Comic-Con: This Dark Horse Became One of the Hottest Places for New Franchises

July 19, 2019

By Michelle Castillo

While people may know "Hellboy", "300", "Time Cop", "Sin City," "Polar", and "The Umbrella Academy" from their on-screen presence, they may be less familiar with their comic book roots.

These movies and TV shows originated as comic book series from Dark Horse Media, an Oregon-based publisher that's found itself in demand from fans and media companies alike.

"With all the new pipes that are out there, with all the streaming services and growing fast as we all know, everyone is looking for content," said Dark Horse founder and president, Mike Richardson.

The gold rush for intellectual property to turn into movies and TV shows has turned comic book titles into hot commodities. Independent publishers like Dark Horse are unencumbered by parent company commitments, so they can work with anyone, unlike Marvel's relationship with Disney or DC with Warner Bros.

In May, Dark Horse Media subsidiary Dark Horse Entertainment inked a first-look deal with Netflix. The agreement gave the streaming giant the first rights to option Dark Horse properties into shows and movies. Earlier in the 1990s, it had a relationship with Twentieth Century Fox through a first-look deal with Larry Gordon and Largo Entertainment.

"For us. when companies like Marvel and DC start off, go out, and get taken off the market, we're right there," Richardson explained.

Dark Horse has also found success moving film onto the page. During its inception, the company focused on award-winning series like "Concrete" and "Doc Stearn...Mr. Monster" to cult success. However, it couldn't tap into the mainstream. So the company decided to continue popular movies and TV shows in comic book form, which in turn would help finance more niche titles.

It's handling of these popular properties has led many top directors and producers to participate in the comic book adaptations as well, including Joss Whedon for the "Buffy" and "Angel" comic book series and Chuck Palahniuk for "Fight Club." It's also extended the universe for "Stranger Things" and "American Gods" into print.

One of the publisher's most successful projects stemmed from creating a comic book sequel to the "Alien" franchise, then the "Predator" franchise, and eventually publishing the "Alien vs. Predator" series in 1989, which has sold over 1 million copies. The "Alien vs. Predator" issues were eventually turned into a series of movies, creating a cycle of movie to comic book series to movie once again.

"We didn't just run comics. We thought of what is the movie sequel we want to see," Richardson said.