes of the films.
Scum and villainy
“Why are we getting mixed up with that bounty hunter?”
“They don’t come much worse than him. I almost feel sorry for those two speeder racers.” – Tigg Fromm and Vlix, on Sise’s decision to call in a favor from Boba Fett.
When the government of the planet Mandalore aligned itself with the Emperor, Boba Fett led the 212 Mandalorian Protectors into battle against the Jedi (who Palpatine feared would opposite his rule), fighting side by side with Imperial stormtroopers. The supercommandos were all but destroyed, with only three of the Mandalorian warriors surviving the Clone Wars: Fett, Tobbi Dala, and Fenn Shysa. Without the Mandalorian Protectors there to defend it, the Empire rewarded Mandalore it’s loyalty to the new regime with an occupation. When Dala and Shysa returned to their homeworld, they discovered that Imperial-sanctioned slavers led by the Suprema had transformed the planet into a conscription center for slaves necessary to keep the cogs of the Imperial machine turning. While the two organized resistance to free Mandalore from the Empire, Fett abandoned his people to Imperial tyranny and became one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the galaxy, the right hand of Darth Vader himself. Shysa would never forgive his former commander, regarding him as “bounty hunting scum”.
The Mandalorian bounty hunter and his trusted droid companion, BL-17, worked for some of the galaxy’s most powerful gangsters, including Sise Fromm and Jabba the Hutt. When Fromm’s plan to take over the other gangs was derailed by the speeder racers Thall Joben and Jord Dusat, their rebel friend Kea Moll (whose homeworld of Annoo was the Fromm Gang’s base of operations), and R2-D2 and C-3PO , he called in a favor Fett owed him and summoned him to the planet Boonta, tasking him with killing the racers in retaliation for their destruction of the Fromm Gang’s weapons satellite, Trigon One, which Sise had planned on using to take over the other gangs. Fett had BL-17 gain their trust by helping them repair their speeder, the White Witch, in preparation for the Boonta Speeder Race. When his droid was inadvertently destroyed after revealing his true loyalties, Fett sprung the trap. Joben and R2 took the White Witch and fled onto the racetrack just as the event began to draw the bounty hunter away from their friends. However, Sise’s son, Tigg, and his bodyguard Vlix had undermined Fett’s efforts by planting a thermal detonator on the vehicle in order to redeem themselves for their failure to protect Trigon One.
Though Fett entered the race himself in his armed speeder to eliminate the racer, the thermal detonator, set to go off after ten laps, was dislodged from the White Witch in the final stretch of the race. Coated in fire retardant foam that R2 had sprayed to put out a fire earlier in the race, the explosive adhered to Fett’s speeder, and the bounty hunter was forced to bail out of his vehicle before it was consumed in the ensuing explosion. Joben, meanwhile, won the race and the Joben-Dusat Racing Team received job offers from Zebulon Dak of the Zebulon Dak Speeder Corporation. Fett ultimately decided to apprehend what remained of the once-powerful Fromm Gang, intending to cash in on a bounty Jabba had on Sise’s head in order to recoup the losses he’d incurred on Sise’s behalf.
Bounty hunters also found themselves drawn into the complicated web of planetary politics. After Vizier Zatec-Cha stripped Prince Mon Julpa of his mind in a bid to become king of Tammuz-an, he had his agents disguise him as an android and hide the amnesiac heir to the throne on the mining world of Tyne’s Horky. However, a loyal servant of Julpa named Sollag escaped with the royal scepter and sought to return it to the prince so that he might present it to the Keeper of the Tower at the time of the first sun of the equinox and become the rightful ruler of Tammuz-an. The Vizier placed a death mark on Julpa’s head to ensure he could not reclaim the scepter, a bounty picked up by IG-88. However, Sollag was able to return the scepter to Julpa with the help of Jann Tosh and his droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, who had parted ways with their friends after the Boonta Speeder Racer. The scepter and the prince reunited, IG-88 protected the ship ferrying his bounty back to his homeworld when it came under attack by Kybo Ren-Cha and the Pirates of Tarnoonga. Once on the planet’s surface, the bounty hunter captured Julpa and handed the scepter over to the Vizier, accomplishing his mission.
