After 20 years of crafting some of the finest Star Wars stories, Dark Horse will be handing the license over to Marvel, who is also owned by Disney. The announcement came by way of Marvel and StarWars.Com today, and comes as little surprise.
The Walt Disney Company's Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Entertainment are joining forces to bring new Star Wars adventures to readers across the galaxy, with Marvel granted exclusive rights to create and publish Star Wars comics and graphic novels beginning in 2015.
The agreement marks a homecoming for the Star Wars comic books. Marvel Comics published the first Star Wars comic book, Star Wars #1, in March 1977, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies. Marvel Comics published its Star Wars series for nine years. In 1991, Dark Horse Comics took over the license, publishing fan favorite titles like Dark Empire and Star Wars: Legacy. Last year, Dark Horse released The Star Wars #1, an adaptation of George Lucas' original rough-draft screenplay for the film, garnering rave reviews and national media attention and ranking among the top-selling Star Wars comics of all time.
"Dark Horse Comics published exceptional Star Wars comics for over 20 years, and we will always be grateful for their enormous contributions to the mythos, and the terrific partnership that we had," said Carol Roeder, director of Lucasfilm franchise publishing, Disney Publishing Worldwide. "In 2015, the cosmic adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca will make the lightspeed jump back to Marvel, to begin a new age of adventures within the Star Wars universe."
"We here at Marvel could not be more excited to continue the publication of Star Wars comic books and graphic novels," said Marvel worldwide publisher and president, Dan Buckley. "The perennial brand of Star Wars is one of the most iconic in entertainment history and we are honored to have the opportunity to bring our creative talent pool to continue, and expand Star Wars into galaxies far, far away."
"We're incredibly excited by this next chapter in the Star Wars saga," said Andrew B. Sugerman, executive vice president of Disney Publishing Worldwide. "Bringing together the iconic Lucasfilm and Marvel brands to tell new stories will allow us to continue to thrill lovers of the original Star Wars comic books and entertain generations to come."
Marvel has continued to push comic book publishing forward with innovations and experiments like motion comics and digital-only releases, in addition to its deep, ongoing catalog of monthly series and graphic novels created by some of the industry's most gifted artists and writers.
When news of Disney's takeover of Lucasfilm was happening, one of the first questions raised was that of the fate of Dark Horse Comics. Now we know.
Well, we know part of the story. What will happen to the 20 years of stories Dark Horse published? Will they be able to continue reprinting them? Will they have to print everything now and as soon as the stock runs out, it's gone? Will Marvel reprint Dark Horse the way Dark Horse reprinted Marvel's? Will it all just disappear? I asked this question of a Lucasfilm representative and they had no direct answer for me, only enough to tell me that plans are still developing. But that's like telling me "Always in motion is the future."
There are also some other clues that indicate we might be getting a reset of the Universe as it is. Take this sentence in the release: "In 2015, the cosmic adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca will make the lightspeed jump back to Marvel, to begin a new age of adventures within the Star Wars universe."
Now, obviously Marvel is going to be telling new stories, but with the way it's phrased (and I could be reading way too much into this) but it seems like we're getting a new Star Wars Universe as far as the comics are concerned. I don't see Marvel trying to shoehorn new stories into 20 years of comics continuity from a competing company.
But maybe they will.
Reset button or not, this is big news. Only time will reveal the details.
Maybe they can do us all a favor and bring back this guy:
And don't forget to listen to the Full of Sith podcast next week for a discussion on this matter.
UPDATE: We have a statement from Dark Horse's Mike Richardson:
All things come to pass. So too, do all licensed deals. I am sad to report that Disney, the new owner of Lucasfilm, has notified us here at Dark Horse of their intention to move the Star Wars publishing license to another of their recent acquisitions, Marvel Comics, beginning in 2015. This will end a partnership that has lasted more than two decades.
For those who are new to the industry, Dark Horse revolutionized the treatment of comics based on films. After a history of movie properties being poorly handled with little regard for execution and continuity, Dark Horse took a new approach, carefully choosing licenses and approaching them with excitement and creative energy. Our goal was to create sequels and prequels to the films we loved, paying careful attention to quality and detail, essentially treating those films as though they were our own. Star Wars has been the crown jewel of this approach. We began chasing the title as far back as 1989, and with the launch of Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire, a new era in comics was born. I’m not ashamed to admit that we were Star Wars geeks, and we have been determined to spare neither effort nor expense in the pursuit of excellence.
It is ironic that this announcement comes at a time when Dark Horse is experiencing its most successful year ever. For obvious reasons, we have prepared for this eventuality by finding new and exciting projects to place on our schedule for 2015 and beyond. Will they take the place of Star Wars? That’s a tall order, but we will do our best to make that happen. In the meantime, 2014 may be our last year at the helm of the Star Wars comics franchise, but we plan to make it a memorable one. We know that fans of the franchise will expect no less. The Force is with us still.
UPDATE #2: I have been desperately trying to get to the bottom of the situation to discover how Marvel will handle the reprints of Dark Horse material and I was given this quote from Aub Driver at Dark Horse:
Per our original contract with LucasFilm, reprints of Dark Horse published material would require Disney to purchase the original files directly from Dark Horse.
Which is to say that it doesn't seem as though that's happening, at least not now. Basically, Disney and Marvel would have to acquire the back catalog of original art from Dark Horse in order to use any of it. If they were, it seems as though that would be in the works already, but from what I'm told, that doesn't sound like that's the case. Could this be the developing story LFL was referring to? Again, only time will tell.