Jan 10 2014

Imperial Decree: A Bit More Regarding Dark Horse’s Loss of the Star Wars License

Published by at 11:00 am under Columns,Comics

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Now that I’ve had some time to actually digest the news at greater lengths, I thought I’d take the opportunity to sound off a bit more on last week’s breaking news, namely Dark Horse Comics’ loss of the Star Wars license to Marvel Comics.

Truth be told, I’m actually old enough to have bought, read and collected much of Marvel Comics’ first go-round on Lucas’s property. I remember vividly heading to the corner book store in my hometown, scanning the racks for those releases, and plunking down my allowance every thirty days. Up until a few years ago, I still had several of those first printings in a collection at my father’s place. (His house burned down, so all of those – and whatever else I still had in storage there – went up in smoke and ash.) Marvel ran with it for almost a decade. While there were a handful of stand-out stories, ideas, and characters added to the Republic, I have to say that I found much of it (sadly) forgettable.

Now, before I get accused of basically trashing Marvel in favor of Dark Horse, let me say that I’ve also had some honest gripes with the Horse’s run in their 20+ years. As I mentioned briefly last week, there were even some critical favorites – Dark Empire, for example – that I just couldn’t wrap my brain around. Some ideas – bringing back the Empire, resurrecting the Emperor, going back centuries before the period we know so well, etc. – often times felt a bit gimmicky to this old dog no matter. I’d much rather see creative time and effort spent on exploring what else waits for either the Jedi or our non-Jedi iconic characters in the great beyond.

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Also, I remember that Marvel tended to experience technical difficulty when bridging the gap between their continuity and film adaptations (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). If memory serves (and please keep in mind I’m not getting any younger), Marvel basically wrapped up their ongoing story quickly (and somewhat haphazardly) and then closed out the book with a promise to show what happens next when their edition of the film hit the silver screen. I could be wrong, but it just never appeared as if there was any major attempt for the comics to mesh with the films. Granted, everything back then with the films was handled with great secrecy (far more than today), so it stood to reason that the narrative breaks felt pretty severe.

But since the news last week, I have had further cause for alarm: the other day, Marvel and Disney announced that they’d hired a creative group to, in the months ahead, go to lengths fleshing out what parts of the past books and comics would be honored as canon and what wouldn’t. My guess is that this is a determined effort to figure out what belongs where, who owns what, and how can this transition be managed without anyone’s legal team getting involved. The best I know from my limited understanding of it is that Lucasfilm retains the rights; Walt Disney owns Lucasfilm; and now they’re letting Marvel play awhile.

To their credit, Dark Horse had a very solid working relationship with Lucasfilm (from what I understand). They went to great lengths to make certain the stories they told – the good, the bad, and the ugly – had George’s blessing, however big or small that was. I do know as it’s even come up in their press releases, interviews, and articles that there were certain timeframes and/or planets and/or species they were specifically told were “off limits” as George had intentions of exploring them at some point in future days. Now that the master has retired, methinks his ideas have probably all passed into other’s hands.

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This latest development from the Mouse House kinda/sorta indicates to me that Lucasfilm isn’t perhaps all that keen to honor the great extent of that intellectual partnering (that lasted 22 years, I remind everyone). Now, they’re seeking to loosen the threads just a bit – which will mean ignoring some (or much?) of what’s been told – so that Marvel and its storytellers can spin their own galactic yarns.

Well …

I’m all for new stories. Always have been. Always will be.

In fact, the only thing that truly has kept the Star Wars Universe as compelling as it has been the constant assortment of new comics and new books that continue to show us what life a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away looked like. Yes, I’d even add both animated versions of The Clone Wars into that mix. If you thought Jango Fett was anything special, then I’d encourage you to get to know Quinlan Vos. And I’ll again give a plug for Brian Wood’s ongoing Star Wars monthly from the Horse as well as any number mini-series dealing with the shaping of Darth Vader into the ultimate ‘Dark Lord of the Sith.’

Granted, the vastness of the ongoing Star Wars mythology makes following all of its fictional history fairly difficult, but do the yucksters on Marvel’s dime really think the best way to insert themselves into the mix is to play God? I get that you want to make your mark – you want to allow your talent to add to the legacy – but do we really need to announce that you’re now ‘evaluating’ what’s legit and what’s not?

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Pardon the comparison, but that sounds very much like something the greedy Emperor Palpatine would do.

Maybe Star Wars is finally in the right hands after all.

I suspect only time will tell.





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