Anthologies are the origin of comic books as we know it.The first comic books were little more than collections of newspaper strips – anthologies of different four-color funnies and adventure strips. Although comics grew to feature titles focused on single characters, teams and whole worlds – anthologies are in our blood. Longtime independent publisher Dark Horse started out with an anthology, some twenty-five plus years ago, aptly titled Dark Horse Presents. The title went on to be published for over 150 issues before going on a hiatus. In 2007 it returned as an online initiative published on Myspace.com and later collected in trade formats. Last week we talked with DH editor Scott Allie about the final issue of the anthology on Myspace, but he left off with a promise of a return for Dark Horse Presents down the road. Well as it turns out, it wasn't far down that road.
Friday at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Dark Horse co-founder and publisher Mike Richardson laid out the details of the relaunch of Dark Horse Presents as a print anthology series during the "Dark Horse Comics: Make Contact in 2010" panel. Richardson, who founded the company with long-time editor Randy Stradley and directly edited Dark Horse Presents during its earlier years is returning to oversee the title directly in this 2010 relaunch. We talked with Richardson earlier this week by phone about this new Dark Horse Presents and the classic and new creators involved with the project.
Newsarama: Mike, you’re taking this on at a time when Dark Horse Presents is transitioning from online serialization at Myspace.com back to its original home as a good old fashioned comic book. Can you tell us how this came about, and how you came to decide to edit it yourself?Mike Richardson: Back in the early days of Dark Horse, Randy Stradley and I edited all of the books, and we were both intimately involved with Dark Horse Presents. We built Dark Horse Presents at the same time we were building the company itself – it was our debut title. We searched out for creators, reaching out to both established veterans and newcomers we thought showed talent but hadn't necessarily been noticed by the industry yet. When we originally launched Dark Horse and Dark Horse Presents, I remember trying to get Paul Chadwick on board. At the time, Paul was being chased by eight other companies for the right to publish Concrete, and he ultimately chose Dark Horse and that was important to us. Later on, people such as Frank Miller, Mike Mignola and Eric Powell have joined with us, and they've all been tremendously important to us. With the return to print, we want to attract those same type of creators as well as new voices that don't want to spend their time doing Superman for the rest of their life, and want a chance to create their own characters and own stories – and own their creations. After the conclusion of the print series after about 150 issues, I always had the idea in the back of my mind to restart it someday. Time flies, and we got involved with other projects. But with us celebrating the company's 25th anniversary, we thought it was a good time to relaunch the series. And lately we've been meeting with a lot of writers and artists who are talented, and we wanted a place where we could get them started.
As the series returns as a print comic book series, I'll be onboard as editors, along with a few others here at Dark Horse.
Nrama: What would you say is the mission statement for the returning Dark Horse Presents comic book series?
Richardson: It's what we've always done – giving creators the chance to create, and to develop amazing projects. Over the course of Dark Horse Presents, several short stories have developed into full-blown series for us. We're always on the lookout for really talented people and the unique visions they have.
Nrama: Dark Horse Presents launched many successful titles over the years from Concrete to Sin City, and was actually DHC’s first title. Will you be bringing any of that great legacy of characters or creators into the mix with this new iteration?
Richardson: The first story of the first new print issue of Dark Horse Presents will be Concrete by Paul Chadwick. Paul's Concrete was our first story with our first issue, so with us relaunching this on our 25th anniversary it seemed apropos to bring Concrete and Paul Chadwick back for this. So Concrete is returning, as well as a number of other characters from Dark Horse Presents history.
Nrama: Any hints as to who else might make a return?Richardson: Hmm… I can say that Mr. Monster will make his return after an absence of many years. Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola are also doing something for the new issues.
Nrama: Along with classic creators reuniting with the title, what new creators do you have joining the fold here?
Richardson: We've got a terrific project from Robert Love called 13 I think people will enjoy. We also have a creator that's been around for awhile and we're really excited about, Carla Speed McNeil. She'll have a story in the first issue and we here at Dark Horse are hoping to really promote her work. We also have David Chelsea creating something for us.
Nrama: You’re no stranger yourself to writing comics – I’ve got Cravan and Living with the Dead on my bookshelf here. Any chance you’ll do a story for the anthology?Richardson: There are some things I've been talking with other people about doing. Randy and I are even talking about writing something together, which we haven't done in some time.
Nrama: Getting out my calculator here, I count 157 issues of the original DHP and 36 of the Myspace version – totaling up to 193. That’s only a couple issues shy of 200. Do you plan on starting with a new #1 or revert back to that classic numbering?
Richardson: It will be a new #1 on the cover, but on the indicia it will carry on with the original numbering.
Nrama: Last month I talked to Scott Allie about the Myspace iteration of Dark Horse Presents, and that got me re-reading the whole series and I was very impressed. What’s your take on the MySpace version of DHP?
Richardson: It was terrific. The chance to have comics in front of such a huge readership was a big opportunity for us, and I think it worked out very well. It helped us launch some times out of it, such as Gerard Way's Umbrella Academy and the Mr. Horrible books. Although we just released our last issue on Myspace.com, that doesn't mean we're leaving the electronic medium behind.Nrama: Will Dark Horse Presents be a part of the DH: HD announcement that Dark Horse put out a few weeks ago?
Richardson: DH: HD is all part of an outreach program to get our comics out in front of as many people as possible. Dark Horse Presents is its own outreach with things we'll be announcing later this year.
Nrama: You seem really invigorated by bringing Dark Horse Presents back to print – is there a particular story you're really chomping at the bit to get out there for people to see?
Richardson: I don't want to play favorites, but I can say it's been amazing to put these different stories and different creators together for the series. I'm really excited about all the material we've lined up for the book. There's a variety of approaches to comics here, and it's a true anthology. I think it really captures everything that makes Dark Horse so successful.