Dark Horse Comics had a banner year in 2013, affirming their position as one of the most diverse publisher in the comic book industry. The company’s line of horror titles consistently find their way to the top of Bloody-Disgusting’s pull list, with a strong focus on character driven stories with compelling artwork. The company also produces licensed titles, expanding over the past year to include new properties like “Halo”, “Zelda”, and “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.
Bloody-Disgusting sat down Scott Allie, Editor-In-Chief at Dark Horse Comics, to look back at past year and talk about the company’s success. Allie also gives the Bloody-Disgusting the inside scoop on the ambitious plans Dark Horse Comics has for 2014 and what fans can expect from some of the company’s biggest titles including “Hellboy”, “Star Wars”, “Buffy”, “Conan”, “Serenity”, their superhero line, and the company’s adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy “The Strain”. Allie also revealed details about new projects like Greg Rucka’s “Veil”, a new series from writer/artist Tim Seeley “Sundowners”, and their highly anticipated “Prometheus” comic series.
There are also TONS of exclusive images below including cover art and interior artwork, so hit the jump for all of Dark Horse’s plans for the coming year.
Bloody-Disgusting: Let’s dive right in, because I know you have a ton of announcements and projects that you wanted to discuss. We can start by talking about Dark Horse’s first volume of the EC Comic Archives that comes out in January, with ‘Vault of Horror’. What has Dark Horse done with these re-mastered volumes and tell us why you felt it was important to bring such an influential series back into print?
Scott Allie: Well, Mike Richardson was heavily influenced by the EC books, and he’s always wanted to get those books into our line, even before we were doing archives of other titles, like Creepy and Tarzan and whatnot. We love that EC material quite a bit, we’ve had incredible success with Creepy and Eerie, so we think we’ll do great with these books. The only re-mastering is the color—we’re not messing with perfecting. We’re doing color that we think will print and look really good for a modern audience, but stay true to the feel of the EC comics. Nothing super fancy. We’re continuing a project that Russ Cochran had been doing before, but we think we’ll be able to bring it out to a wider audience.
BD: You also have the first ‘Prometheus’ comic series coming up in 2014 and it will tie into one shared continuity. Talk a bit about how the series came to land at Dark Horse and who you have on board driving the book creatively?
SA: Mike knows Ridley Scott and folks at his office. When Prometheus was first coming together as a film, our contact at Fox told us she wouldn’t license it to anyone else, given the history with Aliens and Predator at Dark Horse. But then Ridley Scott didn’t want a comic at that time. With the first movie behind them, and gearing up for a second, they loosened up on the idea, and Mike pitched them—Scott’s office—on the idea of an interconnected set of books, Prometheus, Aliens, AVP, and Predator, that would follow in the wake of the first film, and put some more answers on the table. We’re working with a group of writers, all based in Portland, who’ve been getting together with the editors at my house for these big dinner parties where we break down the story, talk about how it will work in each of their different books. I love this sort of collaboration. It’s a format I got really excited about in working on Season 9 of Buffy with Joss Whedon and the crew of TV and comics writers we assembled. It’s sort of how Mignola and Arcudi and I handle the Mignolaverse. You throw in a lot of ideas, and you trust that the people in the mix are smart enough to get excited about the better ideas and let the lesser ideas drop away, and also that these are the folks to execute those ideas. We’ve taken ideas that are central to all the movies, from artificial intelligence to how organisms deal with predation and survival, to create a story where questions about human nature are posed in some bloody and violent terms. Where we’re taking the story springs from the various films, from Mike’s initial ideas on the properties, and it’s guided by the work being done now on Prometheus 2. I’ve been happy that the things that the group of writers have gotten the most excited about have all managed to work out—have made it through the rounds of approvals we have to deal with, and that when we did have to alter our thinking on an idea, this group was able to rally and come up with something that we all felt was even better than the first draft, as it were. Scripts and covers are pouring in now, and the first interior pages, and I’m just dying to cut to next fall when we have everything in our hands, see how it all worked out.
