Anime Expo 2013
Dark Horse Manga

by Carlo Santos,

Dark Horse commemorated 25 years of publishing manga at a panel hosted by editor Carl Gustav Horn, Philip Simon, Charles Brownstein (of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), and Ed Chavez (of Vertical Inc.).

Horn spoke about the company's origins, which started, in his own words, "with Godzilla rising from the sea." The company's first manga release was a Godzilla manga in 1988, based on a Godzilla revival in Japan at the time. Through the 80's and 90's, Dark Horse published manga in floppy comic format, and during this era also formed a partnership with Studio Proteus and the late Toren Smith. One of their flagship titles, Oh My Goddess!, continues to be produced by Studio Proteus.

In 1989, Dark Horse released their first manga in graphic novel format, Johji Manabe's Outlanders. Horn also presented an overview of some "lost titles" from the 90's, such as Rebel Sword, Chronowar, and Hellhounds. Titles like these are considered "lost" because their serialization did not last long enough to be collected into graphic novel form.

In 1993, cultural importation went the other way with Dark Horse's own comics being translated into Japanese and sold in Japan. In that same year, Dark Horse also released a US-produced adaptation of Dirty Pair, illustrated by comic artist Adam Warren.

In 1994, Dark Horse began publishing Oh My Goddess!, which now stands as the longest-running English-translated manga in the US. It was actually considered "controversial" at the time because it had romantic comedy elements rather than violent, sci-fi leanings which were associated with anime and manga at the time.

The debut of Oh My Goddess! sparked a run of other highly acclaimed manga: Ghost in the Shell in 1995, Blade of the Immortal and Gunsmith Cats in 1996, the Star Wars Manga in 1999, and in 2000, Lone Wolf and Cub (now Dark Horse's all-time bestselling series) and Akira. Interestingly, Akira was produced from the French translation, which required editors to keep a lookout for anomalies such as French sound effects.

The year 2000 also saw the premiere of the Super Manga Blast! anthology magazine, which predates the U.S. edition of Shonen Jump by 3 years. The sheer size of this 128-page periodical, which was stapled like a standard floppy comic, posed some challenges in production.

The debut of translated Astro Boy in 2002 was another watershed moment, since it is—as Horn quipped—"one of the Tezuka titles that Japanese people actually read." In 2003, Dark Horse began publishing manga in the now-standard tankobon size with titles like Hellsing and Trigun, and also diversified into the field of Japanese novels with Vampire Hunter D in 2005. Another unique release for the company, which came out just this year, is the illustrated novel Deva Zan by acclaimed artist Yoshitaka Amano.

In 2006, Dark Horse released Samurai Champloo Roman Album, a guidebook to the anime series with complete episode summaries, character profiles, and in-depth interviews with the staff. A year later, an era came to an end when Blade of the Immortal ceased floppy-comic serialization in 2007. Next came the release of GANTZ in 2008, and then another important era began with the publication of Clover—the first release from Dark Horse's new partnership with CLAMP. The company has since branched out into other properties with Evangelion spinoffs beginning in 2009 and Oreimo in 2012.

New and upcoming releases for Dark Horse include the 2nd and concluding volume of Tokyo Babylon, Gate 7 Vol. 4, and GANTZ Vol. 28, all due out in July. August will see the release of Lone Wolf and Club Omnibus Vol. 2, while September includes the release of Blood Blockade Battlefront Vol. 4, Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Detective Diaries Vol. 1, Oreimo Vol. 4, and the launch of a Trigun omnibus series.

In October, readers can look forward GANTZ Vol. 29 and Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Vol. 3. New releases for November will include Oh My Goddess! Vol. 45, which sees another dramatic turn in the longest-running story arc so far in the series, and Berserk Vol. 37. In December, Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project returns after a publication hiatus with Vol. 13.

Looking further ahead, Dark Horse plans to release a new artbook, The Art of Katsuya Terada, in 2014. That same month will see the release of Hatsune Miku: Unofficial Hatsune Mix, a full-color manga by Hatsune Miku's original character designer KEI.

Looking further ahead, Dark Horse plans to release a new artbook, The Art of Katsuya Terada, in 2014. That same month will see the release of Hatsune Miku: Unofficial Hatsune Mix, a full-color manga by Hatsune Miku's original character designer KEI.

Horn also announced that Kazuo Koike will be a guest at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about New Lone Wolf and Cub, created by Koike and Hideki Mori, and due to be released by Dark Horse in early 2014.

During the panel, fans also watched a trailer video for supernatural mystery manga Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

Another new project for Dark Horse will be the release of CBLDF Presents Manga, a concise guide written by librarians, publishers, editors and scholars as an overview of manga's history, its genres, and also the legal issues surrounding the international growth of manga. CBLDF's Charles Brownstein said that this book was written as a response to recent cases where North American law enforcement, and other parties, have tried to suppress manga, or prosecute those who own manga, because of its perceived obscenity. Brownstein added that it would be well-suited for librarians, educators, and parents to familiarize themselves with what manga is.

The panelists also took a handful of questions from the audience about various titles from the company, and gave away assorted prizes in a raffle.

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