What is best in life? How about Conan returning to Marvel Comics after 19 years.
Marvel broke the news on Friday that after 19 years, Conan the Barbarian is returning to Marvel Comics following a deal was struck with Conan Properties International. Marvel first brought Conan to comics in 1970, and the publisher printed 650 issues of Conan’s adventures in the pages of Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Adventurer, Conan the Savage, and Savage Sword of Conan.
“From Barry Windsor-Smith to John Buscema to Neal Adams, a legendary line-up of amazing artists brought Conan to life in the pages of Marvel comics,” said C.B. Cebulski, editor-in-chief of Marvel. “It’s a legacy we’re now going to live up to with the talent we have lined up for the Cimmerian barbarian’s homecoming in early 2019. We’re excited!”
In 2003, Dark Horse Comics ran their own Conan series, which did garner praise and a following. But now the property is returning to Marvel, which is a huge blow to Dark Horse, who lost the Star Wars franchise in 2014. Interestingly, it was January 2014 when the Star Wars announcement was made, and now history is repeating itself with Conan.
So what is left for Dark Horse Comics?
While the publisher has been doing a solid job with the more adult manga titles, not a single issue broke the top 100 comics in November 2017. To make things more problematic, the top trade from Dark Horse in November 2017 was Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible Vol. 1, which placed at #130.
On the plus side, Mike Mignola continues his Mignola Universe at Dark Horse, and the publisher’s video game books earn high praise. However, Dark Horse has struggled to maintain its place as the third biggest publisher since Star Wars left, and with the potential merger between 21st Century Fox and Disney, the Aliens and Predator franchises could be in jeopardy as well.
The comic book industry is so much better when there are a lot of publishers, and we are fortunate to have so many soliciting titles each month. However, small publishers struggle when The Big Two (DC and Marvel), flood the market with titles that are sometimes canceled before the first trade arrives.
While Marvel has not announced anything about new Conan series, trade collections, or creative teams, I hope they have something fantastic in mind, and they don’t shut the door on Conan six months after launch, as that would be a big waste of resources, and an even bigger kick in the gut to Dark Horse.