Earlier this summer, Disney got the approval it needed to move forward with its plans to acquire 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets, allowing it to add franchises like Alien, X-Men, and others to its vast library of holdings. Now there’s an indication that that transfer is underway: Fox is pulling Dark Horse’s license to publish Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics.
Joss Whedon recently spoke with Comic Book Resources about a new comic adaptation of his Dr. Horrible musical, saying that he wanted to do more comics with Dark Horse “because Fox is taking the Buffy license and the Firefly license back.” Dark Horse Comics confirmed the news, saying that they’re “proud of the world we helped to expand and are grateful to Joss Whedon and the creative teams for their incredible work on the series.”
This doesn’t come as a total surprise. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it pulled the license for the Star Wars franchise from Dark Horse, and relaunched the comics under Marvel Comics, which it also owns. It isn’t clear what Disney / Fox’s plans are for the franchise, although the studio recently announced that it would be rebooting Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a new show that would build off of the older series. Given Disney’s intention to acquire as much IP as it can with its Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Fox acquisitions, publishing those properties under its own roof is a no-brainer, although it’s not clear what plans there are for Buffy.
But it’s a bummer for fans. Dark Horse has played a huge role in keeping the fan momentum going for franchises like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alien, and Firefly. Starting in 2007, Dark Horse began to publish a continuation of Buffy in the form of new comic book “seasons” — a total of 12. The publisher has also published comics that expanded the world of Aliens, Predator, and Firefly, using the medium to explore new stories in those worlds. Dark Horse says that it will retain the license to publish its line of Alien and Predator comics, noting that they have “many more stories planned,” including an adaptation of William Gibson’s unfilmed Alien 3 script. The rights to Firefly recently shifted to Boom! Comics, which announced a new Firefly series earlier this summer, that will explore the Unification War prior to the TV series. Boom! told The Verge that its publishing plans remain unchanged from the initial announcement.
While Dark Horse held the rights to Angel between 2000 and 2002, IDW eventually picked up the license, but told The Verge that the license had reverted back to Dark Horse.
Update August 16, 2018, 6:30PM ET: Updated to reflect updates from Boom! Comics and IDW.