Episode VII, and the Comic Booking of America

There's still time for the giant green space rabbit to be canon!

I wish I could remember where I was the first time I said, “They’re going to remake Star Wars in our lifetime, you know.” The person I was talking to reacted as if I’d just said, “God is an elaborate hoax designed by Andy Kaufman, you know.”

Heretic or not, it sounds like fate is on my side. A neutron bomb fell on the internet last week when it was announced that Lucasfilm had been sold to Disney, just like Pixar and Marvel and the Muppets and everything else I’ve ever loved in my life. (Mom went for $3.5 million in 1997. Don’t scoff until you’ve tried the meatloaf.) The sale was Lucas’ best-kept secret twist since “Luke, I am your father”; how often does something like this happen without a peep of a rumor in advance anymore? It made perfect sense in hindsight, of course. Lucas has essentially been saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore. The fans are dicks,” ever since he found out what message boards are.

As huge as it was, this announcement did more than just open the door for Jar Jar Saves Christmas. This marks a turning point. Forget the Avengers movie. Forget The Big Bang Theory. Please, please forget Comic Book Men. When Star Wars went to Disney, that was the moment that comic book culture officially went mainstream.

With this, the public at large are beginning to experience (or beginning to notice they’re experiencing, anyway) the kinds of things that people in the longbox-owning community have been grappling with since there were only two Flashes. On Thursday, Kyle Buchanan at Vulture.com reacted to the Lucas news by wearily warning his moviegoing readers to start getting used to seeing the same five franchises recast and rebooted over and over and over. “Why don’t the Big Six moviemakers tell original stories anymore?” Buchanan asked in my four-day-old memory of the article. “Why don’t they try something new? How many more times do we need to see yet another creator’s take on Superman’s origin story? They just rebooted Batman a couple years ago, and now they’re going to do it again?”

Let me know when this conversation starts sounding familiar. I don’t know about you, but I know this one by heart.

Speaking of which, people who wouldn’t know a Green Lantern from a Green Arrow are now arguing about whether or not the Star Wars characters should age, and like their brethren in the paper-smell-fetish community they are about to be disappointed. You purists may think you want to see a sixty-year-old Leia, but I humbly suggest that you are not thinking that through. Getting the Gang Back Together would make you unimaginably sad; you would spend that entire movie thinking less about light speed and more about the icy fingers of Death closing around your throat. It’s a nonstarter. Similarly, Disney sincerely thinks they’re going to make sequels to these movies, but they are about to realize that the series they just bought because it’s familiar and a moneymaker has no Darths, no Yodas, no Empire, and sixty-year-old Skywalkers. Throw the Emperor down a pit and blow it up, and all you’re left with is riveting Senate reestablishment scenes.

"(Call the police! I am being held against my will!)"

When the original cast gets too old to play, they get New 52′d. If it happened to Shatner, it can happen to anybody. If I had told you five years ago, “Their next move is to just recast Captain Kirk,” you’d have had me put away. And yet!

Although most of them would never put it this way, people are to a lesser extent also coming to terms with the fact that Star Wars is not creator-owned anymore. It’s sort of like Dave Sim wrote and drew Cerebus from beginning to end, told the exact story he wanted to tell, killed off the main character, and then six or seven years later announced, “Cerebus’ adventures continue next August in Marvel Comics!”

No “whaaat?!” could be loud enough, could it? But Star Wars is bigger than Lucas’ original idea now. It has been for a long time. Now, there are toys and games and puzzles and bedsheets and Underoos. There is intellectual property to be licensed and franchised, and the stories are a means to that end. They just need to plug some work-for-hire journeymen in there, and when one set quits, another one will be champing at the bit to replace them. Who wouldn’t want to have Star Wars on his resume? The next generation of Star Wars movies will be made by people who grew up as Star Wars fanboys. Let me know when this starts sounding familiar.

When the Disney deal was announced, it was the first time I had ever seen a studio spokesman so explicitly say, “We own this now, and we are going to squeeze this teat till the cow don’t milk no more. Powder will come out of this udder before we let go. You can set your watch by how often these movies are gonna come out, junior. Moneymoneymoneymoney.”

