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Nintendo + Dark Horse = replacement for ‘Star Wars’ license

by  in Comic News Comment

Ever since Disney announced the purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, virtually everyone in the comics industry knew there was a ticking clock on Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics; it’s only natural, after all, that the entertainment giant would move the profitable Star Wars license in-house, similar to how it shuffled the Disney and Pixar titles from BOOM! Studios to Marvel in 2011. Following the announcement last month that Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics line will end its 20-plus year run at the end of the year, the next obvious question concerns what will take its place.

It’s difficult to overstate how big of an impact the Star Wars comics have had on Dark Horse. In the early days 0f 2014, the publisher has two ongoing series and two miniseries — one of which, The Star Wars, was the highest-selling Dark Horse and licensed title in 2013. The company has already announced plans for a broader Aliens/Predator/Prometheus line that could fill some of the holes left by Star Wars come January 2015, but recent news in the video game world gives me another idea …

Nintendo.

Nintendo has always had a tenuous relationship with comics; it has licensed its characters sparingly, with the few Nintendo comics that do exist being imported manga or magazine supplements. But with recent shifts internally due to the middling launch of its new platform Wii U, Nintendo has announced plans to “actively expand” its character-licensing business. That means a possible return of Super Mario cereal, but for comics fans it also opens the door to licensed titles.

Consider this: In February, Dark Horse published the $34.99 video-game art book The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, with an initial print run of 400,000 copies. It sold more than 50,000 copies in its first week, debuting at the top of the Nielsen BookScan, Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller lists, and went on to become Amazon’s No. 6’s bestselling “adult print books” of 2013. And in terms of licenses, Nintendo isn’t a one-trick pony: In addition to the previously mentioned Legend of Zelda and the flagship Mario franchise, its library also includes Donkey Kong, Metroid, Kirby and Star Fox. Heck, I’d be interested in a Punch-Out!! series, given the right factors involved, Mike Tyson or not.

Nintendo’s dabbled with comics before (anyone remember Acclaim’s Nintendo Comics System line?) but Dark Horse is in the unique position of delivering a major windfall with this art book in 2013, plus having the track record and potentially some staffers and creators hungry for work. Maybe I’m daydreaming here, but I think Nintendo and Dark Horse could be a match made in comics heaven — for readers, retailers and both companies.