Dark Horse Loses the License – Our First Reactions

True story: the first time five of us got together for an Aggressive Negotiations chat, it took over a month to work out the scheduling—some of us had work, some were traveling, and Ben Crofts insisted on being British for some reason. So when the news broke yesterday that the license for Star Wars comics, as many have spent the past year sensibly predicting, would be leaving Dark Horse after this year and coming “home” to fellow Disney property Marvel, it surely must have been fate that most of us were able to get together only about twenty-four hours later to share our thoughts.

We’ll have some more polished reactions in the weeks to come (and don’t miss Becca’s early analysis of the license situation from late last year), but for now, enjoy our decidedly un-polished, un-copy-edited discussion. And cheers to the fine people of Dark Horse Comics for 23 awesome years.

Alexander: So, Marvel it is.

Mike: topic one: fuck

Ben: Plus probably reboot

Mike: that’s a good starting point: does the license switch guarantee a reboot?

Alexander: I don’t think it guarantees it, but I think it’s a very strong indicator of it.

Ben: I think it makes it more likely, yes

Mike: is there any precedent for continuity among competitors?

Jay: It certainly makes it more likely, especially if they want to keep a single universe

Jay: Del Rey / Bantam?

Jay: but Marvel is a different beast.
Alexander: In the comics world, though?

Jay: and if the comics go their own way, I can see the books being forced to follow

Jay: unless they give up on the whole notion of a unified EU

Ben: IDW continued Marvel’s TF story recently, with #80, the last Marvel-published was #79 about 20 years ago

Alexander: Ultimately, I think both the books and comics will follow what the films do, rather than anything forced by each other.

Ben: They’re also doing the same with GI Joe

Mike: i thought TF had like 5 continuities

Ben: I’m seeing it more as a unified strategy, Ep 7 comes out in 2015, with books and comics in a supporting role

Alexander: That’s the likeliest path, I expect.

Ben: It’ll be – you liked the gilm, now all you need do is buy this, this and this

Lisa: I agree with Ben

Alexander: And also the most advantageous for them.

Alexander: You maximize your reader interest by tying it into something that’s already selling, rather than trying to start out entirely new lines without the support of the new films backing them.

Lisa: I think we were kidding ourselves that the movies were going to not require a reboot

Mike: the interesting thing about marvel, though, is that their own comics versus the MCU is the only other model even close to this situation, and there they’re perfectly content to make multiple universes

Ben: Hmm, I think there’ll be a much bigger playing of the card used on NJO, screw the fans, however many we lose, we will gain twice as many

Alexander: I’m not so sure the Marvel situation is the best example to look at.

Mike: but the NJO didn’t reboot

Alexander: Because in that case, the films are distillations of the comics.

Alexander: Where in this case, the comics will come after and based on the films.

Ben: The Ultimate line is supplemental though, besides spec is it may not be around much longer

Mike: i meant 616 and the MCU, but ultiamte is just another example

Ben: NJO irritated a lot of long-time fans but also gained lot of new ones, the result? No hit on the profits

Alexander: It also raises the question of what Marvel’s focus with their new comics is going to be.

Ben: Probably Star Wars #108

Lisa: Do they need a specific focus?

Alexander: Since the sequels are still very much a work in progress with more to come, I’m curious as to whether they’ll focus on the blanks between RotJ and the sequels.

Lisa: I assume they’re going to attempt to cash in on whatever they can

Mike: if reboot is the governing philosophy, then that’s what they’ll do, but if there’s one division that could see the benefit in continuing the EU canon separately, it’s marvel. or even leaving it aside for X years then brinigng it back when the ST heat has died down

Alexander: Or aim to tell OT-era stories with the big three, or origin stories for new ST characters.

Ben: This is the real story of what happened before Ep 7

Lisa: When are they getting control of the license?

Ben: Probably do both of those LI

Jay: beginning of 2015

Ben: Jan 2015 Horsey, so time enough for lead-in stories

Alexander: Given the size and weight of the Marvel name, whatever they choose to focus on will likely be the defining aspects of the new EU.

