Marvel puts Star Wars comics up on comiXology, but…


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.

Okay, this one is a touch ironic.
Okay, this one is a touch ironic.

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.

9 Replies to “Marvel puts Star Wars comics up on comiXology, but…”

  1. Honestly this doesn’t bug me, and it really doesn’t seem unclassy to me.

    Schedules are schedules and while I’m loathe to give comiXology credit for anything these days, the reading experience is far superior to the DH app. There has been a call, for years, to read these books via the CMX platform, and this is an easy win for Marvel (who is notorious for keeping operating costs as low as possible see: the Ike Perlmutter rumors) who can have the books digitized quicky and accurately and make them available as soon as possible without a high overhead cost. *Especially* rolling them out before the debut of the new SW books next week. That’s built-in marketing because people reading SW books will look for other SW books and that translates into direct sales.

    I love DH. They did a fantastic job with the franchise, but sadly it’s just business.

    1. I don’t have a problem with the comiXology (that’s how they spell it? ugh.) thing at all. AT ALL. I think it’s crazy that DH is sticking with their own app, and that’s a large part of why I have yet to bother with digital myself. (Well, that and not having a tablet. And wanting to support my very nice comic shop. Okay, lots of reasons.) It’s JUST the cover thing. But if Marvel as cheap as you say, well. I’m sure they’ll phase out the DH versions over time as they republish in print.

  2. If I remember correctly – and chances are that I don’t -, Randy Stradley commented on the whole re-issue situation a while back, saying that if Marvel wanted to publish Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics they would have to buy the necessary art from Dark Horse because owning the license is one thing, but owning the actual comic art is a different matter entirely. So maybe this isn’t as cheap or dubious as it looks and they actually paid more or less good money for it.
    Plus: If there’s one thing Marvel seems to be particularly passionate about, it’s cover art. Once every issue has its 1138 variant covers, I’m sure they’ll start working on new art for the Dark Horse stuff. ;-)

    1. Yeah, I’m wondering about the ownership issue of, in this case, basically scans of the original cover artwork, sans text. Because wouldn’t Lucasfilm have, if not own those? Interiors tend to be more processed (coloring, lettering, etc.) by the company/creative team so I could see that being a different thing, whereas a cover seems to usually be a solo endeavor, at least in the case of the painted stuff.

      Hell, maybe they actually paid Dark Horse for all the cover designs/typography and it’s moot.

      1. DH comics cover art has appeared in other places – regular print books and trading cards come to mind. So I’m guessing Lucasfilm had access to scans at the very least. I would hope that they own them but *waves hands* contract stuff.

        To me, it does look super cheap and skeevy to just reprint the cover art and composition wholesale without any other kind of treatment.

      2. My understanding is that Lucasfilm Licensing own *all* IP rights for any Star Wars licensed product: meaning that LfL can re-issue any IP right to another publisher at any time. For written work, novels and comics, IP rights was held under the LucasBooks department of LfL. So when Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 they took full ownership of all IP rights and, as far as I’m aware, can re-publish any Star Wars book or comic at anytime. So, the idea of Marvel having access to *all* of Dark Horse’s Star Wars material, both covers and content, shouldn’t be surprising.

        Remember that the first re-published Star Wars material by Disney was e-book versions of stories first published by Scholastic: the Life & Legends series such as The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader by Ryder Windham was re-issued by Disney as e-books back in May last year, while the Jedi Quest series by Jude Watson was released in e-book in September – these were re-published using original covers but with Disney logo replacing Scholastic’s on the cover.

        Interestingly though for US fans would to see Marvel and/or Disney publishing material never published in the US, eg Titan UK’s original short comic stories that were never re-issued in the US.

        1. Indeed, and that’s not at all what I’m objecting to here, just the shadiness of reusing cover designs (not the art, just the typography/layouts.)

          I never noticed the Scholastic stuff because I don’t really pay attention to the kid books, period – but recalling those covers, it seems a lot less blatant than this. (The omnibuses particularly.)

    2. I’m hoping they paid more good money for it. and if so, then they’re free to pump it all out to try to recoup their investment. sure it looks skeevy using the DH covers – not just art, but things like the Omnibus lettering. but as aaron says, i’m sure they’ll eventually make their own covers as they keep printing out things in Epic Collection format.

  3. Music albums are reissued by different record companies all the time and they usually keep the cover art the same. Most consumers don’t even notice.

Comments are closed.