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SDCC, Day 3 | The Force is with Marvel

star warsAlthough Saturday at Comic-Con International was dominated by movies and television — led by Warner Bros. Pictures, Marvel Studios and Legendary Pictures — there was still room for plenty of comics news. First and foremost, the announcement of Marvel’s Star Wars plans.

That line, telling canonical stories set between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, launches in January with Star Wars, by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, followed in February by Star Wars: Darth Vader, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca with covers by Adi Granov, and in March by the miniseries Star Wars: Princess Leia, by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson.

“What’s great about this time period is that all the characters are kind of on the table,” Aaron told CBR News. “Of course this is still early on and these people have pretty much just met each and just come together. So they’re still finding their place within this group and sort of figuring out their relationships with each other. Then there’s the fact that when you look at the gap between Episode IV and Episode V there’s some pretty major beats that happen off screen. So this gives up the opportunity to grab those beats and lay them down as part of the same canon as the movies.”

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Disney merchandise rang up a record $40.9 billion in 2013

disney-licensing expo

Characters from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars appeared together on stage Monday for the first time ever as the entertainment giant touted its powerhouse brands ahead of the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

According to Variety, Disney is once again the world’s top licensor, with a record $40.9 billion in retail sales last year, up from $39.4 billion in 2012. With looming films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, based on Marvel comics, the live-action Cinderella and Star Wars: Episode VII, plus the Star Wars Rebels animated television series, that seems unlikely to change in the near future.

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Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ characters heading to ‘Disney Infinity’?

disney infinity

Coming perhaps as little surprise, if still welcome news to hopeful fans, Disney is rumored to be developing new versions of its expansive Disney Infinity video game that will feature Marvel and Star Wars characters.

The information is included in a Wall Street Journal report about the expected layoffs of “several hundred” more people from Disney Interactive Studios, despite the game’s strong launch in August.

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Jeffrey Brown’s ‘Vader’ comics get special editions, maquettes

DV&S3-cropped

Chronicle Books has teamed with Gentle Giant Ltd. to bring to life Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son and Darth Vader’s Little Princess as a pair of limited-edition maquettes based on the cartoonist’s work.

Released in 2012, the bestselling Darth Vader and Son reimagines the Dark Lord of the Sith as an involved father, raising a 4-year-old Luke Skywalker, while its 2013 follow-up Darth Vader’s Little Princess chronicles the trials of shepherding Leia as she grows a sweet ltitle girl to a rebellious teenager.

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Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

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Dark Horse editor finds bright spot in loss of ‘Star Wars’ license

star wars omnibusWhile it was certainly inevitable, Friday’s announcement that Dark Horse will lose the Star Wars license after more than two decades to Disney-owned Marvel nonetheless left many longtime readers dismayed, to say the least. To those fans, Dark Horse Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley points out a silver lining: “[If] Dark Horse must lose the license, this is probably a good time for it.”

“From my perspective, the upcoming films will mean less freedom to do what we at Dark Horse have always done best: expanding the universe,” Stradley, who has served as senior editor of the Star Wars line since 2002, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. “With a new film scheduled every year, and a new television series, it is likely that there will be a lot of comics pages devoted to adaptations and direct spin-off stories in support of the films and TV shows. That’s not where my interests lie, and it has never been Dark Horse’s strong suit. That would be too much like real work to me. Probably, the coming years will be a great time to be a Star Wars fan (especially a *new* Star Wars fan), and I hope you all enjoy the ride, but I think I’m going to be glad to not be in the mix.”

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Disney bringing an end to Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ slot machines

spiderman slot machineDisney, which has long fought against the expansion of casinos in Florida, is bringing to an end some licensing deals that have been viewed as hypocritical to that anti-gambling stance: slot machines, online slots and lottery tickets featuring Marvel and Star Wars characters.

The New York Times reports the announcement, made over the weekend, comes as the Florida legislature again prepares to address whether Las Vegas-style casino resorts should be permitted to open in the state. The Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista attracts 52.5 million visitors annually; the entertainment giant argues that gambling hurts the state’s family-friendly brand.

Although Disney is so opposed to gambling that it doesn’t even casinos on its cruise ships — that’s an oddity in the industry — Marvel continued to sign slot machine agreements after it was purchased by the corporation in 2009 for $4.6 billion. But a Marvel spokeswoman told The Times the last deal was made two years ago, and the company has “discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney.” Those that remain will be allowed to expire.

Marvel heroes like Iron Man and the Avengers have appeared on scratch-off lottery tickets in several states, but the company said there are no active licensing deals.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World attributed the lag to the complexities of aligning corporate policies following a merger.

Animated open letter details how to make ‘Star Wars’ great again

dear jj abrams

Director J.J. Abrams will undoubtedly receive a lot of unsolicited advice about Star Wars: Episode VII, on which hangs the future of the blockbuster franchise and the hopes and dreams of countless fans, but none will likely be as succinct and stylishly rendered as “Dear J.J. Abrams” (or, “4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again”).

Produced by Prescott Harvey with the creative agency Sincerely, Truman, this love letter to A Galaxy Far, Far Away manages to capture much of what made the first three films so special, why the others were so … well, terrible, with just four rules. However, there was at least one more that didn’t end up in the video.

