Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars comics
The Star Wars movies may give credit to the Rebels, but an overlooked king is the person who really gave Luke, Leia, and Han a chance to take down the Empire - and he did it more than once. No, the king in question isn't Leia's father, but King Lee-Char of the planet Mon Cala, famous for producing some of the Rebellion's greatest military leaders.
What the planet is less famous for is the sacrifices made by its king in the name of a greater good. Now, the canon Star Wars comics have finally told his story, revealing how much of the original Star Wars saga relied on the monarch's integrity, courage, and well-earned adoration of his people.
Even if fans refuse to credit King Lee-Char with saving the galaxy singlehandedly, the comics leave little doubt that despite the heroism of the Rebels and Luke Skywalker, victory wouldn't have been possible without King Lee-Char.
The Clone Wars Crowns King Lee-Char
If any fans know King Lee-Char at all, it's most likely thank to the animated Clone Wars TV show, which featured his rise to the throne. At the time, the novelty of "The Battle of Mon Cala" seemed to be an early meeting with Gial Ackbar, long before he became the commander of the Rebel Fleet. But more broadly, it helped to establish by the Mon Calamari were valuable to both the Republic and the Sith-led Separatists.
The Separatists wanted Mon Cala under their control for the same reason as the Empire: the Mon Calamari Shipyards. One of the most famous large-scale spaceship manufacturers in the galaxy, the Separatists taking control would give their forces a massive boost. But alas, Prince Lee-Char rose to the challenge of the Separatist plot, refused to abandon or surrender his people and planet, and with the assistance of the Jedi, Republic, and Gungans, claimed an unlikely victory.
By the end of the multi-episode arc, even Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano stood humbled by the heroism exhibited by the new King of Mon Cala. But even with future Rebel heroes Raddus and Ackbar at his side, the peace wouldn't last for long.
Mon Cala (First) Resists The Empire
There's no question that 2018 has become The Year of Mon Cala in the larger Star Wars canon (even if Admiral Ackbar was killed in The Last Jedi rather unceremoniously). Not only have the comic books revisited the role played by the planet and its people, but they've done so on two different timelines: shortly after the rise of the Empire, and later following the destruction of the first Death Star (but before Empire Strikes Back).
The trip back to the earliest days of the Empire comes in the Darth Vader comic series from writer Charles Soule and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli. With Emperor Palpatine looking to make an example out of planets still sympathetic to the Republic, Mon Cala's reservations about pledging subservience to the Empire has raised the tension.
But even as valuable as Mon Cala may be for its resources, ships, and crew, open conflict grows near as diplomacy is paid lip service (but every fan knows that a peaceful compromise is not the Empire's way of doing things). And once again, King Lee-Char exhibits the qualities one would hope for from a king: a lack of anger, but the will to protect his people's future.
When the Empire stages the assassination of their own diplomat as an excuse to attack, Lee-Char doesn't hesitate - unleashing a plan to destroy all settlements on Mon Cala's surface. If the Empire wants to bring Mon Cala's people, resources, and production under heel... they'll have to wage an underwater war.
So, how does this all link to the later Rebellion? King Lee-Char orders Admiral Raddus to gather their largest ships at one pole, and take the first step towards transforming their fleet into the Rebellion's future navy. The ships aren't built for war, but Raddus uses their advanced shields to protect smaller warcraft and fighters (explaining why they prove so valuable in the future, as well).
We've yet to see how King Lee-Char's refusal to retreat or surrender plays out, but... the other Star Wars comic currently running shows where he wound up decades later.
King Lee-Char's Final Words To His People
So King Lee-Char was a good leader, refused to kneel to the Empire, and aligned with the Rebels to supply their fleet, right? Unfortunately for him, his stand against tyranny ended up costing him and his people a high price. When the current Star Wars comic series starring Han, Luke, and Leia picks up following the Rebels's surprising destruction of the Death Star, King Lee-Char hasn't been seen in years.
The regent who rules Mon Cala in the king's stead - well, "rules" is too generous, since the Empire succeeded in crushing the planet's spirit - refuses to answer the Rebels' call for aid. The Rebellion may need the Mon Cala ships to assemble a fleet capable of opposing the Empire in any meaningful sense. But with their king in exile, the people have completely lost hope, living with only the sliver of autonomy the Empire now allows.
Leia comes up with the only solution possible: rescue Lee-Char from the Imperial prison cell he has been rotting in, and return him to his people to inspire them once more. Sadly, it seems, Vader's children are too late to undo what their father achieved. By the time they find King Lee-Char, he's being kept alive by machines.
What follows in Star Wars #48 and #49 may be ones of the most stirring moments of the saga not shown in film or television. Unable to be moved, King Lee-Char records a message to his people moments before being gunned down by Imperial Stormtroopers. A message that, once broadcast to every Mon Cala vessel, inspires rebellion within moments.
A few heroic sacrifices, well-timed laser blasts, and one massive hyperdrive jump later, and the Rebels are amassing their new fleet of a dozen of the galaxy's finest cruisers. Fully crewed with newly devoted Mon Calamari. And it wouldn't have been possible without King Lee-Char's lifelong strength or last words.
So it's a bit of a shame that the monarch who made a Rebel victory possible was never brought up in conversation. Still, now the fans can know the truth.
Star Wars #49 & Darth Vader #17 are available now.