NYCC '09 - Dark Horse Comics Panel

Dark Horse Comics' first panel of the New York Comic Con weekend featured editor Scott Allie, The Goon creator Eric Powell and director of publicity Jeremy Atkins talking about a wide selection of the company’s line.

“We’re celebrating The Goon’s 10th anniversary right now,” Allie said. The Goon started as a small press book at Avatar and later self-published in March 1999, Allie explained, adding that he’d “been a fan since it was created.”

“I had [creator Eric Powell] working on some Star wars stuff and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The Goon appeared in the final issue of Dark Horse Presents, which marked its Dark Horse debut. Allie said that he showed publisher Mike Richardson the first two self-published issues. Richardson laughed out loud, and said “Let’s get this.” The Goon started as part of Dark Horse’s horror line, and it’s “won a lot of Eisner awards. Entertainment Weekly picked it up,” Allie added while talking up the series. There’s also a feature film in the works, he reminded the fans in attendance.

Creator Eric Powell described The Goon as “It’s kind of a dark comedy/horror noir dramedy thing that I never thought would get past ten issues, let alone ten years. It’s pretty exciting to come up on that.” The tenth anniversary issue will feature pin-ups by Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, Jeff Smith and more. The tenth anniversary issue “comes out the week of Friday the 13th in February, roughly ten years after the first Dark Horse issue.”

2008 was The Goon year, Allie said, as the book came out monthly for the entire year, with Dave Stewart coloring it “usually in a matter of hours,” he joked. Because the stories came out regularly, Powell was able to write “much more sophisticated stories” rather than the stand-alone stories the comic was previously known for. Allie described the arc as “much more nuanced and epic than anything Powell had done before.”

There will be three trade paperbacks this year collecting the 2008 run. Allie explained that after the success of the Hellboy movies, the book reps that Dark Horse works with, who sell to Borders and other mainstream retailers, “were looking for the next Hellboy, and they think The Goon is that thing.” They’re expecting great things, he added. “It’s been one of my favorite books since before it was Dark horse. It’s gonna be fun good stuff [going forward].”

Atkins joked that his computer had morphed into a Commodore 64, as he struggled to get the art projector connected to his laptop.

During the delay, fans asked Powell about writing longer stories. Powell explained that certain elements were set up ahead of time, but others took on a life of their own. “Like Chinatown, the very first issue had a hint about Chinatown,” he said, as an example that was teased and built over time. “But a lot of things are surprising. Throw away jokes that I like come back and come back.” By comparison, he said that previous to 2008, “I always knew 22 pages, beginning, middle, end. Writing the longer story, it was a little harder making it fit. I had a little bit of writer’s confusion.”

“Whenever possible, I try to tell the story visually rather than with words. I’m a big believer in the less said, the more said,” he added of his working method.

At that point, the fans burst into applause as Atkins got the cover for Goon #1 from 1998 on screen. He then showed Powell’s recreation of that same cover, which will appear on The Goon 10th anniversary issue.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Usagi Yojimbo, Atkins told the crowd. “We’re going to be reprinting a lot of the trades, including some new material and story notes from Stan Sakai.” In September, Dark Horse will publish a new stand-alone graphic novel entirely painted Stan. “Everything I’ve seen looks beautiful,” Atkins gushed.

Shifting the focus to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy editor Allie talked about how vampires’ becoming public has upset the status quo of the series. Harmony gets a reality show, Harmony Bites, he said. Over the next few months, the popularity of vampires will be making life harder for Buffy and friends. The arc Predator and Prey finds the Slayers becoming the prey.

“With Joss on Dollhouse, it’s been hard to keep on track,” Allie admitted. “We’re taking the month of June to get the title caught up. The regular monthly won’t come out in June, but Buffy fans have been asking for side-projects, and they’re getting one in June.” Becky Cloonan will be writing a Tales of the Slayer one-shot for June. Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon will be contributing covers to the special.

Pixu, ”a very bizarre horror comic,” will be getting a hardcover collection in July. It features work by Cloonan, Ba, Moon and others, and it ships the month after their Slayer one-shot.

Atkins introduced The Rapture, by Mike Oeming & his wife, Taki Soma (“Who he married at a video arcade in Portland,” Atkins told the crowd, to their amusement.). The Rapture will be Soma’s first major project, launching in May. Allie added that readers can check out an eight-page story on MySpace.com/Darkhorse right now.

Atkins showed a slide of art from Tim Sale and Steve Seagle’s The Amazon, a series originally published at Comico in the late 80s, which “we’re going to be republishing and coloring for the first time.”

Larry Marder’s Beanworld will be collected into three trade paperbacks this year, and one new trade as well, Atkins said. It’s “very simply drawn, which wasn’t popular at the time, with really big themes about life,” Atkins explained. “It’s geared toward younger readers, but has a lot of older themes. The first collection is coming out later this month.”

