At their New York Comic-Con panel on Friday, Dark Horse Director of Public Relations Jeremy Atkins, Editor Scott Allie and Michael Gombos, director of Asian Licensing, announced a slew of new titles for 2011, including two new manga titles by the creators of Trigun and Hellsing, and a sequel to mink and Yoshitaka Amano's sci-fi noir / suspense / action illustrated novel, Shinjuku.
Micha Hershman, Dark Horse's Vice President of Marketing also revealed more about Dark Horse's plans to sell their titles as digital comics for PCs and web-enabled smart devices such as the iPad, iPhone, iPod and soon after, Android operating system, beginning in January 2011. He also announced that for a limited time (extended through Monday, Oct. 11), several Dark Horse titles are available as free downloads at http://www.darkhorse.com/Features/Mobile, so hop over there, like now.
BEYOND HELLSING AND TRIGUN: TWO NEW MANGA TITLES FOR 2011
While most of the focus of the panel was squarely on Dark Horse's continuing and new original titles such as Xerxes (Frank Miller's sequel to 300), new Hellboy comics collections, lots of manly comics featuring Robert E. Howard's macho warriors Conan and Kull, and a Dollhouse comics series from Joss Whedon, Dark Horse's main man for manga, Michael Gombos was there to share news about two new manga series, and confirm that a sequel for a recent release is in the works.
Bloodline Battlefront (Kekkai Sensen) by Yasuhiro Nightow - late summer / early fall 2011
Nightow lives up to the "Night" part of his name with a tale of supernatural action featuring a vampire hunter, a female werewolf who can turn invisible and a mummy-butler. As the trio battle vampires, they also find that they must help innocents who get caught up in this otherworldly war.
Bloodline Battlefront is a one-shot from the creator of Trigun, and was originally featured in Jump SQ magazine.
Drifters by Kohta Hirano - late summer / early fall 2011
From the creator of Hellsing comes his current series, which was originally published by Shonen Gahosha in Young King Ours magazine.
The story is set a post-feudal Japan, where a young samurai, wounded on the battlefield finds himself transported to a strange but fantastic world. According to Gombos, Drifters has "lots of the ubiquitous violence and humor" that made Hellsing a fan favorite.
Shinjuku Azul by Christopher "mink" Morrison and Yoshitaka Amano - release date TBD
The first volume of Shinjuku was notable for its striking black/white artwork with dramatic red accents. Shinjuku Azul is the "blue" volume of what is planned to be a three-volume series, with the third volume tentatively planned to have a "green" theme. No word on where mink and Amano are taking bounty hunter for hire Daniel Legend next, but it definitely should be interesting.
This is an original collaboration by Los Angeles-based filmmaker / author mink and Tokyo-based illustrator Amano that is currently in the works, so the release date has not yet been firmed up, but if it will have more of the suspense, dramatic art and top-notch production values of the first volume, Shinjuku Azul should be well worth waiting for.
Gombos also mentioned that Dark Horse is currently firming up plans for adding 3 or 4 new manga titles to their line-up, but were not able to get the contracts signed and finalized before NYCC / NYAF 2010. Look for announcements about these new titles sometime soon.
On a separate but related note, Gombos mentioned that one title you won't be expecting to see under the Dark Horse imprint soon is Tenjho Tenge by Oh! Great. This popular, albeit ultra-violent, fanservice-filled action series was originally published by DC Comics' now defunct CMX Manga imprint, but was beset with fan outrage over censorship of the original, somewhat risqué Japanese content. The 21-volume series was never completely published in English by CMX. While Dark Horse was in talks to take on the title, Gombos apparently got word that another as-yet-unnamed U.S. publisher picked up the rights to Tenjho Tenge, so expect to hear more on this front soon.
You can hear more from Michael Gombos as he talks frankly about Dark Horse's manga program and his favorite titles in the October 8 edition of Anime News Network's ANNCast. Do check it out - it's a good listen.
