Monday, March 24, 2014

Watching the skies with heroes from Dark Horse Comics!


Something special is brewing over at Dark Horse Comics as of late and it’s something that they have been working on for quite a while now. A year or so ago Dark Horse announced that they would be unleashing superheroes upon the world and that they were serious about building this business for themselves, and so far they’ve done a superb job, but what Dark Horse is doing is truly building a brand that could drive their business for years to come. It was slow at the start but the publisher has reached deep into not only their archives, but also into the archives of classic pulp heroes and forgotten properties to create a world that outshines everything else on the comic rack today. It was a rough launch at first, and even a bit confusing, but now the smoke has cleared Dark Horse has something special on their hands and it’s starting to turn a lot of heads their way despite a VERY crowded comic book market. And yes, it’s truly crowded. Superheroes are booming again in a very similar fashion to the early 90’s when we not only had Marvel and DC, but we also had Image, Dark Horse, Malibu, Topps, Valiant, and other publishers fighting over space on the comic book racks. Fast forward through a crash n’ burn era and here we are again with Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, Dynamite, BOOM, and others slugging it out over who’s got the best of the best and it feels like a nostalgic blast of fresh air. But it’s Dark Horse who’s grabbing my attention.
    Now, when I said that things were a bit confusing at launch, I mean it. Dark Horse began publishing superhero comics at rapid fire and readers didn’t quite know which books connected and which books didn’t, This had fans scratching their heads and wondering if these books were going to be worth it or not. So, in an effort to simplify things the publisher created a distinct logo and gave the connected book an imprint title called “Project Black Sky” to signify which titles connected and which ones did not. See, Dark Horse publishes other comics in the superhero genre that do not connect to the core line due to much of the other books being creator owned properties. But this entry is focusing on the connected stuff, not the creator owned titles. So, interestingly enough not only is Project Black Sky the line of the connected books, but it’s also a storyline running throughout those specific comics and thus far it’s been an absolute joy to read. So much so that I figured I’d write up a blog entry where I discuss these books and do my part to put the word out to comic book fans around the world that Dark Horse has started something amazing here and it’s only a matter of time until this grows even bigger and begins to gain some mass appeal.
    The first book I’d like to discuss is one of the core three titles on the Project Black Sky line. It’s a comic that was one of the first to bear the Black Sky logo and it stars a character that was heavily featured in radio serials back in the 30’s and 40’s as well as TV shows and comic strips. The name of the book and character is Captain Midnight and it features an amazing “man out of time” story that rivals that of Captain America. Heck, Captain
Midnight pre-dated Captain America by almost 6 years, so I don’t want to hear any bullshit about him being some cheap knockoff. The gist of Captain Midnight is that the plot follows the hero as he finds himself trapped in the current day while struggling to piece together what has happened since he’s been gone. He notices that technology he’s constructed back in the 40’s is being used by both heroes and criminals and he embarks on a mission to shut down an enemy who’s family has been hard at work within the world of crime since his heyday of being one of the most honored superheroes in the world.
    The book is fun to read and would appeal to anyone into classic characters or pulp heroes, as well as anyone who enjoys a solid story. It’s very well written and illustrated nicely, but most of all it is a huge piece that ties in largely to the Project Black Sky puzzle. The series writer, Joshua Williamson, is tremendous and is doing a fine job bringing this classic character into the modern day.
    The second book we will be taking a look at would be my personal favorite and it’s called simply, “X”. X is another of the ongoing monthly comics published within the Project Black Sky imprint and it follows a masked vigilante who loves to kill those who bring crime to his city of Arcadia. It’s violent, bloody, intense, and downright crazy compared to other “vigilante” comics out there and I would compare it to Batman if the Dark Knight was willing to murder and maim his adversaries. The book is dark. Very dark. X reads a lot like a mix of superhero, pulp, noir, police drama, and horror, but with a tinge of predatory instinct. It’s phenomenal and there is truly nothing else like it on comic shelves today, hence why it’s not only my favorite comic book in the Project Black Sky line but quite possibly my favorite comic book period. The opening arc for instance has X sending pictures to his prey with a red “X” painted on their faces which is a sign that he’s coming for them. The prey, who happens to be a group of gangsters, end up in a bloody and horrendous showdown with the vigilante which ends in a shocking (and disgusting) mess.
  Duane Swierczynski is doing an amazing job writing this book and really puts you on the edge of your seat leaving you screaming in agony for the next issue to arrive. Kudo’s Duane, you’re work is simply amazing. If the name of the character sounds familiar it should, X was published in the early 90’s for a brief time by Dark Horse during the huge superhero boom that saw everyone and their mother promoting heroes. But this version of the character is different and far superior to his early 90’s counterpart.
    Okay, I can see I’m rambling here but I’m just so excited to be a part of this world of character by being able read them every month. The last time I had so much fun reading comics was probably back when Marvel’s Ultimate line was still in it’s infancy and Crossgen Comics burst onto the scene with an amazing cast of characters that made old Earth 2 and the 616 looks like mere childsplay. But I’d love to chime in on a few other books in the line, one of which being the upcoming Blackout. Blackout is positioned to be a miniseries but appears to be one of the most engaging titles of the line judging by the previews I’ve read. It’s slated to come out in the spring and finish it’s run by mid-summer, but if orders are strong it could potentially come back as an ongoing title and that would be a huge success story for Project Black Sky. We’ve also got Ghost, which is the 3rd ongoing title being published within this line of books, though it hasn’t seemed to grab me as much as the others I’m hopeful that it will pick up pace and connect to the other titles nicely. Ghost seems to have a strong fan following and the character is another that was published by Dark Horse back in the early 90’s alongside X.