Smugglers and Rebels
“You want to be a dead hero, Solo?! I can burn you down any time I choose!“ – Boba Fett
After the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader would hire Boba Fett to befriend the Rebels on the mud moon of Panna and discover the location of their hidden base, which had moved from Yavin 4 to an asteroid belt. While his efforts were foiled by the Wookiee Chewbacca alongside R2-D2 and C-3PO, all having been distrustful of the bounty hunter since their arrival on Panna, Fett would continue to hunt the rebels for other reasons. When his freighter, the Millennium Falcon, was about to be boarded by the Empire, the Corellian smuggler Han Solo dropped a shipment of spice he was transporting for Jabba the Hutt. Though the crime lord put a price on his head, the two were able to cut a deal to repay for Han to repay his debt to the Hutt. However, after Solo had gotten the money he needed for helping rescue Princess Leia Organa from the Empire, it was stolen by the pirate Crimson Jack. Without any way to pay Jabba back, Han and his first mate Chewbacca went to ground to hide out from the bounty hunters that would inevitably try collecting the bounty on Solo’s head.
The rebels’ next encounter with Fett would occur on Ota, a frozen world where a former spy known as the Mole had gone into hiding among the native Snogar population after running out on Darth Vader. Charged with bringing the traitor in alive by Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Fett’s TIE fighter was disabled over the planet by Rebel pilot Luke Skywalker, having mistaken the bounty hunter for an Imperial pilot. As Fett made planetfall, Skywalker pursued the falling craft in his X-wing to Ota’s polar ice cap but falling ice caused both fighters to become buried in the snow. Having repainted his armor since their first encounter on Panna, Luke failed to recognize the bounty hunter. Holding Boba at gunpoint, the pilot attempted to interrogate him as to his identity but the two were captured by Snogars. The natives charged the offworlders with helping repair a hydroelectric generator and restoring power to their city, but Fett noticed than an overload breaker had disabled the device, indicating that there was something wrong inside it. Realizing that they would be unable to repair the generator, Skywalker and the bounty hunter escaped their captors into the snowy wastes.
Having gotten a fix on the position of Skywalker’s X-wing, Solo and friends departed the Rebel base near the planet’s equator aboard the Falcon to find their missing friend. Debarking his ship, Han followed Skywalker and Fett’s tracks through the snow but was captured by Snowgars, an event the Rebel pilot and bounty hunter observed from a safe distance. Recognizing the smuggler, Fett agreed to help Skywalker rescue his friend, fully intending to cash in on his bounty as well as the Mole’s. After demanding Skywalker stand guard while he rescued Han, Fett accidentally let slip his name when the pair were ambushed by Snogars, the Rebel pilot realizing he was the same armored bounty hunter he had encountered on Panna. Realizing that Fett was after his friend, Luke tried getting to Han before Boba could but was too late. Finding Solo under Snogar guard, the bounty hunter demanded they release the smuggler into his custody so he could deliver him to Jabba, but Han tries fighting back with Luke’s help.
When a mob of Snogars arrived to kill the offworlders in retribution for Fett having slain two of their kind in his earlier escape, the bounty hunter destroyed the generator, plunging that section of the city into darkness and sending the natives fleeing. Holding the Rebels at gunpoint, Boba moved into a part of the city that the Snogars avoided out of superstition, discovering the Mole within. Fett moved to apprehend the former spy and leave the city with him and Solo in tow, but the Mole released gas into the room that knocked out the rest of its occupants while he moved to steal the Falcon and escape Ota. However, when Fett came to and attempted to stop the Mole from leaving, he was jumped by the Rebels, who believed they owed the former spy for treating Chewie’s wounds after he was caught in an avalanche while searching for Luke and Han. Using the distraction to his advantage, the Mole reactivated the city’s magnetic power and Fett’s armor caused him to become attached to a wall, the bounty hunter swearing revenge on the group as they escaped aboard the Falcon.
