In a move that's caused seismic shifts in the entertainment business (and on Twitter, naturally) the Walt Disney Company has announced an agreement to acquire George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction worth approximately $4.05 billion. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers," said Lucas, creator of the enduringly popular space fantasy franchise that will, it has been confirmed, see its seventh live-action episode released to cinemas in 2015, courtesy of Disney.

Along with its tradition in theatrical film, television, video games and theme park rides, Star Wars exists as a thriving comic book publishing enterprise, one that's been successfully managed for over 20 years by Dark Horse Comics. Because Disney's last similarly massive acquisition was Marvel Entertainment, giving Disney an in-house comics company, the first question on many readers' minds is what is to become of the independent Dark Horse's stewardship of Star Wars comics. Dark Horse president Mike Richardson told ComicsAlliance that the Disney deal does "change the landscape," but that Star Wars will remain with Dark Horse "for the near future.""Dark Horse and Lucasfilm have a strong partnership which spans over 20 years, and has produced multiple characters and story lines which are now part of the Star Wars lore," said Richardson via email. "Star Wars will be with us for the near future. Obviously, this deal changes the landscape, so we'll all have to see what it means for the future."


Richardson's remarks speak to the massive catalogue of Star Wars comics at Dark Horse, which fans of the franchise have consistently held up as some of the most sophisticated Star Wars-related material available (especially in the time since Lucas released his critically reviled prequel films). The publisher is firmly entrenched in the minds of hardcore Star Wars fans, and that the franchise may leave the care of Dark Horse's VP of Publishing Randy Stradley, who's overseen the comics franchise for ten years, is definitely something those readers are worrying about -- especially given the recent history of Disney comics at Marvel.

The independent Los Angeles comic book publisher BOOM! Studios earned uncommon praise and success with its handling of Disney properties like Pixar's The Incredibles, The Muppets, Darkwing Duck and others, which it used to form the basis of an entire all-ages line between 2009 and 2011. But when Disney acquired Marvel, those licenses to BOOM! were not renewed, as the characters' comic book adventures became the domain of Marvel. Precious little has been seen of those comics since, but various insiders suggested to me at the time that Marvel wasn't particularly interested in taking on Disney's kid comics in the first place.

However, Star Wars is of course another matter entirely. It's much more in Marvel's action-adventure wheelhouse, and it's hard to imagine the company not taking advantage of Star Wars should they find themselves with the keys to that toybox. Indeed, Marvel was the first to publish Star Wars comics back in the 1970s, and that work -- currently available from Dark Horse -- remains popular with fans to this day.

A Marvel representative said the company had no comment at this time.

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