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Surprising few, Lucasfilm announced today that, beginning in 2015, Marvel Entertainment will be granted exclusive rights to Star Wars comics and graphic novels, the first time in more than 20 years that the license has moved away from Dark Horse Comics.
Marvel published the first Star Wars comic in March 1977 — months ahead of the original movie’s opening in movie theaters — before going on to publish a monthly comic based on the franchise for nine years, in addition to spinoffs for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi sequels, as well as Ewoks and Droids cartoon shows.
“We here at Marvel could not be more excited to continue the publication of Star Wars comic books and graphic novels,” Marvel publisher and president Dan Buckley said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “The perennial brand of Star Wars is one of the most iconic in entertainment history, and we are honored to have the opportunity to bring our creative talent pool to continue and expand Star Wars into galaxies far, far away.”
Many fans have been expecting such an announcement following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in late 2012. Marvel, which has been owned by Disney since 2009, has been publishing comics based on other Disney-owned material for some time, including graphic novels based on ABC shows Castle and Once Upon a Time and an upcoming series using a never-opened Disney theme park as its starting point.
“Bringing together the iconic Lucasfilm and Marvel brands to tell new stories will allow us to continue to thrill lovers of the original Star Wars comic books and entertain generations to come,” said executive vp of Disney Publishing Worldwide Andrew B. Sugerman.
In a statement following the announcement, Dark Horse Comics founder Mike Richardson wrote that he was “sad to report that Disney, the new owner of Lucasfilm, has notified us here at Dark Horse of their intention to move the Star Wars publishing license to another of their recent acquisitions, Marvel Comics, beginning in 2015,” adding that the news “will end a partnership that has lasted more than two decades.”
He continued, “For those who are new to the industry, Dark Horse revolutionized the treatment of comics based on films. After a history of movie properties being poorly handled with little regard for execution and continuity, Dark Horse took a new approach, carefully choosing licenses and approaching them with excitement and creative energy. Our goal was to create sequels and prequels to the films we loved, paying careful attention to quality and detail, essentially treating those films as though they were our own. Star Wars has been the crown jewel of this approach.”
Noting that Dark Horse has prepared for the news with “new and exciting projects” scheduled for 2015 and later, Richardson wrote “2014 may be our last year at the helm of the Star Wars comics franchise, but we plan to make it a memorable one. We know that fans of the franchise will expect no less. The Force is with us still.”
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