BD: Are there long-terms plans for this to be an ongoing series or more of mini-series that all tie into one shared universe?
SA: One of the challenges with the Aliens and Predator licenses is that the properties are monsters, they’re rubber suits, special effects. Readers can’t get emotionally connected to an Alien or a Predator. Although we’ll test that question with Predator … but characters like Ellen Ripley and Elisabeth Shaw are really the product of the films, and not part of the comics world. So one of the key jobs for our writers was to create great characters, some—a few, anyway—of which could live beyond these books we’re doing this summer, into further adventures. If we do our jobs, there will be some figures, human and otherwise, that come out of these series that you’ll want to keep reading about afterward. So, spoiler alert, not everyone dies. And the challenge we’ve put to ourselves is creating characters that you’ll want to continue to follow into whatever they do next.
BD: Tim Seeley has a new book coming up from Dark Horse that is about to get announced called ‘Sundowners’, what details can you share about this project? Will he be writing and drawing it?
SA: Tim’s just drawing this one. Chris Brunner is doing covers, and Jim Terry is drawing it. It’s a perfect synthesis of the stuff Tim loves best, monsters and costumed crime fighters, like the Marvel horror books of the seventies. So it has some stuff in common with certain arcs of Hack/Slash, but it’s got a lot of time built into it for the personal stuff, the human scenes and relatable moments that makes Revival so compelling.
BD: Can you tell us a little bit about the concept for ‘Sundowners’ and what the story is about?
SA: It deals with the intersection of costumed crime fighters and insanity, mental illness.
BD: One of the big announcements to come out of Dark Horse in 2013 was a new creator owned book by Greg Rucka called Veil. We’ve been eagerly anticipating developments on this series. What can you share with us about that book?
SA: You could say that Greg is known for writing some great female characters. I don’t think this was his intention, necessarily, but he turns a comics reader’s expectations on their ear about what that kind of character is with this book. Veil herself appears first as a victim, but she starts to assert herself quickly—and as far as that goes, this is not what you’re used to, this isn’t the victim turning on her attackers. She’s not that simple a character, or that familiar. And the people she comes up against are just as complex. She’s a very dangerous character, in some ways that she’s in control of, and in some ways she isn’t. A lot of people want to help her, but her problems aren’t easily solved. There are horror elements to this book, but Greg would probably not be that interested in doing a straight up horror comic. We had lunch one day, and he was telling me about a few different ideas he had, and when he started talking about ‘Veil’, he was getting excited—about the character, about how to tell it, about what she’d be up against—and I knew this was the one I wanted to do with him. That wasn’t just because of my attraction to the horror tropes in the story. It was because of how I could see Greg’s mind working.
BD: Alex De Campi’s Grindhouse has been a favorite of ours at Bloody-Disgusting. Where is the book heading as it heads in 2014?
SA: The women’s prison in space arc just kicked off, I think, right? I see these ahead of time, but I think the one with Francesco Francavilla’s women’s prison cover is on sale now. I’ve seen a lot of pages of subsequent story lines, and Alex is fulfilling the promise of delivering the sort of thrills people went to 42nd Street for in the 1970s, in terms of those lurid films and their crazy plot lines. Gratuitous violent, drug use, and nude pie fights. There’s this one naked female monster that’s so nasty in the last arc, I cannot wait to see the letters of praise and condemnation stacking up outside the editor’s door …
BD: Can we expect Alex De Campi’s ‘Grindhouse’ to continue after the 8-issues or it meant to be a finite series?
SA: No current plans for that, but we’re going to have more things with Alex coming, I’m pretty sure. A few different things are in the cooker, nothing to announce at this time.
BD: Playing into that ‘Grindhouse’ style is Victor Gischler’s ‘Clown Fatale’, which we loved at Bloody Disgusting. What was it about that book that made it a perfect fit for the Dark Horse horror line?
