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.
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.