Is Dark Horse’s Future Dark?
On Tuesdays when the shop gets their new comics in to process so that they’re ready for the shelf on Wednesday, we divvy up things up in several stacks. This usually leaves us with a stack for all the big five publishers, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and Image, as well as a stack for Dynamite to keep the small publisher stack from getting too tall. A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I noticed that Dark Horse had a vastly smaller stack compared to all of the others. This got me thinking about how Dark Horse stays in business when we seem to get only a few titles a week.
Looking at comichron.com, which publishes sales from Diamond to retail stores every month, Dark Horse only sold nineteen titles in December, which is only counting floppies, no trades, hard covers or other merchandise. Most of these titles are tie-in comics to other media properties. TV shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Firefly (the comic goes by Serenity since they would have to get 20th Century Fox’s permission to use Firefly), movies like Alien and Predator, games like Tomb Raider and World of Tanks, even other literature like Tarzan. These tie-in comics account for ten of the nineteen comics Dark Horse published in December. It’s very common for comics to do tie-ins, even Marvel and DC do them, though not usually to the degree the independent comics do. Marvel’s largest tie-in comic right now is Star Wars, ever since they got the title from, well, Dark Horse about two years ago. This is when I started worrying about the future of Dark Horse.
Two years ago, Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas and shortly thereafter they announced that Marvel would be taking over publication of all Star Wars comics. At that time I counted the number of Star Wars comics Dark Horse was publishing at the time and it amounted to around a third of their publishing line. At the time I wondered what Dark Horse would get to fill in all those new holes. Last year Mike Mignola announced that he would be ending his Hellboy comic and the ancillary comics relating to Hellboy like B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien and others. At the time it was first announced I did a count of all the comics Dark Horse was publishing to see how many of them where Hellboy related and it came to about a third of the line. There are still a few Hellboy comics Dark Horse is publishing, Witchfinder and Rise of the Black Flame came out in December, Hellboy Winter Special this February, but you can definitely see how the line has slowed over the last year.
I know Dark Horse does a lot of non-comic book merchandise now. So, if you’re in the market for Mass Effect statures, Witcher bookends or Game of Thrones shot glasses, Dark Horse has you covered, but I’m not a big fan of those properties and even if I was I don’t need any of those things.
I mention all of this because I like to get a wide variety of comics and the more publishers are out there publishing material, whether it’s original material, classic reprints or translated foreign material, the better it is for me. Dark Horse does all of those things, but I haven’t seen them do enough of them lately. Over the last year I’ve only been getting two or three titles a month from them, mostly manga collections that only come out every six months. There was one month I didn’t order anything from Dark Horse. I assume that Dark Horse’s financials are fine and I’m likely worrying needlessly; I just want more great comics to come out from one of the industries oldest independent publishers.
And I see that they’re planning a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 comic. I knew this article would do the trick. Now if only Google would stop telling me I want Katy Perry when I type in Dark Horse.