Dark Horse Comics is a solid example of how integrity and innovation combined with a dedication to success can help grow a unique medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant. The history of Dark Horse Comics explains why Hero Illustrated magazine named founder Mike Richardson "the most important person in comics."
By the mid-1980s, Mike Richardson had already established himself as a business leader in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area with the successful chain of retail comic-book shops he founded after graduating from college. But something was bothering him - even the best comics his stores carried were below the standards Richardson believed the comics medium was capable of maintaining. For an industry that was already half a century old, there was very little innovation surfacing in the books he sold, and because of that, this medium that Richardson had loved since his youth was in danger of crumbling. Richardson knew that if he expected anything to change, he'd have to jump in and do it himself. In 1986, he invested profits from his chain of bookstores and with that money founded Dark Horse Comics.
Soon Dark Horse was publishing some of the most popular and groundbreaking comics ever to hit the market. With this dedicated approach, Dark Horse lured some of the most sought-after creators to their stable. One of the first titles published by Dark Horse - Paul Chadwick's Concrete - went on to earn an unprecedented 26 awards and nominations within two years of its debut and continues to win awards to this day.
In addition to publishing comics from top talent like Frank Miller (Sin City), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo), Sergio AragonÃ©s (Groo), Neil Gaiman (Murder Mysteries), and comics legend Will Eisner (The Escapist), Dark Horse is also recognized as the world's leading publisher of licensed comics. Their highly successful line of comics based on popular properties includes Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, The Incredibles, and most recently, Peter Jackson's King Kong.
Richardson determined early on that great stories were great stories no matter the medium in which they're told. This belief led the publisher to explore the world of filmmaking and he established his own filmmaking company, Dark Horse Entertainment, in 1992. The company's first major film - The Mask, starring Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz was a huge smash and among others, includes the recent critically and commercially successful feature film, Hellboy.
Today Dark Horse Comics is the third largest comic-book publisher in the U.S. and is recognized as the world's leading publisher of licensed comics material.