Marvel to Get Star Wars Comics Franchise in 2015; Dark Horse Responds

As expected, now that Disney owns both Marvel and LucasFilm, the Star Wars comics are moving publishers. Dark Horse has done an excellent job with the franchise to date, but they’re going in-house, with “Marvel granted exclusive rights to create and publish Star Wars comics and graphic novels beginning in 2015.” Here are excerpts from the press release:

Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1 (1977 Marvel)

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.”

So everyone’s very excited, but I’m sad that 20 years of relationship fell to corporate synergy. And considering how Marvel’s handled the Muppet Show comics — short answer, with a few reprints and nothing more, after Boom! did an amazing job publishing new stories by Roger Langridge — fans may wonder what’s to come.

Mike Richardson, founder and publisher of Dark Horse, released the following statement:

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.

I don’t mind him tooting their horn, because comics is a field with very little memory, and it’s good to be reminded of how things used to be back when. Dark Horse is the one that pioneered the whole “your favorite film/TV stories continue here in comics” approach. He’s also got to keep the business active for another year. Fans tend to bail early when they hear something’s ending, and Dark Horse still has a year’s worth of publications to sell.

I suspect the franchise won’t get the same level of loving attention at the bigger Marvel. Their bread-and-butter is superheroes, not licensed brands, so there’s a built-in antipathy to someone else’s characters. Plus, they’ll be more likely to tow the company line, putting out stories for marketing instead of creative reasons, promoting the new movies instead of telling original stories. As Star Wars becomes just another title under the Marvel label, it won’t be as big an area of focus. I hope the comics that do come out are still satisfying for fans.

In the meantime, if there are Dark Horse Star Wars stories you’ve been meaning to read, better get them now, since I think all their comics and collections with that brand will go out of print at the end of the year.

11 Responses to “Marvel to Get Star Wars Comics Franchise in 2015; Dark Horse Responds”

  1. Ralf Haring Says:

    Interestingly it appears that people who bought Star Wars comics through Dark Horse’s digital app will *not* lose access to them when the license expires. People won’t be able to make new purchases, as expected, but the content will remain accessible in Dark Horse’s cloud.

  2. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    the CBR story was updated with a statement that any Star Wars books bought digitally will remain available digitally even after the change.

    and, in a statement that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before, there’s a claim that as per their licensing contract, in order for Marvel to reprint any of the Dark Horse materials, they have to purchase the film from Dark Horse. Given the amount of Conan material that Dark Horse has reprinted from Marvel, I wonder if this is Dark Horse learning from Marvel’s licensing errors, or if it’s a consistent contract term.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I would hope the digital purchases would stay available! They weren’t rented, after all, but “sold” (as much as that means digitally). Jim, I think the info about the film came from DH’s press contact, and that’s an interesting clause — because if Marvel has to spend money on it, they probably won’t.

  4. Ralf Haring Says:

    I’d hope so too, but I would have expected the worst! (that being digital stores using the familiar terminology and iconography of real-world purchases, charging similar prices, and hiding that access to the digital item can be yanked at will somewhere deep in the ToS)

    I’d imagine the Disney-needs-to-purchase-the-art-from-Dark-Horse clause is a long-forgotten one from a twenty year old contract that kept being renewed or glossed over. It certainly seems more unique than so much other licensed material which skips around between publishers as the original rightsholders make new arrangements. It definitely bodes ill for the people who might want to purchase any DH-era Star Wars stories in the future. Disney is unlikely to allow them to reprint it, DH is (deservedly) probably going to want a big chunk of change, and the limited audience is unlikely to mean Disney will decide to fork over much.

  5. Jim Perreault Says:

    While not surprising, I don’t see how this is a good move for Disney. What does Marvel bring to the table, besides its name?

    A better approach, IMO, would have been to let Dark Horse continuing producing comics based on the older material, while letting Marvel produce comics based off of the newer material.

    Now that I think about it, since Dark Horse has done nothing with newer Star Wars characters I wonder if they had the license to use them?

  6. James Schee Says:

    To be fair Marvel has had a history of success with licensed comics as well before Dark Horse. There was the original Marvel Star Wars comics of course. Yet let’s also remember G.I. Joe which is responsible for many readers (including myself) reading comics in the first place.

    With a new Star Wars movie in 2015 I’m sure there will be plenty of comic attention. I wonder if they’ll maintain the “Expanded universe” mythos like DH did, I personally hope not. (I was lost when the comics referred to stuff outside the movies)

  7. Thomwade Says:

    G.I. Joe and the Transformers were pretty successful under Marvel’s watch.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Those are good examples, but ancient. They’re from the newsstand era, correct?

  9. James Schee Says:

    Joe lasted from 1984 to 1992, Transformers from 84-91.

    GI joe sort of lucked out and found Larry Hama who wrote pretty much the entire series. So not much attention from Marvel was needed.

  10. Jim Perreault Says:

    G.I. Joe was a good comic (at least from what I gather, as I did not read it).

    But Transformers? That was a very sub-par comic until Simon Furman took it over.

    I’ve always found it interesting that the 2 books, both inspired by similar toy lines, were so very different. G.I. Joe had it’s own identity, very much driven by Larry Hama. Transformers on the other hand always played second fiddle to the cartoon, which was where all the innovation happened.

    Bottom line, I don’t think the Transformers comic is a good example of how licensed comics should be done (except for the Furman issues, which came late in the run and ultimately did not save the book from cancellation).

  11. Ralf Haring Says:

    I think Marvel had a significant hand in creating the Transformers’ names and backstory. I have no opinion on the comic itself. I do think any of Marvel’s successes in licensed comics are too far back in its history to be accurate predictors of the present.




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