    There are a couple of mini’s that have been a part of Project Black Sky too, mainly Brain Boy and The Occultist. Brain Boy is another classic hero who’s been brought back into the modern day after not being published for decades. The book fits in nicely to the line and has a second miniseries coming out around the summertime that will continue to shine light upon not only his storyline, but the Project Black Sky plot as a whole.The Occultist is kind of what would happen if you combined Peter Parker and Dr. Strange into one character and unleashed him on the world. It’s a witty and enjoyable tale that is on it’s second miniseries with (hopefully) more to come down the line, though I do have a hard time seeing how he truly connects to the rest of the Project Black Sky titles. Maybe that’s a question that will be answered shortly? A great place to start would be the news that Dark Horse has been teasing that lots of big things are supposed to happen during an event that’s supposed to bring everyone together and cause some commotion late in the summer. A crossover on an epic scale where the heroes of Project Black Sky bond together to take on a common threat is what I’m guessing, but it will be interesting to see how the amazing creative staff behind these books handles such an event. Consider me excited!
All in all I think what Dark Horse is hoping with these characters is that Hollywood comes calling with options to turn these properties into movies. Which is, of course, something that had helped Marvel and DC stay relevant throughout the years. For instance, Marvel was in piss-poor shape circa 1996 after some bad internal decisions and all the precious cash they made off of the X-Men and Spider-Man in the early 90's was all but flushed right down the toilet, but they were right back in the drivers seat come the year 2000 after X-Men found success in the box office. Dark Horse isn't in any financial peril whatsoever and if they strike it rich with some big budget flicks (Hellboy and Sin City not withstanding) than they'd possibly have a slight hope to be in position to remove Image from the top 3 in the comics world. But as it stands right now that's a bit of a far cry from reality and I'd be happy if they just continued to publish these comics.


© B-Sly The Gamer Guy


  1. Actually, Captain Midnight first appeared on radio in 1938, and Captain America first appeared in 1940, so Midnight only predates him by 2 years, not 6. For the first couple of years Captain Midnight was a syndicated program sponsored by Skelly Oil Co., and wasn't widely heard across the country. In 1940, Ovaltime became the sponsor and the series was broadcast nationally coast-to-coast on affliated Mutual Network stations. By 1942, the program was hugely popular and spun off into other media - a syndicated newspaper strip, Big Little Books, a Columbia movie serial, and his own self-titled Fawcett comic book. Fawcett's comic was only loosely adapted from the radio series, turning him into a superhero with skin-tight costume (inspired by the "Power Men of Mongo" sequence from Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon) who was a genius inventor and had gadgets like the Gliderchute and Doom-Beam Torch. Dark Horse's version of the character is based on the Fawcett Comics version, but re-incorporates a few more elements from the original radio series, like Chuck Ramsay, Joyce Ryan, and the Secret Squadron, none of which appeared in the Fawcett Comics version.

    Are all the characters in the poster image part of the Project Black Sky Universe? I recognize Captain Midnight, Brain Boy, Blackout, X, Ghost, The Occultist, and Black Beetle (who I thought was creator-owned). Can you name the rest?

  2. I noticed in reading Ghost, Blackout, and Brain Boy that the characters seem to be perfectly suited to adaptation to television or movies. You wouldn't have to change a thing, and that doesn't seem accidental, either. Since Dark Horse had past success with movie adaptations of The Mask, Barb Wire, Time Cop, and Hellboy (and you can argue that they contributed something to movies being made of The Shadow and The Rocketeer as well), I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the current Dark Horse Heroes series optioned for movie or TV development as well.

  3. By the way, I just looked up "quis nisi nos" (the Latin motto seen on the Project Black Sky logo) and it translates to "Who will save us".

  4. I would imagine that Dark Horse would want some kind of TV deal or film deal down the line, things like that can strengthen a book in today's market and ensure it picks up more readers. I'm hoping for an X movie or a Captain Midnight film, but I guess time shall tell.

  5. These books are the most kickass titles going today. Who can "F" with X baby!

  6. LoL, I agree. If someone screws with X than I'm sure they'd find out real fast that doing so would be futile. I love the way he takes no shit and just goes for it, he's a lot like Hitman, Batman, and The Shadow all wrapped into one, but unlike Batman he's willing to kill to finish the job.