Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics is an American comic book and manga publisher. It was founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Richardson started out by opening his first comic book store, Pegasus Books, in Bend, Oregon, in 1980. From there he was able to use the funds from his retail operation to start his own publishing company. Dark Horse Presents and Boris the Bear were the two initial titles in 1986 and within one year of its first publication, Dark Horse Comics added nine new titles to its roster, including Hellboy, The American, The Mask, Trekker, and Black Cross. Frank Miller's Sin City is one of the most famous works associated with Dark Horse, and it has become something of a signature comic to the publishing house. They also established a reputation for publishing licensed works such as Alien, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan, and Star Wars.
OverviewDark Horse publishes many licensed comics, including comics based on Star Wars, ', Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Predator, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Conan and Who Wants to be a Superhero? Dark Horse also publishes creator owned comics such as Frank Miller's Sin City and 300, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo, Gerard Way's Umbrella Academy, Overwatch, and Michael Chabon's The Escapist. Today, the comic arm of the company flourishes despite no longer having its own universe of superpowered characters. Dark Horse also published the English translation of ' in 2013.
Like Dell and Gold Key, Dark Horse was one of the few major American publishers of comic books never to display the Comics Code Authority seal on its covers.
In 2006, The New York Times reported that "Dark Horse pays by the story or the page, and shares profit generated by comic books and related merchandise. That is different from the standard work-for-hire arrangement at DC and Marvel: creators are paid for a specific story and perhaps receive royalties from collected editions, but the bulk of the revenue, and all of the merchandising opportunities, remain with the companies".
1986–2000Dark Horse was founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson and launched in July 1986 with the black-and-white anthology series Dark Horse Presents that featured Paul Chadwick's Concrete and Chris Warner's Black Cross. The New York Times reported that "Dark Horse entered the game thanks to the birth of the direct sales market in the 1980s, which moved comics beyond newsstands and into specialty stores." In 1991, Dark Horse created a unit to develop toys and then in 1992, created Dark Horse Entertainment, the company’s film and television production division.
Dark Horse established itself by publishing creator-owned series and licensed titles. "When the Dark Horse editorial staff decided to create a comic universe of its own, the result was the boastfully named Comics' Greatest World.... Despite Dark Horse's efforts, the comics industry became glutted in the mid-1990s and imploded." All CGW titles were canceled except for Ghost. "Successes of the '90s included books based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise, American-distributed Japanese manga series such as Ghost in the Shell and Lone Wolf and Cub, and original works by writer Frank Miller, including Sin City and the graphic novel 300".
2000–2020In 2006, Dark Horse was the third largest comics publisher. Per Diamond Comic Distributors, "Marvel had 36.9 percent of the market", DC "had 32.9 percent" and Dark Horse had "5.6 percent".
In 2007, Dark Horse donated copies of all of its published works to the Portland State University Library, which maintains both a browsing collection of book titles, in addition to a research collection which also includes every "print, poster, statue, figure, and all other products." As of July 15, 2016, the library has cataloged over 10,000 titles as "the official archive of Dark Horse publications."
In 2011, Dark Horse Presents relaunched including the return of Paul Chadwick's Concrete and Steve Niles' Criminal Macabre, as well as new talent including Sanford Greene, Carla Speed McNeil, Nate Crosby and others. Starting in 2013, Dark Horse began to reprint E. C. Archives, picking up the project of reprinting classic E. C. Comics from the 1950s where Gladstone left off, using the same size and format as Gladstone, with all stories reprinted in order and in full color.
In early 2017, Dark Horse Comic entered partnership with Crypton Future Media to publish official English-language Hatsune Miku-related manga. In late summer of 2018, a set of comic books for Mysticons were released.
In 2020, Dark Horse announced it was severing ties with writer and editor Scott Allie "after another former Dark Horse employee accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault across a period lasting more than a decade." It was reported that in 2015, "after reports of multiple instances of sexual misconduct" by Allie:
Dark Horse Comics founder Mike Richardson released a statement to The Beat, which in part read, "In this particular case, action was taken immediately, though we did not, and cannot, perform a public flogging, as some might wish." Although Richardson said action had been taken, Allie continued as an editor for Dark Horse, transitioning from editor-in-chief to the role of executive senior editor in 2015, before departing Dark Horse as a full-time employee in 2017, continuing to work with them in a freelance capacity.
Imprints and studios
Comics' Greatest World/Dark Horse Heroes (1993–1996)From 1993 to 1996, Dark Horse published a line of superhero comics under the Comics' Greatest World imprint, which was later renamed Dark Horse Heroes. After 1996, publication of this line came to a near halt, ceasing production of any books concerning the characters with the publication of the last crossover books involving Ghost, in the early 2000s.
Legend (1994–1998)Legend was a comic book imprint at Dark Horse Comics created in 1994 by Frank Miller and John Byrne as an avenue for creator-owned projects. Its logo was a moai drawn by Mike Mignola. Later on, other creators were asked to join them. The imprint ended in 1998.
