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Arcadia Sanctorum

The Arcadia Sanctorum is a place to learn about comics and comic book collecting. We find lesser-known stories from the comic book universe. We teach collectors how to grow, sell, and preserve their collections. And we share news and insights about the contemporary comic book artform. Enter and discover.

Star Wars Comics: A History Lesson

Star Wars comic books have been published by a lot of different comic book publishers over the last several decades. In 1977 George Lucas introduced the world to Star Wars, and since that time hundreds of different stories have been told in the Star Wars universe. We wanted to look at the history of Star Wars Comics so that we could share it with you.

So let’s get started.

A couple of panels from one of the first Star Wars Comics
A couple of panels from Marvels adaptation of the first Star Wars Movie

An Overview of Star Wars Comics

The first Star Wars comic book series was published by Marvel Comics in 1977. It was a six issue adaptation of the first movie. That series ran for 107 issues, and 9 years, ending in 1986.

All of the Star Wars comics take place in the same continuity as the films. They adapt, and take place before, after, and between the films. Marvel and DC comics take place in a multiverse, where stories may or may not affect the continuity of the main characters’ canon. Star Wars comics on the other hand take place in the main continuity of their films, video games, television shows and books.

Luke Skywalker in one of Dark Horses Star Wars Comic Books
Luke Skywalker Swings his Lightsaber

The Star Wars franchise was owned by Lucasfilm from 1977 – 2012, when it was purchased by The Walt Disney Company for $4 billion, who moved the comic book publishing rights back to Marvel Comics (another Disney subsidiary) in 2015.

The Star Wars Comics Continuity

Star Wars comic books have been published by IDW, Marvel, Dark Horse, and other publishers throughout the years, but they all follow a single canon. Because of this, there are two major publication timelines. The Legends timeline consists of most of the stories published before April 2014. The other is the Star Wars timeline consisting of all the stories published after 2014, under the approval of Disney.

Star Wars: Legends

Dark Horse Comics published a lot of Star Wars Comic Books
Boba Fett on the cover of one Dark Horse’s earliest Comics

Originally known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, this encompasses all stories published in the universe besides the in canon films. An original run published by Marvel Comics adapted all three of the of the films that made up the original trilogy with stories expanding on the space between the films. This ran for 107 issues before George Lucas himself stopped them from expanding on the period after Return of the Jedi. Marvel was given another run after 1985 expanding on the stories told in the animated series, Droids and Ewoks.

Three years later, Portland, Oregon based comic book publisher Dark Horse Comics picked up the publishing rights to the limited series Star Wars: Dark Empire (1991). This story explored the period after Return of the Jedi. Dark Horse comics held the rights until 2014, publishing over 100 titles over the time period, including adaptations of the prequel trilogy.

After Dark Horse’s license expired, Disney brought the publishing rights to Marvel, and rebranded all of the stories in the Expanded Universe as Star Wars: Legends, and declared all stories from before 2014 as non-canonical to the Star Wars franchise.

Current Run of Star Wars Comics

In 2014, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm and all of the rights to the Star Wars franchise to Disney. In order to make the canon more easy to follow, and in order to tell new stories, Disney decided to move the franchise into a new continuity, one based on the six films that had been released to that point. All films, video games, novels, and comic books published after this time would fall under this canon.

Marvel Comics is now the main publisher of Star Wars Comic Books
Star Wars comics are now published under the Marvel Comics Banner

Disney purchased Marvel Comics in 2009. The studio moved the Lucasfilm publishing rights to Marvel in 2014. Marvel began their publishing of the current run in 2015 and has continued to tell stories within their new canon, including comics that take place within the time period of the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and the newly minted sequel trilogy.

IDW Publishing was awarded a limited license in 2017. They have been published an anthology series aimed at children called Star Wars Adventures.

Conclusion

For those of us that have been reading Star Wars comics for years, the often changing published rights can be confusing, but the stories told are most likely some of your favorites. The Star Wars universe is one of the most popular fictional universes ever created. No matter who is in control of the publishing of the stories, the fact remains that the world of Star Wars, and the characters within it are some of the longest lasting, and most influential in all of fiction.

May the Force be with you.

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