Dark Horse, the elder statesman of independent comics, continues to show no signs of slowing down during this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Even though Marvel now holds the rights to Star Wars, its biggest licensed comics property, Dark Horse struck back by announcing a several creator owned titles in different genres as well as an expansion to the Mignolaverse and a sequel to one of the most beloved novels of the past century. Dark Horse also won some Eisners in a wide variety of categories showing the company’s comics appeal to many types of readers from kids to people who wouldn’t normally read comics.
1. Hellboy and the BPRD Miniseries
Even though Batman has gotten most of the publicity, another comics character is celebrating a big anniversary. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Hellboy’s first appearance in the Seed of Destruction miniseries by Mike Mignola and scripted by John Byrne. Written by Mignola and BPRD’s John Arcudi, Hellboy and the BPRD is a five issue mini showing a “missing mission” for Hellboy and BPRD set in 1952, shortly after his “discovery” in the last days of WWII. It continues the story that began in the trilogy of Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense miniseries that started with BPRD 1946. And best of all, it features painted by Eisner Award winner Alex Maleev, who is best known for his work on Daredevil with Brian Michael Bendis and recently finished working on George Romero’s Empire of the Dead series for Marvel. Maleev’s horror sensibilities will be a great fit for depicting the monsters that young Hellboy and his team face. He drew a story in the Hellboy: Weird Tales anthology back in 2003, which he co-wrote with Matt Hollingsworth. Hellboy and BPRD will be released from Dark Horse this December to conclude the “Year of Hellboy”.
2. Fight Club 2 sequel creative team and details
Last San Diego Comic Con, Chuck Palahniuk announced that he was writing a sequel to his novel Fight Club, and that it would be a graphic novel. A year later, Palahniuk released some details about the comic, including a tease of the plot, the artists he was working with, and the company. Dark Horse Comics will have the unique opportunity of releasing the ten issue maxiseries Fight Club 2, the first issue of which will come out on April 8, 2015. Palahniuk will script the series, and interior art will be done by Cameron Stewart (Batman and Robin, Seaguy), whose redesign of Batgirl’s costume has made him a current darling in the comic book community. Stewart will also provide page breakdowns for Palahniuk’s scripts, and covers will be drawn by David Mack (Daredevil). The story is set ten years after the events of Fight Club, and all seems normal as the Narrator has settled down with Marla Singer and has a nine year old son. There will be flashbacks though, and Palahniuk will look into the possible supernatural background of Tyler Durden, who has also received a makeover from Cameron Stewart.
3. Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer
Black Hammer is a superhero story that Jeff Lemire came up with in 2007 before he wrote Justice League Dark or Green Arrow for DC Comics. Because he no longer has an exclusive contract with DC, he has finally found a home for it as a creator owned series at Dark Horse. Black Hammer is about the misadventures of five superheroes who find themselves written out of continuity after something called The Event and find themselves living in a small town. The characters are all based on different eras of superhero comics. For example, Abraham Slam is Lemire’s homage to Golden Age and pulp heroes like Doc Savage, The Shadow, and early Batman. It will deconstruct and comment on how the superhero genre has changed over the years and also have some rural worldbuilding, like Lemire’s work on Essex County. Black Hammer will be drawn by British comics artist Dean Ormston, who is best known for his work on Judge Dredd, The Sandman, and Lucifer. Black Hammer is coming out in March 2015.
4. Brian Wood’s Rebels
Brian Wood has done quite a lot of work for Dark Horse recently, including writing their flagship Star Wars comic as well as Conan the Barbarian and his creator owned series The Massive. He returns from distant galaxies to a genre that he wrote earlier his career: historical fiction. Whereas his last historical series Northlanders was about different eras of Vikings, Rebels hits closer to home and is an ongoing series about the men, women, and combatants of the American Revolution. Wood is a Vermont native and grew up learning about the American Revolution, including Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys, who will be the focus of his first story arc. This opening arc will focus on the militia during the American Revolution, a timely and controversial topic during a time when debates over the Second Amendment and a “well-regulated militia” have polarized the American public. Rebels will have a mix of multi-part stories and one-shot and will have a rotating cast of artists. The first arc will be drawn by Andrea Mutti, an Italian artist, who previously collaborated with Wood on Conan and DMZ and colored by Eisner winner Jordie Bellaire. Mutti is an American Revolution buff and shared a picture of himself wielding a musket in an interview with The Nerdist. The first issue of Rebels comes out in April 2015.
5. Eisner Awards
Dark Horse did very well at the 2014 Eisner Awards and only trailed IDW (six) with four total Eisner wins. They won Best Anthology for Dark Horse Presents and won Best Publication for Early Readers and Kids with Itty Bitty Hellboy by previous winners Art Baltazar and Franco (Tiny Titans) and The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Canadian cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks. Dark Horse’s final Eisner Award went to the incredibly well-received The Fifth Beatle, which won Best Reality Based Work. Dark Horse Presents was the first comic published by Dark Horse back in 1986 and has been the vehicle for some of its best stories, including Frank Miller’s Sin City, Evan Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese, and of course, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Some of its collaborators include Joss Whedon, Gilbert Hernandez, Stan Sakai, and the late Harvey Pekar of American Splendor fame. The book continues to be a gold standard for comics anthologies. Itty Bitty Hellboy and Superhero Girl are examples that comics can be fun, light, and not appeal to 40 year old white males. Personally, I would love to see Art Baltazar and Franco bring the “Itty Bitty” treatment to some of Dark Horse’s other books, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, and Usagi Yojimbo. Finally, The Fifth Beatle was a true comics crossover telling the real story of Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, whose untimely death in 1967 had a huge impact on the band and popular music as a whole. Fifth Beatle was revered in both comics and non-comics circles receiving positive reviews from USA Today and the New York Times. Its creative team, which was writer Vivek J. Tiwary and artists Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker, were invited as guests at the upcoming Library of Congress National Book Festival hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. That’s a big deal.
From their announcements at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Dark Horse Comics showed that they were going in a more creator driven direction with their publishing line after losing the Star Wars license. The beginning of 2015 will be a great time to check out some new Dark Horse books by proven and new creators, all leading up to the release of Fight Club 2.