The Clone Wars, as depicted in Star Wars media before the Star Wars prequels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, were a far different and much stranger event than what everyone saw on the big and small screen. The prequel trilogy did much to render whole swaths of the lore created for the Star Wars Expanded Universe as no longer being canon. Yet no single subject was so heavily altered as that of clones and the science of cloning.
Little was said about the Clone Wars in the original trilogy of Star Wars films, beyond Obi-Wan Kenobi having served as a General in the army of the Old Republic while the Clone Wars were being waged. This gave the writers of comic books, role-playing games and novels using the Star Wars setting from 1977 to 2002 great leeway in developing their own ideas regarding what the Clone Wars had been like. With George Lucas' official plans for the prequel films still top secret at the time and Lucas himself too busy and disinterested to review every single EU story, the duty fell to an overburdened licensing department that wasn't overly concerned with continuity.
While later stories published after the prequel trilogy's conclusion in Revenge of the Sith would attempt to smooth over the gaps in the lore and salvage what were widely considered to be the classic tales of the EU, the end result was still a wild, contradictory mess. This ultimately resulted in the whole of the EU being declared non-canon and renamed Star Wars Legends when Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012. While several comics and novels published since then have slowly started to reintroduce elements of the EU into the new official timeline, but Lucas had already overridden much of the old Clone Wars stories through the prequels and The Clone Wars animated series, so most of the pre-prequel Clone Wars material has been left untouched.
- This Page: The Clone Wars Happened Earlier
- Page 2: Clones Were Originally The Villains
The Clone Wars Happened Earlier
The chief problem in attempting to reconcile the Star Wars Legends material regarding clones in general and the Clone Wars in specific with Attack of the Clones is one of timing. The films firmly establish that the Clone Wars began 21.5 years before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.
The first novel to examine the events of the Clone Wars was Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire. Published in 1991, Heir to the Empire was the progenitor of the Expanded Universe and proved a commercial and critical success and many of Zahn's original characters, such as Grand Admiral Thrawn, would become linchpins of the EU. Indeed, the first three novels Zahn wrote for the EU became popularly known as the Thrawn Trilogy.
The problem is that as popular as the Thrawn Trilogy was, it was built around a pretense that had been rendered completely false by Attack of the Clones. When writing Heir to the Empire, Zahn had been told that The Clone Wars had ended in 35 before A New Hope, and based his history around that fact.
Zahn later suggested that any discrepancies in the dates might be the result of differing calendars being used in different parts of the galaxy and thus confusing future historians, much like the conflicts that arose between scholars using the conflicting Julian and Gregorian calendars in the real world. This idea was later made canon through the introduction of The Great ReSynchronization - a reorganization of the various popular calendars in the Star Wars universe into one Imperial standard. This was later abandoned in favor of the New Republic's Galactic Standard Calendar, which utilized the BBY (before the battle of Yavin)/ABY (after the battle of Yavin) classification.
The end result of this was a massive hand-wave that managed to save several contradictory stories by explaining them as the result of unreliable historians. The early Marvel Comics Star Wars stories which depicted Princess Leia as having fought during the Clone Wars, for instance, could be explained away as Leia being confused with her mother, Padmé Amidala. Of course, all of this was rendered moot when the whole of the EU was declared non-canon with the introduction of Star Wars Legends.