Goodbye, Dark Horse

At the end of the year, Dark Horse will cease publishing Star Wars comics and end over two decades of stewardship. Most of their catalogue will fall out of print, not forever, I’m sure, but for a time. After all, we’re looking to the future now – new movies, new television shows, new funny books.

It might be fair to ask why this matters. No, that’s a poor sentence, it suggests I think anyone without at least some love for this long-ago, far-away galaxy will be reading this. It might be fair to ask why this matters so much. Why it matters when Star Wars comics have never experienced the popularity or commercial success of their counterparts on consoles and in print. It might be fair to ask why it matters when Marvel were the original licensees. It might be fair to ask what particular mark Dark Horse left on the Expanded Universe that we should mourn its loss.

In a very real way, Dark Horse built the Expanded Universe.

In response to the loss of the license, Randy Stradley, Senior Editor for the Star Wars line had this to say –

“From my perspective, the upcoming films will mean less freedom to do what we at Dark Horse have always done best: expanding the universe. 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.” [source]

Dark Horse didn’t extend the stories of the core film characters. It didn’t inflate the movies by adding hidden motives to minor characters or slipping side-stories into every scene change. It expanded the universe.

Without Tales of the Jedi there would be no Knights of the Old Republic selling over a million copies on Xbox. Without Jedi vs Sith there would be no Darth Bane novel on the New York Times bestseller list. Without Legacy we might never have seen the long-term effects of the Yuuzhan Vong War. Without Republic, we would not have seen Aayla Secura or Quinlan Vos on our television screens. It gave us 24 issues of a series based around the premise that we were renting in-universe entertainment holos. It turned Luke Skywalker’s descendant into a pirate. It decided to tell the story of enormous interstellar war of good and evil through the eyes of a fish-out-of-water would-be Padawan and a fast-talking conman. It took a good look at the universe and decided what we really needed were series about droids and X-Wing pilots, not Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.

Every era not directly related to the movies and their protagonists exists because Dark Horse invented it.

Their commitment to a broad, inclusive publishing schedule stretched beyond fictional borders of the Star Wars universe. They delayed the publication of Dark Times to accommodate the slow, but brilliantly lifelike artwork of Doug Wheatley.  They let Sergio Aragonés Stomp Star Wars like it was Mad Magazine.  Comics from the 70s and 80s were lovingly reprinted in an Omnibus endeavour I am personally sad to see end unfinished.  It nurtured John Ostrander and Jan Duursema’s creative partnership.  We actually got the concept-art adventures of Annikin Starkiller.

They weren’t the most successful part of the Star Wars business machine, but without them quietly and consistently expanding the universe, I wonder how expansive it would be?

Would The Old Republic have been based around the Clone Wars? Would The Clone Wars have had as much rich background to draw from, selective though it may have been? Would a novel set before the birth of Darth Vader ever have been published?

If you’re reading this, you probably love Star Wars the way I love Star Wars; borderline irrationally. I imagine I’ll never entirely escape it; I’ll always find things I love even in its most absurd outings. So with that sentiment tempering my next statement: I feel like I’m witnessing the slow dismantling of something important.

I cannot think of another fictional experiment that sprawled so widely yet kept such a consistent canon. Everything counted. Everything was real, no matter how strange. It treated the truth as if it were history, and mistakes as if they were conflicting accounts.

What an extraordinarily powerful statement of caring for its fans.

Everything matters. Your investment matters. You matter.

Dark Horse mattered. It was the backbone of something truly unique. And whether the Expanded Universe survives or not, we owe an acknowledgement of its passing. We owe raised glasses. Sad farewells.

Goodbye, Dark Horse. I will miss you.

So will Lucas Jackson.  He will be here tomorrow.  I suspect you will not want to miss it.

Lucas Jackson

Lucas Jackson's biggest interests are history, political theory, the art of storytelling, and talking about any of the preceding three interests. Star Wars captivated his imagination at age nine when he learned that not only were there amazing movies, but an entire galaxy of interconnecting stories to discover. That appeal, of an interconnected set of stories in an almost impossibly deep setting, has kept the Expanded Universe a constant part of his life ever since. Since age seventeen, as Havac, he has enjoyed discussing that passion online with friends, strangers, and strangers who become friends, primarily via the Jedi Council Forums and Wookieepedia. Now someone has been stupid enough to give him his own forum in which to spout off.

8 thoughts to “Goodbye, Dark Horse”

    1. Thanks, Ben. 🙂 And Mike is indeed correct, I meant Tales. The narrative conceit was that the tales were holodramas, some of which turned out to be more historically accurate than others. I always thought it was an underrated idea and a great way to ground “Infinities” stories.

  1. Oho? Was unaware of that little ingenuity, thanks. Now I don’t have to go scurrying around trying to track it down – it’s got.

  2. Never read a single Dark Horse Star Wars comic, but I have immense respect for them. Assuming that they are only rebooting the post-ROTJ universe, and not the whole timeline, Dark Horse will have been responsible for creating the foundation of what is left.

    A consistent timeline is a unique achievement in fiction. It is a shame how stiffs like The Hollywood Reporter now say that the EU didn’t matter, and garbage like unleashthefanboy try to bully us. As a great man once said, “Stay strong, true believers.”

    1. You should, they’re good, and currently still in print. 😉 If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend Knights of the Old Republic!

      And yeah, I do agree that the post-ROTJ is the most likely casualty, if they decide to keep what they can of the expanded universe (and the very small amount of information we have suggests that they aren’t planning to simply wipe the slate entirely clean).

      The problem is that, to a great many people out there, EU fans don’t matter. I mean, as a practical concern, we’re a pretty small percentage of their total fanbase. Those of us who follow the EU well enough to understand its coherency and the fact it’s not following the normal rules of disposable tie-ins are even smaller. It’s a painful position to be in, and part of why I always respected LFL’s decision to create the EU so much – it didn’t have to. But yeah, it kind of sucks to be us right now, huh? 😉

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