News broke on Friday that the license to publish Star Wars comic books was moving back to Marvel after having been at Dark Horse for over 20 years. This was inevitable. Disney, in the span of two short years, bought up both Marvel and Star Wars (and even Indiana Jones). Speculation was, at first, that Dark Horse was to keep the license, but now we know it is official – no dice.
This is terrible news for Dark Horse, but news that they have been preparing for even though 2013 brought us two of the best titles Dark Horse has ever produced: “THE Star Wars” (culled from the original George Lucas draft) and “Star Wars” by Brian Wood, which was to be an ongoing but will now cease with #20.
The move back to Marvel will hurt sales, as the Star Wars line is one of the most popular and profitable of all the comics they publish. Dark Horse will survive with other licensed properties but they will be hard pressed to have another line as popular and with so much cache.
It’s also sad for many of the long time creators that have overseen the line. Randy Stradley, John Ostrander and John Jackson Miller have spearheaded the line and they have been true to the vision that George Lucas put forth all those years ago. They took chances. Chances that Disney and Mavel may not be so eager to attempt. “The Tales Of the Jedi” (1993-1998) which brought readers to the beginnings of the universe; “Union” which is the marriage of Luke Skywalker to Mara Jade and “Chewbacca” in which an old friend passes. Dark Horse also published Star Wars Manga overseen by editor David Land, a bold retelling of the original trilogy and one that has been sorely forgotten.
As far as collected editions go, the Omnibus editions have been coming out at an astounding rate and I’m pretty sure just about every single Dark Horse title has been collected. These 6×9 softcover editions are easy to read and pack a lot of material in them. Dark Horse has even published 2 volumes called Wild Space which collects some of the more bizarre and hard to find comics, not only published by Dark Horse but other non-Marvel companies, as well.
Speaking of Marvel’s books, Dark Horse has published the Marvel line of books 107 issues plus 3 annuals a few different times. In a 5-Volume Omnibus line subtitled “A Long Time Ago”; a full color, 7-volume trade paperback series called “A Long Time Ago” and not to be confusing, but in another “A Long time Ago” 6-volume collection, which is a digest series that reprinted the comics, seemingly randomly and in back and white. These digests featured Ralph McQuarrie’s original Star Wars painting as cover art.
But what of the future? After all that’s what we want to know.
First of all I don’t think Marvel will screw anything up such as an X-Men/Star Wars crossover like they did with Star Trek. Why? Because Lucasfilm will still be the end-all, be-all editor of the series. That’s right. Anything that is published – comics, novels, toys and even TV shows (think Family Guy and Robot Chicken) must go though the proper channels.
This has helped with continuity over the years, too. Even when it came time for Dark Horse to expand the reveal of how Darth Vader found out about Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. In “Vader’s Quest”, they adhered to Marvel’s own adaptation in issue #35, which interestingly was the last Marvel Star Wars comic to be published before The Empire Strikes Back was released.
Here is the breakdown:
Vader’s Quest #1 (pages 1-3),
Marvel SW #35 (page 1),
Vader’s Quest #1 (pages 2-20)
Marvel SW #35 (page 2) (there’s a minor discrepancy with the type of ship Vader takes back to the Star Destroyer),
Vader’s Quest #1 (page 21-end),
Marvel SW #35 (pages 3-11, panel 3)
Vader’s Quest #2-4
Marvel SW #35 (pages 11, panel 4-end of the issue)
But it’s unknown how Marvel will incorporate the Dark Horse stories. I’m sure they would like to attempt their own “Day After the Death Star” comic and focus on the core characters like Luke, Han and Leia, but if you squeeze them into the Dark Horse timeline, there isn’t much room between the end of A New Hope and the beginning of Return Of The Jedi. You can bet there will be a Boba Fett series and perhaps even the origins of Darth Maul (which has been written in novel form). And of course Marvel will be adapting Episodes VII, VIII and IX. It’s also unknown if Marvel will get the reprint rights to the Dark Horse line, but I’m sure they will reprint the original run along with the 4-issue Marvel Return Of The Jedi comic in either the Masterwork or Omnibus format. Whatever Marvel may do expect a copycat of Dark Horse’s successes: a slue of mini-series and one-shots with an ongoing that will garner huge fanfare.
To paraphrase Han Solo, “Hey Marvel, May The Force Be With You”.