Mike: even if marvel just does scattered miniseries, i can definitely see them stealthily continuing their old numbering and making a big deal about something for 150

Lisa: so yeah enough time for lead-in stories

Lisa: I’d buy those

Alexander: A departure, I suspect, from the current book-driven EU.

Ben: except I don’t Abrams is a fan of lead-in stories

Ben: As pre-film lead-ins, they can’t give much away so how good can they be?

Mike: but does he have that much say in it?

Lisa: LI – but the book driven EU isn’t what is making fans happy right now. We’re more happy with the comics

Lisa: so why is a comics driven EU necessarily a bad thing?

Alexander: I never claimed it was.

Alexander: Just that it’s something to take note of.

Ben: Hard to say, there was that Countdown trek mini that was a sort of prequel, but then there was a line of novels that got nixed because they’d interfere with the sequel or something

Lisa: I dunno about you guys but I’m really excited about continuing this

Alexander: Lando does need to wear more neon pink shirts.

Lisa: Leia is actually covered up, unlike the women in the DH comics

Alexander: His wardrobe is seriously lacking in variety.

Mike: i wonder if anybody’s calling jo duffy right now

Ben: For me, comics leading is fine, but it’s always irritated a section of fandom who don’t like the comics medium – no, that’s never made sense to me either.

Lisa: yeah but there is part of the fandom that doesn’t like the books either. I don’t think that’s really relevant

Mike: well here’s a tough question: what are they more likely to get creative with (read: non-tie-in), the novels or the comics?

Alexander: Novels, by a slim margin, I think.

Ben: Again, does not compute – I’ve SW vid games, audio dramas, comics, books, films – what is the problem exactly?

Alexander: At least in terms of willingness to take serious risks and be flexible.

Mike: why?

Mike: comics are cheaper and faster to make

Ben: Novels, less risk, lower costs, probably quicker to produce

Alexander: But also shorter.

Alexander: They need to grab and hold audience attention on a regular basis.

Ben: After paying editor, letterer, inker, penciler Coop?

Alexander: You can squeeze much more into a one-off novel without having to worry about bringing money back for next month.

Mike: well one thing i’d really like to see (if unlikely) is original GNs

Ben: B&W print is cheap, digital even cheaper

Mike: i’m trade-waiting TSW specifically so I can squint and pretend it came out that way to begin with

Ben: GNs is possible as Marvel has started a line in their superhero properties

Ben: The Star Wars trade is due July 2014 Coop

Mike: yup

Mike: i’m hoping for HC

Ben: Might grab that now in light of this news, 8-issue TPB for just over £9 is a good deal. I think they’re doing both and a deluxe £45 hardback in August

Alexander: Another thing I’m curious about is whether Marvel will be holding new Star Wars comics to similar standards as their other properties (financially), as opposed to the somewhat lower expectations held by DH.

Mike: the second I saw mayhew’s art I started salivating over a big shiny HC

Alexander: Particularly if it the sequel tie-in comics get off to a strong start.

Mike: they’ve had lower standards with stuff like Oz and Dark Tower, i believe

Ben: Mayhew deserves a big project and now he has one

Jay: But this is Star Wars. They might treat it with the expectations of a superhero series, and then cut if things don’t meet them.

Mike: they MIGHT, but i don’t see any reason to assume so

Alexander: It depends, again, I think, on the movie tie-ins.

Ben: I think the expectation is that Marvel will grow the audience to new heights

Alexander: If they do well, with similar numbers to superhero series, then they’ll likely hold those expectations for future comics.

Mike: honestly, there’s every chance they’ll just be doing whatever disney tells them to do. we should be asking how THEY feel about tie-in material

Alexander: Well, theorizing about Disney doesn’t exactly give us a lot to go on.

Mike: john carter might have been helpful if it’d taken off

Alexander: Or, rather, it gives us too much to go on to make any sense of.

