The future of Star Wars comics under Disney

Now that the acquisition deal between Disney and LucasFilm is official, one can’t help but wonder what other side-effects the deal will have on the rather expansive Star Wars universe. 

Obviously, Disney is going to take over all of the films, television shows, and video games for both Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but that’s not all that the two franchises represent.

Some decisions seem pretty easy. LucasBooks, for example will likely stay intact as is. The LucasBooks imprint, which publishes all the Star Wars novels, is not owned by LucasFilm, and thus did not go over to Disney with the acquisition. This imprint is a division of DelRey Books, whic pay for the licensing rights to use the Lucas name.

Disney will likely leave this arrangement alone because it does not usually print novels in-house – though they do have a division for printing small children’s books. Random House currently prints almost all novels associated with Disney properties, and, on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to move Star Wars and Indiana Jones books over from DelRey to Random House.

The theme parks decision is easy to call as well. Disney is in the business of theme parks, and none of the LucasFilm properties are currently licensed to any other theme parks, so we’ll surely see some LucasFilm themed sections at Disney parks soon, probably right next to the Marvel themed areas.

Other decisions are a little tougher to call, like the comics. Disney has always had a small comics business, with many of their cartoon characters also having a monthly comic book, but now they have something even more dramatic: They own Marvel, one of the ‘big two’ comic book publishers in the industry.

Long before Disney acquired either studio, LucasFilm had a deal with Marvel to create and publish Star Wars comics. They eventually moved over to Dark Horse Comics, which currently hold the license, but now that Marvel and LucasFilm are both owned by the same parent company, it only makes sense to move the Star Wars comics back to what is essentially now Disney’s in-house, adventure comics studio.

Fortunately for Disney – and perhaps unfortunately for Dark Horse – comics licensing deals don’t typically work like film licensing deals. Film licenses are written in such a way that the studio can keep the license perpetually, as long as they continue to make more films – this is why Disney can’t get Spider-Man and Fantastic Four back from Sony and Fox. Comics licenses, however, are usually written for a set length of time or number of stories.

The licenses that Dark Horse holds for Star Wars will expire around the end of 2013. At that point it would not make much sense for Disney to renew the deal, so they’ll likely move the Star Wars comics over to Marvel.

Disney has not commented specifically about this possibility, but if they leave the property with Darkhorse, they’d be needlessly giving up a portion of the creative control and a portion of the profits. It made sense for LucasFilm before, but it wouldn’t make sense for Disney.

For his part, Dark Horse president, Mike Richardson, has said that they’re willing to run Star Wars into the foreseeable future.

There are two new Star Wars Storylines beginning in 2013 over at Darkhorse: a new volume of Star Wars: Legacy and a book which details some of the events between Episodes IV and V. When these are done, I would expect that no more Star Wars will come from Dark Horse, though it may be late 2014 or early 2015 before Marvel has the people in place to do its own Star Wars books again.

It may be the middle of next year before Disney makes an official statement about the future of Star Wars comics.