Of all the powerful mysteries left over from The Force Awakens (who are Rey’s family, how did Maz get Luke’s lightsaber, what kind of conditioner does Kylo Ren use and so on), the one you probably never put much thought into was how Anthony Daniels’ prissy robot C-3PO got his red arm.
It probably just broke, you thought, or was a reference to how he originally had a silver leg, and moved on, never to think about it again. Which is a fair enough reaction – but as it turns out there IS a story behind it, and it’s been turned into an entire comic book called Star Wars: C-3PO #1.
Basically the story is that before The Force Awakens, C-3PO and some other metal pals team up to escort a captured First Order droid, with Threepio and his captive Omri debating the worth humans can really put on droids if they treat them like appliances despite their sentience.
In particular they discuss the practice of wiping droids’ memories, something which happened to C-3PO himself at the end of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, and what it means for droid lives (with some missing memories described as a “phantom limb” or a former life now lost).
The surprise here isn’t that someone has bothered to fill out a back story for such a minor detail – the band from the cantina in A New Hope have had their entire gig history laid out by fans in the past, after all – but rather that, James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Joe Caramagna’s story is actually quite touching.
As the issue goes on, C-3PO rather poetically remembers some of the events of the prequel trilogy, debates philosophy with the rather nihilist Omni and then, in a surprisingly visceral moment, has his normal arm torn off after a series of accidents and ambushes that really do show how little humanity care for droids.
Finally, Omni walks out into acid rain to set off a distress beacon and save Threepio, with the downpour stripping away his shiny paintjob to reveal that he too had had a forgotten past life when he was painted red.
The story concludes with C-3PO deciding to hold on to the arm for a bit to remember his fallen comrades, and it’s a lovely moment only SLIGHTLY undercut by the fact that he went on to spend the entirety of The Force Awakens whining about his arm not matching before getting one the right colour. Hey, maybe they wiped his memory of his epiphany as well.
In any case, it’s a well-told story based on a minor detail, and we can’t wait to see more like it. Coming soon – the tearjerker story of Han’s new leather jacket after the tragic demise of all his vests.