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This is the one-hundred and thirty-first in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and thirty. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Marvel was going to publish Star Wars: Dark Empire
More than a few people remember that, in an old issue of Marvel Age, there was an advertisement for a new Marvel Star Wars series – Star Wars: Dark Empire! I thought it was an annual, but Andy Mangels was so kind as to help me out by both pointing out that it was in Marvel Age Special Preview #1 (1990), and to give me the following scan!
This was in the late 80s, but no such series existed until 1991, when Star Wars: Dark Empire showed up over at Dark Horse, and was a massive success, leading to Dark Horse holding the Star Wars license ever since (one of the most successful licenses in comics history, I might add).
In any event, a reader, Josh, wrote in to ask about the ad, as he remembered seeing it as well, and was curious as to what the deal was. So was I, so I went straight to the horse’s mouth, Tom Veitch, writer of Star Wars: Dark Empire, and Tom went way above and beyond the call of duty and told me an epic story of a long time ago, in a comic company far, far away…
After Cam Kennedy and I did The Light and Darkness War for Archie Goodwin, at Epic Comics (Marvel), we got the bright idea to send copies to George Lucas and ask him if we could do Star Wars. (Star Wars, at the time, was pretty much moribund. There was no plan for further films, and the license was really up for grabs.)
I got a phone call within a week from Lucy Wilson, who, as you may know, is reputed to have been the very first person Lucas hired when he started Lucasfilm. She told us GL liked our work and we could have the Star Wars license if we wanted it. At that point I made what may have been a fateful error and told her I wasn’t that much into the business side of things and would prefer to talk to Archie about having Epic Comics do it. She was a bit taken aback — Marvel had dropped the license a few years earlier. But she got back to me and said ok, and so I talked to Archie. I remember he was immediately excited at the prospect of bringing SW back to Marvel…but he also said he would probably have a tough time getting Marvel to pick up the license again. And indeed, there was some resistance. But Archie being “Mr. Star Wars” at the company, of course they ultimately agreed. And thus Dark Empire was born. The whole six issue first series were planned and ok’d by Lucas while we were working with Archie.
Now, the next thing that happened was that Archie left Marvel and went to DC. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but they weren’t pleasant. So our Dark Empire project was given to (name withheld) and everything sort of changed right away. The project got kicked to secondary status, and both Cam and I began feeling quite unhappy. Cam actually stopped drawing the book for awhile.
OK, talking to Lucy Wilson about the unfortunate situation, I suggested she check out Dark Horse and the movie-related projects they had done (such as Aliens). I introduced her to Mike Richardson, and she was quite impressed with him (as everybody is who meets him…he’s a well-spoken giant of a man).
Next thing I know I am in London at a convention and Richardson takes me aside and says DH is deeply interested in getting the Star Wars license away from Marvel, and would Cam and I finish Dark Empire for DH if they can bring that off. I said sure, of course. Cam also agreed. And the whole thing went forward. Marvel unceremoniously dropped the license a second time, Dark Horse rolled out the red carpet for us, and we completed the first six books, exactly as planned, with Barbara Kesel (who could make the Kessel run in under ten parsecs) as our editor.
Thanks to Jeff for the question, Andy for the scan (and the info) and thanks extremely much to Tom Veitch for his expansive reply. Go buy one of his books!
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