STATUS: Close Enough to a True for a True
After over a hundred issues, Marvel's original Star Wars series ended in June 1986 with #107...
Interestingly enough, the series was not actually canceled due to low sales. Well...that was not the DRIVING force, at least.
You see, well before 1986 rolled around, Marvel was promoting their mysterious "New Universe" as part of their 1986 celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Marvel Universe...
And as part of the launch, Marvel decided to clear the deck by eliminating a number of their lower-selling titles - books that weren't losing money, but were not doing great.
I asked former Marvel editor Carl Potts to describe the motivations behind a move like that, and he nicely summed it up:
If a book was not selling well (back then, anything with monthly sales at or below 100,000 was not considered to be doing well!), the company sometimes felt it was better to use the financial, editorial, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and rack space real estate resources to try a new title than keep a fading title going.
That was definitely the case with Star Wars. It was still selling pretty well, but it was definitely fading. It had gone bi-monthly at the end of 1985/beginning of 1986 with issue #105. That was about the same time Marvel was eliminating a few other titles like the Thing and the New Defenders (to be fair, Defenders also was about to lose a good chunk of its cast for X-Factor, so that likely played a role in its demise, as well). In June 1986, Star Wars ended along with Power Man and Iron Fist, which was also selling over 100,000 copies but had also gone bi-monthly (I did a legend a few years back about how Denny O'Neil was irritated at Power Man and Iron Fist being pushed out of the way for the New Universe, so he told Jim Owsley to kill off Iron Fist in the last issue).
Carl also explained that with a licensed book, the sales cutoff point is obviously higher because of the licensing fees that Marvel would have to pay (The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones and Doctor Who were both also cut by Marvel in 1986). By the way, Carl did not recall precisely why Star Wars was canceled - he just answered my question about whether stuff like this WERE reasons for titles to be canceled back then.
In addition, Marvel was frustrated at the limitations Lucasfilm was putting on the book, as since George Lucas didn't know if the movies were going to continue, he basically told Marvel that they couldn't really do much with the characters as he wouldn't know whether their ideas would be in conflict with his. So that definitely played a role.
In the end, though, sales ultimately were a HUGE part of it, as sales WERE down. And if the book was selling better, it would not have been canceled for the New Universe, so the New Universe's role, while real, is perhaps a BIT overstated, but at the same time, if there was not a drive to make room on the production schedule for New Universe, Star Wars probably would not have been canceled, hence the legend being true enough for a true.
The cancellation news came to Star Wars writer Jo Duffy's attention as she was midway through writing the issue - she had to quickly change the story to make it a final issue. Even Marvel Age didn't know what's what - as their description for Star Wars #107 in Marvel Age #41 was away off...
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