‘The Star Wars!’ Dark Horse gives Lucas script comic book treatment

April 05, 2013 | 11:44 a.m.

The Force is strong with Dark Horse Comics editor in chief Scott Allie.

The Oregon-based company recently announced plans to publish George Lucas’ original screenplay for “Star Wars” as an eight-issue comic series launching in September, adapted by Lucasfilm executive editor and writer J. W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew.

As first drafted in 1974, “The Star Wars!” told the story of Jedi Annikin Starkiller and General Luke Skywalker, an alien named Han Solo and evil Sith Knights. Many had long speculated that the complete original version would never see the light of day, conflicting as it does with the saga’s mythic canon. But Allie said they found a powerful ally in Rinzler.

“We ran some samples by him in order to show proof of concept, and now here we are,” Allie said. “We’ve had a great relationship with Lucasfilm for a long time — but it will be a huge event in a year that’s already seeing some huge successes for us. This is ramping up to be the best ‘Star Wars’ year we’ve ever had.”

To underscore the point, the company’s newest “Star Wars” title, written by Brian Wood and set in the time period of the original trilogy, just sold out its third printing.

In a recent interview with Hero Complex, Allie, who took over as editor in chief in October of last year after 18 years with the company, provided a broad view of the current crop of books on the Dark Horse horizon — among the big names in the outfit’s stable of talent? Joss Whedon, Gerard Way and Guillermo del Toro.

Mind MGMT #12 (Dark Horse Comics)

“Mind MGMT”No. 12. (Dark Horse Comics)

HC: What titles are you most excited about this year?

SA: Bad to play favorites, but one of the things I’m most excited about is the addition of more ongoing series to our regular roster of miniseries. In addition to ongoings like “The Massive” and “B.P.R.D.,” “Mind MGMT” is now ongoing, as is Mike Oeming’s “The Victories,” starting in May — two great books that we’re making a bigger commitment to. The new “Abe Sapien” series that I’m writing with Mike Mignola is an ongoing monthly series, so we get to build something really big and weird there. And we have some company-owned characters like X coming back after a long hiatus. We relaunched “Ghost” recently with Kelly Sue DeConnick, and now Duane Swierczynski is bringing back X. And we’re adding a lot of new books, new creator-owned stuff like Mike Norton’s “The Answer,” we finally have Gerard Way’s “Killjoys” coming out. “Last of Us” looks like it’s going to be really great, pushing the envelope with what a video-game tie-in book is. Starting new things has a particular joy about it. I love “Hellboy” and “Buffy” and “Star Wars,” but it’s exciting to start something, and we have a lot of that coming this year.

HC: “Buffy” and “Star Wars” are already popular, and each has its own spinoffs. Are you looking to expand those titles even further?

SA: We’re adding a lot of new “Star Wars” books this year. “Legacy,” by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, is exciting for me, because I love their work, and Brian Wood’s “Star Wars” series just launched in a huge way. I think we have new “Star Wars” debuts almost every month of this year. With “Buffy,” we’re heading in to the end of Season 9, so the question is just whether we’ll start Season 10 in 2013 or not get there until 2014. The Mignola line of books continues to expand, with the new “Abe Sapien” series I’m writing with Mike, and things like “Sledgehammer ’44,” a World War II superhero book. And after a run of standalone stories with Mike’s characters Baltimore and Lobster Johnson, both are coming back with longer runs, with “Baltimore: The Infernal Train” in September 2013 and “Lobster Johnson: Get The Lobster!” in February 2014. Tonci Zonjic is back for art on that one.

HC: Is there a big crossover event fans should target?

SA: We normally don’t go in for big crossovers, but we do have something planned for later that qualifies. Mum’s the word for now.

The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2 (of 4).  (Dark Horse Comics)

“The Black Beetle: No Way Out” #2 (of 4). (Dark Horse Comics)

HC: Who do you see as rising stars at Dark Horse?

