Baltimore Comic Con '08: Dark Horse Comics Panel

Preview: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1

While Brian Michael Bendis and Robert Kirkman sparred in another panel room, Dark Horse Director of Publicity Jeremy Atkins and Scott Allie, Senior Managing Editor as well as writer of Dark Horse’s Solomon Kane title appeared at Baltimore Comic Con Saturday to discuss their upcoming projects.

Allie started off the panel by talking about Dark Horse’s relaunch of several Robert E. Howard properties, including Conan, Solomon Kane, and November’s Kull the Conqueror.

Moving onto Hellboy, Allie said that BPRD and Hellboy are “racing to the end of the world,” with apocalypse scenarios occurring in each book. “We don’t know which one is going to get there first.”

Also on the Hellboy front, Allie teased that the upcoming year will hold some surprising reveals about the character, and that BPRD will feature the destruction of a major American city. “Maybe Baltimore,” the panelists joked.

Mignola returns to drawing Hellboy this year, in a one-shot called “In the Chapel of Moloch” due out next month.

Umbrella Academy was next, with the announcement that the first issue of the second series will weigh in at 32 pages and will feature “the best fight scene ever.”

Atkins then turned the discussion to Beanworld. The classic cult favorite will be collected, with new material coming from Larry Marder, the original creator. The first collection of the original issues is due in March 2009. New Beanworld content will appear on MySpace's Dark Horse Presents this fall, as well.

The mention of MySpace led into talk about the publisher’s webcomic publishing trends, noting the success of Penny Arcade, Perry Bible Fellowship and Wondermark, and Chris Onstad’s Achewood.

Allie then turned the attention of the panel to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He mentioned that issue #19 is the first issue set to be tragically late, “due out in about six weeks.” Jeph Loeb’s one-shot issue #20 tells a story that places Buffy in the framework of the Buffy animated series that never came to fruition.

The arc following Loeb’s one-shot is being written by several of the TV show’s writers. “Vampires come into vogue, we check in with Faith, Giles, Kennedy, Satsu, and Andrew, and we see further development for Dawn.”

The first cover of the upcoming arc features Harmony the vampire, who has become a reality TV star.

Atkins noted that Dark Horse is publishing fewer manga titles before, but they are focusing on “really critically acclaimed” titles to support. In that vein, Atkins announced that they are partnering with Japanese writing collective Clamp on a project that will be simultaneously released in the Japanese, Korean, and American markets. Details on the project are still under wraps, as the creators are “very secretive.”

Leading off Dark Horse’s partnership with Clamp is a reprint of the group’s Clover stories.

Atkins then asked the fans in attendance if they read the Star Wars comics, which garnered a large response from the audience. He mentioned the Force Unleashed graphic novel, which offers some new insights into the plot of the game. In regard to the Clone Wars, the current feature film and upcoming Cartoon Network animated series, the publisher plans both a Clone Wars ongoing and Clone Wars digests. The two books will differ in content and style.

The next Star Wars project discussed was Star Wars: Vector, the crossover event spanning every current Star Wars title, with mention being giving to the critical praise the project has received and its "entry point" status into the Star Wars expanded universe. Atkins and Allie also noted that Star Wars: Dark Times will be back on track when it returns in March, citing art delays for the erratic publishing schedule.

Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator will all be returning to Dark Horse in the future. “We’re really excited,” Atkins exclaimed.

“Another book we’re really excited about is The Goon,” said Allie, noting that in 2008 the book has been released on a monthly schedule. “Eric [Powell] had always intended that The Goon be pretty standalone. In making the book monthly this year, he wanted to tell a bigger story than he ever had before. So we have this twelve issue story that picks up all the threads in the book since the beginning….We find out the real nature of the town The Goon lives in.”

Allie notes that March 2009 will be the 10th anniversary of the book, and it will see an anniversary special with several guest creators, including Mike Mignola.

The Dark Horse reps then turned the panel over to Q and A.

A fan asked for more Indiana Jones? No plans yet. Atkins says they are trying to figure out what the next Indy project will be.

Will Randy Stradley return to the AvP universe as a creator? No plans at this time.

A fan asked about the best way to break into the industry, and Allie told him to promote himself on the Internet and try to self-publish there. “The key is to do small pieces and let yourself get better.”

What do the publishers look for in a webcomic to consider publishing it? “Does it blow us away somehow?” Allie talked about how Dave Land would email Perry Bible Fellowship strips around the office until they decided they had to have it.

Asked for more Howard reprints, Allie confirmed that there are reprint collections coming for Kull and Solomon Kane, as well as other new comics from the Howard library.

Asked about progress on the Groo/Conan crossover, the panelists said that the creators are hard at work, and they revealed that Sergio Aragones and Tom Yates will be drawing their characters on the same page in their own unique styles.

An Umbrella Academy cosplayer asked Allie if he has ideas for original Solomon Kane stories. Allie said that the loose chronology of the original stories leaves a lot of freedom for him to work.

A fan asked about Crimson Empire III in response to comments made by Mike Richardson. “There are no solid plans to do so,” Atkins revealed.

With that final question, the panel wrapped up to lots of applause from the crowd.

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