Dark Horse Comics has announced the formation of two new imprints, M Press and DH Press.  The new imprints will serve as vehicles for the launching of prose works rather than graphic novels.  M Press, the more literary of the new ventures, will include both fiction and non-fiction titles. Its first release, Shanghai Diary, is a remarkable story of the survival of a Jewish family trapped in the Far East during World War II. 


On the other hand DH Press will focus on genre fiction and pop culture material, including novelizations of popular manga titles and original military science fiction.  While Diamond Book Distributors will continue to distribute Dark Horse's best-selling line of manga and traditional graphic novels to bookstores, PGW (Publishers Group West) will distribute both M Press and DH Press titles to the bookstore market (Diamond Comic Distributors will continue to distribute all Dark Horse imprints to comic shops).


Shanghai Diary is the story of an 11-year-old Jewish girl, Ursula Bacon, whose family flees the holocaust in Europe in 1939 by traveling to one of the few ports open to them -- Japanese-controlled Shanghai.  Amid the city's teeming, overcrowded slums filled with prostitutes, drug dealers, and swarms of rats, Ursula comes of age as she watches her best friend die from fever, befriends a Buddhist monk, and aids in the rescue of an American airman. 


M Press plans to release a 272-page hardcover edition of Shanghai Diary ($24.95) in September backed by a major marketing campaign ($40,000), major national review attention, and radio and TV interviews.  Clancy Sigal (Frida) is writing the screenplay for Shanghai Diary, which is currently in development as a major motion picture.


The first DH Press release is Don Bluth's The Art of the Storyboard, which arrives in October and details the technical and artistic process involved in crafting storyboards for animated films.  The $14.95 trade paperback edition of the The Art of the Storyboard is just the first in a series of animation books written by the animator of The Secret of N.I.M.H. and An American Tale. 


The second DH Press release, which arrives in November, is Kong: King of Skull Mountain, a fully authorized, lavishly illustrated new novel that functions as both a sequel and prequel to the classic King Kong movie.  Science fiction writer Brad Strickland chronicles the further adventures of the great Kong, while fantasy artist Joe DeVito provides lots of illustrations.  With Peter Jackson's new version of King Kong set for a summer 2005 release, interest in this property should build throughout the fourth quarter of 2004.


Of course Dark Horse has published both prose works (Between the Panels) and art books (Bettie Page: Queen of Hearts) before -- and DH Press continues the tradition in December with the release of Pin-Up: The Illegitimate Art, a lavishly illustrated first person account by James Silke of his life as a pin-up artist.  This 9' x 12' full color trade paperback includes over 100 new pin-up images.