SA: I don’t really think of that as a horror line book, though it is fairly grindhouse. Anyway, I brought Victor in to Dark Horse a while ago for a ‘Spike’ miniseries, spinning off Buffy Season 9. He did a great job with that, and I just wanted to get more stuff going with him. He pitched me a number of things, including ‘Kiss Me Satan’. With ‘Clown Fatale’, I loved the artwork, and I loved the raucous sexuality of the story and of Maurizio’s art. It’s fun, crazy comics.
BD: David Lapham and Mike Huddleston are still working on the second installment of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy “The Strain”. What looms on the horizon for that book and how will the upcoming FX TV series factor into what you do with the comic series? Will there be a marketing campaign to go with the launch of the show?
SA: I’m excited for the FX series, but I don’t have cable, so I may have to figure out the internet … The way I hear it, Guillermo has used some of the visuals from the comic for the show. He was really involved in the adaptation of the novels—he helped pick the team, he art directed the book to a degree. He’s a very visual filmmaker, obviously, more than many, and he loves comics, so part of why we wanted to do the comic is we knew it’d provide an opportunity to work with him in a way we hadn’t before. The comics have helped fuel the vision of the show, thanks to Guillermo, thanks to our creative team, and the show will help the comic reach a bigger audience.
In fact, there’s a new issue of the comic coming this week, December 18, where the good guys have a bit of a turning point against the Master, the ancient vampire behind all of this. There’s a magical book that may provide a way to kill him.
Guillermo & Chuck Hogan did two great things in creating this series, that makes it work so well in comics, and that’s creating an amazing villain in the Master, and a great hero in Ephraim. There are other great, iconic characters, like Setrakian, the sort of wise old man, but the things we see Ephraim go through are really what makes it an addictive read.
BD: How closely involved are Guillermo & Hogan in the adaptation of the comic and what has it been like working with creators that have such a precise vision for their story.
SA: Mike Richardson and I met with Guillermo when he was in town on a book tour for the third novel, and that was when plans for The Strain comics came together. But since then, Sierra Hahn has been his editor, and working really closely with him. He contributes extra story material, ideas that didn’t make it into the novels that worked for the comics. Sierra keeps Chuck Hogan in the loop on everything, but the comic has been more Guillermo’s project than Chuck’s. They’ve both been really generous in terms of giving Lapham and Huddleston room to do what they do well, and guidance in keep it all true to the vision of the books.
BD: You have a big year planned for the Mignola Universe with a zombie arc coming up in ‘Abe Sapien’ and you have a massive story planned for ‘BPRD’ called “BPRD Hell on Earth”. What can fans look forward to with those two titles?
SA: When I told Max Fiumara we were doing an arc featuring zombies, he was very much against zombies. When I told him how I wanted to do it, he got excited, and then he started offering me visual ideas. So this is not what we’ve come to think of as a zombie comic, these days. I don’t so much think I came up with something new, as I went back to the source, and I mean way before Romero. Max is able to bring a world to so much life, through texture and detail, and he handles weird character bits so wonderfully. I wanted to create a small town with a big problem, for which absolutely no one thinks Abe Sapien is the answer. And this has really brought out the best in Max. There are more than a few moments that he’s created that I feel are worthy of Bernie Wrightson, and that’s about as high a mark as I can aim for with this book …
SA: The first issue of Hellboy came out in March 1994, so we wanted to do something big this spring. The arc of BPRD that’s coming out during that time is a pivotal one, with the strongest crew they’ve assembled in years going into the ruins of New York to find out what the hell happened there, and finding a much worse situation than they pictured. That arc has a group of covers by Mignola, Corben, Kevin Nowlan, and others, that celebrates the history of the Mignolaverse. But the in-store event we’re doing with comic-book retailers is aimed at giving diehard fans and the retailers that support the book a chance to celebrate. We’re doing a sampler, a freebie Hellboy comic featuring some reprint stories and some new ones, including a Hellboy in Mexico story by Mike and Fabio Moon. There are going to be some good incentives and rewards for retailers to get Hellboy into some new hands, and so we hope if you’ve somehow gone twenty years without trying these titles, this is a great excuse to give it a look.
