Monday, May 10, 2010

Licensed to Disappoint

Jim is trapped under a collapsed pile of chronologically organized Legion comics (or in another state…), so I’ll be filling in for you today. If you’re missing Jim, please just replace any names I use with “Brainiac 5” and assume the ultimate point of my argument is how Connor Hawke should be Green Arrow. If you can wait, he should be back later this week.

Late last year, I took Star Wars Legacy off my pull list. For those of you who don’t know, Star Wars Legacy is set 150 years or so after the first Star Wars movie and follows the adventures of Cade Skywalker in a universe ruled by Sith. It is also Dark Horse’s best selling Star Wars comic. Beating out comics about Darth Vader, the Rebellion, and a war that was detailed in a series of tie in novels. Why is this? The creative team, John Ostrander and Jan Duresma, should not be discounted, but I think the obvious reason is momentum. That’s the reason I read it and while I love the movies, I’ve never bothered with Star War comics before. Continuity wise, this is the most far flung Star Wars property and nothing is holding it back.

We’re not finding out what happened between Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, we’re not finding out how Luke learned how to fly, this is the most current Star Wars book. Quite simply, every issue is forging into untouched ground and because it is set so far in the future, it is probably never going to be undone or contradicted by another movie. I think this is what fans responded to, the feeling of forward momentum, as opposed to the tired navel gazing that accompanies any book about Boba Fett. I have no idea what’s going to happen to Cade Skywalker. I know exactly what is going to happen to Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or anyone else in the series.

Essentially, it became a Star Wars comic like every company owned superhero comic, not owned by its creators, but you knew that this was the book that was moving those characters forward and it wouldn’t be superceded by anything else. However, I dropped the series for the same reason I never read any other star wars books. It lost its momentum. If I had to watch one more scene of “OH NO CADE HAS THE DARK FORCE EYES” without actually doing anything with it, I was going to kill a tribble…. Ewok … whatever. The book was spinning its wheels and it stopped being something I looked forward to every month and became a very easy way to save money in a recession.

Most tie in books fall victim to the traps I detailed above. Star Trek comics have been traditionally been forgettable tripe, like the stuff published in the 60’s, OR have been well intentioned books in the 80’s by Peter David that were completely nullified when the next movie came out. Most successful tie in properties have that sense of momentum that everyone knows won’t be undone. The Buffy comics are another great example of this. I’m no Buffy fan, but I’m a comics fan, which means I have to listen to someone who is a Buffy fan on a fairly regular basis.

When the Season 8 comics came out, people were super turbo pumped. Joss Whedon, the writing staff of the show, and super star creators were writing it. But most importantly, everyone knew that no tv show was going to undo this. It was new, but more importantly, it was next. But over time, the fan consensus seems to have dimmed and people seem to have come to the same conclusion that I did on Star Wars Legacy – this comic is spinning its wheels.

Licensed comics are extremely tricky business. A good one has to juggle a sense of forward momentum, paying homage to what has come before without navel gazing, and managing the needs of the larger franchise. Its no wonder what seems like such obvious moneymakers have rarely been as successful, financially or creatively, as you would think they should be. And I haven’t even mentioned the artistic challenge of getting likenesses right! Star Wars Legacy did a great job, but eventually lost what made it work so well in the first place. It’s no great surprise that they have cancelled the series at issue 50. Maybe they’re going to bring it back, but I hope they’ve got some new ideas if they do.

Tomorrow! A review of a licensed comic that has no right to be working nearly as well as it is – IDW’s Doctor Who ongoing!


  1. How are you going to get Jim to read this? You didn't even mention Farscape.

  2. Greg, that was a great intro... rofl