Revenge would have to wait, however. Resolving to save himself the price of the bounty he had posted, Jabba himself and his henchmen tracked down Solo and Chewie to the planet Orleon, cornering them in a cave where the pair were performing repairs on the Falcon for the span of a week. Jabba held back his men from attacking in full force in fear that they might destroy the Falcon alongside Han and his Wookiee first mate, the Hutt crime lord having regarded it as the best spice freighter to ever make the Kessel Run. However, the siege was broken when the pair discovered a swarm of flesh-eating stone mites, biological weapons developed during the Clone Wars to devour natural resources, eating through the mountain they were hiding under. Taking advantage of the stone mites having left the rock honeycombed, the Falcon blasted though the mountain and escaped the planet’s atmosphere, Jabba in pursuit aboard his personal freighter, the Voidraker. However, stone mites had gotten aboard the ship, killing everyone but the crime lord. Contacting Solo, the Hutt explained the situation and Han let him aboard the Falcon on the condition he canceled the smuggler’s debt, remove the bounties on their heads, and throw in a bonus for opening the airlock. Jabba ultimately accepted the deal and Solo was temporarily free of his underworld problems. Weeks later, however, Jabba discovered that Han had played a part in the destruction of one of his major investments: Crimson Jack’s Star Destroyer, the crime lord have financially backed its refit. Figuring that his loss as equal to what Han owed him with interest, the Hutt reinstated the bounty and the hunt for Solo was back on.
The Double Reward
“It is scarcely Imperial policy to deal with your kind, Fett.”
“I thought Darth Vader made his own policy…particularly when it concerns something he wants!”
When Jabba received a transmission from the Hoth system inquiring about the bounty on Solo’s head, which had recently been raised, the Hutt was irritated when the caller would not confirm whether or not they had the smuggler in his custody. Unwilling to negotiate, he had Fett organize a group of bounty hunters that included notable personages like Skorr (who had a score to settle with Solo after an earlier run-in with the smuggler had ended with him getting sent to toil away in the spice mines of Kessel by the Empire), Bossk, and Dengar to travel to the Hoth system and capture the smuggler themselves. There, they captured a pirate ship owned by Raskar and waited for its owner (who had been paid off with lumni-spice to not turn Solo over to Jabba) to return from the surface of the planet Hoth aboard the Falcon along with Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Chewie. Stepping off the freighter, the four were captured by bounty hunters, Raskar being imprisoned with his crew while the hunters traveled to the planet Ord Mantell to turn Han over to Fett. There, the Mandalorian bounty hunter was explaining to Darth Vader that capturing Solo might lure Skywalker to him, allowing Fett to claim both Vader’s bounty on Skywalker and the bounty Jabba had placed on Solo’s head. The Sith Lord complimented him on his enterprising nature and suggested they might meet again when he produced results before departing aboard his shuttle.
Fett was ecstatic when he learned that his bounty hunters had captured not only Solo but also Skywalker and move to collect the prisoners at the rendezvous point at an abandoned moisture plant in Ord Mantell’s backcountry in his ship, Slave I. However, the bounty hunter’s decision to allow Skorr in on the hunt would soon cost the Mandalorian dearly. Taking advantage of his history with Skorr, Solo was able to provoke him into entering their cell, allowing Skywalker to pickpocket back his lightsaber while the bounty hunter gave the smuggler a beating. Dengar and another hunter were forced to drag Skorr out of the cell while berating him for letting things get personal, allowing Luke to cut him and his friends free of their shackles and carve a way out of their cell. Fett spotted the escapees fleeing through the back of the facility before touching down and joining up with the other hunters to give chase. While Skorr was killed during a scuffle with Solo, the rest were knocked off their feet when the moisture plant was destroyed by Raskar, whose crew had escaped confinement and retaken control of their ship. Skywalker, Solo, and Chewie departed Ord Mantell aboard the Falcon, slipping through Fett’s fingers just like his dream of a double reward. However, fate would give him another chance to collect.
