Mark Bernardi, current director of digital publishing at Dark Horse Comics, an independent graphic novel and comics publisher, has been named v-p of book trade and digital sales at Dark Horse. Bernardi succeeds Michael Martens, who is leaving Dark Horse, September 1, after 22 years at the comics publisher.
Bernardi will be on hand at the American Library Association annual meeting that opens June 23 in Orlando this week. He joined Dark Horse in 1996 and credited Martens, a longtime comics publishing executive, as a mentor. “Mike originally hired me to work at Dark Horse. He pioneered our focus on libraries early-on in the 1990s and library sales are a real growth area for us,” he said.
“The library market is not just a sales channel, it’s a way for consumers to sample our content and for us to build longtime readers,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi has worked in a variety of roles at Dark Horse over the last 20 years. Beginning in 2011, Bernardi oversaw the launch of the Dark Horse digital e-bookstore and apps, and subsequently oversaw the later expansion of Dark Horse digital comics to the Amazon, Comixology, iBooks Store and other digital comics marketplaces.
Bernardi is succeeding Martens at a critical time at Dark Horse, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. The comics house switched its bookstore distribution to Penguin Random House Publisher Services in 2013. This year Dark Horse will publish about 275 hardcovers and trade paperbacks (including coloring books) in addition to 350-400 periodical comics via the comics shop market. Like most comics houses, Dark Horse titles are sold via the comics shop market—a network of about 2000 stores supplied non-returnable at wholesale by Diamond Comics Distributors—and the traditional book trade for book-format titles.
Bernardi said sales growth this year over last was “slight” but noted that “the last three months of the year are our biggest period. We’ve got big books coming in the fall.”
Among the fall's big books are Bait: Off Color Stories for You to Color, a coloring book of illustrated prose by bestselling novelist Chuck Palahniuk (with illustrations by Duncan Fegredo and Lee Bermejo), whose Fight Club novel was adapted into a graphic novel by Dark Horse. The house is also releasing Angel Catbird Vol. 1, a new graphic novel by Margaret Atwood with art by Johnnie Christmas.
Book trade growth, Bernardi said, has been important for the comics house. He cited hits like Palahniuk’s Fight Club graphic novel adaptation, the continuing growth in popularity of children’s and YA graphic novels, and the growth of Dark Horse’s art book business with titles like The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia (based on the videogame, it’s sold more than 800,000 copies since 2013). He also pointed to sales of Dark Horse manga. “Manga has been a strong category for us in the book trade, sales at B&N have been big.”