In the early days, 80s.
Mike Richardson opened his first comic store in 1980 and not only grew that into the Things from Another World chain but also founded Dark Horse Comics and Dark Horse Entertainment.  Dark Horse Comics grew out of Richardson’s desire to offer creators ownership of their work, as opposed to the work-for-hire system that was the industry norm up till then.  Similarly, Dark Horse Entertainment expanded creator control of media developed from their comics.  In Part 1 of this interview, Richardson talks about starting his first store and then launching Dark Horse Comics.  And in Part 2 he talks about Dark Horse’s first forays into manga and their first feature film, The Mask.

We are also making available lightly edited transcripts of the interview, in three parts:
ICv2 Interview Transcript: Mike Richardson, Part 1
ICv2 Interview Transcript: Mike Richardson, Part 2

This interview and article are part of ICv2’s Comics Direct Market 50th Anniversary celebration; for more, see "Comics Direct Market 50th Anniversary."