EXCLUSIVE: Dynamite Joins Dark Horse Digital

The Dark Horse Digital storefront just got a bit wider: Starting today, Dark Horse will offer comics from Dynamite Entertainment via its digital storefront, which includes a web store and iOS and Android apps.

Dark Horse, which is currently offering 50 #1 issues as a free download, is unique among comics publishers in that they have their own digital service; they don't sell their comics via the multi-comic platforms comiXology or iVerse's ComicsPlus (although they do make their books available via e-book platforms such as Kindle). And today they are going in an interesting new direction -- instead of joining someone else's service, they are bringing a new publisher on board their own.

While it may seem a bit odd at first glance to buy Dynamite comics from the Dark Horse store, Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci points out that it's a natural pairing. Both publishers feature a mix of licensed properties and creator-owned work, and many of their comics appeal to similar audiences: Dark Horse has "Star Wars," Dynamite has "Battlestar Galactica"; Dark Horse has "Conan the Barbarian," Dynamite has "Red Sonja."

Unlike Dark Horse, Dynamite does sell digital comics via comiXology and ComicsPlus, and they have their own branded app, which is built on the comiXology platform. CBR spoke to to Barrucci and Dark Horse president and founder Mike Richardson about how they came together and what readers can expect from this new digital crossover.

CBR News: Whose idea was it to put Dynamite comics on the Dark Horse Digital platform?

Mike Richardson: Nick approached me with the idea.

Nick Barrucci: I pitched the idea to Mike originally. What began as a discussion on the possibility of crossover projects or Dark Horse-created collectibles based on the Dynamite properties soon blossomed into a chat about the success of Dark Horse Digital and its newfound audience for Star Wars, Conan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Predator, and the DH manga line. After that conversation, and during our next regular call, I mentioned that our titles so readily complement their titles that it might be a natural fit for Dark Horse Digital to carry Dynamite. I remember suggesting it and thinking, if not saying, "Mike, do you like it or hate the idea?" And here we are.

Mike, why are you opening up Dark Horse Digital to another publisher?

Richardson: I'd like to see us build the broadest reader-base possible and this seems like a great opportunity to increase our reach.

Will the branding be the same, or will you create a separate digital imprint for Dynamite?

Richardson: We will use Dynamite's imprint.

Barrucci: The Dynamite brand will stand on its own. Dark Horse will be a retailer that sells our comics just like any other retailer might sell our products. What consumers will purchase is a Dynamite comic on the Dark Horse platform.

Mike, are you looking for other publishers to partner with you?

Richardson: We shall see about additional companies. Obviously we have always tried to attract comics professionals to our company.

Barrucci: I'll chime in and say a few things here. We've negotiated a period of exclusivity. It is important in this so that we have a competitive advantage in this announcement and as a publisher. And here's the "but": However, both Mike and I have very creator friendly companies. Mike helped champion creator-owned properties hand-in-hand with the development of their licensed and company-owned properties. Dark Horse is one of the first companies to do so and paved the way for others to come, and Dynamite does as well. Dark Horse publishes Frank Miller's "Sin City," Mike Mignola's "Hellboy," Francesco Francavilla's "Black Beetle," and many others including many fantastic series in "Dark Horse Presents" including Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Matt Fraction. They also have strong relationships with some of the most high profile creators in and out of comics. Joss Whedon immediately comes to mind.

And there are many publishers that have either followed their business model or have complimentary models from DC having Vertigo with titles including "Astro City" as one that comes to mind, Marvel having Icon with Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis and more, and of course Image that has with a good mix of creator-owned, and some of the creators employing other creators in work made for hire, including the [Extreme] titles from Rob Liefeld who has Joe Keatinge, Brandon Graham and Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint [with] "Thief of Thieves" as well as others.  It's a great model. And of course we publish creator-owned comics ranging from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's "The Boys" to Eduardo Risso's "Borderline," Howard Chaykin's "American Flagg!" as well as "Power and Glory," George RR Martin's "Game of Thrones," Jim Kuhoric's "Dead Irons," Garth Ennis' "Red Team" and many others.

This is the long way of saying and reaffirming that we both have creator friendly companies and we've encouraged Dark Horse to start speaking with individual creators during the exclusivity period who have creator-owned properties, and creators who have creator-owned books should reach out to Dark Horse.

Will Dark Horse get a percentage of the sales price, as the provider, the way iTunes does?

Richardson: We've worked out a deal fair to both companies.

Barrucci: The  iTunes comparison works perfectly; we will receive a percentage of the sales price. This wouldn't be a brokerage deal or a license; Dark Horse handles the Dynamite products in a retailer capacity, the product purchased at wholesale like any other retailer relationship.

How do you think Dark Horse and Dynamite complement each other?

Richardson: Dynamite has a nice line of titles. Some of them, such as "The Shadow," are personal favorites of mine. As a matter of fact, we've published some of Nick's titles ourselves in the past.

Barrucci: That's what we find so exciting about this prospect! Dark Horse and Dynamite have natural similarities, both in genre and audiences. Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica share the same kind of sci-fi fun and adventure. Dark Horse has Conan the Barbarian, while Dynamite has Red Sonja. They have been home to the Whedonverse properties Buffy and Angel, while we have similar horror and fantasy properties like Vampirella and "Grimm."  Their "Creepy" and "Eerie" archives perfectly complement our "Vampirella" archives.  It's such a natural fit for both of us.

Are you concerned that you will be competing directly with one another?

Richardson: Not at all. Both of us want the widest distribution possible. Hopefully it will bring additional readers to both our companies.

Barrucci: On the digital space, no. There is always some publishing competitiveness, but that's the nature of the industry. However, we see this partnership as an opportunity to build together, to grow the overall audience and complement each other's creative output. Mike has created a platform and drawn an audience that no one else has. Now, that new audience can be exposed to Dynamite, and to a wider selection of titles than before. It's extrapolating on the idea that digital comics can complement print, and therefore benefit the entire market.

Nick, why did you decide to join Dark Horse's digital service?

Barrucci: All the reasons that I've given above. This is mutually beneficial and hopefully continues to expand the comics audience.

Will you continue to make comics available on comiXology and iVerse? What does Dark Horse add?

Barrucci: Oh, we will certainly continue to sell to comiXology and iVerse. They are two very important digital retail partners, just as the Kindle, Nook and iBooks store are.  Dark Horse adds a new audience that we never would have otherwise. No one can get Star Wars or Conan comics except from Dark Horse. There's no other digital outlet for Hellboy, Buffy, Angel, Aliens and Predator. Dark Horse Digital services a truly singular and dedicated audience, and now Dynamite's titles -- from "Red Sonja" to "Vampirella," "Grimm" to "Green Hornet," "The Shadow" to "Battlestar Galactica," and so on -- can all be purchased by the audience that has grown with Dark Horse.

Will your comics on the Dark Horse app be any different from the same comics on other digital services -- different features or DRM?

Barrucci: Our product line across the different apps and platforms will remain comparable.

Which comics will be available at launch? What are your priorities for putting comics on Dark Horse Digital, and is that mix going to be different from comiXology?

Barrucci: The focus will always be day-and-date and our ever-expanding catalog. Dark Horse, comiXology, iVerse and all the other digital retailers will be on equal footing with the comics we supply.

Dynamite Entertainment titles are available via Dark Horse Digital now. Additionally, Dark Horse is offering 50 free #1 issues for a limited time.

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