ICv2 recently caught up with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson. In Part 3, Richardson talks about its Webcomics publishing; whether Kickstarter is going to replace publishers; and plans for 2012, including an update on Frank Miller's projects. In Part 1 of the interview Richardson talked about the current marketplace, the impact of the end of Borders, changes in the manga market, and the last year at Dark Horse. In Part 2, Richardson talked about the company's film projects, including R.I.P.D.; its new motion comics program; its Trolls program; and its digital initiatives.
For a number of years, Dark Horse has been a publisher with content that finds its audience first on the Web. Since MySpace imploded, you've been less involved on the creation side of Webcomics than you had been early on. What's Dark Horse doing now to publicize its comic content by putting it on the Web?
We have some content that will be going up on the Dark Horse site. We've been working on motion comics over the past year, that's where most of our attention has been going. We moved the MySpace Dark Horse Presents into actual print. We made a deluxe package which showcases new talent as well as some of the existing stars and super stars.
Our goal is to take advantage of all the forms of electronic distribution as well as continuing to try to promote our paper product. Dark Horse Presents does as much to bring new talent into view as anything. It gets a lot of attention. Reviewers talk about it constantly, and we've gotten a really good reaction.
The motion comics are another thing that brings people to our site. I mentioned earlier that The Secret is on there. It's going to be exciting on one hand and deflating on the other to see Hellboy and Umbrella Academy blow by The Secret as they get released. This week is Umbrella Academy and I haven't seen what the numbers are, but I'm sure it's huge with Gerard [Way]'s property and his fan base.
The Secret was a small success for Dark Horse—it sold maybe 6,000 copies. Now 50-some thousand people have seen it as a motion comic. It shows the power of the Internet to expand an audience, which is exactly what we're counting on.
Will collecting Webcomics continue to be an important part of Dark Horse's trade paperback program?
Oh, yeah, we're always looking. We have some that we're talking with right now. I've discovered Patrick Alexander from Australia online. He had a Website and he's been appearing somewhat regularly in Dark Horse Presents and has more projects coming for Dark Horse Presents.
Webcomics are definitely a place to find talent. Megatoykyo was a huge success for us. There's other projects that have been here and moved on—Penny Arcade, I think they just found another publisher. That was a great success for us.
Perry Bible Fellowship [was] a huge success for us—a project that one of our editors, David Land, really pushed for and we didn’t know because it was very much outside the type of content we might do. Because Dave pushed we all took a second look and decided "this is really great." And it was a huge success for us as a physical book.
I think one of the things that you find with some of these sites is that they bring their readers with them to the book market.
There was a recent big story out of Kickstarter about raising a million bucks for The Order of the Stick collections. You said Webcomics bring their audience to the book collections. It seems like you have a kind of competitor for some of the functions that Dark Horse provides in that market. Is Kickstarter a new competitor to Dark Horse in publishing comics?
Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think so. There will always be successes like that, but I don't think that everybody who wants to do a book is going to get a million dollars from Kickstarter. Some will; it’s an obvious way of using the Internet to ask people to "hey, donate because I want to publish this."
What you are most excited about in 2012? What are some key initiatives between now and the end of the year?
I'm really excited about our projects with Brian Wood. He's got The Massive coming, which is an amazing book. We have a number of creators coming to Dark Horse with new projects this year. Our schedule looks like a lot of fun. [We have] the new launch of Conan, that Brian's also writing, and we have some new licensing projects coming up, some I can't even talk about yet.
We're really excited about the line-up. I think 2011 was sort of a quiet year for us. We're going to be pretty aggressive this year--you sort of have to because of the perception out there. When we put out 25-30 books and someone else puts out 52 and then they slip narrowly by you in Diamond's market share, there's an impression out there that somehow you’re slipping. But it's just a matter of more pieces in the marketplace and it doesn't take into account the fact that we are incredibly strong in book market. We are easily the third largest traditional comics company in America, and I don’t think that’s always been shown in the Diamond numbers.
There have been some other surprise successes for us, although I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The Massive has been a big success for us and we're very excited about it. The Alice book by American McGee has been a huge success, in fact we've had trouble keeping it in print. We're talking to American McGee about other projects. Like any company, we're very aware of the successes and we want to extend those successes with new product.
Avatar: The Last Airbender did really well in the book market and Legends of Korra is premiering—any comments on the Avatar: The Last Air Bender property?
We're very excited about Avatar. We have plans that I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk about and I don't want to get into trouble. But yes, we definitely have plans for Avatar. It's been a great project for us and we're very excited about it.
One of the things you talked about last year was Xerxes, which came out in Dark Horse Presents. What's the status of that project?
I would say that we're probably closer than we were a year ago. I talked to Frank (Miller) not long ago and he's enthused and there are some of his other creator owned projects with us that he's going to return to, hopefully, in the very near future.
There was another Frank Miller project published in the past year. Were you offered Holy Terror?
Yes, we were. Frank felt that was a book that should be with Bob Schreck [now EIC at Legendary, which published Holy Terror—ed.].
Anything else to you want to share?
We're excited about our upcoming year. Watch our announcements for upcoming titles and creators. I think it's going to be a very exciting year from Dark Horse. It's going to be a fun year. I think comics have rebounded. I hope the trend continues. Marvel's got a lot of exciting stuff coming out with their big project. I'm curious to see how DC does with theirs. I hope they are very successful because that brings people into the comic shops, and then Dark Horse sales go up also.
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