Tales From an Early Rider … er Reader of Dark Horse Comics in Salute to Dark Horse Day

1 Jun

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By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

In my days as a fervent comic book reader, I think I bought more Dark Horse Comics than Marvel or DC combined. Nothing against the big two from out East, but this company based in the Dogwood City of the West in the Beaver State released a lot of translated manga, movie-tie in material and unique titles that I definitely gnawed at! Two of the earliest works I enjoyed reading were Aliens and Predator. Of the two, I got my very first issue signed by the artist Chris Warner when he visited my home city of Victoria, BC in a special book tour. A few decades later, I managed to get my Aliens portfolio (my original comics were buried too deep in storage to pull out in time for Emerald City Comicon a few years ago) autographed by Mark A. Nelson .

This publisher is celebrating the big three-o this year, and their big day is being celebrated worldwide on June 3rd. Appropriately enough, they have a release to give out for free which includes an Aliens versus Predator story. This comic book recalls 30 years of their best-selling titles. I’m very curious in which stories get reprinted, but there will be new material too. The worlds represented are Sin City, Umbrella Academy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Best of all, the distribution of this comic is not limited to North America; it’s international! Comic stores from around the world will be offering swag which includes mini-posters, window clings and postcards. Please check with your local comic book retailer if they are participating; the list is huge.

This publishing house was founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson and is based out of Milwaukie, Oregon. Their emphasis on giving the creators full control of their products is key to their success. While I think Frank Miller (Sin City) helped put this company on the map, the real winner is with Concrete by Paul Chadwick. It garnered multiple awards. To name a few, other great names which helped include Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Geof Darrow (Rusty the Boy Robot) and Stan Sakai (Usagi Yujimbo). While their Star Wars comics did help create a new industry of comics based on films, there was more to this company than meets the eye. They were quick to bring foreign comics to North America.

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For me, one of the reasons why I love this company is because of the huge number of manga releases they released back then and still do to this day. They published titles like Akira, 3×3 Eyes, Oh My Goddess, Gunsmith Cats, Dirty Pair, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Astro Boy, Lone Wolf and Cub, Ghost in the Shell and What’s Michael — the huge list does not stop there. While I fully understand why they cancelled 3×3 Eyes due to declining sales and interest, I do hope they will consider publishing Shin 3×3 Eyes, which in theory is a shorter run, and perhaps rerelease the volumes as a digital collection.

But in what I enjoy from this company are experimental manga-inspired series like Mecha! (which celebrates its 30th anniversary this day!). The robot designs in this series are still terrific to look at to this day, and if only I had the modelling skills to build them.

The series which made me know this company is going places is The Mask. Say what you will about the movies, but the comic book series is infinitely better. I loved how it incorporated a touch of Nordic mythology into the development of why this object is “cursed.” Loki is behind it all, and there’s never a Thor to pound him back to place. The tales were so wildly out there and I firmly believe the level of comic-book violence produced from this series can make Deadpool blush!

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Other titles I fondly explored were Ghost and Nexus. My fanboy obsession even delved into their video-game tie-in material which began with Oni. This video game was buggy as hell, but I played it all the way to the end. Somewhere in my photo archives is an image of me and the huge banner they brought into Sakuracon 2001 for display. Now I’m digging into figuring out what makes Plants vs. Zombies enduring.

In what Dark Horse Day will promote may not be as huge as seeing them conquer an exhibit floor at a convention, but for various participating retailers around the world, they will be handing out goodies to visitors who arrive early to see the spread of nearly every genre this company now represents in the titles offered. With animated hits like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Legend of Korra and How to Train Your Dragon, they have branched out to continue the adventures of my favourite heroes in comic book form!

For a list of stores celebrating this day, readers will have to check with their local outlet to see if they will be participating. The full list has not been made available online at time of publishing. For the Pacific Northwest, the list has been reproduced on the next page, and other countries on the page following:

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