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At 35, Dark Horse Comics has proven itself a significant cultural force

Eric Isaacson
Longbox Review
Many Dark Horse titles have become adapted into movies or television series, including HELLBOY and LADY KILLER.

Comic book culture geeks rejoice! 2021 marks 35 years since Oregon-based franchise Dark Horse Comics launched. And it has become a major force in the graphic novel and entertainment industry .

Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson started his company while running a comic book shop in Bend. It enticed some of the industry’s best artists and writers with the editorial independence – and financial incentives - big brands D-C and Marvel would not provide in 1986.

Dark Horse Comics 35th Anniversary Celebration

“We not only offered the creators the ownership of their properties when we entered into partnerships with them, but we were able to pay them their Marvel and DC rates, which was not always the case with the non-Marvel and DC companies,” Richardson told KLCC.

“A lot of the high selling creators, we gave them a percentage which was far above their Marvel and DC rates because they get a piece of the profits.”

In time, titles such as “HELLBOY” and “SIN CITY” became household names, establishing Dark Horse’s spot as a creative force in the independent comics market (and the movie adaptations didn’t hurt.)

Brian Bull
Popular Dark Horse franchises include AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER and HELLBOY.

Dark Horse has also been contracted for graphic novel adaptations of popular franchises, including “Star Wars,” “Aliens,” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Avatar: The Legend of Korra.”

Netflix adapted one of Dark Horse’s titles, “The Umbrella Academy,” into a runaway hit which is now filming season 3.

Richardson says he’s ready for another 35 years, and credits a few things to Dark Horse’s longevity.

“Because we’re not focused in one area and because we’ve never tried to compete with Marvel and DC directly, I think that’s been one of the secrets,” said Richardson.

“Our partnership with our creators, in trying to make a deal that every creator’s happy with helps with the longevity, those relationships with some of the top creators, and some of the new creators that come on board.”

2021 also marks 19 years since Richardson founded Dark Horse Entertainment Inc., which produced hit films like “The Mask” and “Timecop.” Overall, the company has produced more than two dozen film and TV projects.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.