With the failure of Fett’s bounty hunters, Vader set into motion other plans to capture Skywalker, dispatching probe droids across the galaxy to discover the location of the hidden Rebel base. One probe succeeded, locating their presence on Hoth, though Luke escaped once again during the subsequent battle. Recalling Fett’s earlier business proposal, Vader summoned Dengar, IG-88, Fett, Bossk, 4-LOM, and Zuckuss to his flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor. He tasked the bounty hunters with the live capture of the crew of the Millenium Falcon, planning on using them to lure Skywalker into a trap. Aboard Slave I, Fett spotted the ship as it attempted to evade Imperial detection by hiding in a cloud of garbage dumped by the Empire before they jumped to hyperspace. As the Falcon departed, Slave I pursued. The Mandalorian tracked them to Cloud City, a tibanna mining colony on the gas giant Bespin that was governed by an old friend of Solo’s, Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian. Tipping off Vader, the Empire arrived at Cloud City before the Rebels and coerced Calrissian into helping lead them into a trap by threatening to occupy Cloud City. To protect his people, Lando reluctantly agrees and delivers them into Vader’s clutches, Fett standing at his side. While training to become a Jedi Knight on Dagobah, Skywalker sensed that his friends were in danger and rushed off to save them.
Though the bounty hunter had reservations when Vader chose to test the carbonite freezing process on Solo, the smuggler survived in perfect hibernation and the Sith Lord cleared Fett to depart with his price and rewarded him for delivering the crew of the Falcon into his hands when Skywalker arrived at Cloud City. As Fett was leaving with Solo, he and the Jedi briefly crossed paths once more, the bounty hunter taking a shot at him before continuing to escort his prize to the landing pad where his ship was parked. Skywalker failed to recognize the frozen Han and made no attempt to stop the Mandalorian as he continued searching for his friends. Ultimately, said friends managed to escape Imperial captivity after Vader pushed Lando too far by altering their deal one too many times, arriving on the landing platform right as Fett initiated takeoff, blasting away from Cloud City with Han in his cargo hold. After rescuing Luke and escaping the colony aboard the Falcon, Lando and Chewie began combing the galaxy for Fett in an attempt to rescue their friend before the bounty hunter could deliver him into the clutches of Jabba the Hutt.
Thank you for taking the time to read my longest blog post yet. So long, in fact, I’ve had to split it in two! You can expect a followup article telling of Lando and Chewie’s quest to rescue Han from Boba Fett, as well as what the bounty hunters (that aren’t named Zuckuss or 4-LOM) got up to after the events of Return of the Jedi. Happy 40th to Episode V, and may the Force be with you!
- Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker
- Star Wars 7: New Planets, New Perils!
- The Star Wars Holiday Special – The Story of the Faithful Wookiee
- Star Wars 28: What Ever Happened to Jabba the Hut?
- Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back novelization
- Star Wars 37: In Mortal Combat
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- The Empire Strikes Back Official Poster Monthly 2
- The Frozen World of Ota (June 17 – August 10, 1980)
- Star Wars 42: The Empire Strikes Back: To Be a Jedi!
- Star Wars 50: The Crimson Forever
- Star Wars 68: The Search Begins
- The Empire Strikes Back radio dramatization
- A New Beginning (October 3 – December 25, 1983)
- Showdown (December 26, 1983 – February 5, 1984)
- A Guide to the Star Wars Universe
- Star Wars 101: Far, Far Away
- Droids – “A Race to the Finish“
- Droids – “The Lost Prince”
- Droids – “The New King”