Dark Horse Comics’ panel spotlighing the publisher’s deep roster of creators was a testament to its current output of creator-owned comics, as well as its apparent goal to bring as many people as humanly possible on stage at one time. The panel, subtitled “Creators: An In-Depth Look,” opened with an introduction by Sam Humphries, thewriter of “Our Love Is Real” and the to-be-Dark-Horse published collection of “Sacrifice.”
A showcase for Dark Horse’s creator-owned titles, panelists included Dark Horse founder and publsher Mike Richardson, “Concrete Park” creators Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander, Geof Darrow (“Shaolin Cowboy”), Sanford Greene (“Rotten Apple”), Francesco Francavilla (“The Black Beetle”), Stan Sakai (“Usagi Yojimbo”), Matt Kindt (“Mind Mgmt”) and Eric Powell (“The Goon”).
Humphries kicked the panel off, talking about his days as a young comic collector and growing tired of superhero comics. Ready to swear off comics altogether, he credited two new titles from Dark Horse for keeping him interested in the medium; “Give Me Liberty,” by Dave Gibbons and Frank Miller, and “Hard-Boiled,” by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow.
“It’s because of these two books that I opened myself up to these other books from Europe and Japan,” Humphries said.
The up-and-coming writer then discussed the impact all creator-owned books have. “It points the way for the next generation. Without creator-owned comic books now, we won’t have a viable, compelling and electrifying, colorful industry of tomorrow.”
Throughout the panel, it was stressed that Dark Horse has been focusing on creator-owned books since the publisher’s very beginning, starting with “Dark Horse Presents.” Richardson explained the importance of reviving “DHP” last year, describing it as “the soul of the company.”
The first two Dark Horse creators brought up on stage were Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander of “Concrete Park” — a story featured in recent issues of “Dark Horse Presents.”
Puryear explained that he and Alexander were pitching “Concrete Park” — a concept with “black faces” as leads — to a studio, and were told that audiences wouldn’t be interested because “black people don’t like science fiction…because they don’t see themselves in the future.”
Puryear noted that the absurdity of the statement just further motivated them to create the story. “[‘Concrete Park’] is a story about the future. A story about poor people, a story about people of color on another planet. It’s like Australia in space, where Earth’s poor have been exiled,” Puryear explained, comparing the story’s setting to slum-cities like Rio de Janeiro and Mogadishu. “It’s a tough world, it’s a violent world. It’s a world of scarcity.”
Alexander stressed the importance of blending real-world things with science fiction to ultimately “make something hopeful and beautiful.”
Long-time Dark Horse contributor Geof Darrow was brought up on stage next to talk about the new “Shaolin Cowboy” pulp magazine that he would be contributing illustrations to. The magazine, written by Andrew Vachss, will hit stands before Darrow’s comic relaunches as an ongoing.
Darrow talked about recently working in Japan on a movie for a studio that didn’t “live up to its contractual obligation” before he dryly recounted a probably-false tale about wandering around Japan, joining the Yakuza and cutting off his own finger — and then having it reattached. His final talking point was about his recent illustrations in “Dark Horse Presents,” including one he was especially proud of. “It’s probably the best drawing of a roll of tape you’ve ever seen in a comic.”
Sanford Greene took a seat on stage next to discuss his series, “Rotten Apple.” The short “Rotten Apple” stories in “Dark Horse Presents” will soon be collected, followed by a four-issue miniseries.
Greene’s “Rotten Apple” is about an apocalyptic New York City, where the spiritual world has taken over. The main character is a gatekeeper who travels the world retrieving supernatural relics and artifacts. Greene also talked about the importance of having minority characters in his story.
Francesco Francavilla was up next to talk about his series, “The Black Beetle.” “It’s kind of like a throwback to the old pulp heroes, like The Shadow, The Spider,” he said, teasing that there were will be many twists on the genre and lots of questions to be answered when the series launches.
Stan Sakai took to the stage to a huge applause to talk about his next project, “47 Ronin,” co-written by Richardson. The story is an iconic Japanese folk tale, based on a true story. “To know the ’47 Ronin’ is to know Japan,” Richardson said.
“And I grew up with the story,” Sakai added. “I’m collaborating for the first time, and it’s with some first-time hack writer name Mike Richardson,” Sakai said to laughs from the crowd.
“I’m impressed with the historical research Mike has done,” Sakai continued. “He’s been working on this for 25 years, and there’s so much research accumulated.”Sakai noted Richardson had visited the temple where the actual 47 ronin are actually buried.
“It’s a great story about honor, revenge and loyalty,” said Richardson, saying the closest thing to it in US history is the story of the Alamo.
Sakai wrapped his time by telling the audience he will return to “Usagi Yojimbo” with a six-issue miniseries next year.
Next, Matt Kindt talked about the much-buzzed “Mind Mgmt,” his new ongoing series about spies with mind powers. Kindt said when he developed the idea, he tried to push the concept, making it as crazy as possible. He pitched it to Dark Horse as a 57-issue series because he had only done graphic novels and wanted to do a monthly series.
Eric Powell, creator of “The Goon”, said his series would be revving up its second major story arc as it becomes a monthly title once again. Powell wouldn’t reveal much,teasing, “The best way I can describe it is to take every Johnny Cash song about heartache and revenge and add lots more murder.”
Richardson ended the panel talking about his pitch to bring other creators into the “Dark Horse Presents” fold, especially those who claim to be too busy with other projects.
“I can say, Look, it’s eight pages a month.’ A lot of creators that don’t have time can schedule it in,” Richardson explained. “It’s a great opportunity for creators to produce content that they own.”