Sizing up Marvel’s Star Wars franchise

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201401061132 Sizing up Marvels Star Wars franchise
We all knew that the Star Wars comics franchise would go to Marvel eventually, but no one seems enthused about the idea. Maybe that’s because, as Graeme McMillan points out, every time Disney pulls one of its licenses and give it back to Marvel, it shrinks. Case in point: the Disney kids line that BOOM! was publishing—Muppets, Darkwing Duck, Mickey, Mouse, etc—this went from a thriving, good-selling line with a strong trade program to….nothing. Also noted: DH’s periodical sales were below Marvel’s sales threshold for three out of their five Star Wars titles. Also, Marvel’s bookstore program has yet to take hold:

For readers outside of the comic book speciality market, moving Star Wars to Marvel may mean reduced availability. Not only has Marvel recently pulled its single issue comic books from the bookstore market, but the publisher’s bookstore presence in terms of collected editions and graphic novels remains surprisingly small despite a switch to distribution by Hachette in 2010 to grow its market share; according to Bookscan figures for 2012, Marvel was only the eighth most successful comic book publisher in bookstores, with its entire collective sales for the year less than the sales of The Walking Dead Omnibus Volume 1 during the twelve month period. By comparison, Dark Horse was the sixth most successful comic book publisher for the period.


The changeover doesn’t take place until 2015, so expect announcements on new teams at San Diego or NYCC. That Gillen/McKelvie “Young Stormtroopers” book or Fraction/JR JR “General Grievous Commands” book may get people excited then. But I’d be more surprised if Marvel did anything too major with the franchise, especially given the new movie and and greatly expanded universe that is on the way in 2015.

Another way this is a notable move is how it bucks the general trend towards licensing which is a prominent feature of Ike’s Way, the method for maximizing profits employed by Marvel owner and Disney gadfly Ike Perlmutter. As we recently reported, all of Disney’s in-house comics magazines were shut down last fall and will be produced in Italy. ToyBiz, the toy company owned by Perlmutter and Avi Arad, saved Marvel Comics from bankruptcy but all the toy business was eventually licensed out when it became profitable.

Marvel isn’t doing any interviews about Star Wars at present, but we look forward to seeing all this get hashed out eventually.

Comments

  1. They’ll probably do it better this time ’round, but that cover demonstrates the biggest pit-fall with tie-in comics (which Dark Horse mostly avoided, to their lasting credit, and Marvel didn’t): generic figures who don’t look like the characters, and generic dialog that doesn’t sound like them (e.g. “laser-gun”?).

  2. I think there’s a sizable difference between Marvel’s interest in Disney’s kid properties and its older properties. Marvel definitely has their heart in the right place with kids’ comics (good intentions, etc.), but most people don’t go to Marvel to work on kids’ books, which goes a long way to explaining why various Disney-branded efforts start and fall off so fast.

    But Marvel did publish the Crossgen revamp pretty quickly after taking over the license (less than a year, if I remember right), and they jumped right on John Carter and Tron. I imagine Star Wars has gotten everyone over there pretty excited about the possibilities.

  3. Snikt Snakt says:

    I look forward to Marvel not doing much of anything with the license, then…

  4. Michael P says:

    If we get Jaxxon back, it will all be worth it.

  5. Jason: to be fair, what you are looking at is probably the first not-from-the-movie Star Wars material done anywhere, and it was at a time when folks were still trying to figure out what the “texture” of Star Wars actually was (this was, for example, pre-Star Wars Holiday Special). Marvel did a pretty good job of finding some tone, so when you get to the post-Empire period, when you have folks like Al Williamson and Walt Simonson and Cynthia MartinohIllcallhersontoo working on it, you generally have something that both captures parts of the Star Wars tone and brings some individual creative sensibilities to it.

  6. Tim O'Neil says:
  7. Much like the movies, I think people will still buy Star Wars comics even when complaining while they do it. This is religious territory at this point!

  8. Ian Hylands says:

    I am guardedly optimistic about this move but I don’t denigrate the frankly brilliant work the Dark Horse has commissioned and curated. Their editorial sense has been very good and Marvel have a high yardstick to measure up to. Hopefully, Disney’s investment in Star Wars will ensure that Marvel take it seriously and let writers and artists play in the “Sandbox” of Star Wars and not just toss out tie in trash to satisfy bulletpoints on a marketing strategy powerpoint.

  9. Sounds like Disney is keeping its new companies and properties on a short leash.

  10. I would be very surprised if Marvel managed more than a few (over-priced) mini-series before letting the property lie fallow.

