BY MATT TUCK
You might say that Dark Horse made a game-changing decision, and the implications could boost those Dark Horse keys you’ve been stockpiling since the ‘90s. Here are three issues to keep an eye on that aren’t the first appearances of Hellboy or Umbrella Academy.
In what could prove to be a major move, Dark Horse Comics established a gaming division. Judging by the success games have had in pushing characters into the mainstream spotlight, this could be a boon for the company that is generally considered the fourth-place among comic publishers.
What this means is that Dark Horse is focusing considerable effort on getting more of its properties into pop culture. Outside of hardcore comic fans, the mainstream public knows of Hellboy and, thanks to Netflix, Umbrella Academy. While those have proven to be profitable franchises, the problem is that general audiences don’t know any other Dark Horse originals. In fact, I would challenge you to find a non-comic fan who can even name Dark Horse Comics as a publisher.
This new gaming focus could begin to change that.
DARK HORSE GAMES
Reportedly, Dark Horse is looking not only to partner with larger game developers, but the company is also planning to develop its own in-house games for consoles, PC, and mobile platforms. If it all goes accordingly, then Dark Horse could be positioning itself for a larger spectrum of exposure than it has ever had.
No question, the gaming industry is huge business in today’s market, and it is only getting bigger. According to Market Watch, after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, video games were expected to make more money globally than both movies and sports combined. Of course, the movie and sports industries have been severely limited until recent eases in safety protocols, but the fact remains that gaming has been a major force for decades and easily rivals all other entertainment venues.
GAMES AND COMICS
Mainstream exposure also equals profits for key comics. You don’t need any further proof than Miles Morales.
Spider-Miles had been making a name for himself in the comic circles for years, especially with him being incorporated into the main Earth 616 Marvel Universe. From there, he was an Easter egg in Spider-Man: Homecoming and was the star of Sony’s hit animated movie, Into the Spider-Verse. Not surprisingly, that made his first appearance in Ultimate Fallout #4 that much more expensive, but it wasn’t out of reach quite yet. That didn’t happen until Miles was officially announced for his own spinoff of Spider-Man for the Playstation.
Once the game was made official, Miles-mania took over the speculative market. By the time the game was released, prices for UF #4 and all the Spider-Miles keys had gone through the roof. They haven’t missed a beat since, steadily increasing in fair market value month after month.
THE KEY IMPACT
While I am not predicting Dark Horse will have the next Miles Morales on its hands, there is no argument that video games and comic books make good business partners. DC’s Injustice games have been massive hits for WB Games and DC Comics. In fact, the tie-in series has been so successful that an animated movie based on the games and comics is now in the works. That’s exactly the cross-platform marketability Dark Horse is looking to tap into, and they have the properties to do it, and not just talking Hellboy and Umbrella Academy.
On that note, let’s look at three key issues that could be prime candidates to inspire a hit video game series.
BLACK HAMMER #1
There has been talk of a live-action Black Hammer for two years, but nothing has come of it as of yet. That has not slowed Dark Horse from hitching its horse to this wagon. After the success of the original comics, the publisher has made multiple spinoff series. Outside of Hellboy and Umbrella Academy, this would be the logical choice for Dark Horse’s games.
Basically, Black Hammer is the Justice League meets the Twilight Zone. It is mostly a horror series, and a mix of superhero and classic horror genres would be something new and different for casual gamers. The result could easily boost the FMVs of 2016’s Black Hammer #1.
The standard edition has been seeing a spike as of late. The 9.8 recently sold for $450 only a year after it averaged $136. If you happen to have a 9.8 convention edition, it is bringing $759 these days. Last year, it had an FMV of $386, so the price has nearly doubled, which is impressive.
Pair a successful game with Black Hammer and a possible movie or series, and you have a recipe for even more price inflation.
HELLBOY: SEED OF DESTRUCTION #1
The most enduring and viable Dark Horse property is Hellboy, so there is little doubt that he will star in Dark Horse’s launch game. That makes me curious if a spinoff could be in order, and that would mean the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, aka the BPRD.
Since we have already seen them in all three Hellboy movies as well as the animated adaptations, it would stand to reason that Dark Horse would look to tap into a property that mainstream Hellboy movie fans would recognize. That would up the ante for the team’s 1994 debut in Hellboy’s first self-titled series, Seed of Destruction.
Since the BPRD crew already has name recognition on its side, the prices for higher grades of Seed of Destruction #1 are already in the triple digits. In March, a 9.8 sold for a record-high $317, and the most recent sale was for $285 on May 23.
HARROW COUNTY #1
Depending on the adaptation, I could see this being the basis for a mobile game or possibly a PC/console RPG. It doesn’t hurt that Universal Studios has optioned the title for a live-action series, and a game would be the perfect way to capitalize on that exposure.
Harrow County is a horror story mixed with a bit of a fairy tale that could play out well both as a game and as a streaming series. The plot follows teenager Emmy, who has grown up around a horror-fantasy forest. Through the course of the comics, she learns that she is the reincarnation of a witch with a connection to the forest.
The good part here is the debut issue of the series is much cheaper than Black Hammer #1 or Seed of Destruction #1. A 9.8 last sold for $80 in May, and that is pretty much where its FMV has remained for the past two years. The four-colors grail edition is a bit more expensive, last selling for $125 in September 2020.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
The move to focus on video game properties is a good one for Dark Horse. The key, obviously, will be to make good games. We don’t need another Spawn: Armageddon on our hands.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a former teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.