Marking its first year being distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services, indie comics publisher Dark Horse announced a slate of nine editorial promotions intended to prepare the house for continued growth. Dark Horse founder and publisher Mike Richardson said sales have grown 30% over the last three years and the promotions mark expansions in Dark Horse's kids graphic novels, backlist sales and sales through independent bookstores.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth over the last three years, and not just a few divisions; all departments here are doing extremely well,” Richardson said. He said the promotions speak to the goal of “anticipating where we’re going,” as the company prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2016.
The moves include the promotion to senior editor of Dave Marshall, who will oversee such series as Mass Effect, Avatar Last Airbender, World of Warcraft and writer Neil Gaiman. Philip Simon has also been promoted to senior editor and will oversee the Kitchen Sink Press imprint, Blade of the Immortal and other series.
Associate editors Brendan Wright (Usagi, Bandette, Itty Bitty Books), Daniel Chabon (Aliens, Axe Cop), Patrick Thorpe (Fear Agent, Savage Sword) and Jim Gibbons (DHP, Buffy, Serenity) have been promoted to editor. Aaron Walker (Halo, Walt Kelly) and Shantel LaRocque (Misfits of Avalon, Rexodus) have been promoted to associate editors. Katii O’Brien has been named an assistant editor, working under Dark Horse editor-in-chief Scott Allie on Hellboy, BPRD, Goon, Fight Club and other series.
Richardson said the switch to PRH Publisher Services for distribution has grown sales of backlist titles in independent bookstores, as well as sales to the library market. "We’re selling a lot of titles into stores we didn’t sell to before," he said.
Dark Horse also operates Dark Horse Digital, its own e-book store, and Richardson noted that the retailing unit is bringing in new customers. As the company prepares for its 30th anniversary, Dark horse is expanding its kids' comics publishing, and adding mainstream book authors like Chuck Palahniuk, who is using Dark Horse to serialize a comics adaptation of his novel Fight Club that will eventually be released as a graphic novel.
Richardson said more announcements will be coming about both the digital side and Dark Horse Entertainment, which produces films and TV shows based on Dark Horse comics.
Changing on the licensing side have also affected Dark Horse. After publishing Star Wars licensed comics adaptations for 20 years, Richardson said Dark Horse adjusted quickly once Disney notified them that it was switching the license to its Marvel Comics subsidiary beginning this year.
Star Wars, while a very important license for the publisher, was also an expensive one. And Richardson noted that the license represented less than 5% of Dark Horse's profits. “It was significant, but losing it is absorbable," he said. "We’ve been planning how to deal with that for more than a year.”
Update: Due to a recent shuffle of duties, Neil Gaiman will work with senior editor Dan Marshall and not Philip Simon
Correction: Shantel LaRocque's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.