  11. MBunge says:

    Does anybody at Marvel really know how to handle licensed properties? I mean, the John Carter and Tron stuff came and went pretty fast with little impact. Doing a, one would think, ongoing series or a constant stream of limited series is a significantly different undertaking. Marvel really isn’t a publisher anymore. It’s not like when they were just in the business of telling stories, whether it was horror and kung-fu in the 70s or toy tie-in’s in the 80s.

    I mean, just for starters, will Marvel’s Star Wars comics be aimed at Marvel readers, Dark Horse readers or non-comic reading fans?

    Mike

    Mike

  12. Whatever says:

    Hilarious drawing comparisons between Star Wars and Dark Wing Duck / Muppets. Yeah those are almost the same thing. I am sure Marvel will be like oh yeah Disney spent like a billion dollars on this license let’s get the Dark Wing Duck team on it. I am not sure but I think Star Wars has like conventions, TV shows and a toy line running for a bout 30 years. I think so anyway.

  13. mpneeb says:

    Expect top tier talent and effort for the first 18 months… And then all you’ll see are interns and nephews working on the books.

  14. barry buchanan says:

    “If we get Jaxxon back, it will all be worth it.”
    What Michael P said!!!
    Jaxxon the Lepi smuggler from Coachelle Prime could become canon!
    I vote for Mike Allred on a Jaxxon mimi!!

  15. jonboy says:

    @ Whatever:
    Do you honestly believe that Star Wars is bigger than Disney?
    Disney characters and licensing potential absolutely DWARFS Star Wars.

    Star Wars been around for 30 years? Disney has been around for 90.

  16. @mpneeb: “Expect top tier talent and effort for the first 18 months… And then all you’ll see are interns and nephews working on the books.”

    nephews: Maybe like Huey, Dewey and Louie :)

  17. majorjoe23 says:

    Given Brian Wood’s ties to Marvel, could his current Star Wars series continue or be relaunched there?

  18. Rob Barrett says:

    I’m with Barry B and Michael P: bring back the big green rabbit-man!

  19. Whatever says:

    @jonboy Totally different fanbase for Disney characters than Star Wars characters people registering their religion as “Jedi” and a long cohesive universe that stretches across movies, TVs, comics, video games, toys. If you walked by a land-speeder in SWs you pretty much have a set job signing pictures and toys at conventions. Not to mention the up coming limitless movies and TVs. So the answer is YES Star Wars is a lot bigger than Mickey Mouse and Darkwing Duck. If you are using them as proxies for every Disney license Tangled through Cinderalla and Marvel then no, but SW as a license is easily in the top. My point was the comparisons here are stupid.

  20. “Given Brian Wood’s ties to Marvel, could his current Star Wars series continue or be relaunched there?”

    I hope not. I gave it five issues and all I came away with is that Wood was so busy trying to write SW as a serious series that he forgot the original movie that he’s following has a sense of humor; either that, or he just can’t do lighthearted space opera.

    Sure, Marvel’s run had ridiculous things like oversized green rabbits and whatever those pink bunny things were during the end of the series (the Hoojib? And God help a nerd if I remembered that correctly), but you also had great stuff from Archie Goodwin with Al Williamson, and David Micheline with Walt Simonson, that captured the fun, pulp aspects of the franchise. Wood’s take was just too stiff.

  21. Jerry Smith says:

    I’m not thrilled by Dark Horse losing the license to Marvel only because most Marvel comics are not very good. Plus, there is the PC factor. Dark Horse tells great adventure stories with no political agenda. Marvel pushes a progressive agenda in their books, and no Christian or businessman can be portrayed as anything but evil. Look for Jabba to team with Roxxon Oil for a major crossover.

  22. majorjoe23 says:

    “I’m not thrilled by Dark Horse losing the license to Marvel only because most Marvel comics are not very good. Plus, there is the PC factor. Dark Horse tells great adventure stories with no political agenda. Marvel pushes a progressive agenda in their books, and no Christian or businessman can be portrayed as anything but evil. Look for Jabba to team with Roxxon Oil for a major crossover.”

    Marvel is the reason the Star Wars Christmas special is banned!

    Non-evil Christians/businessmen in Marvel books:
    Daredevil
    Iron Man
    Nightcrawler
    Banshee (father and daughter)
    Multiple Man (one of his dupes became a minister)
    Wolfsbane

    OK, the business entries on the list are a lot shorter than the religious ones, but it does include arguably Marvel’s most popular character. Seems like a reach on your part.

  23. Whatever says:

    Really Jerry Smith? Daredevil Super-Catholic, Tony Stark the fucking embodiment of American capitalism, And Obama is probably to blame I am sure he passed some new anti-Christians and businessmen passage in Obamacare when he wasn’t getting in high in Hawaii.

