Mike Richardson as an offshoot of his Oregon comic-book retail chain, Things From Another World, founded Dark Horse Comics in 1986. Richardson pursued the idea of establishing an ideal atmosphere for creative professionals, and twenty-five years later the company has grown to become the third-largest comics publisher in the United States.
Dark Horse Comics has launched a new line of superhero comics under the umbrella Project Black Sky to draw in more readers.
This is something of a shift for Dark Horse, best known as the home of creator-owned series such as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Frank Miller’s Sin City and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. They have put together an array of characters with different real-world origins and brought them into the same universe. Dark Horse has brought in an outside firm, Superfan Promotions, to produce a social media campaign around the series with a blog and Twitter that drop hints about what’s going on in the comics. Because these series are starting fresh, readers don’t have to catch up on a complicated backstory to fully understand the stories.
The superheroes themselves are a varied lot. Captain Midnight and Skyman date back to the 1940s, and Brain Boy had a short run in the 1960s. All came from different publishers, but Dark Horse has updated them and brought them into the same universe. Ghost and X first appeared in Dark Horse’s 1990s superhero imprint Comics’ Greatest World, while The Occultist and Blackout are newer characters. In addition to the Project Black Sky comics, Dark Horse has published collected editions of the original Brain Boy and Captain Midnight comics.
The creative lineup includes a number of writers and artists, including Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Joshua Hale Fialkov (Marvel Ultimates), and Phil Noto (X-23).
DH has already launched a big promotional push to comic shops; sending digital copies of Captain Midnight to retailers and having creators call the stores. There’s a Free Comic Book Day Project Black Sky giveaway written by Fred Van Lente. Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie calls the line “a group of superhero books you can jump into that doesn’t require you to have 20 years of backstory.”
“We have done all sorts of superheroes in the past—Umbrella Academy, Grendel, characters that are pretty much superheroes but a bit left of center,” Allie said. Project Black Sky, on the other hand, aims for the traditional superhero audience, including both current and lapsed readers. “We have more characters on the horizon,” Richardson said. “We have dipped our toe into the superhero waters in the past, and this time we are diving in and we are committed to it.”