BD: What can fans expect coming down the pipeline from Mike Mignola this year? More Hellboy In Hell?
SA: Yeah, almost as soon as Mike wrapped up the recent issue, the one that just came out—which got amazing reviews—he was working on the next one, which will be out this spring. It’s called The Death Card, and it brings back a familiar face from another story … He’s done about seven pages of it, and it’s looking fantastic. I feel like Mike is trying new things with his inking—he’s very self-deprecating, and says he’s just taking more short cuts, but Dave Stewart and Mike Oeming and I all think there are some amazing new things to see in these pages.
BD: The Criminal Macabre “Eyes of Frankenstein” series just wrapped up, so tell us what’s coming up next for Cal…. Also where what projects can we expect from Steve Niles this year?
SA: We have a hardcover collection of Breath of Bones coming—this was one of the best-reviewed horror comics I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s Steve doing what I think he does best—a horror story with a strong coming of age element, a real sweetness to it that goes beyond the horror elements. It’s like Freaks of the Heartland, and we wanted to give it a specie treatment. We’re wrapping up a ‘Criminal Macabre’ arc now, and we’ve started work on the next one, which sees Cal in a very weird position. You may have noticed that Steve has had a preoccupation with terrible little babies in his Criminal Macabre series. Well, those baby plot lines start coming together now …
BD: Dark Horse had a massive year for their horror line, but you also re-launched the characters from the World’s Greatest Heroes line of superhero books with X, Ghost, Captain Midnight and Catalyst Comix. Can you reveal a little bit about your plans for that line for 2014?
SA: Yes—it’s true that X, Ghost, and Captain Midnight are part of a shared universe, but it’s not Comics Greatest World, which was our superhero line in the ’90s. This is Project Black Sky, and it’s building to some big things in the summer. Fred Van Lente was here in the office today, and we had lunch with Mike Richardson, going over some of what we’re doing, what we want to have Fred involved in. His work on Brain Boy has been one of the highlights of the superhero line.
What Joe Casey has going on over in Catalyst Comics is separate, although those characters may come into Black Sky at some point. But Joe is doing a very Joe spin on superheroes over there, similar to some of his best stuff at Image.
In 2014 you’ll see some more characters coming into Project Black Sky, and the connections between the books will grow increasingly apparent. Keep an eye out for our Free Comic Book Day announcements …
BD: The Buffy line has always been a massive line of books Dark Horse. What is in store for the Buffy, and Angel next?
SA: Season 10 kicks off in March—this is the third “season” of the comic, picking up where the show left off. We had our big writers summit in the spring in LA, with Joss and all the writers who’ll be working on the comics, plus some of the show writers, and Nicky Brendon was there. We nailed down a great direction for this season, with the stories a bit more connected, between the Buffy title and the Angel & Faith title than you got in Season 9. Chris Gage, who did great work on Angel & Faith last season, is taking over Buffy, and Victor Gischler, who made his Dark Horse debut with an awesome Spike story, is taking over Angel & Faith. We’ve learned a lot about how to make the two titles complement each other. We’re going to look at all these characters dealing with some very personal threats—less apocalyptic and more personally catastrophic—while they all try to determine what they’re going to do with their lives, and how they each figure into each other’s lives.
BD: Tell us a little bit about the decision to license ‘Firefly’ and the upcoming ‘Serenity’ series…
SA: It’s a license we’ve had since the film, we just haven’t exploited it as much as we could have. We wanted to do the stories Joss wanted to tell when he had time to tell them, or to work with the right person. Zack Whedon is that right person. Zack has written some amazing Serenity comics for us, and with Leaves on the Wind, the new thing we’re doing, we take the characters in to the future, after the film, dealing with the fallout of everything they did. Zack knows who to write these guys in peril, and in high stakes. The Serenity has lost a couple members of the crew, and the rest of them are in dire straits to keep their lives together while preserving what matters most to them, while continuing to chip away at the big bad, the Alliance.
