All words: Cameron Hatheway
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Dark Horse writers and artists suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”
For Dark Horse Comics, something terrible has indeed happened: they no longer have the license to Star Wars, the crown jewel of their publishing empire. Dark Horse president and founder Mike Richardson recently sent an industry-wide email explaining the new development, something they’ve been fearing ever since it was announced that Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012. With Disney now owning both Marvel and Lucasfilm, it would only make sense for any new Star Wars stories to be published solely by Marvel.
“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.”
When it comes to comic books and licensed properties, they can be either really great or downright cringe-worthy. Publishers like Dark Horse (Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan) and IDW (Doctor Who, G.I. JOE, Transformers) are best known for the quality they bring to individual franchises, providing an expanded universe where the movies or television shows ended. With others such as Dynamite Entertainment (The Green Hornet, Army of Darkness, Battlestar Galactica), a majority of the licensed properties feel forced and unimaginative, with several different variant covers being released just to get a few more bucks before the cash cow runs dry.
Dark Horse is without a doubt one of the best publishers in the business when it comes to expanding on licensed properties, and the work they did on expanding the Star Wars universe for the past two decades has been nothing short of awesome. The fans agree, shelling out cash week after week, year after year for the latest Star Wars ongoing series and miniseries. Remember hearing about bounty hunter Boba Fett dying a few years ago? It was Dark Horse that made those headlines happen. Or when George Lucas’s original “The Star Wars” screenplay was being adapted into comics? Dark Horse, baby.
Now to some fans, Disney has way too much power now that they own both Marvel and Lucasfilm. (“Lucasfilm, I am your father!”) However, I don’t think this should be viewed as a bad thing necessarily. Yes, when they start writing and illustrating the Star Wars – Episode VII prequel comics, they’ll be using their own in-house talent for the special project (probably Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley). It does look pretty good on ones resume to have Star Wars as a project you were involved with, for Lucasfilm wants to make sure their characters are in the best of hands—hence why they stuck with Dark Horse for so long.
But why stop at just the prequel comics and eventual adaptations? Why not blend the Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm universes together to make a trippy clusterfuck of sheer brilliance? The Disney / Square Enix video game Kingdom of Hearts is already insanely popular, selling over 20 million copies worldwide. Fans love the ability to interact and play with both Disney and Final Fantasy characters, much as comic book readers love the occasional crossover between different publishers. Disney now has the ability to do so, and I feel that the sky’s the limit.
Back in 1977, Marvel produced a series titled What If, where a completely different scenario would occur revolving around an event based in mainstream Marvel continuity. (What if Uncle Ben had lived? What if the Punisher’s family hadn’t been killed?) This would be the perfect platform to launch some of the best fan fiction never told. Disney has the power to make it happen, wielding the Infinity Gauntlet and a pen, with the world as their canvas.
Who wouldn’t pay $5.99 to read a comic featuring Wolverine with lightsaber claws going up against Sith Lord Mola Ram on Pride Rock? Or a Han Solo / Indiana Jones team-up comic where they go up against Peg-Leg Pete to rescue the Disney Princesses? Donald Duck versus Howard the Duck has the potential to be the new Donald versus Daffy scene from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” if done correctly, and if you add Gizmoduck versus Iron Man you can kindly shut up and take my money. Hell, Disney could create an all-new Kingdom of Hearts franchise featuring all the licensed properties and call it a day, but I think with the right creative teams through the medium of comics, some ridiculously (emphasis on “ridiculous”) badass stories could be told.
Then again, Scott Kurtz kind of already beat everyone to the punch with the ultimate mash-up 10 years prior.
Whatever new Star Wars comics Marvel starts to tell in 2015, Dark Horse fans should be reassured that their beloved comics will still exist in continuity. Much like the Star Wars prequels and special editions, the original original trilogy still exists and George Lucas won’t be sneaking into your house anytime soon to destroy them. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, on the other hand, just might. DON’T LET THAT MAN INTO YOUR HOME!
One thing’s for sure, and that is Marvel has some incredibly big shoes to fill now that Dark Horse is no longer the keeper of the Star Wars keys. Fans will come to expect nothing short of excellence in the quality of the storytelling, and won’t hold back calling Marvel out if the only thing the publisher seems to care about is the 100 different variant covers at $7.99 a pop. Marvel is used to basking in the fans hatred as it flows through them event after event, but to fuck up Star Wars in any way would be most unwise. I mean, if Deadpool were to kill Jar Jar Binks, I think we’d all agree that would be okay.
With Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie blasting off on August 1st, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the Millennium Falcon or Slave One in the background, let alone for the planet “Disneyworld.”
Cameron Hatheway is the host of Cammy’s Comic Corner and Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Sonoma State STAR. You can pitch him your ultimate Disney/Luscasfilm/Marvel crossover on Twitter at @CamComicCorner.