CCI: Dark Horse Turns 21, Drinks with MySpace

Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson, Marketing Director Jeremy Atkins, "Goon" creator Eric Powell, editer Scott Allie, Sam Humphries of MySpace Comic Books, artist Fábio Moon, and Gabriel Bá gathered in San Diego today at Comic-Con International for a comprehensive look at the indie comics mainstay's past, present and future of their seminal anthology series, "Dark Horse Presents."

"When we started out as a comic retailer, we thought there were different kinds of comics to be done," Richardson said. "First of all, creators could be involved with their own work. We put an anthology together and looked for the type of properties and creators we wanted to work with. We hoped it would sell ten thousand copies, but we sold fifty thousand copies. We found that we had a publishing company."

Richardson detailed the number of landmark creations and talents that got their starts in "Dark Horse Presents," including Paul Chadwick with "Concrete" and Chris Warner with "Black Cross." Richardson believes that Dark Horse is successful because unlike other comics ventures, Dark Horse Comics publishes comics first, and if a property has potential as an intellectual property for use in film, animation or television, that's just a bonus.

Frank Miller's "Sin City" began with "DHP's" fifth anniversary special, which along with his other properties "Give Me Liberty" and "Hard Boiled," prompted other high profile creators to leave Marvel and DC and work on their own projects with total creative freedom and ownership.

"We put the Goon in 'DHP' and that killed it," said Eric Powell, referring to "DHP's" end at issue #150.

"We didn't cancel it, we put it on the shelf to see if we could find a way to make it exciting again," Richardson said.

"It meant a lot to me to have the Goon in the last issue," said Eric Powell. "Even if nothing else happened with the Goon, my name was in 'DHP."

The panel discussed their favorite moments from the history of "DHP," before Jeremy Atkins said that his favorite moment was "right now," at which point the panel announced publicly for the first time the creation of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents."

As first announced on CBR News this morning, the anthology that launched countless comics careers, characters and properties including Dave Johnson, Brandon Petersen, Doug Mahnke, "Aliens vs. Predator," Hellboy and "Sin City" has returned in the form of a free online comic exclusively on MySpace, the world's sixth-largest English-language website.

The new "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" will feature work not just by established creators and properties including Joss Whedon and Ron Marz, "The Umbrella Academy" and "The Goon," but also new work created by talents discovered on MySpace itself.

MySpace has in the last year launched a popular comic books portal called MySpace Comic Books. The project has served to spotlight new talents whose work has been featured on their MySpace profiles, and has also offered fans exclusive first looks at new projects and an unusual access to comics talent including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon, who with MySpace Comic Books and Dark Horse created the "Buffy Essay Contest." Fans were invited to write in 250 words or less how "Buffy" had affected their life, and the winner was depicted in an issue of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8." The winner was selected by Joss Whedon himself, and Whedon shaped the entire story of the winner's issue around their character.

"It's a great way to do the missionary work of taking comic books to the mainstream," Richardson said. "We thought this was a great marriage of the 21st century and comic book storytelling. It was a great way to bring back Dark Horse Presents with great creators, and MySpace is a terrific partner to do this with because they love comics just like we do."

"It's an honor to have Dark Horse Presents on our site," said MySpace's Sam Humphries. "There's nothing more fun than free, so we enjoy doing that."

Every digital issue of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" will feature at least one story created or co-created by someone discovered on MySpace. "Every issue except #1," Scott Allie said, "because, frankly, it didn't make sense to let a newbie in on our biggest secret of the year. We needed to focus on our already trusted partners."

Dark Horse immediately approached Joss Whedon to work on the book, and Whedon found the propspect consuming. Whedon turned in "Sugarshock." Allie didn't want to give to much away about the comic about an insane battle of the bands, but he did say,"It's basically all the wit and banter of a whole episode of 'Buffy' jammed into 8 pages," Allie said.

The book is illustrated by Fábio Moon, who said, "Scott wrote me an e-mail telling me he wanted me to participate in a project, but didn't tell me it was Joss Whedon -- probably so I wouldn't get excited. I started talking to my brother and we thought, who might the writer be? The next day I was sent the script, and it was by Joss Whedon! And it wasn't Buffy! I could design all the characters!

"It's very funny," Moon continued. "Scripts are boring to read but this one was really funny. I hope you enjoy it."

"MySpace Dark Horse Presents" will be updated the first Wednesday of every month, and will eventually include some form of a letter column and other interactive elements. The first issue is online now at myspace.com/darkhorsepresents.

The panel then turned the floor to audience questions. A fan asked about the business aims of the venture. "The first is to expose people to the great creators and comics we do at Dark Horse. The second is the missionary work I mentioned; to bring comics to the mainstream. We have the material, so we look for ways to reach people who don't think of comics when they think about what to do with their reading time."

"Is Ghost ever going to come back?" asked another fan.

"There might be something being talked about it right now," Richardson teased.

A fan then asked Richardson to talk about the early 90s Legend imprint at Dark Horse, which included "Hellboy," "Sin City," and "Madman." "A lot of companies were starting imprints. Many of our top creators decided to get together and start an imprint and that was Legend. It had sort of a blazingly bright beginning and then burned out."

"Legend was great material, some of the best stuff we were publishing at the time," Allie said, explaining that when you get so many creative people together with radically different ideas, they eventually disagree on everything, hence the end of Legend.

In response to a question about the popular Dark Horse omnibus books, the panel announced "Buffy" and "Martha Washington" omnibus collections are in the works.

Richardson went on to explain that the Dark Horse philosophy of variety in the marketplace has proven to be sound. "Ten years ago, the least likely buyer of comics was teenage girls. Now they're some of the biggest buyers of manga in bookstores."

A fan asked whether the "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" comics will be printed. Dark Horse has the rights to do, and if Whedon's "Sugarshock" evolves into a four -issue miniseries, it will eventually be collected. Additionally, "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" invites participation from readers in the form of comments, message boards and other forms of interaction.

"Are you guys looking to do more in the manga lines?" asked a fan. "We're always looking at new manga projects," Allie said, advising fans that Dark Horse will be making more manga announcements tomorrow.

"Does Dark Horse itself have any green practices to offset the impact on the environment?" asked another fan. Richardson indicated that they have published comics on recycled paper, are involved with Earth Day for special publications, and use recycled products in many aspects of their business.

"And we have just launched a book that doesn't use any paper or transportation at all," Atkins remarked.

As to the reprinting of "Satan's *** Baby," Richardson said, "Oh, time's up!"

For more on "MySpace Dark Horse Presents," check out our in-depth interview with Dark Horse's Scott Allie, Randy Stradley and creator Ron Marz.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Indie Comics forum.

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