By Al Kratina
July 9, 2007 - 12:11
In parts 1 and 2 of our look at Dark Horse’s output over the years, we took a glance at Star Wars, Grendel, and many other successful titles from the independent company. This week, we finish off our critical examination with a few more important comics.
One of the most successful books of the past few years, from any publisher, has been Dark Horse’s re-launch of its Buffy: The Vampire Slayer license. Written by series creator Joss Whedon, the first issue sold out almost immediately. Taking place at least a year and half after the events of the last season of the television show, the book has everything that Buffy fans could possibly want, without the limitations of budget, network censors, and the occasionally poor performance from a supporting character. Of course, Dark Horse has been publishing Buffy comics for years, including several miniseries and a long running regular series. However, for those most part, these fail to compare to the Whedon’s work for the company, which included the Fray miniseries, set in the Buffyverse hundreds of years in the future. As well, Dark Horse published Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Origin, which took Joss Whedon’s original script for the 1992 movie and re-worked it in comic form. While my 11-year-old self had no problems with the original film, seeing Whedon’s original vision is entertaining.
Often mistaken as part of Dark Horse’s Manga line, Usagi Yojimbo is actually an American comic, written and drawn by Stan Sakai. Originally, the book was meant to be a series of stories based up on the life of master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, but then Sakai decided that things would be more interesting if the lead character were a rabbit. The series started at Fantagraphics before moving to Dark Horse, where it has found great success, and rightly so. Rich in Japanese culture and tradition, and epic in scope, the series is entertaining and full of depth, much more so than most other rabbit-based epics, easily beating out both Uncle Remus and most Bugs Bunny cartoons.
A recent success from Dark Horse’s licensed properties comes from Conan The Barbarian. In 2003, Dark Horse began their take on the series, basing the work on creator Robert E. Howard’s original work. For the first few years, the series was written by Kurt Busiek, who did do some interesting work with the character, but nothing that would really compare with his work on his creator owned projects. Series artist Cary Nord brings a great look to the series, but occasionally the book seems more interested in being true to Howard than carving out its own place in the Conan oeuvre. Still, it pleases fans, sells well, and has plenty of breasts barely covered by armoured nipple tassels. What more could a Conan fan want?