Does Dark Horse Matter?

The combination of the recent conventions, feedback from you, the iFanboy Faithful and a few conversations I’ve had with friends has me thinking about Dark Horse Comics a lot lately. I find myself wondering…

“Does Dark Horse Matter?”

As long as I’ve been collecting comics, “The Big Two” have always reigned supreme in terms of market share. Then Image Comics came along and I discovered independent comics. But there is one publisher that’s been around longer than Image, and is just a step beneath Marvel and DC in terms of market share. Dark Horse Comics has been a staple in the comics industry for 20 years and while I’ve always been aware of them, to me, they haven’t really mattered.

My first exposure to Dark Horse was when they did the Aliens vs. Predator series in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Dark Horse seems to have found a nice balance between licensed properties and then later on, providing a haven for creator owned books like Hellboy, Sin City, and The Goon. Some of the best comics we’ve seen have been published under the Dark Horse banner, and apparently a lot of you enjoy the Star Wars books quite a bit. And yet, as I ponder this publisher, I’m perplexed as to why my instinct is to dismiss them. To say that they don’t matter.

Now, I know many will disagree with me, and I’ve already conceded the fact that there are and have been some great books put out by them. But do they carry the same weight as Image Comics? Not at all. Why? Image doesn’t have nearly the amount of licensed properties as Dark Horse and you could probably argue the specific successful titles, Savage Dragon vs. Hellboy, The Goon vs. Invincible etc. And yet in San Diego, I visited the Image booth at least 17 times and the Dark Horse booth just once. On Sunday. When I scan the shipping list to see what I’m buying, I don’t even look at Dark Horse, rather I start at DC Comics. Why is that? Why do I just dismiss a company that has obviously proven themselves and even have shown more success in marketing and transition their properties to Hollywood than Image.

I don’t have an answer. It’s a built in reaction that I can’t explain, kind of like how I don’t like seafood. I can’t tell you specifically why, I just know I don’t. But I’m trying to evolve as I get older and many of you have forced me to re-look at Dark Horse by getting into Hellboy. I already have all the Sin City books. But with titles like The Goon, Fear Agent, the recently Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I wonder… could Dark Horse start to matter?

They are becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Hollywood integration. I’ve yet to see a Dark Horse property fail in Hollywood. Oh wait, there was Barb Wire, but that has a cult following of its own. The recent success of 300 has done nothing but increase Dark Horse’s buzz with Hollywood. When Fear Agent moved from Image to Dark Horse, it was speculated the move was related to the prospect of optioning it for a movie. So does having the publisher as a launching pad to other media make it matter? In this day and age, I’d love to say no. I’d love to say that the quality of the comics is all that matters but that would be naive. Luckily, it seems that Dark Horse has been able to combine the magic of quality comics by talented creators and then leverage those as a base to successful movie properties. But again, does that matter?

Historically, Dark Horse hasn’t mattered to me the same way Marvel and Image has. It hasn’t been a must-see publisher. I think that may be changing though. As I find myself trying more and more comics, I see that Dark Horse does have quite a bit to offer to a comic fan, if you can ignore what seems like the mountains of licensed properties products and Manga. Fear Agent, Buffy, the upcoming Sugarshock (from Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon), Rex Mundi, Usagi Yojimbo. All great comics. But I still don’t see the day where I buy a book because it is published by Dark Horse, in the same way that I buy books from Marvel or Image with that sense of brand loyalty. Dark Horse has books that are good that just happen to be published by Dark Horse, rather than books that are good because they are published by Dark Horse. Or at least thats how I feel. The way in which a publisher matters, to me at least, is when I can pick up any book and feel confident that I will enjoy it based on the fact that they published it and I’m not there yet with Dark Horse.

At least not yet…


  1. If you were a fan of japanese comics, they’d probably matter more to you. Blade of the Immortal is no small thing, nor was their re-release of Lone Wolf and Cub. I believe they have others.

  2. I think Dark Horse runs into some problems because they don’t keep their books in print well. When I worked in a comic shop I learned very quickly that if we ran out of a dark horse book (that wasn’t star wars) and it went to back order, we probably wouldn’t see that book for a very very long time.

    That said, I’ve read some pretty awesome Dark Horse books that have been worth the wait. Kurt Busiek’s Conan run has been great and Paul Chadwick’s Concrete series is one of my favorite comic book series ever so I do give a quick glance at the Dark Horse shipping list cause I might see something intriguing.

  3. Concrete, Grendel and Sin City

    3 reasons why Dark Horse will always have a special place in my heart

  4. b.p.r.d. is great fun, and guy davis’ art is so honest, unpretentious and fucking well done.

  5. Let us not forget all the Star Wars fandom who keep Dark Horse rolling in the cash flow.

    I’ve always had Dark Horse on my radar because as a kid I collected everything Aliens or Predator.

    Now Hellboy, Fear Agent and Buffy get my cash so they must be doing something right!

  6. My pull list sure has a lot of Marvel on it but brand loyalty isn’t a big influence in my buying decisions. I’ll go for anything that intrigues me, the publisher isn’t that big of a deal, but when you see Marvel or DC you know you can expect a certain quality of book. Dark Horse is diverse in what they have to offer, but I definitely see their logo as a mark of quality. Almost more so than the big two. I know money is the motivator for any business, but Dark Horse books seem to me to have purer motivations. Their books are artistic, and well written. They lack the superheroes other brands have to offer, but they’re always a sure bet.

  7. I think you just need to giver it a shot! You said it yourself you don’t even look at the Dark Horse list, so there you have it. I think alot of Dar Horse books read better in trades, Sin city, Hellboy, Fear Agent etc…. I read all those in trades. I don’t really know why you guys don’t read any of the Star Wars comics, you like Star Waars right? You like comic books right? mix the two together…….. hey at least its worth a shot. Don’t pick up LEgacy (even though its great) you will have NO idea what is going on. But give Knights of The Old Republic and Dark Times a shot, maybe even pick up some of the more recent Republic trades or some of the even older stuff, there’s a lot of really good Star Wars books out there. I suggest the Jango Fett trade I loved that.

  8. I agree with Quentin. I typically don’t buy books based on who the publisher is but rather the content and what the story is about. Coincidentally, I am a pretty big Star Wars fan but don’t read any of the SW titles that Dark Horse puts out. Partially because the comics wing of the SW universe is a complete entity in itself and I just don’t have time ( or money…) to go down that route. Having said that, looking back over several books I do like Dark Horse has put out some good stuff. So if they matter or not…I am not sure…but personally as long as they put out stuff that interests me I will buy it. And they are, in part, what helps keep the Hollywood desire for more comic related movies going. So that can’t be a bad thing.

  9. DK has a nice section in my library. Conan HCs, BPRD tpbs, Hellboy tpbs, and Sin City in both HCs and tpbs. Grendel is about to see some life on my shelf too. There is a great looking Grendel/Batman collection in the newest Preview.

  10. After thinking on it some more, Dark Horse pushing to have some of their titles made into movies has introduced me to some stories I had previously dismissed. I am probably going against the norm here and will be disagreed with. But I had tried to read Sin City many times before the movie and never could get into it. I think it was more a problem with the art…something about it that I didn’t like. And the same with Hellboy…while it wasn’t the art that I had a problem with, I just never got into it. Yet after watching both of those movies and discovering that I really enjoyed both of them…I was able to go back and read the titles and be alright with it. I suppose the same goes for any other company (Marvel/DC) that releases movies but so far they have mainly been of characters that have been around for awhile and not newer ideas like Sin City and Hellboy.

  11. Clayton you should pick up some of those SW books I mentioned, they don’t really tie into any of the other non-movie stuff that SW has out there. Republic does tie into a lot of other stuff but its still a great read and you won’t be lost.

  12. Ralph, I have given it some thought in the past and I keep hearing good things about it. I’m just not much of a fan for space opera stuff. I’m the guy that says “none” to the question “Are you a Star Wars fan or a Star Trek fan?” Space is my kryptonite when it comes to comics. Weakens me, seriously! 😉

  13. Does Dark Horse matter? Yes, absolutely.

    Of course, if Buffy the Vampire slayer became an Icon book, there’d be no Dark Horse books in my pull list… 🙂

  14. “But I still don’t see the day where I buy a book because it is published by Dark Horse, in the same way that I buy books from Marvel or Image with that sense of brand loyalty.” Marvel and DC have their own house styles and interconnected universes. Dark Horse just tries to publish good comics. A person buying Star Wars won’t necessarily like The Goon. That’s okay, it’s an eclectic company by design. I think Image is headed that way. But the main reason you think of Marvel and DC in the way you do is because you grew up that way. It’s still weird for me to think of Marvel as anything but an underdog because that’s what they were when I was a Marvel Maniac. Don’t worry about it. Just chase and recommend good comics.

  15. Conan and Fear Agent matter to me.

  16. I loved the Dark Horse Indiana Jones stuff back in the 90s and i hear it is to be collected in omnibus-type form, with the old Marvel run…coupled with the new movie…another hit property for them….
    The other big DH item is the new Dark Horse Presents to be fetured on myspace!?

  17. I remember Dark Horse as always being the “property” comic brand. It was the one place that you could find any sort of sci-fi movie based comic. As the company got older, they did the smart thing by latching onto really, really good original IPs. These days I find myself buying 3-4 Dark Horse titles a month, which is much different than when I started reading comics.

    I think Dark Horse does the one thing that the other comic publishers are afraid to do: take a chance on something wholly original.

    Image does a really good job of doing it in this day in age, but at the same time, I feel like their current state is more a reaction to the success of Dark Horse. Image used to try to be a Marvel or DC, with mainly superhero focused books. After Dark Horse had some success with Hellboy and Sin City, I think they decided to follow Dark Horse’s lead.

    Either way, they put out good stuff, and I’m always one to check out the new things they are putting out. I always tell myself, “This could be the next Hellboy.” And who doesn’t want to miss out on that?

  18. hellboy got me reading comics again. bprd, usagi and now fear agent. i don’t buuy a book becouse of the company logo but i do keep my eye on there stuff becouse i know its usualy quality. minus who wants to be a superhero’s “feedback” looked at that one. ouch. needles in my eyes.

  19. Come on!!! Does DHC matter? Not to flame any issues, but what would Marvel be without the millions and millions of mutants? What would DC be without that S symbol wearing illegal alien?

    Remember they were the first company to allow creator owned titles, which (due to my age) at the time, if I remember correctly was a huge point with many writers and artists. Dark Horse has been a success almost since the beginning with works like Concrete, The American, Dark Horse Presents, etc… These comics were well written and well drawn. It was not until later that they became a “property” comic brand, with titles like Aliens, Terminator, Godzilla, Indiana Jones and Predator. Also make note that for many of the early years DHC were only produced in the black and white realm. Let us not forget Usagi

    During the “property” era of DHC we still had amazing creations coming from the minds of some of the hottest writers and artists of that time and some are still going. My second favorite character of all time was created during this time… Hellboy. (If you can figure out my favorite, I’ll give you an orange skittle)

    Off of these titles for a base they gave us many other memorable comics, some of which have been mentioned already… BPRD, Sin City, The Goon, Star Wars (relaunch), Conan (relaunch).

    Again all just opinions based on the fact that I’ve been buying comic books since the 70’s which is far longer than the age of some of the people reading this post. I guess it is all just a matter of opinion really. Myself, I prefer DC but all of this crisis stuff is really stupid. Marvel reminds me of a line from the movie, the Lost Boys. Instead of using the word vampire, insert mutants. Image… is “Does it really matter?” DHC… only the Mignola related works anymore. Devil’s Due is fun….

    Hope you all enjoyed. Hope I didn’t anger anyone.


  20. Dark Horse may not be a “must read” company, but they are definitely one of the best creatively. Buffy, Fear Agent, Rex Mundi, Zero Killer, they tell good stories no matter what.

  21. I guess it’s just not in my nature to worry about the company, as long as they’re afloat enough so that I don’t have to anticipate my favorite story stopping just because the production company went under.

    A good comic is a good comic in my book. I have titles from Dark Horse and Image in my house. I also have Oni, Top Shelf, Dynamite and Boom!.

    As far as their importance within the community just look up to Berg’s post. I will always enjoy the smaller companys for their creativity, in the same way I enjoy indie movies and music (could you imagine only buying from WB? Seriously. Shoot me in the face.)

    They will always have their place.