Wizard World 2002: From The Dark Horse's Mouth
by Michael Sullenger

Michael Ring from Dark Horse Online Marketing talks about upcoming plans for 2002-2003 at Wizard World, including new Inifinities, the much anticipated Marvel reprints, and the Gentle Giant minibusts.

MS: Can you tell us about your upcoming releases for 2002?

Michael: There's Empire, Republic, the new Infinities, and the classic Marvel reprints that we're doing. Empire is actually pretty good. It's written by Scott Allie and coming out September 4th. It's basically an inside view of the Empire and what happens, since so much focus has been put on the Republic, the Senate, and then the Rebellion. The Empire needs a fair shot to tell their story. The first story arc, which consists of four issues, deals with Moffs and Admirals conspiring to assassinate Darth Vader.

Republic is going to be a continuation in the ongoing Star Wars series that we have going right now and it's basically the flip side to the Empire coin. It takes place during the Prequel era whereas Empire takes place during the regular area.

Empire Strikes Back Infinities is coming out. A New Hope Infinities was such an amazing success that we're definitely going to do a Return of the Jedi series and there's talk about a Prequel Inifinities as well.

MS: How about the classic Marvel re-releases. Can you tell us more about those?

Michael: Those are incredible. We're reprinting every single Marvel issue we can get out hands on except for the Droids series. It is the classic stuff. Carmine Infantino, Al Williamson, all that great stuff we grew up with that now costs hundreds of dollars on e-Bay. (laughs)

We're actually doing seven volumes which would be like huge, fat phone books that's going to comprise of all 107 issues plus the Annuals. DoomWorld is the first one, which came out last week with the next volume coming out next month. Then we're skipping 2-3 months. Then 2 volumes and another couple of skip months, and then the last three.

It's great. It's all re-colored by Digital Chameleon and they're using the original comics as guides. You're not going to see crazy wacky stuff but just an updated look. It's actually close to the original colors and looks beautiful.

MS: How were you guys able to obtain these from Marvel?

Michael: It didn't play much into Marvel because Lucasfilm owns it and can do whatever they want with it. It's not owned by Marvel. Basically, we went up to Lucasfilm about really wanting to do this and they said, "Is there enough demand for it?". The demand was outrageous. Online, on the message boards, and I'm sure on your site, as soon as word got out that we were thinking about possibly considering doing it, it just went nuts. We were going to do it in black white originally to keep the costs down. But 99.9% of the fans wanted it in color. So we said, "Alright, we'll do it in color." Fan opinion definitely mattered in this case and the whole project.

MS: Any chance at all of more Classic Trilogy stories and books besides the Marvel reprints and Infinities?

Michael: Star Wars Tales is the best place you're going to find for that. We decided in conjunction with Lucasfilm that the focus should be on Prequel stuff, since that's still fresh in everyone's mind. Of course, everyone loves Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. But there's a lot more stories we can tell for the Prequel era. But keep an eye on Star Wars Tales and Infinities, because that' where you're going to find all the classics.

MS: What plans do you have for the regular ongoing series now that Episode 2 has been released?

Michael: Continuing on with Episode II. If I remember correctly, there were certain stipulations and things we couldn't cover before the film's release so we wouldn't give things away. Now that Episode II is out, we have a much bigger playing field. We're gonna cover more stuff. Go after more Jedi and villains. Pretty much extend it out and try to make Expanded Universe even cooler.

MS: I spoke to Jan Duursema at C2 and she was really excited about Aayla Secura being in the movie. Any other plans for Lucasfilm to utilize more Dark Horse characters?

Michael: Jan's actually a good friend of Amy Allen now, the actress who plays her. This is a really incredible thing. If I remember correctly, George Lucas really liked what John Ostrander and Jan Duursema did with the character of Aayla Secura, so he actually just put her in even if it's just a 30 second spot in the movie. So we hope he takes a closer look at our books and maybe take a few ideas from them.

MS: You have any limited or mini-series coming up? I know that last Jango Fett series was a huge hit.

Michael: That was insane! We put out the Jango one-shot and that sold out. We're at least in the second printing and probably close to the third. Same as the mini-series that you mentioned. I knew it would be popular with Jango, but it just blew everything out of the water.

MS: There was a lot of backstory and a lot of Jango's history.

Michael: Mandalorian warriors all over the place.

MS: Yeah, that was pretty cool. How were you guys able to get Jango's backstory from Lucasfilm?

Michael: They're just really easy to work with. We'll pitch an idea or they'll come to us with an idea and they're easy to work with. They know everything about Star Wars and luckily we work with some of the really high up people who have the authority to say, "Let's do this project and let's do that project". Of course, there's bureaucracy in every organization. But it works and runs smoothly with those guys.

MS: About 2 years ago, you offered a limited edition bronze Chewbacca statue. Any more plans to do more of these?

Michael: We also did bronze statues of Darth Vader, Rancor, and Boba Fett, which sold out during pre-sale. We're considering doing more bronzes but it's such at a high pricepoint. It's $3,000 and we want to make our stuff available. There's a huge difference between a $3.00 comic book and a $3,000 bronze statue.

What we're doing now is teaming up with Gentle Giant, which is this amazing studio that can do all kinds of stuff. They have this huge laser scanner where they can scan the head or entire body of any actor, any prop and takes basically a digital image of that. We're producing with them a series of limited edition mini-busts.

MS: I recently purchased the Mace Windu bust myself and it's quite amazing.

Michael: Oh, it's amazing and the response has been incredible. And it's affordable at $45. It's not an outrageous price and the detail is just astounding, as I'm sure you know. We've got plans to do even more. We really want to do classic trilogy characters next. I think we're going to work on a Yoda in the real near future. It's kind of hard to sculpt all the fuzzy hairs on his head and his ears, but we've got plans for that. We're hopefully going to do Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, and Boba Fett next.

MS: Karl Meyer from Gentle Giant told me that the Yoda was based on the CGI version from Episode 2.

Michael: Yeah. That's another crazy thing about this new technology. Gentle Giant basically works with digital images. Since all that stuff is already created, they don't have to scan a puppet or a prop. They just get the file straight from Lucasfilm. So the Yoda minibust will be exactly the same in terms of looks as the Yoda on the screen. It's authentic to a T.

MS: I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of them. Anything else you want to add as to what we can expect for the rest of the year and even 2003?

Michael: It sounds really silly, but I hope the fans just lets us know what they like and what they don't like. Without the fans, we wouldn't have jobs and we wouldn't be publishing Star Wars comics. We want to do the best comics we can, but we also want to do the comics the fans want to read.

MS: Thanks for taking the time to give us the lowdown on Dark Horse Michael.

Michael: Thank you.

 

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