The crown jewel of the Star Wars media empire is and always will be the live-action films; the $2 billion worldwide intake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is proof of that. However, the franchise is fit to exist in a plethora of other mediums as well. For as long as the brand has been around, there have been comic books, novels, and television shows that tell more stories set in the expansive galaxy far, far away. And that has not changed under the new Disney leadership. What is a little different, is that there is now a Lucasfilm story group in place to oversee Star Wars canon and make sure that everything released is connected.
This means that all things Star Wars - be they movies, comics, or even video games - exist within the same cohesive continuity as the studio maps everything out. Last year, they used the impending arrival of Episode VII to underscore this initiative with a series of books under the "Journey to The Force Awakens" banner, some of which provided clues about the new movie. With Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hitting theaters in December 2016, Lucasfilm has another golden opportunity to do something similar and they'll be taking advantage.
At the Diamond Retailer Breakfast (hat tip Bleeding Cool), Marvel Comics announced that there would be a short Rogue One prequel series coming out in October. It will include three issues and a one-shot. In addition, Del Ray revealed during the event plans to publish the novel Star Wars: Catalyst, a "thrilling must-have prequel" to Rogue One, in the fall. The writer for both the comic and novel are currently unknown, meaning it's something else fans will get to speculate over.
Plot details for the new canon materials were not shared, but it's safe to assume that they'll cover backstory on the new characters that will be featured in the spinoff film and key events that transpire prior to the movie. The title of the Catalyst novel could give readers an idea of what to expect, conceivably the occurrence that leads the Rebel Alliance to plan the dangerous mission of stealing the Death Star plans. In contrast from last year's books, like Aftermath and Lost Stars, it looks as if Catalyst and the comics will take place shortly before the Rogue One film, meaning that those interested in the movie will have extra incentive to pick these up ahead of time to get a better grasp on what's happening in-universe.
At the same time, casual viewers should not feel as if it's necessary to read the books before Rogue One premieres. Lucasfilm seems to understand that they're releasing the movies to a wider audience and make them so that anyone can enjoy them at face value. That was the case with The Force Awakens, so it's hard to see that strategy changing now. Those who do get the novel and/or the comics will most likely enhance their Rogue One viewing experience, but there shouldn't be anything too substantial showcased. After all, Lucasfilm will probably want to keep as many spoilers as they can under lock and key, saving any jaw-dropping revelations for the movie.
On another note, it's interesting that October is the planned release window for the prequel comic. Earlier reports indicated that the next Force Friday merchandise event was coming in September 2016, which would seem like an ideal time to debut the comic book. Of course, the Shattered Empire comic that came out last year hit shelves a few days after Force Friday 2015, so there is a precedent in place. Regardless of when it comes out, there are sure to be several fans analyzing each page for hints about Lucasfilm's next movie.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIIIon December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.