Dark Horse comics is a comic book publisher that currently publishes over 70 monthly releases. Each book employs it’s own authors, illustrators, and editors in the Pacific Northwest.
They have a healthy mix of original content, as well as adaptations from other media. Due to their variety of offerings, their intended audience is not as specific as one might expect. The comic book industry is widely dominated by Marvel and DC comics, so individual publishers do not have an intended audience so much as individual books have an intended audience.
Dark Horse advertises mostly in comic book shops. One of their techniques is to provide free copies of promotional issues to be left at the counter of comic book stores. The idea is that the clerk will hand these out to customers who are purchasing a competitor’s product. The hope is that the customer will read the issue and begin purchasing the subsequent releases.
Dark Horse was actually founded by an individual, Mike Richardson, in 1986. He maxed out a $2,000 credit card to open a comic book store but was frustrated by the products available to sell. His response was to self-publish two comic books that fit more into his expectations. He then began to reach out to independent comic book authors, providing them an opportunity to display their work in his shop. It has since grown into a company with an international audience funded by in-issue advertising targeted toward readers of specific books. For example, readers of a comic such as The Legend of Zelda are met with advertisements from cartoons, anime, video games, and snacks. Meanwhile, readers of a book such as The Occultist are met with advertisements for cars, home entertainment systems, alcohol, and R-rated films.
Since its meager conception in the mid-1980’s, Dark Horse has struggled for market-share against the Marvel and DC giants. It currently sits at 2.59% of the comic book market share, also behind Image and IDW. Though many consumers are unaware of Dark Horse’s existence, their influence has been large. Dark Horse is to thank for many popular franchises in comics, television, and film.
Additionally, many established media franchises claim Dark Horse as a home for their comic book adaptations, since they rely on the title to sell the book rather than the notoriety of the publisher itself. Since it costs the rights holder less to publish through Dark Horse, it is a win for them. It is through these books that Dark Horse is able to secure extra profits in order to entice up-and-coming authors/artists. Some of the franchises that have published comic book tie-ins through Dark Horse are: