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Star Wars: the Dark Decade
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
For about a decade Star Wars was decidedly not cool.
After the original trilogy was completed in 1983, series creator George Lucas tried moving Star Wars to TV with a series of Ewok themed television movies in '84 and '85 and Saturday morning cartoon series Droids from '85-'86. But neither of these two ventures caught on and after '86 Star Wars was gone and out of the public eye.
Sure, the movies were still available to rent and they'd also appear on TV from time to time to mark special occasions, but for the rest of the 1980s and most of the 1990s there was nothing new being released on the Star Wars front.
Well, almost nothing.
During the dark decade when Star Wars was missing from the public eye, Dark Horse Comics picked up the mantel dropped by Marvel Comics when they stopped publishing their line of Star Wars comics in '86 and started publishing a new line of stories starting in '91.
In the late 1980s Dark Horse had made a name for themselves by publishing licensed Aliens and Predator comics with new expanded storylines from those two franchises. Writers for Aliens and Predator comics continued the threads from the films and took readers to new and exciting places and with Star Wars they did much the same thing.
Dark Horse's first Star Wars title, Star Wars: Dark Empire, continued the story from the movies in comic form. Here, just because the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead and the second Death Star destroyed doesn't mean that the Empire was defeated or that the galactic war was finished. Luke Skywalker, now a powerful Jedi like his father, along with the droids, Chewbacca and Han and his wife Leia all continue the good fight.
There were Dark Horse stories that took place during and after the movies and there were also stories of what was happening to the Jedi millennia before the films too. These comics went places the films with their limited running times never could and expanded the Star Wars universe a great deal.
But earlier this year something odd happened.
When it was announced that Lucas had sold Star Wars to Disney and that there was going to be a new series of movies it was also announced that Dark Horse would lose their license to produce new Star Wars comics. Marvel — also owned by Disney — would regain that license and would start producing a line of new comics this year.
Which wasn't completely unexpected. Even though Dark Horse had been one of the lone Star Wars lights through most of the 1990s when no one else cared that much about the property, it's not like mega-corporations like Disney are known for their loyalty, so the Marvel switch seemed inevitable.
And when it was also announced that the only "official" Star Wars stories would be from the six movies and anything new produced by Disney, effectively making 37 years of novels and comics an sort of unofficial fever dream, that wasn't totally unexpected either. The mantra of Hollywood seems to be, "Where's the fun in telling new stories that fit with the past when you can make it so that the past didn't really happen and start over with a clean slate?"
What WAS unexpected was that on midnight on December 31, when Dark Horse lost their license, all their Star Wars stories vanished from their online store and a few days later appeared in the Marvel store with their logo on the cover. This isn't totally uncommon since recently Dark Horse began releasing collections of the original Marvel Star Wars comics. What was a bit weird was that it seems like whereas Dark Horse was releasing new collections of stories, Marvel simply took what Dark Horse had created, placed their logo on the material and stamped "Legends" across the cover to indicate that these stories are no longer "official."
Overnight the Dark Horse material became comics non-grata.
Still, simply having the Dark Horse material available in Marvel form is better than the alternative; that Marvel would shelve the comics and they would eventually be lost to time. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.