Starting in March, Dark Horse Comics will launch a new digital imprint, Dark Horse Digital Exclusives, with three titles switching over from monthly print to monthly digital: Ghost Fleet by Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson with issue #5; Resurrectionists by Fred Van Lente and Maurizio Rosenzweig with #5; and Sundowners by Tom Puryear and Erika Alexander with #7.
The monthly issues will be exclusive to Dark Horse’s in-house Dark Horse Digital platform. When the series collections arrive in August and October, they'll be available through Diamond in the direct market and Penguin Random House in the bookstore market. The digital editions of the trade paperbacks will expand to include Amazon, Nook and iBooks.
“We are confident in the quality of these stories and want to ensure that readers have the opportunity to fully experience them,” said Dark Horse president and publisher Mike Richardson in a statement. “Dark Horse is throwing its support behind these creators and their innovative titles, and we are choosing to continue them in a series of original graphic novels. These stories deserve to be told, and to continue in a reader-friendly and accessible format. In the meantime, for those who would like to continue reading the series, we will also offer new issues of each title on our Dark Horse Digital platform.”
While the Dark Horse Digital Exclusives program is new, Dark Horse is not inexperienced in this general publishing model. Over the years, they’ve published print collections of third party webcomics like Battlepug, Doctor McNinja and AxeCop, as well as the award-winning Bandette, which was originally offered via the digital publisher Monkeybrain.
Dark Horse has also published licensed comics of the Plants Vs. Zombies and Dragon Age video games in the digital first model. Plants Vs. Zombies has been particularly successful, selling over 500K print copies with bookstores and Scholastic figuring heavily into that sales total.
While the low sales for all three print periodicals wasn't mentioned outright as the cause for the move—none of the titles appeared on Diamond's monthly top 300 comics charts— a statement by Cates alluded to the sometimes rough market for creator-driven periodical comics. ““The market can be a bear sometimes; we all know this. It’s no one’s fault. As a former retailer myself, I know how hard the decisions that go into taking on new books can be. But instead of cursing the darkness, we’re going to shine a light. And in the case of Ghost Fleet it’s going to be a shotgun-fireball ending you’ll see from f#%ing space."