In 1986, Mike Richardson owned a few successful local comic book stores in Oregon and Washington. That’s when he founded Dark Horse Entertainment and began publishing for himself. Thirty years later, Dark Horse is one of the most successful independent comic book publishers in history.
Still, Dark Horse has remained a local Oregon company — until now. Last month, Dark Horse Entertainment announced a global partnership with a Chinese investment firm.
Mike Richardson recently sat down with OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni to talk about the deal.
Richardson says that after 30 years of expansion into publishing, film and digital, the company is once again looking for ways to speed up its growth. Dark Horse found that partner in Vanguard Visionary Associates and their chairman, Stanley Cheung, formerly the chair of the Walt Disney Company in Greater China.
“We met these people, they had great, great backgrounds. We did some vetting, liked them and decided to partner up and see what we could do,” Richardson said.
Richardson says Dark Horse has its eye on expansion into Asia, especially the relatively untouched Chinese audience.
“It’s a huge market with hundreds of millions of people who purchase the kind of thing we do every day,” Richardson said.
With the explosion of online streaming video options, Dark Horse also intends to take advantage of the opportunity to ramp up and self-finance film production.
“It’s an era where we have to pay attention to the technological changes,” says Richardson. “Television is the comic strip of the day; it’s being replaced by Netflix and who knows what the next delivery system will be. No matter what that next thing is, we can fill that.”
While he doesn’t see an end to the demand for paper comic books, Richardson says Dark Horse was enthusiastic about adopting tablets as a new medium for viewing Dark Horse publications.
“The iPad, it’s glorious,” he says. “The light comes through, those comics look great.”
Rather than a comic book company, Richardson describes Dark Horse as a content engine. One that, he says, will continue to evolve to meet future generations.
“My 1-year-old granddaughter swipes the phone and pushes the buttons. She wants to see that phone. It’s a different world.”
Use the audio player above to hear the full conversation from OPB’s “Weekend Edition.”