Doctor Aphra is many things, but one thing is for sure Doctor Aphra is always out for herself, no matter what.
Aphra is willing to cheat, lie, steal, betray, and even kill to get what she wants. This is not your typical Star Wars protagonist or antagonist even. She prefers the Empire to the Rebels, but that doesn’t mean she wants to follow the Empire’s rules.
She’s a genius archeologist, but she’s also a criminal with a lot of people chasing her because of debts she owes or actions she’s taken. Aphra makes decisions that can land her on either side of the line between good and bad, but she always finds a way to get out of it alive with her quick thinking. The snarky charm of a scoundrel who lacks the usual moral compass that turns them into a hero. Doctor Aphra is a complex character who fits in nicely to the world of Star Wars and comic book fans clearly agree.
The Real World Origin of Doctor Aphra
Doctor Aphra is a comic book character first introduced in the 2015 Marvel series Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 which takes place between the movies A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. She was created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, as a foil for Vader in his series. The thought being a bit of levity and comic relief was needed because of Vader’s stoic and dark demeanor. Aphra worked as a sort of sidekick for Vader while she was working for him and while she would make sarcastic quips, she also had a healthy dose of respect and fear when it came to the Sith Lord.
Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra gained an impressive fan base during her time in the Star Wars: Darth Vader comic series. Gillen attributes a lot of the success of the series to the Doctor Aphra character.
Doctor Aphra vs. Indiana Jones
In 2016, she became the first character who was introduced in a comic, to get her own solo Marvel comic book series, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. She is a snarky criminal archeologist with a genius level knowledge in droids and weapons technologies. She also has a special interest in ancient weapons and Jedi artifacts. She uses her credentials as a Doctor to be able to legitimately sell her findings to the highest bidder, which gets her a lot more money than if she tried to sell them on the black market. Aphra believes that the weapons she finds should be sold and even used instead of kept in a museum or hidden away.
Star Wars is known for archetypes and Aphra is no different. Originally envisioned to fit into the Indiana Jones archeologist archetype she does have similarities to the famed adventurer. She is a Doctor herself and is adept at getting herself into messes, then using her ability to think on her feet to get out of it. However, a major point of difference is in their respective moral codes.
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Indiana Jones is the hero and loyal friend. He’s a good guy who wants to discover amazing historical artifacts, in an effort to put them in a museum, or locked away if the artifact is too dangerous. Aphra doesn’t believe things belong in a museum, if anything most of her finds are found in an armory, and she only stays loyal to herself.
When we first meet Doctor Aphra in Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 there is a definite homage to Indiana Jones’ first scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc. Right down to narrowly escaping a giant ball that nearly crushes her. Vader actually saves Aphra and we learn he was there to hire her to secretly help him under the Empire’s radar. Unlike most characters that encounter Vader, Aphra shows respect and even admiration for the man. Telling him that she’s a fan of his, of course there is still a bit of her classic snarky humor as she oscillates between calling him Sir Darth Vader and Mr. Darth Vader before she’s corrected.