CCI: Dark Horse

Dark Horse Comics has a new saying: "You love comics! We love comics, too!" The sincerity of that statement can hardly be questioned after the publisher's presentation at Comic-Con International on Saturday. Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, along with Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie and Director of Publicity Jeremy Atkins, hosted a bevy of rotating guests including Gerard Way ("The Umbrella Academy"), Eric Powell ("The Goon") and Jim Shooter (the Gold Key line).

"We're approaching our 25th anniversary, but we still think of ourselves as the new guys," Richardson told the audience, saying that this approach is what keeps Dark Horse fresh and exciting. Following the statement, he began a slideshow presentation to publicize a whole host of new projects from the company.

Up first was the announcement of Dark Horse's partnership with Challenge Games. The two companies will unite to produce online trading cards of Dark Horse characters. Richardson also said that fans can go online to www.baseballboss.com/darkhorse to play virtual baseball games with 19 different Dark Horse characters, including the Goon and members of the "Umbrella Academy" cast.

Gerard Way announced "Hotel Oblivion," the third "Umbrella Academy" series. "I'm more excited about 'Hotel Oblivion' than any of the [other volumes] so far," he said. "My goal is to have the least amount of Umbrella Academy in this one without you getting too disinterested. And we managed to change the logo again - as long as we can do that, we'll keep making new series!"

Way also announced "The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys," or "Killjoys" for short. The new series is co-written by Way and Shaun Simons with art from Becky Cloonan. "It's a mature readers title, which I'm kind of excited to do," he said, describing the series as an homage to comics of the 1990s. The book is said to be a far departure from "Umbrella Academy" with no superheroes in sight.

Richardson reminded the crowd that acclaimed author Janet Evanovich would bring her "Alexandra Barnaby" novels to Dark Horse for their first comic book incarnations. In a taped message, Evanovich described how excited she was to become a part of the comic book industry. She also stated for the record, "If I was at Comic-Con right now, I'd be dressed up as Boba Fett or Little LuLu."

Next, Richardson announced that "Jet Scott," an early creation of legendary "Batman" artist Jerry Robinson, will come out through Dark Horse. The publisher plans to release two graphic novel volumes of "Scott" in early 2010. "It's some of Jerry's greatest work and it has not been seen in 50-something years," he said.

Expanding Dark Horse's already plentiful roster of licensed properties, Richardson said the video game "Mass Effect" would receive the comic book treatment. "It's our next Star Wars, our Aliens, our Predator," said Scott Allie. "It's our next big license."

"This is a great opportunity for us to explore facets of the game that we weren't able to do yet," said Mac Walters, one of the writers of the "Mass Effect" games who will also co-write the comic book. "[Dark Horse] is very keen on maintaining the vision of 'Mass Effect' but bringing their own talent." Walters also said that the story of the series focuses on a moment shortly after the beginning of "Mass Effect 2."

It was announced that Mike Mignola's novel "Baltimore (Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire)" will be adapted as a comic book. Mignola and his co-writer Christopher Golden plan to write the series together with Ben Stenbeck illustrating. The book is looking to launch in 2010.

Several new Joss Whedon projects are in the works, including an adaptation of "The Cabin in the Woods," based on the film from Whedon and frequent collaborator Drew Goddard, who also wrote "Cloverfield." The comic book launches after the movie's release because, like "Cloverfield," fans should know "almost nothing about the movie before it comes out."

Also on the docket are new "Dr. Horrible" comic books. While "Horrible" comics have existed via "MySpace Dark Horse Presents," the franchise will see its very own one-shot in the fall. Additionally, "Dr. Horrible" actress Felicia Day will write a comic book version of her web series "The Guild" for Dark Horse.

The final news on the Whedonverse front is that comedian and comics writer Patton Oswalt is working on a "Serenity" comic book about Hoban "Wash" Washburn.

