ICv2 recently spoke with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson to talk about comics and graphic novels, the economy, comics on the Web, creators rights, Clamp, the Dark Horse Emmy, and more. 


In Part Three, we talk about the impact of illegal filesharing on comic sales; the role of social networking sites; Dark Horse’s Clamp project in 2009; and the role of anthologies. 


In Part Four, we discuss the Dark Horse Emmy, and its film and TV projects; Richardson also hints at a big announcement coming soon.


In Part One, we talk about the state of the graphic novel market; the future of the pamphlet; trends within the shojo market; and potential for attracting shojo fans to other material.


In Part Two, we talk about the different impacts of the economy on comics and graphic novels; Richardson’s take on the recently revived creator rights topic; and his thoughts on comics and the Web. 


We’ve had retailers tell us that illegal scans of comics are starting to affect sales, especially with manga, because there’s such a long lag time between releasing in Japan and the States.  And new American periodicals are often available on these illegal file sharing sites the day after release.  What’s your feel on the potential impact of that trend on the sales of printed goods?

It’s not good.  Individual creators or companies own that work and when that work goes online for free, somebody takes it and uses without permission.  They’re stealing.  I guess I’m very old fashioned about that.  That’s how people make their living, and I don’t think someone has the right to take that away from the person who created it.  We watch for those sites; we close them down.  If we choose to put something up for free, which we do, we work with a creator or a company we license from and make arrangements to put that up.


We don’t think anyone has the right to make that choice for us.  If it’s copyrighted and trademarked material, it’s illegal.  We look for those sites and if we find them we persuade them to take our material off.


Dark Horse has been using social networks, specifically MySpace, to promote comics.  What’s your feel about the role of social networks as a way to reach fans?

I think it’s huge and important.  We were on the Internet at the very beginning, maybe faster than most, and we’ve always seen a huge advantage of being there in a big way.  MySpace, which I guess boasts 22 million viewers a month, is a pretty good way to get comics out there; to bring new people to comics and to show a lot of the characters, writers, and books that we have--give a glimpse of those to readers and maybe bring some people into the marketplace.  The audience is huge; the interaction is huge.  People talk about the books. It’s a community, and we like to be in that community.


What are you most excited about that’s coming from Dark Horse in 2009?

There’s a lot of things.  Right now we’re really focused on bringing Clamp to America in a new way.  We’re very excited about our relationship with them.  When you talk about how to reach new readers, or keep readers in the marketplace--particularly female readers--you try to look for properties and talent that could help keep them interested.  Clamp is huge; Clamp is responsible for some of the biggest manga and anime titles of all time.  They’re very huge, and it’s a huge event for our company.


We’ve come up with a program that is very different from what’s out there, and I think is perfect for these economic times and more closely mirrors how material is released in Japan.  Not to mention the fact that we’re releasing it worldwide, which has never been done.  Usually the material comes out and then it’s licensed country by country.  There are a lot of exciting parts to this, and we’re very excited to be working with them.


You talked about mirroring the way material comes out in JapanThe periodical business there is very healthy, but it’s very different than it is in the States because it uses anthology titles for the most part.  What are your thoughts about the role of the anthology in the U.S.?

We built our company on an anthology; Dark Horse Presents, which ran 155 issues in 15 years, I think.  I personally like the format very much.  We’ve talked about different ways to bring it back.  We put out anthologies from time to time.  We did our hardcover series, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and The Dark Horse Book of Ghosts, those types of things.  We plan to do more in the future.


It’s not something that we’re afraid to do.  We look for ways to do it, and I’d love to get Dark Horse Presents going again.  Right now we’re doing it electronically; we’re doing it on the MySpace site with the revival of Dark Horse Presents, which is very much like the original comic.


Click here for Part Four.