DARK HORSE UNVEILS "AMBITIOUS" DIGITAL COMICS PUBLISHING INITIATIVE FOR 2011
Micha Hershman, Dark Horse's Vice President of Marketing next took the stage to talk about Dark Horse Digital Comics, an online comics publishing initiative that he described as "the most ambitious e-comics program to date." Simply said, when this program launches in January 2011, "if you have a device that has a web browser, you can read Dark Horse digital comics" -- and that includes PCs/Macs, and web-enabled smart devices. There will be native apps for the iPod, iPad and iPhone, with Android apps to follow. Nook and Kindle will not be supported.
Dark Horse digital comics is a proprietary "bookshelf app" that allows readers to download one application, and browse and read several titles through that app (vs. adding several icons for each title or chapter to your screen). "Hopefully, readers wil be able to buy a story once, and read it on all devices," said Hershman. "This is the goal; if not by January 2011, then soon thereafter."
So when Dark Horse is saying "proprietary," they mean that this application was developed especially for Dark Horse, versus using Comixology or Graphic.ly's publishing platform, or offering it via Apple's iBook store. Hershman explained Dark Horse's rationale for this move:
No censorship. "Because it's a proprietary app, we don't have to submit this to Apple. We know you want to read comics that aren't censored."
More money to Dark Horse creators. "For our creators, if we don't have to play licensing fees to Apple, then our creators can make more money."
Lower cover prices. "For similar reasons, we can offer you our digital comics at a lower price. Dark Horse titles will be priced at $1.49, compared to $1.99 in Comixology. This allows us to introduce new readers to series. By introducing these new series to readers, we can then direct them to the stores. We think it's important to consider that."
"We will be offering unique collection of story arcs from $2.99 - $5.99. 2-4 issue arcs will be $2.99 or so, 7-8 issue arcs will be $5.99. The price will depend on the number of issues and if there's a free issue included in the arc," Hershman explained.
Part of the reason why Hershman described Dark Horse's program as being "ambitious," is that they have plans to give direct market comic book shops the opportunity to sell Dark Horse digital comics to their customers. "This will start with the direct market, and we'll determine later if this program will include the big box/chain bookstores as well," said Hershman. Other than that, "We'll provide more details about it later."
For its initial release, the Dark Horse digital comics app will come with 8 free titles, including stories from Creepy, B.P.R.D., Serenity, Beasts of Burden, The Guild, Mass Effect, The Goon, Umbrella Academy, and the complete Troublemaker graphic novels based on stories by Janet Evanovitch.
Dark Horse's digital comics will launch with 170 titles, and they are planning on releasing 20+ new titles per month - a number that Hershman added was "a low estimate." Some of these 170 titles will be "older titles, some will be new." He also added that DH would do some releases of new titles that would come out on the same day/date as the print edition arrives in stores.
You can get a taste of this experience by visiting the Dark Horse mobile comics page. They were offering it free this weekend, but have extended the offer through Monday, October 11, so head over to http://www.darkhorse.com/Features/Mobile, like, now to take advantage of some free comics for your iPhone or iPad.
For manga and manhwa readers, Dark Horse was not able to confirm whether they'll be able to offer their licensed Japanese or Korean titles like Gantz, Hellsing or Shaman Warrior via Dark Horse digital comics at this time, but they were quick to mention that they "are working on it." As Gombos explained it,
"We are licensing manga, so we don't manage the rights to this content outright, so it's not as easy to add manga titles to this. It's a possibility, but it won't be this kind of gigantic spread of titles."
Curious about the rest of the titles announced at Dark Horse's panel? Check out Newsarama's live transcript of the panel or Comics Alliance's roundup of NYCC announcements from the other side of the comics shop.
So what do you think of Dark Horse's new titles, and their plans for offering digital comics, and possibly manga and manhwa? Do you have a wish list for manga/manhwa titles you really want to see published on Dark Horse digital comics? Add your comments below!
Image credits: © Deb Aoki, © Yasuhiro Nightow / SHUEISHA, © Kohta Hirano / SHONEN GAHOSHA, © Reed Pop, © Janet Evanovich, © Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson / DARK HORSE