The last, most important thing average people need to learn from their new comic booky culture is that It’s Okay. You will always have the movies you remember, the way you remember them. No matter what Disney does next, they cannot violently sexually assault your childhood, and also why are you still using that metaphor you unbelievable creep. Han Solo is going to live on long after Harrison Ford is gone (and if my grandparents are anything to go by, we may only be looking at a couple of years, here, frankly) and that will be all right. If Star Wars gets James Bonded, well, at least you and the younglings will have something in common. As long as there are a couple of bucks to be made, there will always be another creative team working on another chapter. Welcome to comics, everybody.

 


Jim Mroczkowski is already rolling his eyes at the inevitable Boba Fett movie.

Comments

  1. har13quin har13quin says:

    That’s some excellent insight you have there Jim. Who’d have thought 10 years ago that comics would be a predictor and microcosm of cinema and entertainment at large?

    Personally I will follow these developments as far as they interest me and accept whatever “travesty” is foisted upon “us”.

    Remember fanboys, you will always be better off if you keep in your mind that you don’t really own anything you love. It will always be subject to winds of fate and the interests of outside parties. Just enjoy it in the moment.

  2. flakbait flakbait says:

    “Luke, I am your father”

    Nice, thanks for the spoiler alert.

    Seriously, though, between the constant flooding of the market since the late ’90s and the terrible, terrible prequels, I’m amazed at people who still care about Star Wars. How have they kept their hearts so pure? Do they still believe in Santa Claus?

    • ryanwhodat ryanwhodat says:

      So, so true. This franchise cannot be any further ruined. It may be redeemed, but there’s no way they could possibly do worse than the prequel trilogy. Perhaps if Michael Bay got involved…

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @Flakbait: I care very much about STAR WARS. It’s very easy to put aside the things you don’t like about something and just hold on to the things that you do. I re-watched A NEW HOPE last week and it filled me will all the excitement and wonder that it always does. Nothing takes that away. It’s like if I read a bad comic book featuring a character that I like, I just dismiss that comic book and move on. The character isn’t ruined forever.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      I actually am looking forward to what some new creative blood can do with the setting (things like that Frank Quitely post you guys did earlier this year), but it’s just hard for me to get worked up about it in either direction any more.

    • cubman987 cubman987 says:

      Also, despite what enraged internet folk will have you believe, lots and lots of people like the prequels, especially younger people.

    • Grandturk says:

      I guess I’m with Conor on this one. There’s always the originals and how they made/make you feel. I’m pretty disaffected with this news.

    • CaseyJustice CaseyJustice says:

      The Star Wars Universe is still this awesome, exciting place for me, and the chance to watch someone other than George Lucas explore and create in that world is incredibly exciting.

    • orsonrandall says:

      Church.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @flakbait: I’m actually not sure how you can be a comic fan with that attitude. There is not a single long running super-hero book from the big two (read at least 100 issues) that has not stumbled, and likely fallen flat, during its time. New creators come and go and the quality of stories varies accordingly. How could you possibly still be a Batman fan? Superman fan? X-Men fan? Avengers fan? Over the past fifteen years each of those books have had horrendous runs, in some cases several concurrent horrendous runs, yet I still like them all. Why? Because one bad run, or several, just like one bad film, or three, does not ruin the good. The second and third Matrix films are trash in my opinion but I still consider the first to be a classic. “How have they kept their hearts so pure” you ask, I repsond with, how did you get so jaded?

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      That’s totally fair, but here we are. I dunno what to tell you, man.

    • icn1983 icn1983 says:

      The reason for my excitement is that you have an entire generation of filmmakers who are clearly influenced by the “Star Wars” who now have a shot at righting the ship. Consider how many terrible “Star Trek” movies there were before they finally just hit the reset button.

  3. Grandturk says:

    And here I was just thinking that Dark Horse would lose the Star Wars license. I guess it is bigger than that, huh?

  4. when i first moved to LA i worked at a production company for a smaller but well respected producer. I asked him why they made so many sequels and remakes and he told me pretty bluntly…It can take you 10 or 15 years and lot of hard work to make it to the top in Hollywood, but only one or two expensive flops to end your career. Learning how to minimize risks is pretty good for job security.

    Even if these new Star Wars movies are awful (i’ve actually very optimistic) they are the closest thing to a sure thing Hollywood has ever seen in terms of making metric tons of money.

