What a difference a year makes! Over a year ago, I made a blog post where I expressed heavy anticipation for the then-upcoming line of Disney comic books from new publisher Joe Books and wrote a list of past Disney comics of which I wanted to see them put out in reprint collections. But here we are, in March 2017, and despite critical acclaim, it seems that Joe Books' whole Disney line is fizzling out even quicker than Boom! Studios' Disney line before it. Darkwing Duck, Frozen, and Pirates of the Caribbean have all been stated to be cancelled, the Star vs. the Forces of Evil eight-issue mini-series is on hiatus, and the planned Toy Story comic didn't even make it to press before its plug was pulled. This is of course sad news for all the comics in question (especially considering that Darkwing had like half a dozen plot threads left over from its previous incarnation, and Star is stuck on a cliffhanger, albeit one that we already know gets resolved somehow), but does it have to be this way?
Ever since Disney Comics went defunct, Disney's comic book licenses have never been limited to just one company, and that holds true today. While Joe Books' Disney comics are floundering about for viewers, at least two other companies seem to be doing well with their lines of Disney comic books. I of course refer to two of the so-called premier publishers of Diamond distribution comics - Marvel Comics and IDW Publishing. I anticipate that, since things don't seem to be working out with Joe Books, Disney will likely not opt to renew their contract when it eventually expires and instead will likely turn the Disney Afternoon/Disney Channel/Disney XD/Pixar/Muppet comic book rights for over to one of these two companies afterward. But which one should get it?
Marvel seems like the obvious candidate for the job, having been acquired by Disney back in 2009 (right when previous licensee Boom! Studios had just started publishing Disney comics themselves). Besides Disney now backing most of their movies, Marvel seems to be doing well with their Disney Kingdoms imprint where they bring classic Disney park attractions to the printed medium, not to mention they re-obtained the rights to Star Wars comics after Disney acquired that franchise. Plus, back in the mid-1990s, when Marvel was still the go-to publisher for licensed comic books, they did a whole line of of their own Disney comic books in tandem with the "core four" Disney titles (the rights to which had reverted to Gladstone), and later managed to bring out a new Toy Story mini-series along with Roger Langridge's final Muppet Show arc (which Boom! had been unable to print) in the 2010s. Darkwing Duck comic writer Aaron Sparrow even stated that it would probably be a good idea if Marvel did get the rights, since the comic would have better distribution. But from what I've read, Marvel's attempts to keep the Muppet and Pixar comics on the market didn't sell very well, and it may be the reason they're not interested in doing anything with the animated Disney franchises again. (Plus, perhaps Marvel wants to avoid chances of repeating the mistakes they made the first time they had the rights to make cartoon-based Disney comics.)
Thus, we look at the other side of the coin, IDW Publishing. Of the five premier publishers (the other four being Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse), IDW's the youngest, but they've risen to the top pretty quickly, having more or less dethroned Marvel as the king of licensed comics. IDW seems like another obvious candidate to take control of Joe Books' Disney line, seeing how they hold the rights to the "core four" Disney comics - Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge - and they also began officially localizing Italy's PKNA comic as Duck Avenger last year, as well as putting out hardcover reprint collections of Disney's newspaper comic strips (except for Mickey Mouse, seeing how Fantagraphics beat them to the punch). Plus, if IDW did have the Disney Afternoon license, it'd probably make that "Darkwing and Mickey team-up" story more likely to happen! Of course, the problem here would be that they'd likely have smaller distribution, seeing how this company isn't Marvel or DC; I don't typically see IDW comics being carried at my local Barnes and Noble. And just curious - would David Gerstein's column in each issue of the "core four" comics have to also list what's going on in the non-Mice/Duck titles?
But then again, who says it has to be one of these two companies publishing Disney Animation and Pixar and Muppet comics? Despite the title I gave to this blog post because I couldn't resist the Marvel vs. Capcom shout-out, there's still one other comic company publishing Disney comic books that aren't already at Joe Books - Papercutz. The bulk of their Disney comics has been graphic novels based on the Tinker Bell movies, but I've also seen them put out graphic novels featuring a different assortment of Mice/Duck comics, and they also hold the rights to Planes comics, despite its parent franchise being at Joe Books. Additionally, there's a forum thread at Negaverse.net asking what it would be like if Darkwing Duck were instead licensed to Dark Horse Comics, who published adaptations of Pixar movies back in the 2000s (and also held the rights to Star Wars comics right before Disney bought the franchise).
So, basically, this is a question I felt I had to ask. It's likely a matter of time before Disney eventually gives up on Joe Books publishing their comics entirely, and when that happens, the best thing they can do is let some other publisher take a crack at it, while hopefully continuing where Joe Books left off in story quality. But which company would you like to see Joe Books' Disney comics line end up at? Feel free to take your pick in the poll before, and post a comment explaining why or saying if you'd prefer a specific publisher that isn't mentioned here.