In what many fans see as an inevitable move after Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Comics and the Star Wars franchise, Marvel has been granted the rights to publish all Star Wars comics starting in 2015.
Marvel is the original Star Wars comic publisher in the 1970s and 1980s, producing 107 issues before Dark Horse Comics took over in 1991. Dark Horse proceeded to expand the comic book universe to multiple titles, often overshadowing Marvel’s earlier efforts.
So far, Star Wars fan reactions to the new changeover have been apprehensive, to say the least. Although Marvel is undoubtedly booming (and has proven its ability to sustain complex movie/comic integrated universes within its own superhero franchises), Dark Horse has more than 20 years in publishing multiple popular Star Wars titles. Also, Marvel’s recent track record with launching new comics based on Disney and Pixar properties is not very impressive.
As we all predicted months ago, Marvel and Lucasfilm will be publishing STAR WARS comics. Is your body ready…for mediocrity?
— Josh Wilding (@Josh_Wilding) January 3, 2014
Writing in a post on his Tumblr blog, fantasy author and Star Wars fan writer Jason Fry described the ambivalent feelings of many Star Wars comic fans. Like many of the older generation of Star Wars fans, he grew up with Marvel’s comics before graduating to Dark Horse’s more sophisticated development of the extended Star Wars universe.
“Every other month Dark Horse published an issue of Dark Empire, which was dense and atmospheric and strange at first, but in the end struck me as a moving and worthy continuation of the Skywalker family saga: Luke grapples with his father’s legacy, loses himself in the struggle, and is saved by his sister’s commitment to that legacy,” Fry wrote.
“Dark Horse’s talented writers and artists and editors filled gaps in Star Wars lore, retold the movies from other certain points of view, gave us fanciful (and sobering, and moving) what-if stories, and explored eras of the galaxy far, far away’s distant past and far future. Those hundreds of tales would be enough to make Dark Horse an essential part of Star Wars. But it did far more than that: Dark Horse was also a dedicated, caring and responsible custodian and curator of the comics history that had come before it.”
The basic concern is that while Marvel is extremely good at producing superhero comics, Star Wars is a major undertaking, particularly since the launch of any new Marvel/Star Wars titles will coincide with the extremely high-profile release of Episode VII in 2015.
On the Dark Horse Comics site, president Mike Richardson highlighted Dark Horse’s role in building the Star Wars legacy, adding that finding replacement comics to fill the gap left by Star Wars will be a “tall order” in 2015.
“For those who are new to the industry, Dark Horse revolutionized the treatment of comics based on films,” Richardson wrote. “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.”
On a more optimistic note, Marvel’s excellent track record with Avengers spinoffs is proof that they’re happy to listen to the wishes of their fans, even when it includes potentially risky ventures like a TV series about Captain America’s WWII-era girlfriend. If Marvel can use the same care it took when cultivating the fandom for SHIELD’s Agent Coulson across comics, TV and movie universes, then they may be able to handle the Star Wars juggernaut. Otherwise, Star Wars comics may be in for a rocky few years.
Illustration via boomerstarkiller67 / Tumblr