- Art Adams
- Frank Miller
- John Byrne
- Mike Mignola
- Paul Chadwick, Dave Gibbons, and Geof Darrow were also on the initial Dark Horse Legend launch tour.
- Mike Allred
- Walter Simonson
Dark Horse Manga
Dark Horse also publishes a number of titles by the all-female Japanese manga artist group CLAMP, including Clover, Chobits, Okimono Kimono, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Gate 7.
A manga magazine titled Super Manga Blast! was published by Dark Horse starting in the spring of 2000. It was discontinued in December 2005 after 59 issues.
Dark Horse also publishes a number of Korean manhwa titles, including .
Maverick (1999–2002)Maverick was an imprint for creator-owned material.
M PressPublications ranging from novels to film books by Leonard Maltin about John Landis, to comic related material such as a biography of Will Eisner, to health books. They have also published a series reprinting Playboy interviews. The M Press imprint was created to publish a diverse list of both literary fiction and non-fiction prose for authors with a unique voice. One such series is Orchid by Tom Morello, published from 2011–2013. The newest addition to M Press is an original graphic novel The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson, and Kyle Baker, published on November 2013.
Dark Horse DigitalIn 2011, Dark Horse launched their iOS app and online digital comics store, followed by the release of the beta version of a native Android app in 2012. Any device with a modern web browser can be used to read Dark Horse comics at their web store.
DH DeluxeInitiated in 1998, Dark Horse Deluxe rolled out a line of merchandise that included model kits, toys, apparel, and collectibles. Its original purpose was to draw on Dark Horse properties but expanded to include such collectibles as Tim Burton's Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys, Joss Whedon's Serenity, and merchandise for the popular video-game franchise Mass Effect. Dark Horse, working with Big Tent Entertainment and the NHK broadcasting corporation, brought Domo-kun to the United States with a series of products ranging from Qee figurines to journals and stationery sets. David Scroggy was Vice President of Product Development at Dark Horse for many years, starting in that department in 1993 and retiring in 2017.Denis Kitchen and John Lind co-founded Kitchen Sink Books with Dark Horse as a joint venture and independent imprint. The imprint name is in reference to Kitchen's former publishing company Kitchen Sink Press which ran from 1970 until 1999. Kitchen said of the venture, “John and I have packaged books for a number of first-rank publishers, but we have long discussed the ideal house to enjoy maximum freedom and creativity,” says Kitchen. “In longtime friend and publisher Mike Richardson and Dark Horse Comics, we found just that.” The imprint's output is infrequent, publishing 2-3 high-profile projects annually with editorial focus on art books and deluxe format collections. Creators published under the Kitchen Sink line include Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Harvey Kurtzman, Tony DiTerlizzi and collections/anthology titles include work from Jack Davis, Will Elder, Art Spiegelman, S. Clay Wilson, Monte Beauchamp, Bob Powell, Justin Green, Trina Robbins, Harvey Pekar, Arnold Roth, and Al Jaffee.
Berger BooksFormer executive editor of Vertigo Karen Berger established the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse in 2017. Titles published under the imprint include Hungry Ghosts written by Joel Rose and Anthony Bourdain, Incognegro and a prequel Incognegro: Renaissance both written by Mat Johnson, The Seeds written by Ann Nocenti, She Could Fly written by Christopher Cantwell, and LaGuardia written by Nnedi Okorafor.
TitlesDark Horse Comics has acquired the rights to make comic book adaptations of many popular films and series. Some of these include Aliens, Army of Darkness, Indiana Jones, Predator, RoboCop, The Thing, Star Wars, The Terminator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Planet of the Apes, Let Me In and .
In 2013 CCP Games announced that Dark Horse would be publishing a series of comic books based on stories collected from players of the MMORPG EVE Online.
In 2014, Lucasfilm announced that, as of 2015, future Star Wars comics would be published by Lucasfilm's corporate sibling, Marvel Comics.
Dark Horse EntertainmentDark Horse's production studio arm, Dark Horse Entertainment, produces films and television shows based on Dark Horse Comics. Established by Richardson in 1992, Dark Horse Entertainment set up shop on the lot at Twentieth Century Fox through a first-look deal with Larry Gordon and Largo Entertainment. Dark Horse Entertainment has produced over two dozen films and television projects.
In 2019, Dark Horse Entertainment set up a first-look deal with the streaming company Netflix.
TelevisionThe following are TV projects based on Dark Horse comic books:
- The Mask
- Fat Dog Mendoza
- Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
- The B.P.R.D. Declassified
- The Amazing Screw-On Head
- Dark Matter
- The Umbrella Academy
- Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles
- Briggs Land
- Harrow County
- Sin City
Television shows with graphic novels
- The Legend of Korra
- Dr. Giggles
- The Mask
- Tank Girl
- Barb Wire
- Mystery Men
- G-Men from Hell
- American Splendor
- Alien vs. Predator
- The B.P.R.D. Declassified
- Sin City
- Son of the Mask
- The Amazing Screw-On Head
- 30 Days of Night
- Beasts of Burden
- Emily the Strange
- El Zombo Fantasma
- List of unproduced Dark Horse Comics projects