One of the biggest influences on American humor during the 60s and 70s, Harvey Kurtzman, creator of Mad, had a big fan in Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, according to Allie. Hefner “wanted Kurtzman,” which led to the humor magazine Trump. Dark Horse’s collection of the complete run of Trump will be the “first time it’s been repurposed into a bound book, I believe.” Denis Kitchen, who oversees the Kurtzman estate, is working on it with Dark Horse on the book.

“We’ve found a lot of online comics that we really loved and wanted to bring into print,” Atkins said, before admitting: “We were worried if people would pay for them after being online for free, but it’s really exceeded our expectations.” He mentioned the huge success Dark Horse has had with Perry Bible Fellowship and Achewood, which “really blew us away.” SinFest will be the next collection, “adding it to our ever-growing collection of online comics.”

“Good comics and good comics,” Atkins said, telling readers that the second Achewood collection will be out later this year.

Atkins talked briefly about Dark Horse’s toy line, showing images of Domo figures. “We’re doing a blindbox set” that he thinks fans will really enjoy. Showing figures from Umbrella Academy, Atkins appreciated the “ton of accolades and praise” the series has received, saying that Gerard Way’s public profile has “brought a lot of new people in comics.”

“We’re finally doing our first set of toys around the property, done from Gabriel’s sketches,” Atkins said. Allie confirmed that artist Gabriel Ba did turn-arounds for the figures. In a small world moment, he explained that years ago, Gerard Way had actually worked as an assistant with the sculptor who worked on the set.

Atkins said, “There will be a book and figure set in April with special edition, small hardcover of the book, and the figures.” The figures come out alone in May.

The second series of Umbrella Academy, Dallas, is out. Allie said that it should be pretty obvious now that issue 3 is out, the Umbrella Academy is being set up to kill a U.S. President. “Issue 6 is being written now. Ultimately, it’s all about them turning on each other,” Allie said, “since they’re family and that’s what it’s about.”

Joe Linsner will be coming back as the permanent Conan the Cimmerian cover artist. “Mike Richardson really loved Joe’s covers and pushed to have him on the book full time. He’ll be sticking around on Conan for a while now,” Allie said. He also confirmed that Tim Truman, a former student of the Kubert School, has written a script especially for himself and his teacher, so issue 14 will be illustrated by Truman and Joe Kubert.

Allie: “Kull, launched in November with Arvid Nelson and Will Conrad, has been very popular for us.” After the first six-issue arc ends, there will be a second arc in 2010.

Solomon Kane, by Allie himself and Mario Gueverra, will wrap its first series soon. Allie explained that he took a four-page Howard unfinished fragment and turned it into a five issue arc. Mike Mignola will illustrate the trade cover, which looks like an old pulp magazine. Allie concluded that a new Kane series is coming.

Hellboy: Wild Hunt will have a short hiatus between issues 4 and 5. “Mignola feels there’s a natural break between those issues. Number 5 ships in July,” Allie said.

BPRD 1947 debuts this year, with Ba and Moon on art. It sees a small group of BPRD agents investigating a vampire epidemic in Europe. Allie also sad that Sir Edward, or Edward Grey, who had his own story on MySpace in November, gets a series called Witchfinder later this year, with Mignola writing and covers. Hopefully sometime in late 2008, Mignola and John Arcudi will be co-writing another Lobster Johnson series called The Burning Hand. Allie isn’t sure when it will actually ship, however.

Guy Davis’s The Marquis – which previously published two trades through Oni Press – will be coming to Dark Horse “because Guy’s working with us and he wants to bringing everything under one umbrella,” Allie explained. Both previous trades will be combined in one huge book with a 40 page sketchbook in November, and 2010 will bring new Marquis material.

Dark Horse editor Dave Land and the Fillbach Brothers are collaborating on a three-issue miniseries Werewolves on the Moon: vs. Vampires, debuting in June. Atkins showed a cover, remarking that werewolves, who are not undead, need to wear helmets “because they need atmosphere to breathe.” He added that the series has a very funny sense of humor which is complemented by the Fillbachs’ “really fun style.”

One of Allie’s favorite series, Rex Mundi, started at Image in 1999. Allie said that started “talking to Arvid about doing Kull” and eventually “made the under-handed move to steal the book from Image.” Dark Horse issue 17 is the second to last issue. I’ll be “sad to see it end, but I’m amazed at what Arvid has accomplished,” he said. Atkins showed a pin-up page of other Dark Horse characters toasting Nelson for his accomplishment.

Beasts of Burden, debuted as a short story in the Dark Horse Book of Hauntings from conversations between Allie and Evan Dorkin about horror comics, will be getting a four-issue miniseries. Allie explained the Dorkin pitched idea of animals in cult situations, which Allie “thought was a great idea, a fun short story.” People at Dark Horse actually cried when they read the story, he said.

