All the discussion involving Marvel and DC has been really good, but this week we’re stepping away from the big two and beginning our look at the other publishers in the industry.  I remember when Dark Horse Comics came out of nowhere and presented the comic reading world with the likes of Indiana Jones, Concrete, Aliens, Predator, Terminator, and of course Hellboy and Sin City.   As the years went on, Dark Horse was able to get the property rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars to give readers something other than super hero action.

One would think the property comics would be big sellers (and for Buffy the Vampire Slayer it is), but sales never elevated Dark Horse to the same level as Marvel and DC.  It seems comic book readers are always quick to point out the faults of a company, but rarely offer how they would solve the problem.

Here’s your chance to fix the company.

So here’s your chance to fix the industry, and here’s how it works:

  • The previous Editor in Chief has been fired, and the publisher is looking to hire a replacement.
  • In the comment section below, outline your ideas on what you would do to close the gap between Dark Horse Comics and the big two.
  • In your comments you need to not only state the change, but why you believe the change would be for the greater good of the company.  For example, if your idea is to capture the young reader market (kids between 8 and 12 years old), how are you going to do it?  What needs to change?
  • Convince everyone that your ideas are the best direction for the company, by selling your idea.  Get us excited, get us fired up, and best of all make sure it is for the good of the company and the industry as a whole.

This week it is all about Dark Horse Comics, and you’re the Editor-in-Chief.

Keep the discussion on topic, and keep it civil.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. Gaumer
    June 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    DH has some great properties but they dont really give newbies a chance to jump on board without feeling like they missed out.

    Buffy, Hellboy, Usagi Yojimbo arent very welcoming to new readers. make that better by advertising a jumping on point and throwing in a intro price.

    Star Wars comics have been bad for a long time. I have a friend who used to buy everything SW and he stopped. Better stories are needed that stem from actual events in the movies and not just obscure crap. But with the turtle-necked monster controlling everything, I dont see SW getting fixed

    Dark Horse sells good comics. The Alien relaunch was pretty fun and I got Rapture #1 and it was good. I get Gigantic and its fun.

    Emily Strange, Rex Mundi, The Cleaners; everyone has heard of these books but no one is buying.

    A lower intro price for an entire first arc would help. get them quick and keep them with a good comic.

    I think DH is on an upswing with Umbrella Academy (that benefited from a Free Comic Day book) and they are actually on the right track.

    The biggest thing that could help them is getting some shelf separation. Every comic shop I go to puts DH with all the other independents, unlike Marvel and DC get that their own real estate. How does that go at other stores you guys go to?

  2. CF
    June 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    Considering the exposure properties like Buffy and Hellboy have gotten in the past. I don’t think there really is much of anything that Dark Horse can do. It simply goes back to the problem of getting more people interested in the comic book format at a very early age.

    I remember when I was 7 years old, my Dad bought me a pocket-sized collection of Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Comics and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man. I was in Heaven. The Art was really what drew me in. The stories were so weird – I had never experienced stories like that ever before.

    As to how to re-create such conditions in today’s market is anyone’s guess. Video Games are just to flashy for comic books to be able to compete with. I suspect the Comic Book World loses more potential addicts to Video Games than any other medium. I don’t think there is any way for us to counteract this phenomena.

    We would probably have to hook a different demographic. Most likely, people who like Science Fiction in General and even perhaps kids who grew up on Harry Potter for Fantasy-based comics.

    The medium of Comic Books (Pictures with Words) is a simple yet incredibly powerful way to convey concepts. It’s sad that Comics are still pariah among the “intellectual” types. I’d wish that people like Michael Chabon were much more influential in academy than they are.

    But, ultimately, I would recommend stunts like DC’s WEDNESDAY COMICS being published in Newspapers like USAToday.

    I would also probably try to use product placement advertising – like Superman using a Nokia phone or Wonder Beeyotch using some brand of Make-Up. Okay, this is about Dark Horse so maybe I should have said Han Solo using some brand of Make-Up and an Alien making a call on a Nokia phone. They could have a spin-off show called “The Alien-whisperer” where Cesar Milan unsuccessfully tries to tame an Alien whose busy eating his innards. Something like that.

    Hellboy is as popular as it’ll ever get. Two movies and still no joy. Maybe Mignola should concentrate more on art than on writing.

    Beyond that, they would probably have to make Conan the Barbarian GAY in order to get any significant press to pay attention to that comic book title.

    They need to find a cheap way to get their comics into the hands of kids. I would have loved to have had an ALIENS comic book when I was a kid. All that gore and alien worlds. These days though, parents are too over protective of their kids – the most a kid can watch these days is really dumbed down crap. When I was a kid I was allowed to watch “The World At War” Documentary Series – and that was one gory Documentary. So, yeah, I would market Aliens and Horror-Sci-Fi like that to kids. They’d love it. Then everyone will be buying Dark Horse Comics. ;)

  3. Dean
    June 20, 2009 at 12:48 am — Reply

    I actually don’t think Dark Horse in a bad spot.

    The market leader kind of gets to choose what segment that it wants to own. Marvel does the big, massive cross-over better than anyone in the business. They get the advantages that flow from that, like flooding the market with titles that tie into THE BIG STORY.

    The market follower should choose a segment that they can dominate without dealing with the competitive advantage of the leader. DC did that in the ’90s, when they had long stories play out contained within individual superhero titles (i.e. Sandman, Starman). They’ve gotten away from that, but it is there strength.

    What is left is … well … everything else. Neither Marvel, nor DC, own a competitive advantage outside the superhero genre. That leaves horror, western, crime and humor up for grabs to name a few. Dark Horse has found a nice niche in doing licensed properties and creator-owned stuff. Basically, they are really good at publishing and marketing comics based on concepts owned by others.

    Fine. How do you grow?

    Well, you really need to focus on recruiting talent that can sell their own concepts to come over. Robert Kirkman would be number one on the list. See if you can put together a package to publish “Invincible” and “The Walking Dead”. Dark Horse has ties to Hollywood, so maybe that would be appealing. See what it would take to bring Ed Brubaker’s “Criminal” to Dark Horse. You get the idea.

    Next, you need to grow your roster of licensed properties. Everybody talks about getting kids into comics, so here is an idea … why not make comics from stuff kids are already involved with instead of feeding them the characters you love like spinach? See what it costs to publish a “Sponge Bob Squarepants” title, or “The Wiggles”, or “Hannah Montanna”? Call it the Dark Pony line.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section