Comic Bastards’ Steve Paugh sat down with Scott Allie, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse, to discuss some of the big things the multi-award-winning publisher announced at the 2013 New York Comic Con. They run the gamut in an enlightening discussion about the Dark Horse model, the publisher’s renewed attention to superheroes, quite a few new series and some news that will make Aliens, Predator and Prometheus fans salivate with joy. Let’s first talk about what brings the family of Dark horse titles together. What do you look for in a new submission/IP for Dark Horse? Is there a tone or style that when you see it you say, "That's a Dark Horse title?"
Not necessarily. We really just look for something that excites us personally and something that makes sense. If it’s a project from some other media, we want to make sure it will translate well to comic books, first and foremost. I mean, there are some things I love more than anything. For example, at this panel today, someone talked to us about doing Breaking Bad comics - not a serious inquiry, but it came up - and I said no. Something like that doesn’t need to be a comic, even though it’s my favorite show ever. So, what we ask ourselves is: Are we passionate about it? Do we love it? Is it going to work as a comic?
A couple of notable examples are The Guild and Husbands, two web series that we picked up, where we had established really tight relationships with the creators, liked the stories and thought we could do something with them in comics that wasn’t being done on the web.
The same is true of The Strain. Guillermo (del Toro), he brought up these amazing novels that have tons of great things that could work in comics, with the opportunity to explore some of that stuff more deeply. He’s been able to give us a few things that we’ve been able to show more of in comics than they were able to in the novels, and that’s always added excitement for us to do something extra.
I don’t think so. I mean, maybe there are a couple, but I like to think it’s unlimited. Husbands has nothing to do with Hellboy. The video game stuff gives us a largely sci-fi realm to play with, but Halo and Mass Effect are way different from Star Wars. Then you’ve got The Last of Us!
I think we tend toward horror stuff and a certain kind of action-packed sci-fi, but then we do a lot of other things, too, like The Massive. Maybe in terms of tone, that’s in-line with what we do, but subject-wise it was a total departure.
We view out stuff as segmented. In Dark Horse originals, we’ve got stuff like Mind MGMT and Evan Dorkin’s work, which are mostly non-genre and not easily categorized. And then there are the video game books - there’s a certain sense that those books might appeal to a specific audience, but then Last of Us is very different from Halo. I don’t know as one would be the target audience for another, because in a way, Last of Us fits better with our horror stuff, and it’s done really smart, which is our standard.
For a “smaller publisher,” at least relative to Marvel or DC, Dark Horse is a dynamic brand and you guys continue to knock out great stuff. In fact, you just announced two new titles this weekend: Veil from Greg Rucka and Vandroid from Tommy Lee Edwards...
Yeah, Vandroid is gonna be CRAZY! They really developed a great deal of that and came to us, but that’s something where it’s like, nobody has ever done this before, let’s be a part of that! Tommy Lee Edwards and Dan McDaid were enough to get us to sign on creatively, but the whole package was just so original. It’s one that I’m really excited about. I helped bring it in, but for the most part I’m really not in the loop on its development. That’s one that I look forward to just getting my copy, reading it and being like, WOW! NUTS!
Speaking of new directions, it’s very interesting to watch Dark Horse’s renewed focus on superheroes. What led to this decision?
We’ve focused on so many things other than superheroes for a long time, and in an industry largely still defined by them, it’s been a small part of what we do, with a few exceptions. But that new direction is the result of a few things coming together.
Mike [Norton] had a vision for doing a new group of superhero comics that would be tied together in a way, but also have a certain amount of independence. At the same time that we were jump-starting that plan, we had Francesco [Francavilla] pitch us Black Beetle, we had Mike Oeming pitch us Victories, we had The Answer and a few other things come at us.
We didn’t necessarily build our company on a line of superheroes, but at the same time, we had this really cool, edgy, weird crop of creator-owned superhero books that meant for a really great critical mass of superhero stuff all at once. But it’s still just a small part of what we do.
Yeah, there will be some crossover elements to X, Ghost, Captain Midnight and The Occultist - not Victories, because that stuff is separate - and you’ve sort of started to see, reading those books closely, that there are ways in which they must take place in the same world. We’re going to do a little more with that over time.
Given that you do have such a diverse library of titles, including superheroes now, is there a genre or narrative realm that Dark Horse hasn’t approached yet that maybe you would like to explore?
Aside from horror, I’m not much of a genre guy. Saying that, I like quality stuff that comes from all sorts of different sources. A number of my favorite TV shows are about things I never thought I’d be interested in. Take Breaking Bad - I never thought I’d watch a “drug show,” but then that’s not really what it is, you know? To me, we just have to find and produce the best stuff out there.
Did I think we needed an environmental comic about guys on a boat at the end of the world? No! But when Brian presented The Massive, we were like, “Yes, that’s the book we need.” We didn’t expect Greg [Rucka] to pitch Veil, but we were having lunch one day and I could see from what he was saying that this was something special and that he was going to be able to do great things with it. It does have a lot to do with the horror genre, but I also like to think that’s not the only reason why I responded so strongly to it.
Yeah, I mean, he wrote a Grendel novel a long time ago, but I don’t know that he’s written a single page of comics for us prior to this, which is exciting for me. His scripts are just great and I’m so glad to be working with him. The artist that we found is awesome, too. I like to think that we make counter-intuitive art choices, and with Greg, it makes sense to give him a very realistic, dirty, gritty art style. But that’s not at all what we did here. We went for something a bit more bizarre, more ... European. And it’s the perfect fit for the story.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
Oh man, there’s so much going on, and there’s a lot I could talk about, but one thing I haven’t gotten to in the interviews this weekend is the Aliens, Predator, Prometheus program we’ll be doing. That is going to be an unprecedented effort for us. it’s something that Mike Richardson came up with and talked to Ridley Scott about. They then started brewing this idea for how to combine these books.
They’ll be telling different stories, but in a way that really feeds together. It’s unlike anything we’ve done; really ambitious, a great opportunity to work with some really great writers like Chris Roberson, Paul Tobin, Chris Sebela, Josh Williamson - really a great experience and it’s not going to be what people expect. It’s gonna be SO cool, with such a big payoff...
And it’s all going to be canonical?
Oh yeah, we’re working with FOX and Ridley Scott’s office to make sure that we tell it like it is.