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Disney uses the Force to snatch 'Star Wars' from Dark Horse Comics

Small world: After more than 20 years as the anchor of Dark Horse's empire of franchise comics, guess who'll be publishing "Star Wars" comics in the future?

Cover art to Dark Horse's seminal Star Wars sequel comic book from 1991, Dark Empire. Dark Horse

At the end of "Revenge of the Sith," the newly reborn Darth Vader screams an anguished cry, "Noooooooooooo!" It wouldn't have been surprising to hear that same pained response to the injustice of the world in the halls of Dark Horse Comics this morning, too.

A long time ago -- 1977, to be precise -- in a galaxy closer than you think, Marvel Comics began publishing "Star Wars" comic books. The series ran for 107 issues, finally becoming one with whatever Force comic book licenses merge with at the end of their lives in 1986.

A light had gone out in the comics-publishing universe.

Dark Horse Comics stepped in, and nurtured the property back to life with its surprisingly popular series "Star Wars: Dark Empire" in 1991, continuing the tales of Luke Skywalker and friends years after "Return of the Jedi."

Those tales, at least as seen through the eyes of Milwaukie, Ore.-based Dark Horse, will come to an end by the end of this year. Disney -- which bought Lucasfilm, including the "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion last year -- has announced that it will move the comics publishing license for "Star Wars" back to its original home, Marvel Comics.

Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson wrote on his company's blog that Dark Horse "revolutionized" licensed comics publishing.

"After a history of movie properties being poorly handled with little regard for execution and continuity, Dark Horse took a new approach," he said, "carefully choosing licenses and approaching them with excitement and creative energy."

Dark Horse also publishes creator-owned books and other established licenses, such as "Predator," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "Firefly"/"Serenity." The move doesn't come as a surprise, given that Marvel is also owned by Disney.

Brian Wood, the writer of a new, year-old "Star Wars" comic set between the original movie and "The Empire Strikes Back," said on Twitter that while he loves Marvel, "[Dark Horse] put 22 years into developing and nurturing [Star Wars], and this sucks for them, [especially] the staff who handles the franchise there."

Wood's series will end with issue 20 later this year, as will all other Dark Horse-published "Star Wars" comics.