Alexander: Too many properties to pick out any clear relevant examples.

Alexander: Marvel, at least, has a certain focus and consistency to it that we can form the beginnings of an image of the future of the EU in their hands.

Ben: Also, has there been a comparable large-scale reboot? I’m hard-pressed to think of one

Mike: well, trek =p

Alexander: I don’t think there’s been any franchise comparable as invested in a single continuity as Star Wars.

Jay: but even then, we have to temper the precedent because we don’t know if the move was prompted simply to have them in house or as part of a larger, integrated strategy

Alexander: Which excludes Trek.

Ben: Marvel have a consistency that tends to operate in 12-month blocks

Mike: but i don’t know what their EU output was at that point

Jay: Trek books were mostly apocryphal

Jay: they didn’t fuss about a single continuity

Alexander: Or even a dozen.

Ben: Trek has so many multiverses it wasn’t affected by the film

Alexander: Which, I suppose, actually makes the Trek reboot somewhat fitting.

Mike: the real crime of the ST: they make me start saying “trek” instead

Ben: Which is what made the move so smart, the new Trek is built on the old, thus the old stories had to happened

Ben: Doing that with Wars – much, much harder which is why I don’t see it happening

Mike: new question: say there’s a 2015 reboot, and marvel starts up two ongoings: one by JJM, one by John and Jan. buy or no buy?

Lisa: Buy

Alexander: Depends on the subject matter.

Lisa: I completely trust JJM and John/Jan

Ben: Depends on the what and where, cost and what form the trades are

Mike: what’s more important to us, the canon itself or the people who made it? would we turn our backs on them if it came to that?

Jay: I’m not sure it’s a binary question.

Ben: I’m more following creators, if anyone could make a new EU work despite my misgivings, it’d be that bunch

Jay: We like the people who made the DHC comics, so if Marvel hired them I’d probably continue to buy their stuff.

Alexander: I’m not particularly concerned with either.

Ben: Hmm, that’s an idea, treat the 2015 onwards EU as an Ultimate line in effect

Jay: but that’s a separate issue from my view of the overall continuity

Alexander: My interest is in the story, and the quality of it. Even great writers can be hindered if they forced into a box by executive limitations.

Alexander: *they’re

Ben: Would you continue to buy if the books came out 2x a month at $3.99 each?

Mike: ben, i already wrote an article about that =p

Ben: That was fast, what about more Vector-style events?

Lisa: ugh I didn’t like the cross over thing

Alexander: There’s an interesting question buried in there, still.

Mike: the more i think about it, i think i’d see Marvel/ST canon as a new universe no matter what. even in the ideal scenario there’d be changes–just look at TCW

Alexander: Which do we mourn the loss of more: the place of DH’s works in canon, or their ability to continue contributing in the future?

Ben: Marvel do a lot of events and they tend to be quite hard to avoid, could well apply that to SW

Ben: I think DHC had a certain ethos and outlook that Marvel just doesn’t have, so yeah, that I will miss.

Mike: i agree, alex–the EU is great and everything, but wild horses couldn’t stop me from buying the continuing adventures of luke skywalker by JJM

Alexander: As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s unfortunate that this comes right as DH is turning out some of their finest tales.

Mike: you could’ve said that at any time in the last several years, IMO

Alexander: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison and Agent of the Empire were two of my favorite works in the entire franchise, both relatively recent.

Jay: that’s the worst part of it all — DHC in no way deserved to be cut out

Lisa: Yeah but that’s all part of business

Jay: at least with LucasArts we could say that the studio had been struggling for years. We can’t say that about Dark Horse.

Jay: no, I get it.

Alexander: And then you have Dark Times, Legacy, Knight Errant, KotoR, and all the others.

Ben: Which raises another point: It’s just “business” – but should that legitinise how DHC have been treated here?

Alexander: I don’t think there’s ever been any question of the legitimacy of their treatment.

Alexander: It’s unfortunate and slightly mercenary, but nothing shady has really taken place.