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Disney canceled ‘Iron Man’ game to focus on ‘Disney Infinity’

disney infinity

Disney has a lot riding on Disney Infinity, the upcoming video game that will allow players to mix and match characters from different properties — for instance, Captain Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible — using collectible figures and a special scanner. The media giant’s fledgling Disney Interactive Studios has reportedly spent more than $100 million on development, even as the division laid off more than 500 employees and suffered $1.41 billion in losses from other ventures.

To free up resources for Disney Infinity, which seems like an all-or-nothing situation, The Wall Street Journal contends Disney also stopped production on an Iron Man video game that was planned to be released this year, and passed on chance to produce Star Wars video games following its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm.

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Ahead of D23 Expo kickoff, Saturday tickets sell out

"Big Hero 6" display at D23 Expo (courtesy of ComingSoon)

“Big Hero 6″ display at D23 Expo (courtesy of ComingSoon)

The doors open in just an hour on the D23 Expo, the official Disney fan gathering held through Sunday in Anaheim, California. Tickets for Saturday are sold out.

While much of the event, of course, caters to Disney devotees — theme-park fans, serious collectors and cinephiles alike — we should expect a decent amount of news that reaches beyond the Magic Kingdom. For instance, today there’s a presentation featuring many of the voice actors from Marvel’s animated television series, and a signing with the producer and director of Big Hero 6, Walt Disney Animation’s first adaptation of a Marvel comic. That movie, based on the characters created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, is getting a promotional push at the event, which features a Big Hero 6 display (above, courtesy of ComingSoon).

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Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ help Disney to tighten grip on licensing

disney-star wars-marvel

As Licensing Expo 2013 gets under way today in Las Vegas, Variety reports that with first Marvel and now Lucasfilm beneath its umbrella, Disney is poised to expand its domination of the entertainment licensing market. Last year, the media conglomerate generated $39.4 billion in retail licensing, and claimed a staggering 80 percent market share.

Once again the world’s largest licensor, Disney now boasts six of the Top 10 franchises, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association: Disney Princess (No. 1), Star Wars (No. 2), Winnie the Pooh (No. 3), Cars (No. 4), Mickey & Friends (No. 6) and Toy Story (No. 8). Disney Fairies comes in at No. 11, trailed at No. 16 by Spider-Man.

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Patton Oswalt’s ‘Star Wars’ pitch brought to life in video

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Patton Oswalt’s hilarious eight-minute Star Wars filibuster for Parks and Recreation is already legendary, earning the adoration of nerds everywhere, and even spawning a movie poster. But if you have trouble comprehending his his frenetic vision for a Star Wars/Marvel Universe crossover, don’t worry: animator Isaac Moore has you covered.

Using Oswalt’s own words, and Amy Poehler’s occasional interruptions, Moore brings the pitch to life in appropriately quirky fashion, with a blend of movie stills, comic art, stock photography and lord only knows what else.

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Comics A.M. | Disney layoffs expected as part of restructuring

Disney

Disney

Business | Marvel parent Disney is expected to begin layoffs in the coming weeks as part of a planned reorganization that follows a company-wide review of operations. The film studio is believed to undergo the deepest cuts, specifically in marketing, home entertainment and production.

The news arrives a little more than five months after Disney announced its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm; earlier this week, word spread the media giant has closed LucasArts, the video-game subsidiary of Lucasfilm, and axed 150 employees. According to Variety, Disney executives told each division to ensure “that staff levels are in line with the company’s needs in a changing marketplace, particularly in divisions affected by shifts in new media and technologies.” The film division will bear the brunt of the layoffs in large part because of Disney’s increasing reliance on Pixar (purchased in 2006 for $7.4 billion), Marvel (purchased in 2009 for $4 billion) and, soon, Lucasfilm. [Variety]

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WC13 | Dark Horse to adapt Lucas’ original ‘Star Wars’ draft

dark-horse-star-wars-croppe

In what Lucasfilm and Dark Horse call “the biggest event in the history of Star Wars comics,” the publisher revealed over the weekend at WonderCon it will adapt George Lucas’ rough-draft original screenplay for the 1977 blockbuster.

Debuting in September, the eight-issue miniseries will be written by LucasBooks Executive Editor J.W. Rinzler and drawn by Mike Mayhew.

Lucas’ original version, called The Star Wars, featured elements that found their way, in substantially altered form, into ground-breaking movie franchise: “lazer swords,” Jedi Annikin Starkiller, General Luke Skywalker, an alien Han Solo, and evil Sith Knights.

“I’m not sure where I first read about The Star Wars—it was years and years ago — but the idea of Luke Skywalker being an older Jedi General, and Han Solo being a six-foot-tall lizard, turned my Star Wars fan brain on its side,” longtime Star Wars editor Randy Stradley said in a statement. “I always assumed this would be one of those stories that would be ‘lost to history,’ so getting to work on bringing it to life is kinda like a dream come true.”

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Comics A.M. | Disney reportedly tightening belt, mulling layoffs

The Walt Disney Co.

Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]

Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]

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