WonderCon: Dark Horse Announces New Webcomic Collections

Dark Horse Comics first delved into the world of webcomics with their "Megatokyo" collections several years ago, then last year they added "Penny Arcade" and "The Perry Bible Fellowship" to their publishing lineup. At Wondercon in San Francisco this weekend, Dark Horse revealed several more webcomics that will join their lineup - "The K Chronicles," "Wondermark" and "Achewood" all have collections in the works with the publisher.

Dark Horse editor Dave Land told CBR News the decision on which Web comics to approach for this initiative was mostly based on the tastes of the individual editors at the publisher. "If an editor sees a strip they like, then they champion it and try to get Mike Richardson to agree it's worthy of publication," Land told CBR News. "The whole thing probably started back with 'Megatokyo' which was a book that Tim Ervin edited. When looking at the success of that book, we were probably thinking that it was its manga-based appeal that helped it sell so well. A bit later assistant editor Mike Carriglitto brought 'Penny Arcade' to the table and that took off and has been a huge success. It was with 'Penny Arcade' that we really started to notice that web based comics could be successful in the comics and bookstore markets. As for PBF I'd enjoyed Nick's work for quite some time. I first discovered it in the Portland Mercury and then found the backlog of strips online. But even given the success of Penny Arcade, PBF wasn't a slam dunk. It took a while to convince everyone here that it was a good idea to publish a PBF collection."

Of course, the relationships with "Megatokyo," "Penny Arcade" and the wildly successful "PBF" has helped pave the way for more deals. "I think 'Megatokyo' and 'Penny Arcade' definitely started the road, but it was 'PBF' that laid down the pavement and painted on the lines. Things did become a lot easier in regards to getting web-based books approved once 'PBF' performed to the level it did."

The question a lot of webcomic readers may ask is why go with Dark Horse instead of self publishing? "Achewood," for example, already has a rather large back catalog of collections in print available in the "Achewood" web store right now, one of which was named Time's Graphic Novel of the Year for 2007. Creator Chris Onstad says that this is all part of the plan.

"I've been self-publishing my collections for five years, always with the goal of getting 'Achewood' picked up by a proper publishing house," Onstad told CBR News. "I currently only distribute through my website, which has been good enough to scrape by, but this opportunity to get the work in front of more people via a powerhouse as respected as Dark Horse is a real boon."

Onstad said Dark Horse's track record of success publishing printed versions of Web based comics and their high production standards is what made him choose the publisher. "Their physical product meets absolutely gorgeous production standards, their staff are world-class, and all distributors know that they deliver," said Onstad. "If I can bring the goods to them, they can polish, package, and deliver the work better than anyone. With Dark Horse, we are breaking into a greater orbit."

Onstad isn't alone; as of right now Dark Horse has a number of webcomic books in the works, according to Land, including a second "Perry Bible Fellowship" collection.

"The 'Achewood' book will collect 'The Great Outdoor Fight' story-line with large sections of never-before seen material. That's on-sale in September," said Land. "'The Wondermark' collection is titled 'Beards of our Forefathers,' on sale this June and will contain a selection of strips as well as amazing extras from creator David Malki.

"We're also doing a collection of the 'Basic Instructions' strips by Scott Meyer titled 'Help Is On The Way,'" continued Land. "That's a collection of very funny strips giving bad advice on what to do in various situations. It will be on-sale in August. Then there's 'Nothing Nice to Say' which is a collection of punk rock inspired strips which will be on sale in September.

"And lastly, there's another 'Perry Bible Fellowship' book which we're hoping to have out in September. That's going to be called 'The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanac' and will be a collection of pretty much all the 'PBF' material that's been produced to date."

And that's not all. Dark Horse has their eye on expanding this internet/print relationship further. "We're always on the lookout and would love to help bring other webcomics to print." said Land.

Onstad concurs. "The GOF is our first project together," said Onstad. "It is my sincere hope that we launch many more projects together once this project has proven successful. The great thing about this relationship is that once the GOF catches on, we have nearly 1,300 more pages of comics to publish, as well as over 1,000 pages of blogs by our characters, oversized color material, cookbooks, novellas, etc. We have a huge back catalogue, and new material is generated every day. "

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