EXCLUSIVE: Dark Horse Publisher Richardson Talks Universal Deal

With the release of "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" less than four months away, the two companies bringing the supernatural sequel to the big screen have signed a three-year deal to see if they can't bring more monster hits to the big screen.

Universal Pictures and Dark Horse Entertainment – the publisher of "Hellboy" comics – have inked a production and distribution agreement that establishes a studio home for all of Dark Horse's creative properties going forward.

The agreement was jointly announced Friday by Marc Shmuger and David Linde, Chairman and Co-Chairman of Universal Pictures and Mike Richardson, founder and President of Dark Horse.


In an exclusive interview, Richardson told CBR News that the news is very exciting and that the deal has been in the works since last summer.

"It's a big step for our entertainment company," said Richardson, who launched Dark Horse Comics in 1986, by investing profits from his chain of Portland, Oregon-based comic bookstores.

"Last summer, I started thinking about opportunities that would be available to us as far as an entertainment company. And we wanted a home for distribution of our films.

"I talked to [Hollywood super agent] Ari Emanuel, who asked me where I wanted to go and I obviously said Universal since we had such a great experience with 'Hellboy II.'


"It was always my first choice to go to Universal. We have a lot of relationships there and know the people and they get what we do so that was my first choice so we were able to make the deal."

Asked which of Dark Horse's creator-owned properties may be in line for film adaptations, Richardson held his cards close to chest.

When offered Gerard Way' s popular "Umbrella Academy" series as an option, Richardson answered, "'Umbrella Academy' will obviously be high on the radar of the early projects but again, we've just completed the deal and now we are preparing the first projects.

"We will sit down with the studio and see where we go from here."He continued, "Dark Horse is probably at least near the top, if not at the top, since 1986, in the publication of creator-owned material. We publish a lot of creator-owned material every month. So there are continually new projects coming in the door."


Dark Horse Entertainment already has a long history as a multimedia conglomerate as the publisher has produced roughly 25 films and television projects in the past 15 years, including hits like "The Mask," "Timecop," "Mystery Men" and the original "Hellboy."

"Most people aren't aware of that because we haven't really hired a PR firm to shove that news out," explained Richardson. "We've been very successful. Not only that but we have around 10 projects in serious development right now. With the staff we have, we've actually done very well but we have offers on a lot of the properties that we just haven't been able to move forward yet. So we are looking to expand. It seemed that a relationship with a studio for a distribution deal was a good thing for us. We are going to be bringing financing to the studio on a group of projects and others will be done in the more traditional way."

Richardson, already a firm believer in the strength of his golden army of creators, said the deal with Universal may bring even more top-flight talent into the fold.

"I think the type of deal we have will make us more attractive to some people, who are looking to find a home for their properties. And this deal is also going to give us a higher profile in the industry," said Richardson. "I think there's no doubt about that. We already have a great deal of content. And we have a lot of great projects that are already appropriate for film. We've basically never slowed down since the day we started Dark Horse Entertainment. As I say, most people probably don't realize how prolific we have been."

Richardson said the deal has little or no affect on "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

"What does something for 'Hellboy II' is the fact that it is a terrific movie," said Richardson. "We have a brilliant director who is at the peak of his career right now and he's brilliant and the movie's brilliant and I think people are going to be shocked because as much as we liked 'Hellboy' and as much as I liked 'Hellboy,' this movie is much larger in scope and goes well beyond anything that the first movie attempted.

"We had certain issues that we had to take care of in the first 'Hellboy' movie, such as introducing Hellboy and creating a sympathetic cast of characters and the world they inhabit.

"In this movie, that's all out of the way and we can jump right into things. Not only that we have a much larger budget with this film so it's a whole different movie, a whole different scope. It's a big epic movie and if you haven't seen the trailer, you ought to take a look because it's pretty amazing."

Richardson has big plans for the "Hellboy" movie franchise, but the mighty dollar will have the final say.

"We would hope, of course [that there are more sequels]. 'Hellboy' is a franchise, so obviously we'd like to keep it going," said Richardson. "Obviously the film's performance is going to have a lot to say about whether or not there is going to be future 'Hellboy' films. But from all indications, this movie is going to do very well."

Attempting one last time for a tease of what comic property may be next in line for a Universal film, CBR News prodded Richardson with Rick Remender's "End League."

To which Richardson responded, "There are a lot of projects that we would like to see and some are already at other studios. But a lot of them, for whatever reason, we haven't had the chance to set up yet.

"What we do know is who the fans want when we do films and when we do comics," said Richardson. "I guess you would say that we have our finger on the pulse of pop culture, and entertainment culture."

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