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Marvel Comics reacquires the Star Wars comic book license from Dark Horse Comics

Mike Pawuk

Star Wars 001 1977 195x300 Marvel Comics reacquires the Star Wars comic book license from Dark Horse Comics
It was announced earlier today that starting in 2015, Marvel Comics will once again be the home for the Star Wars license. Here’s Lucasfilm’s press release, as it appeared on USA Today:

Jedi, Sith, and the Rest of the Star Wars Universe Come to Marvel Comics in 2015

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.

Dark Horse Comics’ founder Mike Richardson released a separate press release stating:

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.

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While this turn of events isn’t unexpected—Disney acquired the Star Wars license in October 2012 and previously acquired Marvel Comics in 2007—fan reactions to this from the Dark Horse Comics blog are less than thrilled.

Though Marvel originally held the license from 1977 to 1986, it really wasn’t until Dark Horse Comics published Star Wars: Dark Empire in 1991 that the comics industry truly took a licensed property and made it feel like it was an epic sequel to a movie franchise. To this day, Dark Horse Comics is a highly regarded company known for treating film adaptations with great care. They have published many great Star Wars comic book stories ; Good Comics for Kids looked at the top 20 Star Wars graphic novels in a series of posts that begins here.

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Marvel Comics will have some pretty big shoes to fill and hopefully the transition from Dark Horse Comics will be a smooth one. As a reader of the original Star Wars Marvel comic books since 1977, I feel that a lot of the stories were hit or miss, with some strong gems along the way. Many of Dark Horse Comics’ stories, especially with the team of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, were even better than many of the movies in terms of characters and pacing, and here’s hoping that Marvel seriously considers keeping them on board after the transition. I’m not dreading the takeover—this isn’t unexpected at all—but I’m leery of how Marvel Comics will handle the new Star Wars line and whether they will continue with the great care that Dark Horse Comics has done. Considering that Marvel Comics has completely dropped the ball since acquiring the Disney license from BOOM! Studios (is it really that difficult to just translate monthly Mickey Mouse comic books from Italy, Marvel?), only time will tell if Marvel will take the time to work alongside Lucasfilm to tell great stories that rivaled Star Wars: Dark Empire or Star Wars: Legacy.

It’s yet unknown whether the stories originally published by Dark Horse Comics will be reprinted by Marvel’s trade paperback line.

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Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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