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You know that it’s possibly time to abandon all hope when one of the first thoughts you have when reading the news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney is “But what will that mean for Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse?”
The answer is, more likely than not, that it’ll probably be shorter than originally intended. I may be being far too cynical about this — after all, for all I know, Dark Horse has an iron-clad multi-year contract with Lucasfilm that’ll be grandfathered into the Disney deal (Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson assures that “Star Wars will be with us for the near future”). But I’m flashing back to BOOM! Studios’ deal with Disney, and how quickly that fell apart following the 2009 purchase of Marvel. (By my reckoning, it took about two years after the Marvel purchase, all told; as far as I can see Darkwing Duck continued publication all the way through mid-2011, although certain titles — among them, Muppets and the Pixar books — were lost earlier than that.)
It’s a shame, and not least because I suspect that Star Wars will fare less well as a property if it becomes a Marvel book than it did under Dark Horse. For one thing, Dark Horse pays more attention to it; it’s not that it’s the sole jewel in the publisher’s crown: The Hellboy/B.P.R.D. franchise, the Buffy series and the various creator-owned titles like Brian Wood’s The Massive and new books like Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra’s Colder are pretty fine arguments against the idea that losing Star Wars could financially cripple the company, if you ask me. However, it’s certainly a franchise that Dark Horse puts well-chosen talent on (see: Wood, Brian, as well as that awesome Alex Ross cover for the first issue). By comparison, Marvel’s licensed material can be … what’s the world I’m looking for … forgotten, perhaps, after launch? Look at the drift from big-name creators to … less than big-name creators (although, in some cases, creators better suited to the material) for things like Ender’s Game, The Dark Tower and Halo, and you’ll see what I mean.
Also, there’s the entirely non-business-minded, completely sentimental idea that Dark Horse has done right by Star Wars, and so deserves some loyalty in return. Think of the various relaunches, game tie-ins, movie tie-ins and whatever that the publisher has handled to keep the books in step with the greater continuities and brand expansions of the franchise that Lucasfilm was pushing at the time, or the various ways in which Dark Horse’s material has helped to establish new parts of the mythology that laid the groundwork for video games or novels or whatever. That’s not to say that Dark Horse did so out of the kindness of its publishing heart — it is, after all, a business — but, still. The sentimental part of me still feels as if having the license pulled away after all of that because Lucasfilm’s new owner already owns a publisher would be a little … unfair, in some way.
Of course, such thoughts wouldn’t occur to those responsible for the deal, and let’s be honest: Why should they? Where Star Wars comics are published seems more than slightly minuscule when you’re making $4.05 billion deals and thinking about movies and television shows, after all. And yet … there’s something about serving the fans in there, something about having a long term view as opposed to looking for short term gain, that makes me nervous nonetheless. But then, I’m a sentimental old fool who is both cynical and paranoid. Yoda, I feel, wouldn’t approve.