When the Walt Disney Company reached agreement to acquire Lucasfilm from George Lucas at the end of 2012 the comic book community wondered what would become of the Star Wars comic book line published by Dark Horse Comics. Would Disney take the license back and allow the comic books featuring the heroes and villains of a galaxy far, far away to go to Marvel Comics the original home of “Star Wars” comic books and another company recently acquired by the Mouse (acquired in 2009)?
Last week the answer everyone was expecting was finally announced. In 2015 the publishing rights to the entire Star Wars Universe will return to Marvel Comics ending the 20 year relationship between Dark Horse and Star Wars.
Carol Roeder, director of Lucasfilm franchise publishing, Disney Publishing Worldwide in the announcement on Marvel.com said:
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. 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.
Marvel Comics published the original Star Wars comic book releasing “Star Wars” #1 in March 1977 two months prior to the release of the original movie. The comic written by Roy Thomas with art by Howard Chaykin was a phenomenal success for the publisher and outsold the entire super hero line at a time when comics were struggling to find an audience.
The Marvel Star Wars series ran for 107 issues ending in 1986, three years after the conclusion of the original trilogy. Interest in Star Wars had seemingly subsided and the once huge hit was struggling to find its audience without the support of a movie to back it up.
In 1991, Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights to publish comics based on Star Wars and with the release of “Star Wars: Dark Empire” #1 in December 1991 by writer Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy the world of Star Wars became one of the top lines from Dark Horse. For 20 years the publisher expanded the universe not just covering the original heroes but traveling many millennia into the past for the “Dawn of the Jedi” to the years many generations into the future to see what the “Legacy” of the original cast was for the galaxy.
With series after series Dark Horse explored the characters created by George Lucas and also introduced many of their new ones to the franchise. And in 2013, Dark Horse entered into a bold new era of Star Wars comics with the release of the all new “Star Wars” series, a new “Star Wars Legacy” series, continuing to explore the “Dark Times” and finally by adapting the original “The Star Wars” script written by George Lucas in an eight issue series.
Dark Horse President Mike Richardson had this to say in a statement about the end of an era:
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. … 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.
Dark Horse Star Wars editor Randy Stradley had this to say through his Facebook page:
[If] Dark Horse must lose the license, this is probably a good time for it. From my perspective, the upcoming films will mean less freedom to do what we at Dark Horse have always done best: expanding the universe. With a new film scheduled every year, and a new television series, it is likely that there will be a lot of comics pages devoted to adaptations and direct spin-off stories in support of the films and TV shows. That's not where my interests lie, and it has never been Dark Horse's strong suit. That would be too much like real work to me.
Probably, the coming years will be a great time to be a Star Wars fan (especially a *new* Star Wars fan), and I hope you all enjoy the ride.
Nobody knows, or is not saying, what will happen to the Star Wars characters and series as the franchise ends the association with Dark Horse and begins anew with Marvel. Will the mythology that Dark Horse added to the saga be continued? Will Marvel start fresh only expanding on the six movies already released and expanding only when the new movies begin in 2015?