Defining Dark Horse's Partnership With USA TODAY-TOSHIBA

Defining the DHC-USA TODAY-TOSHIBA Deal

Comics has seen it’s fair share of unlikely team-ups, but one announced earlier this year could be the most ground-breaking and powerful ever.

Announced earlier this summer, DH: HD is the moniker given to a partnership between comics publisher Dark Horse, the newspaper USA Today and home entertainment company Toshiba. Described as a program to “bring comics to your desktop, doorstep and digital TV”, DH: HD will showcase exclusive new Dark Horse comics both in the pages and website of USA Today. The partnership kicked off back in June with USA Todayrunning an exclusive preview of Troublemaker, the first graphic novel by best-selling author Janet Evanovich (with daughter Alex and artist Joëlle Jones). Each month, a new Dark Horse comic is spotlighted in USA Today’s Living section with an editorial, interview with the comic’s writer and artwork from the series.

“Essentially, these print pieces serve as a springboard to the online component of the program, which is an exclusive 8-page preview of the story that can be viewed on USA Today’s website,” said Matt Parkinson, Dark Horse’s Online Marketing Manager. “Additionally, as part of the program, USAToday.com has featured several exclusive online interviews and previews for upcoming Dark Horse comics, including the Christopher Golden/Mike Mignola series Baltimore and [today’s] current feature, Terminator: 1984 #1, written by Zack Whedon.”

For the past four months, USA Today has been shedding light on these Dark Horse titles but in October, this partnership will grow to a new level; for a 10-week period beginning in October 2010, Dark Horse and USA Today will be releasing 5 all-new 8-page stories through the newspaper’s online and print editions.

“As each new story launches, one comic page from that story will appear in the Living section of the USA Today print publication, and USA Today will feature an accompanying editorial/interview with the respective comic writer/artist,” said Parkinson. “It’s very similar to what we did with the Troublemaker/Hellboy print features. And then, of course, you can jump online [to USA Today’s website and read the exclusive story for free.”

Although at press time the titles have not been released, Dark Horse has plans to announce the full line-up of the DH:HD exclusive stories during their panel at New York Comic-Con on Friday, October 9th.

Dark Horse makes the comics, USA Today publishes it online and in print – but how does Toshiba fit into the equation?

“As the sponsor of this program, Toshiba is supplying us with several of their large-screen HDTVs for tradeshow usage,” Parkinson explains. “We're showcasing our ever-popular line of comics, characters, and products in an HD video that is being displayed on Toshiba's incredible line of LED TVs. If you came by the Dark Horse booth during San Diego Comic Con this year, then you probably saw the loop playing on Toshiba's TVs. I can't tell you how many people just stood there with their jaws hanging to the convention floor, completely wowed by the presentation. If you plan on attending New York Comic Con, you can check out the HD loop for yourself—and prepare to be bedazzled!”

Dark Horse has long been a frontrunner in embracing new technology, such as their unique partnership with MySpace to be the exclusive home of new issues of their anthology Myspace Dark Horse Presents until recently, and while USA Today doesn’t have a comic page, they recently syndicated strips from DC’s Wednesday Comics series last summer online and in print. But how did Toshiba and these two titans get together for this unique partnership?

“As the successful MySpace Dark Horse Presents program was winding down, DH was looking for another creative and interesting way to get our comics in front of a broader audience and drive them into comics shops,” said Parkinson. “I’d been speaking with USA Today project manager John Geddes—kinda bouncing around some ideas—and out of those conversations we developed a plan that we were quite excited about. We were then lucky enough to get Toshiba to come on board as a sponsor, and the rest, as they say, is history. Through our partnership with USA Today, and having Toshiba come on board as the program sponsor, not only have we been able to showcase our comics and artists in full-page print pieces, and run exclusive content on USA Today's highly trafficked website, but now we're featuring our comics and products in stunning HD quality at some of the conventions we're exhibiting at. I haven’t seen any other publisher really do this type of thing.”

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