In an interview with ICv2 – and an email conversation with the Beat – Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson has revealed more details of the deal with Vanguard Visionary Associates, a Chinese company led by former Disney exec Stanley Cheung. The deal was announced late Friday, and involves major funding from VVA. It appears that VVA is now the majority owner of Dark Horse.
Speaking to ICv2, Richardson said he owns “a large chunk” of Dark Horse. Richardson characterized it as “a significant chunk” in an email to The Beat. Both statements were in response to whether he still owned a majority stake in the company.
This is a huge move for the direct sales market – Dark Horse is
the third or fourth biggest consistently in the top five comics companies depending on how you measure it – but it is also a significant move for Dark Horse to grow.
The deal will allow major expansion in Dark Horse projects to the Chinese market. Richardson told the Beat it will also allow Dark Horse to self-finance its own media adaptations, which can be a big advantage.
Icv2 had more details:
Asked about the genesis of the deal, Richardson told ICv2, “We started out working with them to build a film fund. The deal expanded into other areas as we continued down that path.” He was anxious to bat down speculation that the migration of some licenses over the last few years (Star Wars and Conan to Marvel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to BOOM! Studios) had necessitated the search for capital. “I get tired of hearing that,” he told us. “We are large enough and diverse enough that, while I don’t like losing them, those licenses were easily replaced from a financial perspective.”
Richardson also noted the scale of Dark Horse projects in the pipe for other media. “At the same time, our film division is off the charts right now with two Netflix projects already filmed, a new SyFy series, a new Hellboy film set to be released shortly, a dozen other projects being developed,” he said.
The SyFy project Resident Alien starring Alan Tudyk; at Netflix the two projects are the eagerly awaited Umbrella Academy adaptation and a show based on Cullen Bunn’s Harrow County. Dark Horse has been forging a stronger relationship with NEtflix in the last 12 months, including the Stranger Things comics adaptation.
Richardson, 68, is one of the true self made titans of the modern comics industry, and under his watch Dark Horse has expanded into manga, licensing, merchandise, retail, film, TV and just about every other media. Its licensed comics – Star Wars, Bufy and so many more – set the standard for modern comics licensing. Dark Horse also led the way for offbeat comics media adpatation with The Mask, back in the day, and Hellboy more recently.
In other words, Dark Horse has had an amazing past. Joining with a larger partner is part of the change it needed to make to move into the multi-national future.
What will the day to day effect by on Dark Horse? More to come on that.
CORRECTION: I initially said that Dark Horse was the 3rd or 4th biggest company but it was pointed out to me that Image has really been the #3 consistently for the better part of the decade. In the past Dark Horse ranked as high as #3 but is ually #5 these days.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.