Dark Horse Comics Hits the Ground Running (and Jamming)

In Feature Articles by Emily Williams

By Emily Williams

In the US the comic book industry is known for its own giant fair, San Diego’s ComicCon, which this year attracted over 100,000 attendees (most of them readers and fans) who revel in the glitter of outlandish costumes and exclusive Hollywood screenings. So what happens to comic book types, steeped in movies and gaming and increasingly grappling with the demand for digital, who come to bookish Frankfurt?

Well, it turns out they bring their games and movies with them. Lance Kreiter, Director of Global Licensing at leading independent publisher Dark Horse Comics, credits movie adaptations for bringing comics into the mainstream consciousness, not only in the US but around the world, a fact that has helped the sector stay strong in shaky economic times and had a direct effect on his own business of international licensing.

This year he is excited to talk to publishers from around the world about Mass Effect: Redemption, a new series launching in January based on the blockbuster sci-fi videogame, which Kreiter hopes will open some new doors for Dark Horse. Also in the works is an animated movie adaptation of Eric Powell’s quirky horror series The Goon, now in development with director/producer David Fincher. Powell is at Frankfurt this year as the guest of his German publisher Cross Cult—and is, in Kreiter’s opinion “primed for world domination”.

Digital is another on-going issue, and one that Dark Horse is still wrestling with. As Kreiter puts it, “There are so many formats and platforms out there, we simply want to do what’s best for our licensors, creators and fans, but at the same time keep pace with market demands. We also hope to create an environment where print and digital can co-exist and it’s not a battle about one or the other. At this point we are mainly focusing on the iPhone platform, but the future is endless.”

He says that Korean publishers have been asking for digital rights for years, but Dark Horse is still a bit hesitant to make the leap. “I think this will change as we as a company becomes more comfortable with our process and the technologies available domestically, says Kreiter. “This will then lead to more freedom in the international markets that are typically ahead of us by leaps and bounds technology-wise.”

International licensing in general is holding steady for Dark Horse, even as the ground shifts and business falters in one country only to take off in another. “Spain vs. the Netherlands is just one example. We’ve seen radical growth in licensing in the Netherlands, where Spain is at about 20% unemployment these days, which doesn’t allow for much extra spending money for its citizens.”

The Frankfurt Book Fair is essential for Kreiter. “I love Frankfurt. I know there are many who do not share my sentiment, but to be honest…my year lives and dies at this show,” he says. “We take 100+ meetings in 4 days, and this does not include all the walk-up business that will find us. We have a huge schedule to pitch, but also titles that might need to be reintroduced. Frankfurt is a great place to do this and the face-to-face format can never be beat. Would I appreciate it if Frankfurt businesses didn’t raise their rates during the fair, making the show all but impossible for smaller publishers? Yes. Would I hope each year that the US dollar is stronger against the euro? Yes. Yet in the end it’s vital.”

It’s also a lot of fun. For the past three years Kreiter put together a rock band made up of colleagues who are fellow frustrated musicians. They open for the local German band, Madhouse Flowers, in an annual show that attracts a packed audience of publishers and friends looking for a night out during the fair. This year, the bands play Thursday Oct. 16 and Friday the 17th at the Spritzehaus (Große Rittergasse 41-43). Check em’ out.

About the Author

Emily Williams

Emily Williams as Manager of International Digital Content at Barnes & Noble.com. Before that, she worked as digital content producer for Publishers Marketplace, contributor to Digital Book World and Publishing Perspectives, and also held a senior scout position with Maria B. Campbell & Associates.