At that point, Dorkin, who’d been sitting in the audience, was brought up to the stage. After some brief trouble getting on stage and getting his chair settled, Dorkin contradicted Allie, saying that he’d never pitched “dogs with the occult,” but he forgave Allie because he edits too many comics to remember the origin of them all. According to Dorkin, he asked me to be a part of the Book of Hauntings, and as he likes to do genre work and horror books, he really wanted to do it. The first story, an eight pager, was a self-contained tale about a haunted dog house, which Dorkin liked because he “hadn’t seen anything quite like it. I don’t draw that sort of thing very well, but I thought of Jill and her work,” he added, explaining how Jill Thompson became the artist on the project. Thompson won an Eisner for her painting on that story, and the second story won an Eisner the following year. “Of course, it was the weakest of the four stories,” Dorkin commented wryly. “I have more Eisners than the Hernandez Brothers, so that award has problems.”

Dorkin explained that he wanted to do a series, “but Jill’s busy with a career and I’m busy playing video games.” While the audience viewing a page from one of the stories, Dorkin named all the dogs who make up the central cast, pausing when he introduced PeeWee. “Peewee doesn’t last long, so let’s not talk about him.”

After a few more jokes about the frog on the artwork shown (though there are virtually no frogs in it), Atkins joked that Dorkin was “giving away lots of spoilers.”

“Barry Allen comes back,” Dorkin responded.

“I really like it, and I can’t say that about most of my work,” said Dorkin. It’s only “three bucks or are you gonna rip them off like Marvel?” he asked Atkins. “You laugh, but you bought those four dollar books,” he told the crowd.

It’s “a horror book, an adventure book, and some funny stuff happens. It’s not a doggy and kitty book for your little kids unless you’ve raised them wrong,” he concluded.

Atkins showed covers for Rick Remender’s The End League, which finishes its second series this year, and Gigantic, about giant robots. “What else do I really need to say?” Atkins deadpanned.

Forming a publishing partnership with Real Art Studios, Dark Horse will be part of a project that involves taking images from old pulp magazine covers, “like old Grindhouse images,” according to Atkins, and developing them into stories and comics that will be collected and published later this year.

After opening the floor for questions, Atkins asked Powell, “Eric, why are you only putting out one book this year?”

“He’s putting out two,” Allie replied.

Powell laughed, “Because I put out 12 last year.”

Powell admitted that he worried some readers might be alienated by Chinatown’s change in tone for The Goon. Although he said that despite “everybody thinking there’s a huge shift after it,” the series has always had serious elements before that, and there is still humor in the current stories. “In the last issue, he fought a giant transvestite. It’s not that serious,” he cried.

Atkins put on his publicity hat briefly, explaining that Dark Horse is always “looking to find ways to get our creators and comics out to a wider audience. If putting the Goon a t-shirt helps that to happen, we’ll do it.”

Allie confirmed that issues 4-5 of Zero Killer are done, but the company is “waiting until 6 is nearly done” so that it will ship monthly. Probably around the middle of the year was his estimated shipping date, and he thanked fans for their understanding and patience.

The June-shipping Tales of the Slayer will be in present timeline, and although Joss Whedon doesn’t write it, “everything is going through him.” Creative team and stories were approved by Whedon, and the comics have “more of his fingerprint than the old Buffy comics.”

“Eventually,” Allie said when asked who Twilight is.

A fan asked how Dark Horse finds webcomics to publish. Allie: “Same as anything. Any given webcomic, one of the editors or somebody in the company has a strong feeling about it. Dave Land, who spearheaded the Perry Bible Fellowship, has been emailing Perry strips to editors for years and pushed it on Mike Richardson to make it happen. Dave found Achewood. Kate Moody found SinFest.” Everybody at the company, he explained, looked at it and wanted to do it. “Perry blew the door open.”

Although the Buffy and Angel comics are totally unrelated, Allie told fans that Dark Horse has the rights to use characters from any series. However, he “can’t tell you” if readers will see Angel in Buffy.

Dorkin said that he has “ten pages done for Milk and Cheese #8, but it’s been ten years since the last one” and he can no longer do traditional small press comics. However, when Allie calls and says, “Let’s do a Milk and Cheese, I get to do one.”

“Nothing we can announce,” Allie said of the MySpace/DarkHorse site. They’re “working month to month. It’s very embarrassing.”

A fan wanted to know if there will there be non-Goon Goon universe stories?

Powell replied, “We actually have some weird stuff we’re trying to … I can’t say anything, but I’ve got some odd stuff.” Allie confirmed, it’s “weirder than anything you’ve seen.”

Because Whedon is doing “that stupid Dollhouse thing,” Allie joked, there will not be more Serenity comics in the near future. Whedon is doing everything he can to keep Buffy coming out on time. “He edits every script, looks at all the art, checks the colors. Doing serenity would be the same level of commitment.” Dark Horse fully intended to do more Serenity, but they will not go forward until Whedon has the proper time to devote to it. He mentioned Sugar Shock and Fray as other Whedon properties that will be seen again when Whedon has more time for comics.

More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:

NYCC '09 Video Page

NYCC '09 Mini-Site

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