SA: We have a lot. Francesco Francavilla seems like a rising star, but he’s been doing this for a long time. His profile is growing and growing, and we’re pretty heavily invested in his “Black Beetle” series. It’s getting a ton of attention right now, as we gear up to announce the second series, and hopefully we can make it another “Hellboy” or “Sin City” for us. Same with Mike Norton — with his “Battle Pug” and “The Answer,” and we’re talking about some other stuff for him. One of the best reviewed books of the year was Matt Kindt’s “Mind MGMT,” which we’ve got as an ongoing series now. We’re building a lot of steam around Faith Erin Hicks, between the “Superhero Girl” collection and her work on “Last of Us.” James Harren is a very young artist we’re working with on the Mignola titles. He’s done other work for us — “Conan,” and “Turok” — and now he’s a regular fixture in Mignola’s books in a way that’s going to keep getting him some good attention.

HC: How do you balance bringing in new talent with managing more established comic creators?

SA: I’d say that’s a delicate balance of Facebook and DHP. Dark Horse Presents, our anthology, makes it easy to bring in a lot of new people and try them out. Whether we find them on Facebook or at conventions or through blind submissions, DHP becomes a great place to debut new talent.  But obviously taking care of key relationships like Joss Whedon and Adam Warren and Geof Darrow is a key part of an editor’s job. You just need to have time to do both, seeking out new things and keeping the stuff that’s working moving forward.

HC: What do you envision for Dark Horse’s future, this year and beyond?

SA: Our output is increasing significantly. We had fewer titles coming out during the real depths of the recession, and we’ve been ramping up over the last year. We’re twice as busy now as we were a year ago, and it’s going up. We’ve carved a niche as the premiere publisher of video-game books, and we’re exploring that more, with comics set inside games, and art books showing off the development work that goes into games. We’ll be doing more of that sort of thing, collecting some more great licenses in that department. We’ve been having a resurgence in new creator-owned books, and we’ll see a lot more of that in 2013 and 2014. Having our own digital store has given us a big advantage, and we want to continue to expand in that part of the market.

We have a really firm foundation with some strong, prolific programs like Mike Mignola and Joss Whedon’s books and the “Star Wars” books, with a lot of room for new things to come out and get support — to do their own thing, or grow into something bigger. We built great programs around “Hellboy” and “Star Wars,” and now we’re doing it in new ways with Brian Wood and some video games. You’ll see more creator-owned things debuting, with aggressive support for our established successes like “Mass Effect.” There are a lot of really great writers and artists that we’re bringing in on new things now. Other publishers define themselves really successfully by doing one thing. We think we can do a variety of things and do them well, and make a home for a lot of different kinds of books. Probably the biggest change is a growing roster of superhero books, which people don’t expect from us, like Mike Oeming’s “Victories” and Dark Horse-owned books like “Ghost” and “Captain Midnight.” We’re going to grow a lot in some targeted areas, while, as always, throwing a lot of unexpected things out there, like Jane Espenson’s “Husbands” graphic novel, or Corey Taylor’s “House of Gold and Bones.”

HC: Are plans already forming for Comic-Con this year?

SA: Yeah, we do a lot of shows, so we’re knee-deep in planning for some of them. I’ll be at C2E2, and San Diego is always the biggest event of our year — that casts a long enough shadow that decisions we were making back in August were taking into account San Diego. It’s the only show big enough to plan your publishing schedule around.

HC: Are you bringing in any unexpected talent from other realms — like film or TV or book publishing?

SA: We’ve always done well with that, whether it’s Joss Whedon or Gerard Way or Guillermo del Toro, so we’ll continue in that vein. We just launched a book with horror and sci-fi legend Lance Henriksen, and the next big addition is Corey Taylor, from Slipknot, making his comics debut with “House of Gold and Bones.” But the focus right now is really in getting the best comics talent to do their thing. Mike Oeming has recently become a regular part of our lineup with “Victories,” and “Victories” will become an ongoing series for us this May. You’ll see more announcements along those lines in the near future.

— Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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One Response to ‘The Star Wars!’ Dark Horse gives Lucas script comic book treatment

  1. Mike says:

    This could be cool. the new Brian Wood series is certainly entertaining.

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