  5. I didn’t quite get the point of how Disney buying Star Wars equals comic book culture going mainstream. Hasn’t Star Wars always been mainstream? And do most people associate Star Wars with comic books? I think of Star Wars primarily as the movies, with SW comics at the low end of the totem pole, just below bed sheets. Did I misunderstand the sentiment of that sentence? Are you just saying that average people griping about movie remakes is like comic fan griping? Those sorts of complaints about remakes and lack of originality predate superhero genre movies (or even Star Wars) don’t they?

    • pmallory says:

      I was just thinking the same thing while reading the article. When Disney bought Marvel it didn’t make comic books go more mainstream. This is a totally pointless article.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      I don’t think this is a pointless article. I think Jim made some good points about how people should temper their excitement and hope with some facts. I had not even considered the effects of “no Darths, no Yodas, no Empire, and sixty-year-old Skywalkers,” not to mention no Death Star, no getting the band back together… So they have a universe, but all of the characters we care about are out of the picture. Sure, they can make a sequel in the future or whatever, but those are a lot of things to be missing. There’s a built-in audience, but it’s going to be difficult for any new characters to be elevated to the cultural archetypes from episodes 4-6.

      But this deal is not when comic book culture officially went mainstream. For the vast, vast majority of people in the world, Star Wars isn’t even part of comic book culture. It’s kids raised on the movies, on the Clone Wars cartoon, on toys and games. The sliver of the pie chart of those people that have read a Star Wars comic is so tiny it would have to be labeled outside of the slice, in the white space of the pie chart.

      My first inclination would be to say that comic book culture went mainstream with some comic book movie. Avengers? Think back further. When Heath Ledger won a post-houmus Oscar for playing the Joker? Maybe, but think back further. The first Spider-Man movie? The first X-men movie? Burton’s Batman? Reeves in Superman? What is the tipping point?

      Let me throw this out there – comic book culture is not mainstream. It may never be. My barometer for it being mainstream is a huge jump in comic readership, and that is not happening. Until I see men, women, and children openly reading comics by the millions, I just can’t call it mainstream. Parts of it are. Characters from it are. But that’s not the same.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s pointless. It makes a number of points. It’s a nice think-piece, when considered “from a certain point of view.” But I would say some of the arguments rely on hyperbole. I realize Jim’s being metaphorical in his assertion that comics have gone mainstream, comparing the reactions of the masses to the SW deal to the reactions of comic fans to similar scenarios involving comics. But the logic of the metaphor doesn’t quite jibe in my mind. Nor do I see that Getting the Gang Back Together is such a nonstarter or that the only option besides a reboot is “Senate reestablishment scenes.” Thematically in keeping with the first two trilogies, you would expect some time to have passed between Jedi and Ep 7, new major characters to be introduced, and cross-over of some characters from the original trilogy. Below I made an argument for Hamill and Fisher being in VII. I do always appreciate Jim’s articles.

    • It’s not comic book *subjects* going mainstream he’s talking about; it’s the cultural frame work of retreading diminishing cultural returns on tentpole core franchises and the ensuing handwringing and teeth gnashing that goes along with it that the article is referencing.

    • theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

      @kennyg I totally agree with you. Look back to the early 90′s and then add the movies from today, and you would have an argument for comics being mainstream. People at work see me reading comics and they all say “I got a Spawn #1 and a box full of baseball cards.” These same guys will rent Avengers, but will never again step foot in a comic shop. I think this article is more about how the comic book culture and “way” sets trends in the mainstream. It has become a predictor of things to come. The mainstream, by definition, will always be the cool stuff from sub cultures, watered-down, and served to the masses til it sinks.

    • jordcluff jordcluff says:

      Correctamundo (i.e., I think you’re right – it’s not my article so I can’t be 100% sure), Mr. Flan, if that is indeed your real name.

  6. HailScott HailScott says:

    Does anyone know how the Dark Horse/Star Wars deal works? Does this mean that their Star Wars comics will end so that Marvel can put them out?

    • Grandturk says:

      I’m sure their contract is for a certain amount of time and is not nullified by the new deal. They will likely have the license intact until the original expiration. Once that goes however, they will likely have a difficult time renewing.

  7. I don’t quite get the outrage about the Star Wars franchise being bought by Disney. While I am a fan of the three original movies, I’m not so vested in this. Stars Wars has pretty much been a Disney-like corporation for years now. This supposed raping-of-the-culture tirade is a giant waste of energy.

    Who knows? There actually might be some cool movies to come out of this.