Lisa: They’re working under a contract. Contract is up and someone else gets it. Business.

Jay: Yeah, the owners of the license can do what they want.

Mike: everyone’s joking about bendis and hickman, but i think there’s a very good argument to be made that whatever stories they tell, marvel would be inclined to bring in SW vets

Lisa: Vertical Integration is so valuable in a company and that’s what they’re doing here

Jay: DHC gets to do the remainder of its contract.

Mike: randy, on the other hand…

Jay: yeah, his presence wouldn’t make it across of course

Mike: despite his ironically having written for MSW

Alexander: They did make a mention of bringing their own creative talents to Star Wars, which I’m sure will be a factor, as well.

Alexander: There likely won’t be any lack of supply in that area.

Mike: i don’t think you can underestimate the fact that leland chee still has a job

Ben: Legal and legitimate aren’t always the same where perception’s concerned, the real Q is: Will those who think DHC were treated badly vote with their money? I’m sceptical

Alexander: I doubt it.

Lisa: Those same people haven’t always been happy with DHC concerning how they’ve treated some of their employees either

Mike: i am too, and again, doubly so if marvel keeps some of the talent

Alexander: Such memories are quick to fade, and without an actual scandal, the interest in the sequels will soon outweigh any lingering fondness for DH.

Ben: Very rarely happens – much internet fury results, then people buy the new stuff regardless

Ben: Unless the sequels tank…. But I doubt that too

Alexander: The only way I expect the sequels might tank is critically.

Lisa: And really all they need to do to have a success is pick up JJM or John/Jan to do a series and allow them the creative leeway to make it awesome and people will forget

Alexander: Financially, they’re close to a guaranteed success.

Mike: that hardly stopped the prequels

Jay: Yeah, business wise they can’t lose with this. Which is why we all saw it coming.

Mike: i’m more interested in how the spinoff movies fare

Jay: a few people might boycott. Most people won’t.

Alexander: Even if they never touch a DHC writer again, they’ll probably do fine.

Mike: a han origin movie could turn into another trilogy in a heartbeat if people like it

Lisa: yeah it won’t be enough to make a dent money-wise

Alexander: The spinoffs will do fine, I think.

Mike: i dunno

Mike: probably, but i don’t think it’s a sure thing like the ST is

Ben: Oh easily, although Marvel have hoovered up creators quite shamelessly – Weaver and Alessio for instance

Alexander: Never underestimate popularity power.

Alexander: Marvel practically invented it.

Alexander: Just look at Wolverine.

Mike: or rather, go to a comic store and try NOT to look at him

Alexander: Precisely.

Ben: I can’t say I wouldn’t buy a nice KOTOR OHC-sized Omnibus, so there’s that too

Alexander: His movies are hardly masterpieces, but they still reliably draw in the money and keep coming.

Alexander: The biggest danger of the spinoffs is that they focus on someone who isn’t as popular as they think they are.

Ben: So, we need a SW Wolverine, enter one H. Solo

Alexander: And in the age of the internet, that’s not a mistake they’ll likely make.

Ben: Or they try to manufacture a cool character a la Aurra Sing/ Maul

Alexander: Han Solo, Boba Fett, even Vader.

Alexander: Or any number of characters they might invent for the sequels.

Lisa: I’m hoping for new characters

Mike: also, it looks like marvel got the rights to DH’s back catalog; what do we think the odds are that they’ll republish anything?

Ben: Sceptical of that one

Alexander: I don’t think it’s high on their priority list.

Alexander: Especially if they’re expecting the new comics to sell better than anything DHC ever put out.

Mike: but could it hurt?

Ben: If no reboot, possible that they’ll do reprints; with reboot, forget it

Alexander: Hurt what, exactly?

Lisa: there’s plenty they could reprint that a reboot wouldn’t hurt

Ben: It’s more would it sell enough for their requirements? Marvel tend to expect bigger returns on their books

Mike: i know DH has more to gain from reprinting old marvel comics, but profit is profit–would marvel really not want to bother?

