If you’re a digital comics fan, the news of the day is pretty big: Star Wars comics became available on comiXology today under new licensee Marvel. Most of the big publishers use comiXology for digital these days, but Dark Horse has stayed an outlier, maintaining their own app, so this is the first time these works have been available through the more popular service.
That’s all well and good – or at least, inevitable. This is the way the comics license works: All or nothing, no matter who actually produced the work.
But one thing: Everything you see in ‘Marvel’s’ Star Wars store is reusing old Dark Horse covers, sans Dark Horse logo. The only changes on any of them are a Marvel logo and the Legends banner. Other than those three things, they are using the Dark Horse covers verbatim.
And, honestly? It looks a bit crass.
It’s not the biggest issue in the fandom, and it’s certainly not without precedent – Dark Horse reprinted all the old Marvel stuff, probably several dozen times a piece. But they also started long before digital comics and the ability to publish several dozen collected editions at the drop of a hat. By the time digital came along, all the old Marvel stuff had Dark Horse covers ready to go.
I don’t expect Marvel to have artists whip up completely (mostly?) new covers for digital, the way they’re doing for print. But surely a quick general ‘Archive’ template and text treatment (Well, maybe two, given the omnibus layouts) would make this look a little less skeevy.
There’s nothing wrong with the Dark Horse covers, and certainly Lucasfilm owns the typography just as much as they do the art. I’m sure there are a lot of factors I’m unaware of here. I don’t even know if they have access to the original art (surely Lucasfilm does?) I don’t know Marvel’s staffing situation or the amount of time they had to throw this all together. And I certainly have no objections to Dark Horse’s big last minute sale: They produced most of it and lost the license to the biggest fish in the pond through no fault of their own – why not get in those last few sales?
But I know, as a fan – and not even a fan who Dark Horse showed much interest in catering to outside of a brief period in the ’90s – this just doesn’t look right to me. And for that matter, why is Marvel is putting up some of Dark Horse’s most popular Star Wars comics – Dark Empire, Legacy, etc. – it only a week before their first new comic even hits? An attempt to reach out to the rabid Dark Horse fans? Will it over-saturate the audience? Can you over-saturate the market for comics fans?
It all comes down to money, yes. Of course it does. And I’m sure Marvel and Lucasfilm made a nice chunk of cash today off all this, to go with their brand new 1 million record. I just wish they’d been a touch classier about it.