Disney will use Marvel Comics to introduce its Star Wars lands

January 21, 2019, 9:46 PM · Building an entire theme park land based on the wildly popular Star Wars franchise might seem like a sure thing, but Disney's actually taking a huge risk with Galaxy's Edge.

These new lands at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World will not include Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, or Han Solo. There will be no Darth Vader, no Emperor. You won't be able to visit the Death Star, Tatooine, or Coruscant. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be an all-new experience on an all-new planet in the Star Wars universe, in which you — the visitor — play the starring role.

Sounds cool, right? I am sure it does to many theme park fans. But Disney is running a real risk that many casual Star Wars fans — who will come to the land expecting familiar characters, settings, and experiences — will walk away disappointed by their absence.

So Disney is using its media power to start bringing fans up to speed on the happenings at Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, the setting of the Galaxy's Edge lands. Disney, through its StarWars.com website, announced today that it will publish a new Marvel Comics series setting up the land — with the series titled, appropriately enough, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Dok-Ondar
Concept design cover art for 'Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge' issue 1, featuring Dok-Ondar. Image by Karl Lindberg and Iain McCaig, courtesy Disney.

"Readers of the five-issue miniseries will be the first to meet the infamous Dok-Ondar, the Ithorian collector of rare antiquities, and find out what happens when the First Order reaches the edge of wild space. The key to saving this lawless outpost might just involve a job pulled long ago by none other than Han Solo and his cohort Chewbacca."

My first thought is that Disney just went to the "collector of rare antiquities" role two years ago with Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! And my second is that the "job pulled long ago by none other than Han Solo and his cohort Chewbacca" line appears to be a reference to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run ride, in which teams of six visitors will pilot the Millennium Falcon on a mission under orders from Chewbacca and pirate Hondo Ohnaka. Is that Smuggler's Run — maybe the "job pulled long ago" — the famous Kessel Run, finally depicted in last year's Solo? Or is it another one of what surely must have been many other jobs run over the years by Han and Chewie?

"Our series will give fans the chance to visit Black Spire Outpost months ahead of voyaging to Batuu in person," series writer Ethan Sacks told StarWars.com. "Armed with top-secret sketches and information from Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm, we are keeping this authentic to the spirit of this rich new setting."

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens in June at the Disneyland Resort in California and sometime this fall at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort. The comics should be on sale in stores soon.

Replies (13)

January 22, 2019 at 1:46 AM

You have to give respect where respect is due, Disney Corporate's long term strategic management has been masterful at planning this out. Getting Lucasfilm, Imagineering, the parks, and Marvel all on the same page over a 7 year project is pretty incredible.

I know Iger takes a lot of flack because of the salary he commands, but putting that aside his leadership has been so amazingly good it's almost unbelievable. When he took over a lot of analysts thought he was a Eisner shrill and and wasn't going to have the guts to make big moves and grow the company. Could not have been more incorrect. In 2004 nobody could have envisioned Disney the way it is now: the long-term strategic vision with the acquisitions they've made and they way they've handled it with the amazing synergy between them. They purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion and Star Wars itself now is worth an estimated $43 billion. Also they are absolutely crushing everybody in every industry they are in (even including ESPN which everyone thinks is failing but still dominating its industry). With Staggs being out of the picture I really hope the board sees what an instrumental role Kevin Mayer has played with the company and make him the next CEO, I can't imagine anyone being more qualified.

January 22, 2019 at 5:59 AM

I'm still left wondering what will become of the Star Wars attraction that does have all our favorite characters from the movies, Star Tours. I'd have to think it will stick out like a sore thumb once Galaxy's Edge opens.

January 22, 2019 at 6:02 AM

Universal Orlando did this back in 1999 when they released a comic book to set up the backstory of Dr. Doom, Spiderman and Hulk for their new park, Islands of Adventure … and titled it (appropriately enough) "Marvel Super Hero Island Adventures."

The only new idea here is that Disney is doing a series of 5 comics vs just 1.

January 22, 2019 at 7:16 AM

It all feels like Universal created an area that didn't look anything like Hogsmead or Diagon Alley and said it was a neighboring village where also stuff was going on. To pimp it up they added a comic series to explain why the hell they build it because it doesn't make sense.
I'm all for expanding on a movie ip but something as iconic as Star Wars once was, in a movie themed theme park, should have recognizable locations first and could be expended on later.

@jeremygary I still have that comic from my first visit.

January 22, 2019 at 8:34 AM

I think a comic tie-in is cool and all, but wouldn't it be better if there was an air of mystery and the lore was uncovered via the park experience only? I think Disney would do well to stop referring to Batuu as remote. It certainly won't feel that way with tons of tourists in it and an imperial presence. I hope that somehow Disney still provides a way for people that prefer the original characters to experience something from it. My 4 year old son loves Darth Vader and they no longer have the meet-and-greet.

January 22, 2019 at 8:50 AM

OT writes: "I'm all for expanding on a movie ip but something as iconic as Star Wars once was, in a movie themed theme park, should have recognizable locations ..."