Eric Powell came up to the panel to briefly discuss his crossover event "The Goon Vs. Dethklok." "I love 'Metalocalypse.' For a long time I wanted to do a crossover that deconstructed a crossover and made absolutely no sense, and I did it," Powell proclaimed. "You can all thank me now because I believe Dark Horse is going to be doing a series of 'Dethklok' comics." Indeed, Dark Horse will produce a "Metalocalypse" series in conjunction with creator Brendan Small and designer Jon Schnepp.

Dark Horse has plenty of manga projects in the works as well, including the release of "Chobits" in the spring of 2010. It'll come in the form of two large omnibus editions, which covers roughly eight volumes and clocks in at 800 pages per omnibus.

Richardson called upon Keith Goldberg and Chris Dunn of Dark Horse Entertainment, the studio responsible for Dark Horse's film projects. They confirmed plans for "Umbrella Academy" and "Fear Agent" movies. There's also an adaptation of "Corpse Delivery Service" in the works, based on the popular manga series. Richardson added that a movie version of "Criminal Macabre" from Steve Niles seems to be picking up steam.

The next guest came with a guest of his own. Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley appeared with a scantily clad Slave Leia on his arm. As Leia tenderly stroked his torso, Stradley announced that there would be Star Wars comic books heading to the iPhone, launching as early as this week. Some of the initial comics include a full-length "Clone Wars" graphic novel called "Shipyards of Doom," and the Scott Allie-penned "Betrayal" which centers on Boba Fett and Darth Vader. Dark Horse will follow up with various titles in the near future.

"Who knew that something you carried around in your pocket could be the gateway to such great adventure," Stradley said. "Now there's an app for that."

He paused and looked at the still-stroking Leia, then turned towards the audience. "But there's not an app for this."

"Randy really gets to have fun with Star Wars, as you can see," Richardson laughed.

The final announcement was the return of a paper version of "Dark Horse Presents." Many new projects will premiere through that medium, including Classic Media characters Doctor Solar, Magnus: Robot Fighter, Turok and Mighty Samson. "We're going to start from scratch and reinvent them," Richardson said, meaning that continuity from Valiant and other publishers would be wiped clean - but Dark Horse has tapped former Valiant publisher Jim Shooter to oversee the line.0

"I have a long history with these characters," Shooter told the audience. "I'm gonna give it my best shot. I hope it works out well, and with Mike's help, all things are possible."

"Dark Horse has done more formats of any publishers of any kind in the history of the world," Richardson said after the announcements were concluded. "We really do love what we do and we care about every single book."

The panel was then turned over towards the audience for questions.

Asked what was coming up in the "Star Wars: Legacy" series, Stradley said that he had to remain somewhat tight-lipped. There will be a few stand-alone issues that reveal why there haven't been more Mandalorians in the "Legacy" era. There is also an assassination attempt on an admiral that puts the Jedi and the Galactic Alliance in line together. "It's going to be the start of a whole new movement in 'Legacy,'" he said.

Regarding "Buffy," Joss Whedon is writing issue #31 and Brad Meltzer writes issue #32. The current story-arc penned by Jane Espenson ends with "something that'll have Buffy fans freaking out and really angry," according to Allie. Whedon will also write a one-shot in December focusing on Willow. The basic framework for a ninth season of "Buffy" has been outlined, and Allie said that he knows how season eight ends.

Powell gave an update on the status of "The Goon" movie. "I'm working on the script and working really closely with everyone at Dark Horse Entertianment," he said. "It's been a great experience so far. I know there's a lot of horror stories about people optioning stuff and it going badly." He added that the film will be an adult CGI movie, but "not pornographic adult."

The last question focused on "Star Wars: Legacy" writer John Ostrander's current battle with glaucoma and whether or not Dark Horse would produce a charity comic book to benefit his health. "We've been involved in more private things to help John," said Allie.

"John's been a good friend to Dark Horse over the years," Richardson added. "We'd love to help out."

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