Dark Horse Comics has always been one of the major pioneers in the DIY mentality. It is this refreshing indie attitude in the hands of a world renown publisher that has always drawn me to them. Dark Horse Comics proves at every turn that you never have to give in, you can do your own thing and be loved for doing it.
Every year Dark Horse Comics seeks out and brings in fresh creative talent with ideas and concepts, both written and artistic, that the average publisher would overlook. However, not Dark Horse Comics. At Dark Horse Comics they see a creator and creation for what it is, what it can be, and have a genuine desire to help make this manifest. There is no greater testament to Dark Horse Comics than it’s creators and that’s what their “Powered By Creators” panels are of course all about.
The panel kicked off with Jeremy Atkins, Dark Horse’s Director of Media and Public Relations giving a warming speech introducing the man he felt was the best man to introduce company founder and president Mike Richardson. This man was none other than fellow indie mind and soon to be Dark Horse published Sam Humphries.
Humphries delivered his own warming speech on how he had been considering quitting comics all together until being brought into the Dark Horse fold and discovering there was a place where creative content could thrive in our industry and that place was at Dark Horse Comics, under Mike Richardson.
If you’ve ever seen Mike Richardson speak publicly you can see how his passion and delight for his work and the creators he works with simply bubbles up into every bright-eyed creator introduction and topical speech. A truly larger than life figure he exudes a warmness that is contagious to all those around him and makes him a genuine delight to be around and it was obvious all the various creators new and old brought on stage by him enjoy working with him as much as he clearly does them.
I’ve been to quite a few of Dark Horse’s “Powered By Creators” panels at various conventions, but this one easily had the biggest creator count of any I’d ever attended. Richardson even joked that it was their goal to see how many creators they could fit on it.
The first creators he brought up were Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear. You may have noticed that flower in Erika’s hair making its way around the Dark Horse Comics Booth this year on jackets and hair pin-ups. Just one more example of how working at Dark Horse is like working for a family, and Erika and Tony have very good reason for being proud to join the Dark Horse family.
Their comic Concrete Park, which a good friend of mine has referred to as arguably one of the best reviewed pieces in Dark Horse Presents, was originally pitched for screen. However Puryear and Alexander were thrown by the studio’s immediate response.
“Black people don’t like science fiction.”
It was at this point a certain image of “CAN YOU DIG IT?!” went through my head as I gaped open mouthed at Puryear and Alexander and wondered what planet that person had been living on for the past fifty plus years because it sure wasn’t earth.
Maybe it’s just because I grew up mostly in the 90’s but I seriously can’t imagine a sci-fi film without at least one, if not the main character being of African descent. To say something like that is not only racist to the point of stupidity, it’s just plain wrong on a pure and obvious factual level. I mean Independence Day and The Fifth Element are easily two of the best sci-fi films of all time, I had just co-interviewed LeVar Burton that past week, and I shouldn’t even need to point out Billy Dee Williams’ contribution to the industry. Of course, anyone stupid enough to suggest this to the two creators pitching it who are both themselves of African-American decent clearly isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree.
I was genuinely disgusted and outraged as sci-fi is arguably my favorite genre. I may write horror to deal with the darkness of the world, but sci-fi exists to deal with the light. To show humanity how we could be, such a genre has always been the most open minded in existence and has no time for such baffling back-assed stupidity.
However, Mike Richardson and Dark Horse do not see such petty things as race when looking at a series. Like myself, most of you, and Erika Alexander and Tony Puryear they only see good characters, good story, and good art, and Concrete Park clearly has all three. Set in a world trying to recreate itself, it perfectly captures the themes of science fiction mentioned above, and I look forward to watching the new world Alexander and Puryear are bringing to life grow.
I had a chance to connect again with Erika and Tony at TR!CK2TER where Puryear was invited to be on their “World Building” symposium, I will have more about this discussion in my TR!CK2TER piece this August.
