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Publisher You Should Know: Dark Horse

It was long ago... way before Image Comics was born. The time was 1986 and then comic book store owner  Mike Richardson decided to be a publisher, from that point on Dark Horse was born. But to hear the tale of origin, it is best to hear it right from the horse's mouth and this is what you should know.

"Dark Horse Comics, Inc. is a privately held Oregon company established in 1986. Corporate headquarters are located in Milwaukie, Oregon. Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, behind the concept of establishing an ideal atmosphere for creative professionals, Dark Horse Comics has grown to become the third-largest comics publisher in the United States and is acclaimed internationally for the quality and diversity of its line. By attracting the top talent in the comics field, Dark Horse continues to change the shape of the industry and grow its brand throughout the world. In conjunction with its sister company Dark Horse Entertainment, Dark Horse has over 350 properties currently represented under the Dark Horse banner, serving as the jumping-off point for comics, books, films, television, electronic games, toys, and collectibles. In 2008, Dark Horse distributes its characters and concepts into more than fifty countries, continuing its mission of content creation and distribution in all of its forms throughout the world." 

charactersNot bad for a small Oregon company. But how did Richardson even started a comic shop? 

"In 1980, founder Mike Richardson used a credit card with a $2,000 credit limit to open a comic book store, Pegasus Books, in the small resort town of Bend, Oregon. His intention was to write and illustrate a children's book himself, while working the store, but the business expanded and his project was put on hold. He still plans to finish that book. As business grew, Richardson opened new retail locations in Oregon and Washington state. He soon became frustrated, however, by the lack of quality in the product he was selling, and so, using funds from his retail operation, began his own publishing company. From the very start it was a different kind of publishing house. Writers and artists were treated as partners, an unheard-of generosity in the comic-publishing field at that time. Soon the industry's top creators were flocking to Dark Horse where they became involved in the publishing and marketing of their creations."

Cool. So... with what title did DH Start?

"Dark Horse Comics launched with two initial titles in 1986, Dark Horse Presents and Boris the Bear. Paul Chadwick's Concrete, about a congressional speechwriter who transforms into a 2,000-pound cement creature, was the company's first hit. Chadwick received an unprecedented twenty six award nominations for his creation. Within one year of its first publication, Dark Horse Comics added nine new titles to its roster, including The American, The Mark, Trekker and Black Cross. Today Dark Horse releases about thirty comic books and graphic novels per month. Dark Horse remains the number three comics publisher in the direct sales market, behind industry giants Marvel and DC Comics."

One thing I remember about Dark Horse is the cool crossover they offered and off course Star Wars, when did this happen?

"In 1988, Dark Horse revolutionized comics based on popular films with the release of its hit series, Aliens. Predator followed with similar success. The launch of Star Wars in 1990 solidified Dark Horses domination of movie-based comics series. While licensed projects had been around for decades, most publishers devoted few resources to such titles since they did not own them. Dark Horse took a different tack by plotting stories and using top talent to create multiple comics series that were virtual sequels to popular films. This fresh approach met with enormous success and sales on these popular titles sailed into the millions Today, Dark Horse is the acknowledged industry leader in this profitable publishing niche. Current publications include Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Tarzan, Conan, and many others."

dh logoYeah, but It is with Dark Horse, that we saw one unique title get published for the first time.

"In 1990, Dark Horse startled the entire industry by teaming up its two hot Fox movie franchises in one comic. Aliens versus Predator caught the comics industry by surprise, and its success spawned numerous copycats. Today, the comic crossover is a staple of the industry. Over the years, Dark Horse has published innovative crossover events such as Terminator versus RoboCop, and Aliens versus Terminator. This strategy led directly to a series of crossover projects with industry giant, DC Comics. Projects such as Batman/Predator, Superman/Aliens, and Joker/Mask have been runaway hits."

Dark Horse is best known for the roster of big talent they hold, I wonder when did the big names started to appeared?

"That same year, Frank Miller (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and Dave Gibbons (The Watchmen) brought Give Me Liberty to Dark Horse. Later that year, Frank teamed with artist Geof Darrow and released Hard Boiled, again through Dark Horse. The success of these titles, together with Dark Horse's creator's rights platform, led to a stampede of talent from the "Big Two" to Dark Horse. High-profile creators such as Mike Mignola, Art Adams, John Byrne, and Chris Claremont brought projects to a company other than Marvel and DC for the first time. As a result of this talent movement, the field was opened wide for other creators and led directly to the formation of Image Comics, another company initially dedicated to creator rights."

That is not all. Like Marvel and DC, Dark Horse has gone Hollywood.

Sin City"In 1992, having achieved great success transforming film characters into comic book stars, it was a logical progression for Dark Horse to reverse that creative process and begin using its own original characters and stories as the basis for film and television. Dark Horse Entertainment, Inc. was formed by Richardson and set up on the lot of Twentieth Century Fox through a first-look deal with Largo Entertainment. Dark Horse Entertainment immediately went into development with a half-dozen projects, resulting in the production of four films in less than three years. Two of those productions, The Mask and Timecop, were created by Mike Richardson and became number one hits. In the sixteen years since its inception, DHE has produced over two dozen films and television projects. Current projects include Hellboy II and RIPD at Universal, Ark at Sony, Grendel at Warner Brothers, Arch Enemies at Paramount, and Criminal Macabre at MGM."

Similar to Marvel, Dark Horse entered into a production agreement with Universal, establishing  studio rights for any future Dark Horse movie adaptations. You might know that Dark Horse is no stranger to international books either.

"Around 2001, the comics market changed dramatically as traditional bookstores developed a strong and growing interest in comics in the form of graphic novels. Fueling this newfound interest was manga-that is, comics imported from Japan. Dark Horse was twenty years ahead of the market, having published manga from its second year of operation. Dark Horse president Mike Richardson began visiting Japan regularly in the early nineties and has cultivated many friendships with the creative talent there. As a result, Dark Horse publishes manga by the most respected creators in Japan. The list includes Koike's Lone Wolf & Cub (over 1,000,000 copies sold) and Crying Freeman; Otomo's Akira; Shirow's Ghost In the Shell; Nightow's Trigun; Tezuka's Astro Boy; Samura's Blade of the Immortal; Sonoda's Gunsmith Cats; and America's longest running manga series, Oh My Goddess, by Fujishima."

These are the books, that you should check: Concrete, Hellboy, The Goon, 300, Sin City,   Lone Wolf and Cub, Vampire Hunter D, Hellsing, Spy Boy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, AVP, Blade of the Inmortal, Ghost, Grendel, The Mask, Star Wars, The Umbrella Academy, Mystery Men, Conan, Gunsmith Cats, BRPD among many others. All of then offered great entertaiment and a variety of ground breaking storytelling.

It is with great eagerness that I await for their soon to be published comic app. Dark Horse is no stranger to digital comics, for many of their titles are out in digital form but a exclusive comic app means the whole of the company. Like its named (a horse nobody expects to win but wins) the DH App is bound to be a winner. Until then go forth and multiply your DH library.

Dark Horse history taken from darkhorse.com


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