BD: The addition of writer Brian Wood to the Dark Horse creative roster was a big part of the success for your Star Wars line, his Conan arc is coming to a close, and his creator owned series The Massive is more than half-way through its run. What can we expect to see Mr. Wood on the Dark Horse slate this year?
SA: We’ve kicked around some other licensed options, but nothing ready to announce at this time. I think you’ll see another creator owned book from him with us before too long. I know that everyone at Dark Horse is really committed to keeping new stuff coming from Brian. Sierra Hahn, the editor who brought him into the company, the editor of The Massive, has been talking to him about new stuff, and the rest of us are mostly just waiting to see what we get.
BD: Can you tell us anything about where Brian Wood’s ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Conan’ arcs are heading in the next year and what you have planned once his run concludes on each book?
SA: Brian will have wrapped the Belit storyline, Queen of the Black Coast, when he leaves the book after issue #25. Then Fred Van Lente—another writer who I’m really, really impressed by—takes over the title. Conan’s messed up in the wake of the events of Queen of the Black Coast, in a pretty bad place, as Fred kicks off with an adaptation of the Howard story Snout in the Dark. I know, not the best title ever, but it was the thirties, he didn’t know better. In Star Wars, Brian continues with the core characters from the original film. I’m not too in the loop on what he’s doing there.
BD: Matt Kindt has also been hot creator for Dark Horse this year. Can you tell us any of the things that he’s working on in the coming year?
SA: ‘Mind Mgmt’ remains his focus, and there are some new things in the works. We want to be Matt’s main home for original comics, and we want to see a lot more like ‘Mind Mgmt’. But he is only one guy.
BD: Tell us about the $1 first issue books that you have coming up and how Dark Horse is trying to convert new readers to existing books that are further into their runs… Have you seen readers jump on board with series like ‘Mind Mgmt’ and “The Massive’?
SA: Yeah, Brendan Wright, the editor on ‘Mind Mgmt’, had the idea to revive our old #1 for $1 program when he realized that ‘Mind Mgmt’ had sold out well before the first hardcover had been released. The same had happened with ‘The Massive’, around the same time. So Brendan spearheaded something to get those first issues back out there. They sold really well for us, but they also led to a spike in those collection sales. We saw more people buying the collections than expected, and we felt that it had something to do with the #1 for $1s coming out when they did.
The business of doing ongoing series is somewhat new for us. We’ve done them for a while, but not that many. But we’re seeing that it’s really what retailers and readers want, that it makes it possible to tell really involved stories. The obstacle is that you don’t have as many opportunities to jump on for new readers, as opposed to how we used to do ‘BPRD’, whenever five issues there was a month or two break and a new number one. So we’re looking for ways to make sure readers can jump onto a title they’ve heard good things about, and we want to make it easy for retailers to put something in the readers’ hands to get them started. We just did an A’be Sapien’ #1 for $1, timed with the release of the first collection of that series, and we recently did the same for Mike Oeming’s ‘Victories’. We’re going to settle in to doing one or two a month of those, when we have the right titles to offer.
BD: Dark Horse had a ton of success in 2013 with it being a great sales year, but are there any projects that you feel retailers, critics and readers might have overlooked this year?
SA: Well, the horror audience has been really good to us. There are a lot of books I’d say deserve more readers, but I’d say that of most stuff I like. One book that I thought would catch more attention from the horror audience is To Hell You Ride. Lance Henriksen and a couple of his pals write and drew an amazing, spiritual, lyrical, beautiful graphic novel, one of the weirdest horror stories I’ve seen in ages. I let the schedule get away from us, and I think that hurt sales, but this is a title horror fans should really check out. The collection just came out, a really nice hardcover, and I hope people discover it in the collected form. It’ll make a great read in one fat book, and there’s a great peek into the creative process.