Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are Dark Horse the Next Victim of Disney?

Randy Stradley, editor or the Star Wars output at Dark Horse comics, and Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the future of Star Wars comics. They were mainly there to promote the intriguing new series The Star Wars, a mini-arc based on one of Lucas’ initial drafts of A New Hope, but they also suggested that Star Wars may not be with Dark Horse for much longer…

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly
Initially when Disney purchased Lucasfilm, there was a lot of speculation all over the Internet that Star Wars comics would now be published by Marvel, as Disney own the publisher. Those who supported the Disney takeover stated separately that as Disney had been so ‘hands-off’ since buying Marvel and Pixar that Lucasfilm would be left to do its thing. At the time, many put two and two together and assumed if Disney was leaving Lucasfilm to run almost as a subsidiary, licensing would be left to the experts at Lucasfilm who have licensed Star Wars so successfully in the past.

But this these are the answers that Stradley and Richardson gave Entertainment Weekly – 
The licensing landscape is shifting after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and must be a source of intrigue to you. Disney owns Marvel so it is natural to suspect the comics will be returning to their portfolio after your contract runs out in the next few years…
Stradley: Well, we’re, waiting for the other shoe to drop. What we’ve been told is we’ll hear something about the future of the license sometime this year.
Richardson: We have it for the foreseeable future, though, so we’re just going about business as usual. It is what it is. Look, from day-one we always knew it was a possibility that someday we might not have the license. We’re prepared for it. We have other franchises to move into that space, but we got involved with publishing in part because we loved Star Wars and so sure it’ll be disappointing on a business level, but probably more disappointing on a personal level.
It is not paranoid to read too much into this. If these guys were confident that the license would stay with Dark Horse, or that the proposal process for whoever gets the license would be fair, then they would not be using phrases like “waiting for the other shoe to drop” and “It is what it is.” This means that they are expecting to lose the license, and are readying the fans for the news. It turns out that those who have said this from day one were correct, and deserve credit for pointing out one of the casualties of the Disney takeover.

It may not even make financial sense for Disney to have their in-house comic publisher produce Star Wars comics. Marvel has to turn a greater profit on the comics than Dark Horse currently pays for the license. And even if they can do that initially, Marvel will have to maintain a loyal readership base. That will be difficult to achieve if Disney try anything radical, such as resetting the Expanded Universe (which must be a real possibility now with the new films almost certain to trample on the existing post Return of the Jedi continuity). 

Dark Horse have published excellent Star Wars comics for twenty years. They have done a
great job of bringing excellent talent to Star Wars, introducing engaging characters, dramatic settings and rewarding stories. There have been mis-steps along the way, but there have also been experimental stories and formats that have succeeded in reaching out a broader audience. It will be a great shame for Dark Horse to have to say goodbye to Star Wars. Marvel may do a perfectly adequate job, but surely you don’t fix the shifter if it isn’t broken?

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