What will happen to the Expanded Universe? Well, it’s too soon to tell, honestly, but a sequel trilogy could certainly mean upheaval in the galaxy far, far away – and the post-Return of the Jedi continuity that’s been in the works for the past several decades. My bare bones advice? It’s time to start hardening yourself to a more fluid concept of continuity and canon. (You might also want to check out IGN’s Joey Esposito’s great post on the 007 approach to continuity.) But it is far, far too soon to speculate about what new Star Wars movies will bring to the party when we don’t know anything about them aside from their basic existence. (Yes, I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on all that later, but one thing at a time!)
One place we can speculate on is who’s going to handling that future in publishing. We’ve seen no indication that Disney is going to shake up the way Lucasfilm works, so we can assume that Lucasbooks will remain the guiding hand. But what of the licensees themselves? They all have contracts, so things will stay as they are for now. But once those contracts are up?
(Fair warning: I am not an expert on publishing books and comics, and everything I’ve learned about this over the years has been through observation only! So take it as you will.)
I think Del Rey’s license is fairly safe, for the most part. Disney does have publishing properties aside from Marvel (we’ll get to them,) but none of them are active in the world of adult science fiction and fantasy, an expertise I think Lucasfilm would want to hang on to. On the other hand, new movies (and a reboot or other possible changes in the way continuity is handled) could lead to more players in the area of SF/F licensed fiction looking to nab the license from Del Rey. But I don’t see it fitting into any of Disney’s current properties unless they decide to concentrate on the YA market – or create a whole new division.
Most of Disney’s publishers are oriented towards children and younger readers, so we may see those licenses (Penguin, Scholastic, DK) shifting – but they tend to be fairly distinct from the adult offerings anyway. Titan Magazines, who is currently publishing the Star Wars Insider, might also see themselves losing ground to Disney.
Comic publisher Dark Horse is probably in the riskiest position. After all, Disney owns Marvel, one of the biggest names in the business, and the once-publisher of Star Wars comics. Could they take the license back? I’d say it’s certainly a possibility. Dark Horse president Mike Richardson told Newsarama:
“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. 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.”
…And they know it. Could that be why Dark Horse is trying out more mainstream-friendly comics like Brian Wood’s Star Wars?