Society doesn’t just toss things out because they’re misguided on issues of race, however. When Mike brought his good friend Geof Darrow up on stage he told us how Mike had asked to see his art but he’d warned him it wasn’t very good. Obviously Richardson disagreed. One of the things I love most about Dark Horse is that in an industry where cookie-cutter art reigns supreme, they seek avidly after the original and the results are beautiful.
Geof and Mike showcased some of Darrow’s contributions to The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine TPB, Geof challenged Mike to a game of basketball and commented on all the royal head gear in the audience from my own tiara to an array of cosplay and BK crowns. Then he had to dash, and was echoed out by applause from the audience. Very funny guy.
Next up came Sanford Greene and his exciting new Dark Horse title Rotten Apple. Amazing art, complete with the awesome concept of a kick-ass female lead in the remains of the “Big Apple” it is right up my alley and I can’t wait to add it to my monthly subscriptions. Expect my reviews on this one in the future, for sure.
In order to “court” the already well known Greene, Richardson took him out to a nice fancy “steak dinner” and laid some psychology on him. First Richardson asked him “who drew Spider-Man?” Obviously Sanford had to think as this gets passed around a bit. Next Mike asked him “who drew Batman?” Again, Greene had to think on it for a spell before answering. So finally Mike asks him “who drew Hellboy?” and Greene saw exactly where he was going with this. Well played Mr. Richardson, well played, and of course 100% correct.
Like with Sanford Greene, Mike also had “courted” my good friend and national Japanese-American hero, Stan Sakai, back in the day with the same philosophy. Sadly not over a steak dinner we were informed jokingly.
It is no secret that Stan Sakai is an amazing artist, and I did not use the words national Japanese-American hero lightly. Stan has been honored on many different occasions and as such I can think of no better creator worldwide to team up with Mike Richardson himself on actualizing Richardson’s dream of 47 Ronin.
A well-known heroic tale close to my cousin Matt and I’s own hearts, it is one of the staples of Japanese heritage and Mike Richardson has felt passionate about it for his entire life. Stan was surprised to discover at Mike’s house there were even more books, films, and items dedicated to it than in his own. Knowledgeable and traveled for seasons on the history of the tale, Richardson is sure to do it justice and Matt and I can’t wait to see what Stan and Mike will bring to life from one of our favorite cultures.
When Matt Kindt brought MIND MGMT to Dark Horse Comics he was actually afraid it would be too weird. Mike Richardson had no such worries however, and as he later joked this was because he was already working with guys like Eric Powell, creator of course of The Goon.
While being extremely odd both MIND MGMT and The Goon have done incredibly well, proving of course like Dark Horse itself, all of us Dark Horse readers prefer things to be a little weird. Each also deals with exceptional themes in their own original ways are the exact sort of content that makes a publisher like Dark Horse Comics so very special.
Also brought onto the panel was my dear friend Francesco Francavilla to discuss his wonderful plans for Black Beetle. Previously unveiled at Emerald City alongside Michael Oeming’s VICTORIES it is a Super Hero project that has been near and dear to his heart for some time and promises to be wonderful.
You can also find out more about 47 Ronin and other great titles in the rest of that hilarious and warm ECCC “Powered By Creators” panel.
The subject of Digital Distribution was brought up during the Q&A and Mike Richardson responded that contrary to popular belief they had discovered that comics sales were in fact going up for Dark Horse titles post-digital. He explains that if you account for all the mobile devices now found in the world, and then assume that say only 10% of those holders are downloading comics, that is still a massive amount of comics downloaded worldwide. When asked how they felt about digital distribution as an artist Eric Powell replied that as an independent creator, anyway you can get your art out there is a positive, he then turned the question to the rest of the panel who confirmed that they agreed.
If you would like to find out more on each of these exciting titles and creators, or more about Dark Horse content as a whole you need look no further than Dark Horse Presents. I don’t think there’s a creator, crew member, or fan of Dark Horse that isn’t excited to have this completely unique and creative anthology in publication and it shows. – N