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Marvel Reportedly Wasn't Interested In Thrawn Before The Star Wars Villain Became Huge

Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most intimidating and recognizable villains in the "Star Wars" universe. Still, the fan-favorite foe reportedly wasn't a major priority for Marvel Comics — despite efforts to make him so.

Thrawn first appeared in the 1990 "Heir to the Empire" book by acclaimed "Star Wars" writer Timothy Zahn. In the novel, which takes place after George Lucas' original trilogy of films, Thrawn guides the Empire against the New Republic, using his intellect and dark nature to become a considerable challenge for anyone who steps in his way as he tries to rebuild the Galactic Empire. Thrawn would star in the "Thrawn Trilogy" books from Zahn, where he battled the likes of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, with the stories also introducing Skywalker's partner, Mara Jade. However, the books would become non-canon following Disney's acquisition of "Star Wars," and transition stories into "Star Wars Legends," with no direct connection to the events unfolding on the big screen.

Thrawn would eventually become official canon in "Star Wars Rebels," star in a new trilogy of books from Zahn called "Thrawn Ascendary," and is set to appear in live-action for the first time in the upcoming Disney+ series, "Ahsoka," where his Rebels voice actor Lars Mikkelsen will portray him. But, before Thrawn was reintroduced to the main "Star Wars" canon, attempts to make the character a more prominent name in the pages of comics were reportedly dashed by Marvel Comics, who didn't initially have plans for him.

A viral tweet explained Marvel's reported apprehension for Thrawn

Former Marvel Comics assistant editor and current "Star Trek" Senior Editor at IDW Publishing Heather Antos tweeted about a specific instance where she reportedly pitched Grand Admiral Thrawn comics but was told by a higher-up that "no one cares" about the blue villain. However, considering Thrawn was revealed as an upcoming star in his own solo comic series three years later, and the news was met with considerable excitement, that turned out not to be true. In a conversation with Looper, Antos recounted calling for Thrawn's comeback, correctly assuming his surprise return would generate some serious buzz.

"Now, I wasn't naive when Marvel hired me — I was an entry level assistant editor. I didn't have power or authority over what got published and when — especially when starting out," Antos told Looper. "But I DID know I was specifically hired for the Star Wars line BECAUSE of my fandom and knowledge of the franchise. From day one in the offices I kept pushing with the higher ups, 'You want to make a splash that MATTERS to Star Wars fans? Bring back Thrawn.' ... The funny thing was, even with Lucasfilm's support, Marvel just wasn't interested in doing anything that didn't directly tie in to the films themselves at the time thinking that no one would care about anything other than Luke Skywalker."

Marvel eventually caved on bringing back Thrawn to the new Star Wars canon

Heather Antos' calls for a General Admiral Thrawn comic were eventually met. The assistant editor understood the importance of the original "Thrawn Trilogy," believing Thrawn mattered and could be a threat on the same level as Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine in the new universe. After seeing Thrawn's success in the new "Thrawn Trilogy" from Timothy Zahn and the animated "Star Wars Rebels" show, the calls to bring Thrawn back to the canon were finally met.

"... They finally caved to my incessant pitches and I got to edit the first (and only) Thrawn comic of the newly established canon," Antos told Looper. "The announcement blew every other Star Wars comic news we had that year. To this day I still get people asking me about it. I'm very proud of that book and Jody [Houser], Luke [Ross], and Nolan [Woodard] deserve every bit of praise for their work on it."

The "Star Wars: Thrawn" miniseries would run six issues and help solidify Thrawn's role as a major player in Marvel and Disney's "Star Wars" universe. Thrawn's rise would continue in numerous other projects and mediums, including being a critical presence in the animated universe, novels, and multiple video games. He will soon appear in the "Ahsoka" series after being teased in "The Mandalorian."

It's wild to think that Marvel initially balked at bringing back Thrawn, as his "Star Wars Legends" connection likely made the publisher feel like they needed to start anew. However, Antos' reported persistence in bringing back Thrawn to the comics paid off, as his return to Marvel canon and role in the series unquestionably played a part in the character's continued rise in popularity to what it is now.