When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, fans knew it was only a matter of time before the rights to Star Wars comics reverted to Marvel. What nobody expected, though, was the phenomenal success of Marvel's Star Wars relaunch; Star Wars #1, released in 2015, sold an estimated 985,976 copies in the US retail market! Although Star Wars is proving to be a tremendous success once again, you'll notice that Marvel's actually missed a trick with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Surprisingly enough, if you're looking to pick up a Marvel tie-in comic, you're out of luck — the Rogue One tie-in comics never hit the shelves. So just what happened?
'Rogue One' Tie-Ins Were Announced
Our story spins back to April's C2E2 convention in Chicago, where #Marvel revealed plans to run a three-issue prelude series for #RogueOne, with an additional standalone issue published at a later date. This is a tried-and-tested approach for Marvel — the company has years of practice tying into MCU movies, and published a prelude series for 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unusually, though, this announcement was pretty light on details; no creative team was announced, and no plot information was forthcoming.
Tie-in comics like this are pretty important for Marvel. To give you an idea, #1 of Star Wars: Shattered Empire — the official tie-in comic for The Force Awakens — was the best-selling comic in September 2015, with estimated sales of 208,884 copies in the American direct retail market.
Less than a month after it was first announced, though, these tie-ins were quietly dropped. Retailer subscriptions were canceled, and Amazon sent out notice that pre-orders could not be fulfilled. Marvel never made any statement about the cancelation. It's safe to say, though, that Marvel wouldn't cancel a tie-in comic for a #StarWars movie unless they had no choice.
The End of 'Darth Vader'
Dig a little deeper, and it all gets even stranger. Kieron Gillen's tremendous #DarthVader series recently came to an end, and Marvel is replacing it with Darth Maul. Now, in one sense, this is perfectly understandable; Gillen's arc had come to a natural conclusion, and it's always better to end a story when the writer intended rather than drag it out. Still, the fact remains that right now, Marvel has no book out focusing on Darth Vader.
Lest we forget, Darth Vader makes a notable appearance in Rogue One. From a marketing viewpoint, this simply doesn't make sense.
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What's Going On?
So far, Marvel hasn't responded to any requests for information, so we don't know for certain what's going on. That said, we can say the following for certain:
- Marvel Comics is a very shrewd business, and I refuse to believe they'd just miss this.
- At one time, Marvel planned a tie-in, but it never got past a basic stage before being canceled.
To me, there's only one possible explanation for this apparent misstep: Lucasfilm was unwilling to sign off on Marvel's plans. Given the financial opportunity Marvel is missing here, it would seem that the relationship between Marvel and Lucasfilm may not be quite so smooth as we've been led to believe.
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Whatever the truth may be, with the exception of the comics, the build-up to Rogue One has been pitch-perfect. Del Rey published an excellent prequel novel, Catalyst, that tells the story of Galen Erso; the novelization of Rogue One is published in e-book format today, with a print edition next week. Literally the only thing missing is a tie-in comic series.
We'll likely never know why the tie-in comics were canceled. But the sad truth is that Marvel definitely seem to have missed a trick with this one!