Dark Horse Comics brought out its biggest creators to “Take Over the World” at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Publicist Aub Driver moderated a panel featuring Dark Horse founder and president Mike Richardson, “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola, “Fight Club 2” writer Chuck Palahniuk, “The Goon” creator Eric Powell, “Black Hammer” writer Jeff Lemire, and “Mind MGMT” creator Matt Kindt. The panelists provided an overview of the range of books Dark Horse publishes, gave previews of what’s coming up in their various series, and looked back on their starts at the company.
“Fight Club 2” is a sequel to Palahniuk’s original novel, the author said, not necessarily the continuity of the 1999 film. A Free Comic Book Day prelude recapped the ending of the novel and prepared readers for the comics. In explaining the premise of the sequel, Palahniuk said, “We have to figure out how this man has lived his life for the past 10 years with such a psychotic break.” The narrator has been heavily medicated and fallen into a boring day-to-day, so the plot is catalyzed by his wife, Marla. “She has been titrating his medications so she can have an affair with Tyler, and that’s how it all falls apart.”
“We’re kind of wrapping the whole Goon storyline up,” Powell said of his Eisner-winning series. The fourth issue of the current arc, “Once Upon a Hard Time,” will lead into “a whole different direction for that universe.” Powell explained that by concluding the current storyline, he’s paving the way for new plotlines. “This story gives you closure to the idea that we put across that this town that the Goon has been enforcing in is cursed, and there’s a lot of surprises. Some characters are going to die — some characters that were in the very first issue are going to die.”
Artist Stephanie Buscema is joining Powell for the next “Chimichanga” book. He called her art style a perfect fit, and said he’s glad to have a collaborator on the book. “I always wanted to do more ‘Chimichanga,’ but the problem is that I do almost everything myself, so there’s not a lot of time to do other side projects.”
Richardson was reluctant to discuss his own projects, saying, “I thought I was here to praise all of these people, all these terrific creators, but I do write some secret graphic novels every now and then.” In addition to the ongoing series “Father’s Day,” Richardson wrote “Return of the Gremlins,” based on a partially developed idea by Roald Dahl and Walt Disney. “Gremlins were not an actual folk tale; they were a story told by a British Royal Air Force pilots during the Second World War. They came up with these tales as excuses for their own mistakes,” he explained. Dahl wrote the stories after injury forced him to stop piloting planes, then developed the idea with Walt Disney. The Dark Horse book is a continuation of that premise.
Kindt recently brought his back catalogue to Dark Horse, including collected editions of “Pistol Whip” and “2 Sisters,” both in full-color for black and white. About the ending of “Mind MGMT,” Kindt said, “I’m not happy it’s over, but I’m relieved that I finished it.” He joked that he had been driving very carefully until he finished the last issue, saying, “Now it’s done, and if I died, it would still be published.”
While “Mind MGMT” is wrapping up, Kindt has started a new series with artist Skott Kolins, “Past Aways,” about time travelers from the future who are stuck in the 21st Century. “It’s looking at our modern day life from the point of view of someone who is 10,000 years removed, and how alien that is to them. It’s goofy, and it’s weird, and there’s crazy monsters.” Kindt also has another new series, launching in winter of 2016: “Dept. H.” He characterized it as “A locked room murder mystery in the deepest part of the ocean.” “I’m trying to do something a little more straightforward, a little more action packed, a little less work for readers than ‘Mind MGMT.'”
Lemire called his upcoming series, “Black Hammer,” “the perfect synthesis of my indie and my mainstream superhero stuff.” The project, about a group of superheroes that disappear from their comic book continuity world and wake up trapped in a small town, has been delayed because of artist Dean Ormston’s health problems. However, Lemire said Ormston has recovered and is back to work on the project.
Mignola was happy to discuss the next two issues of “Hellboy in Hell,” coming out in August and September. “Amazingly enough, I have been working on the series all this time,” he reassured fans who may have been concerned by the delay. Also coming out in September is “The Hellboy 100 Project,” which Mignola described as “a zillion people drew Hellboy covers, and it was collected.”
Palahniuk spoke about how writing for comics has been different from writing prose, or working on a movie. “Every medium has its strengths,” he said, “and if you’ve seen the first issue you know that dying children play a big part in ‘Fight Club’ and you cannot describe a dying child with comic sympathetic pathos in strictly words. And you certainly could not make an army of dying children literal enough to film it for a movie. Not without getting shut down by everybody. I, however, am blessed with the fact that I don’t love children, especially other people’s children. So with comics, I can make these dark, completely consensual, things. I can depict them without being wrapped up in the drama that’s inherent in these things.” Though his stories go to dark places, he said, “The fact that the characters don’t buy into their own tragedy makes them empowered, and makes them funny.” He said that he has enjoyed that comics, “let me get away with doing things that movies could never ever do.”
Powell and Richardson reminisced about the first “Goon” story published by Dark Horse, in an issue of “Dark Horse Presents.” “We saw the book, and we had to do it,” said Richardson. Powell joked, “Clearly desperate for material, Dark Horse sunk to a new low.”
Richardson also reflected on the start of “Hellboy” at Dark Horse. “As I remember, Mike walked up to me one day and said, ‘I have an idea, but you’re not going to want to do it. It’s called ‘Hellboy.”” Mignola protested, claiming that he remembered it differently.
Mignola and Powell also talked about collaborating with other creators, with the former saying that other artists greatly expanded the possibilities of his world. “Hellboy would have never gotten into a car, and never had a girlfriend if I was drawing those issues.”
“I like collaborating with other people because you do this work in isolation, Powell said. “But it’s harder for me to write something funny for someone else to draw, because I’m visualizing the joke, whereas you have to really put more thought into explaining it to someone and hoping they get the timing of it right in the panels.”
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