I Respond: Yeah! Like they should've included the Millennium Falcon, or something.

January 22, 2019 at 9:55 AM

This is a good story telling opportunity to take. Expectations are very high and a comic seems like a good way to prepare a Guest without "spoiling" the results. There is a wide spectrum of Star Wars and/or theme park fans, and story is important to a significant portion of both.

The plan is never going to be "make everyone happy" but this may push a few more of the internet experts towards the positive end of the spectrum.

January 22, 2019 at 11:55 AM

I think this is a clever angle, but I do wonder how successful it will be. Will guests planning a trip to Galaxy's Edge read up on the comics to see what's going on, or will it be the exclusive domain of the LARPers? I think with an IP with such a broad spectrum of fans (hard core/life consuming fans all the way down to casual but interested fans), Disney is wise to try to lay the foundation to make sure the most ardent fans are satisfied. However, I think they need to be really careful here, because they don't need Galaxy's Edge to turn into a Sci-Fi convention, turning off the casual guest.

I'm still torn between the two side here, because I consider myself a pretty hard core Star Wars fan, but I'm not anywhere near the uber-fans. I'm not sure if creating a unique story and environment is the right play here, yet understand why not making a carbon copy of Mos Eisley was probably a wise decision. The layers of intricacy are going to be important to ensure the land has longevity (it will likely take a decade for Disney to recoup the investment into Galaxy's Edge), but I worry that Imagineers are trying too hard to the point where it will feel too manufactured, and not organic like Universal was able to create with WWoHP.

Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are "real" places directly described through pre-existing text and visualized through the movies. Disney is trying to create that expectation and backstory after the fact through these comics (and promotions through their dominant marketing arm), but it could all come off as forced instead of an extension of the universe. There is already some pushback on how Disney has exploited Star Wars since the Lucasfilm purchase, and my hope is that they don't take things too far. They could have taken the easy way out by just recreating familiar scenes from the movies, but instead they are challenging guests with a new world within a known universe. They're taking a big risk here that could pay huge dividends, but could just as easily leave guests cold with HUGE expectations unfulfilled.

January 22, 2019 at 12:48 PM

I understand that they want visitors to feel familiar with their surroundings and comprehend the backstory of the land, but the comic book idea screams cheap corporate synergy. Are they going to hand the comics out at the front gate? A large percentage of the visitors will probably have no idea that a comic was introduced to help with the familiarity of the narrative of the land.

The more expensive and higher exposure route would have been to introduce a miniseries on television involving the land, the characters in it, and a few familiar older characters as well from the films. Or they could do an episode of "Modern Family" goes to Star Wars land. Which will sadly probably happen anyway.

January 22, 2019 at 1:57 PM

"Or they could do an episode of "Modern Family" goes to Star Wars land. Which will sadly probably happen anyway."

LOL

I hear you Kris. However, I think that's part and parcel with today's segmentation of media. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see The Mandalorian (Favreau-helmed Star Wars series announced for Disney's new streaming platform) paying a visit to Batuu or some future series to be set completely on Batuu or at least take place primarily in the Galaxy's Edge setting. I also expect the Disney hype machine to kick into gear within the next couple of months with behind the scenes features on Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN, and the inevitable series of Jimmy Kimmel Shows taped inside Galaxy's Edge. Disney never misses an opportunity to promote, and you have to believe that the marketing for Galaxy's Edge will be off the charts.

I think the comic book strategy gives them the most economical solution to reach the guests that are the most likely to need a more in-depth introduction to the land. Casual theme park fans will likely sop up the conceit, and be fine with a moderate amount of detail, but the nerds, cos-players, and uber-fans will have a much higher bar. My concern is that Disney feeds the beast so much that it turns the regular guests off. Perhaps by starting small with a simple comic series is a financially safe attempt to see if they can attract the hard core guests that might never consider visiting Disneyland. If that brings the hard core fans into the fold to let them know Galaxy's Edge is not just for thrill junkies, it might turn the lands into Star Trek: The Experience for Star Wars fans.

January 22, 2019 at 3:06 PM

I understand that Disney wanted to make it 'generic' enough to fit all stories, past, present and future, but basing it more on the new trilogy is a mistake. Kylo Ren is a mere wimpering shadow compared to Darth Vader.

Even if they based it on the original trilogy, I wouldn't have expected to see the young Luke, Leia and Han, after all they're not in Star Tours either. The Millennium Falcon ride based on the OT still probably wouldn't have had Han Solo piloting the ship, it probably would have been 'borrowed' like the new ride.

But I have more emotional investment for the rebels, not the resistance. But we'll have to see, as long as Batuu 'feels' like Star Wars, it might be ok without having to recreate Tatooine, after all, most of Tattoine is desert.

January 23, 2019 at 5:45 AM

@O T my copy is now framed and hangs on the wall of my 7 y/o's room, which is Marvel themed

January 23, 2019 at 5:09 PM

@Disfan unless they've changed things again, Leia sometimes appears in holographic form on Star Tours 2.0, and Han sometimes shows up having a blaster battle with storm troopers in one of the opening sequences.

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