  24. Jerry Smith says:

    majorjoe23, let’s look at your very small list:

    Daredevil – Arguable. When was the last time his religion was mentioned? Thirty years ago?
    Iron Man – Sorry, I should have mentioned it’s okay to be a businessman in the Marvel U if you are now a liberal.
    Nightcrawler – You’ve got me on this one. I think a Claremont story mentioned Kurt was Catholic in 1982. My bad.
    Banshee (father and daughter) – I hadn’t heard this–it certainly isn’t publicized like the new Ms. Marvel’s religion.
    Multiple Man (one of his dupes became a minister) – This is true. Marvel boasts 5000 characters and one of them became a minister.
    Wolfsbane – Again lip service. When has her religion been a part of who she is like the new Ms. Marvel?

    Marvel is the reason the Star Wars Christmas special is banned? I didn’t know that! :)

  25. Jerry Smith says:

    Whatever — Who said anything about Obama? Whatever.

  26. majorjoe23 says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize that more than a small list was required to refute your claim of “no Christian or businessman can be portrayed as anything but evil.”

    One should have been good enough.

    And when has the sexist war profiteer who seemed to be Mr. Arch Conservative in Civil War Tony Stark been portrayed as liberal?

    Nightcrawler actually became a priest not too long ago, and his religion was central to the character in X-Men 2. Daredevil’s religion was a big part of Kevin Smith’s run on the character (but that was 16 years ago now, yikes).

    But it mostly seems like you’re looking to push your own agenda, and likely aren’t reading too many comics by Marvel to begin with. Which is handy when you don’t want holes poked in your theories.

  27. Snikt Snakt says:

    “Whatever — Who said anything about Obama? Whatever.”

    Obama cancelled the Star Wars Xmas Special?!?

  28. majorjoe23 says:

    I made a joke about Marvel being the ones behind the Star Wars Christmas Special not being released as a not-so-great “War on Christmas” style joke. It bombed, but it wasn’t Jerry.

  29. Why is anyone surprised at Marvel’s failing in the book trade? They have such a complete lack of understanding about the world beyond their own doors that it is astounding.
    It’s sad to see they now have the Star Wars books. Dark Horse did a great job of creating books that feel organically connected to the STU and now Marvel will simply piss all over it.

  30. >> And when has the sexist war profiteer who seemed to be Mr. Arch Conservative in Civil War Tony Stark been portrayed as liberal? >>

    In the 1970s, for sure, and for quite some time thereafter. But he got conservative-ized in the last 10-15 years.

    >> Daredevil’s religion was a big part of Kevin Smith’s run on the character (but that was 16 years ago now, yikes).>>

    And the first three issues of DAREDEVIL: DARK KNIGHTS were a heavily (and nicely handled) Christian story.

    kdb

  31. Whatever says:

    Jerry and Snikt apologies I was just going on the last 6 years of life experience that people complaining about businessmen and Christians being mistreated is shortly followed by a rant about Obama. I am just guessing from your comment Jerry Smith that you are not an Obama fan. I could be wrong but I doubt it,

  32. Jerry Smith says:

    majorjoe23 and others; you’re right when you say Marvel has some religious characters. I should have said “most” Christians and conservatives have to be portrayed as evil.

    To” Whatever,” Good guess that I’m not an Obama fan. I’m definitely not. However, I don’t think he’s Satan, he’s just feckless and wrong. And he won’t allow the release of the Star Wars Christmas special.

    Kurt, I see your point about Tony Stark. My comment comes from the fact that Warren Ellis got Stark out of the Defense contracting business and disavow making weapons, like a good liberal should. Stark should have been proud of making products that keep America safe, not ashamed of his weapons past–which I got from Ellis’s attitude for Stark. Why would Stark get out of a profitable, patriotic business? Oh, because Marvel thinks anyone who would do that is evil. Same with Cap touting America and patriotism. Marvel would never condone that today.

  33. Jerry Smith – Please don’t read any Marvel comics. I would hate to see them starting to respond to your agenda.

  34. >> My comment comes from the fact that Warren Ellis got Stark out of the Defense contracting business and disavow making weapons, like a good liberal should. >>

    Something he originally did while the Vietnam War was still on, and Marvel complete forgot about it sometime early this century, I think — he wasn’t making weapons back when I was writing the book, for instance. There used to be stories about how SHIELD was trying to buy up Stark stock to force him to make weapons again, back in the Michelinie/Layton days.

    I think your political assumptions about “Marvel” (as if they’re a single being with a single opinion on things) are shaky at best. The people who let Warren have Stark stop making weapons are the same people who let him start making weapons again a few years earlier. My guess would be that had more to do with the movies influencing the comics (where he went through that same arc) and the kind of stories the writers felt like telling than Marvel having a sudden change of heart on munitions manufacturing in the past decade.

    kdb

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