• Dark Horse's Star Wars #12
A little over a year ago, when Disney bought Star Wars, it was one of the first questions we asked: How would the acquisition affect local publisher Dark Horse Comics, which has been putting out Star Wars comics for over two decades? Given that Disney also owns Marvel Comics, the writing was more or less on the wall: Disney would take the Star Wars license away from scrappy publisher Dark Horse and give it to Marvel, the far larger publisher that they own. And considering Disney's new Star Wars movies start coming out in 2015, they'd probably do so sooner rather than later.

At the time, Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson noted that Dark Horse would be waiting to see what happened with the license. The waiting's over: In a press release just put out by Dark Horse, Richardson announces that Star Wars comics—a major part of Dark Horse's business—will be Marvel's by 2015.

All things come to pass. So too, do all licensed deals. I am 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. This will end a partnership that has lasted more than two decades....

It is ironic that this announcement comes at a time when Dark Horse is experiencing its most successful year ever. For obvious reasons, we have prepared for this eventuality by finding new and exciting projects to place on our schedule for 2015 and beyond. Will they take the place of Star Wars? That’s a tall order, but we will do our best to make that happen. In the meantime, 2014 may be our last year at the helm of the Star Wars comics franchise, but we plan to make it a memorable one.

This is a big shift for Dark Horse—as Richardson notes, compensating for the loss of one of their flagship titles will be a challenge. (From the perspective of an interested outsider, it appears there's been some tension around the topic as well—as evidenced by the reaction from one of Dark Horse's Star Wars editors when an April 2013 Entertainment Weekly story noted that Dark Horse was "likely to lose the license in the months ahead.")

At present, Dark Horse is definitely taking advantage of the license—by my count, they're currently putting out no fewer than five separate Star Wars titles (including one of the best Star Wars books they've ever put out, the simply titled Star Wars, pictured above). But there's a lot more to Dark Horse: In the coming months, they have over 35 non-Star Wars books slated for publication. Some of those are other licensed books—Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Strain, Conan the Barbarian, Halo, Tomb Raider, Serenity—but the publisher also has great, time-proven bulwarks like Hellboy and newer, original series like The True Lies of the Fabulous Killjoys, The Victories, The Massive, Ghost, and the acclaimed Mind Mgmt. My guess is when Richardson says the company has some "new and exciting" projects lined up, he means it.

Still, as the Portland area's biggest comics publisher, it'll be interesting to see how Dark Horse fares without Star Wars—and come 2015, it'll be interesting to see how Marvel's Star Wars books compare with Dark Horse's long history with the series.