    • Grandturk says:

      It will be interesting to see if Disney locks the movies in a vault and only releases them every 25 years like they do with the animated movies. It would certainly be a change from the Lucasfilm triple dipping every year with a ALL NEW Special Edition Platinum Version!

  8. With regard to a “sixty-year-old” Leia being in the film, I really think it’s a probability. Not as the main character, but in the way that Leonard Nimoy had a supporting, but important role in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek. The fact that Lucas, a year before the sale told Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill about the new movies seems significant. Why those two? Was he getting their “yes” for roles in the upcoming movies? With a 2015 release date for the start of a new trilogy, you’ve got to think there are already a lot of preparations made, including major plot outlines. I bet we see an aged Leia and Luke in Episode 7.

    • Spoons Spoons says:

      I hadn’t thought of the Leonard Nimoy in the new Star Trek parallel. I think it is pretty likely now they will be in some minimal fashion.

    • BC1 BC1 says:

      Depends on when the stories take place. If they pick up right after “Jedi,” no. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the characters are there but the actors are new. Having watched a little bit of “The Punisher” last night, I vote Thomas Jane for Han Solo. Just imagine dialogue like this.

      Luke: “May the Force be with you.”
      Han (Thomas Jane): “The Force is going to sit this one out.”

  9. Maybe its just me but I’m pretty excited by this. I like the idea of a new generation of filmmakers having a crack at Star Wars. I could be totally disappointed in a few years but I’ll try to be as optimistic as possible. It’s also pretty cool that Lucas is donating so much of the money from the deal to education and only nominally being involved in the actual movie. Lots of positives all around from this story if you ask me.

  10. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    “You purists may think you want to see a sixty-year-old Leia, but I humbly suggest that you are not thinking that through.”
    Well said.

    In the frenzy of thoughts that swirled around my brain when the news first broke, one of the first was disappointment; “Well it’s kind of a shame that they’ll never get the trio to sign on for 7,8, and 9.”

    That feeling of disappointment was immediately replaced by a freezing horror; “But .. what if they DO get them all back? How awful would THAT be?”

    It’s one of those things that you think you want as a fan, but you’ve never really had the opportunity to give it any thought. When you do get a reason to consider it, you realize how terrible it may be, and that outweighs any positive potential the original desire may carry.

  11. adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

    Fantastic piece Jim.

  12. Pssh, once Brian Wood’s comic comes out, all will be right in the STAR WARS universe again!

    Also, I am excited for new the new movies. I must have seen the original trilogy at least 100 times by the time I was 12 (25 now), had oodles of toys from the mid-late 90′s and saw the re-released edition in theaters back in the late 90′s and fucking loved it. I was also pumped for the new trilogy but never saw the first or second for some reason. I had tried to watch the first one on tv about 3 years but it just didn’t grab me. For the 3rd prequel, I went to the midnight showing with like 20 friends and it was a really fun experience. The movie kinda sucked but it was still enjoyable to see.

    I think people forget that someone can be bad and still really enjoyable. No one should have ever yelled at Lucas on the street because he raped their childhood, that is just stupid.

  13. ososnilknarf ososnilknarf says:

    I’m happy about it. I loved the original movies. I was a kid waiting in lines around the block when they came out and they blew my mind.
    The way I look at it is, one of 2 things will happen:
    – more good Star Wars movies will be released, which is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.
    – more shitty Star Wars movies will be released that I don’t care about

    So, seems like it is a possible upside with no downside, from my perspective.

  14. NRD NRD says:

    I’m also really looking forward to seeing what the new creative team can come up with.

    As a few people have already mentioned, it can’t be any worse than some of the recent things Lucas did.

    I hope they don’t do a clean re-make if I’m completely honest, spin offs and things like that would be more appealing.

  15. Great article!

  16. hanson724 hanson724 says:

    I thought he was basically saying that popular comic book heroes will never go away they just change the stories and the same will be said of some film franchises like Bond and Star Trek. Also there are many books that were written that deal with the timeline after IV-VI that were quite good.

  17. AnchorPete AnchorPete says:

    I am like the majority where I didn’t like the prequels, much, but I don’t think I have ever read a Star Wars comic I liked. However, there are MANY Star Wars novels that have none of the original characters and are excellent. On a side note, I read on another site that. The reason Matthew Vaughn left days of future. Past. Is because. He is a possible candidate for episode 7 director.