Looks like the world eater known as Disney may be setting it’s sights on another license — the BlueSkyDisney blog is reporting that the Star Wars comic book license will leave Dark Horse Comics at the end of it’s present deal and return to Marvel Comics, a Disney owned company.
BlueSkyDisney — which was called “rather reliable” in Bleeding Cool‘s report about the possible switch– went on to say that:
The stories that Dark Horse have coming down the pipeline will be the last. And you can expect anything new from Marvel dealing with Star Wars to arrive around 2015.
A request for a comment on this rumor from Dark Horse Comics was not immediately returned, but we’ll be sure to update this story if we hear back.
As for the past, Dark Horse President Mike Richardson spoke about the future of the Star Wars franchise at Dark Horse to CBR at the end of October when Disney bought Lucas Film:
“Dark Horse and LucasFilm have a strong partnership which spans over 20 years, and has produced multiple characters and story lines which are now part of the Star Wars lore,” said Richardson. “‘Star Wars’ will be with us for the near future. Obviously, this deal changes the landscape, so we’ll all have to see what it means for the future.”
Confident, but certainly not definitive.
On paper, Disney’s move makes sense in a post Lucas Film/Disney… world: now they can use their comic division (Marvel) to help promote the upcoming slate of Star Wars films. That likely means prequel comics that may be used to introduce new characters prior to their on-screen debuts, tie ins, and a cross promotional bonanza.
The question is: is that the most effective use of the Star Wars comic brand?
For 20 plus years, Dark Horse Comics has been the home of Star Wars branded comics. Presently Dark Horse holds about 5% of market share, but a larger share of the buzz in the industry thanks to Hellboy, Whedonverse comics (which Dark Horse aligned with the addition of the Angel license), a slew of acclaimed creator-owned books, and also the strength of their Star Wars books.
Why are those books so strong? Because there is a focus on quality and talent (John Ostrander, Brian Wood, etc) above all other things.
We’ve all read bad licensed comics. There are companies that seem like that’s all they churn out. Dark Horse is not one of those, and though it would have been easy to do so, they’ve done a great bit more than just slap a Star Wars logo on a piece of derivative space crap and hope that the pull of that shining logo keeps them fat.
Will that be the case at Marvel? Is there any way that that overall quality could possibly continue with a more corporatised focus on revenue maximization by way of cross-promotional marketing opportunities? Possibly, and maybe Marvel will rise to the occasion and flesh out, in a full and impactful way, the outer reaches of the Star Wars universe as Dark Horse has, but I don’t think that’s why they’re potentially looking to acquire it and that is a shame for those who love Star Wars comics.
Marvel’s history with the license likely has little to do with this prospective deal as well, but it is worth mentioning.
Before Dark Horse acquired the license back in 1990, Marvel had held it — literally sitting on it for four years without releasing a book. For nine years though, from 1977 to 1986, Marvel was the place for Star Wars comics and they benefited greatly from it.
Keith Veronese wrote a great article on this for IO9, and I urge you to check it out, but here are some of the main beats:
Marvel was in a state of disarray in the late 70s before the Star Wars license fell into their laps for free, thanks to the efforts of former editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, who proposed the comic to Marvel after Stan Lee had rejected it.
Remember, this is before New Hope’s release, so no one really knew what Star Wars was back then. Obviously that quickly changed and the book — initially an adaptation of New Hope before they expanded to the un-touched universe in later arcs — became a massive hit for Marvel, outselling The Amazing Spider-Man and other stalwarts.
“Star Wars was a tremendous hit and kept the company alive during a very tough time. That book kept the company going.” said former editor Jim Shooter to IO9.
That company, Marvel, is now going strong of course and not in the market for a savior. They just want a new toy — a toy that they hopefully don’t break.