Ben: Plus, they’ll be wanting to focus people on *their* product, in the immediate term.

Lisa: ‘tends to’ but that doesn’t mean they will

Alexander: You had to adjust for magnitude of profit, I think.

Mike: at least compared to wanting to keep DH material off shelves?

Alexander: Marvel thinks and works on a scale well above DHC.

Ben: Could happen say start of 2016 when the buzz from the film has died down

Alexander: If there’s to be a reboot, which there probably will be, it’s quite possible they’ll want a clean slate.

Mike: as fans, are we prepared to see DH SW comics on the bookshelves with “Classic Star Wars” on the cover?

Ben: They’ve done an X-Statix Omnibus and that’s a real niche product, DHC were never able to really do those editions on SW save for 1 time, so it could happen

Alexander: It wouldn’t bother me.

Lisa: Yeah I don’t really care either

Jay: yeah is that… even an issue?

Lisa: Honestly I am still angry at DH over the Legacy thing so I kinda think they deserved this

Alexander: Not that I’m aware of.

Lisa: but I hold grudges…

Ben: If it enables others to enjoy some of the stories I have, it’d be a good thing

Mike: i kinda just meant it would be weird =p

Lisa: I probably won’t even notice

Ben: Oh, so you forgave them for KOTOR then Horsey?

Lisa: I wasn’t in on that one

Mike: after years of assocating “classic SW” with goodwin, the marvels, etc

Lisa: like I didn’t start reading comics until Legacy

Ben: Easily their 2 biggest screw-ups going

Ben: Legacy and KOTOR started up around the same time I thought?

Jay: so you’re happy at the end of almost a quarter century of a good licensee because they cancelled one series? nice.

Lisa: yup

Jay: well, here’s hoping Marvel gets cancelled for ending Incredible Hercules!

Lisa: I don’t claim to be rational


Alexander: Legacy started a year after KotoR, I believe.

Jay: I understand they have some other stuff they publish but who reads that anyway.

Mike: hell hath no, etc

Ben: There’s that Coop, but I won’t be looking for them as I already have them, but if they did get issued in nice oversized hardback form….

Lisa: After reading Kevin Sorbo’s book I kinda want to boycott Universal

Ben: Giving that stuff the “Classic” status would be somewhat fitting too.

Mike: on the plus side, this gives DH the perfect excuse to beef up their upcoming Serenity material

Alexander: I’ll be heading off shortly: do we have anything major we haven’t covered yet?

Ben: And probably Mass Effect

Mike: so, final comments: on a scale of 1 to 10, how optimistic are you about new marvel SW comics? not to be confused with “are you mad about DH”

Lisa: It’ll be interesting to revisit this in the middle of 2015 after we see what they’re producing. I could have a complete change of heart if they put out shit comics

Alexander: 4/10.

Jay: Am I mad about DH: 10/10

Jay: Am I optimistic about new Marvel comics: eh… 5/10

Ben: Hmmmm, say 3/10 – subject to revision, as I wasn’t expecting from Dark Tower but that worked well

Alexander: It could turn out for the better, but I’ve not seen anything from Marvel yet that would give me confidence in their ability to ensure a net positive outcome.

Jay: could go either way, I’m not informed enough about Marvel or the comics industry.

Lisa: I have a girl crush on Marvel right now so I’m gonna say I’m pretty optimistic about the switch 8/10

Jay: not terribly confident though, but mostly I’m annoyed that they got rid of a good, good licensee

Mike: truth

Alexander: No matter where it goes from here, at least we can say DHC has had a good run.

Ben: Cheesed off about how DHC have been treated: 11/10, enough to vote with my money? At least until probably 2016, which is when the first Marvel paperback TPBs will turn up, they’ll likely do hardbacks first

Alexander: And they’ve provided us with some of the EU’s greatest works and moments.

Alexander: Even in the event of a reboot, they’ll be long remembered for what they contributed.

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