Dark Horse Comics Challenges DC and Marvel In The TV Arena

[All images except author photo courtesy Dark Horse.Com]

While the two comic book behemoths (DC and Marvel) duke it out for movie and television dominance, Dark Horse Comics (currently at number three) has stealthily developed a slate of projects based on some of the most original comics available today.

Dark Horse and Universal Cable Productions already have the “dysfunctional superhero” story Umbrella Academy live action series picked up by Netflix; Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s backwoods horror title Harrow County and Concrete by Paul Chadwick are in active development.

Dark Horse and Universal Cable Productions recently announced at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con that they’re adding several new titles for development. Harrow, Concrete and Umbrella will be joined by two acclaimed comic book series and two popular drama podcasts.

Dark Horse, the comics company that made Milwaukee (Oregon) famous!

The comics are writer/artist Matt Kindt’s trippy, Alice-through-the-Looking-Glass spy story Mind MGMT and the LGBTQ shape-shifting love story Flutter by writer Jennie Wood and artist Jeff McComsey. The podcasts are genre drama series Tanis and The Bright Sessions. Tanis follows an intrepid investigator into the murky mix of Science and Fiction, while The Bright Sessions focuses on a group of unnaturally gifted patients and their more-than-meets-the-ear counselor.

Now, if these titles remind you of the current FX “What is happening/Is this real or in my own mind” brain-twister series Legion, you’re not far off the mark.  As Legion is itself an outlier from more traditional heroics on programs like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Flash, the entire crop of Dark Horse projects reflect an off-kilter take on the Superhero Team (Umbrella Academy), Globetrotting Superspies (Mind MGMT), and coming of age teen drama with a scifi twist(Flutter).

Mind MGMT. A mind-twisting magic show – in comic book form.

Clutching my six collected hardcover editions of Mind MGMT tightly, I’d like to take a look at this project in particular. The factors that make it not everyone’s cup of comics tea may both help – and hinder – in bring its unique qualities to life on the small screen.

The story in Mind MGMT unravels as a mystery – both to the characters in the story and the reader turning the pages.  I read through each volume of Mind MGMT in a state of perplexed delight.  Like a classic mystery writer, Kindt both drops enough information to keep me turning the pages, eager to read on even if I don’t fully understand every detail on first reading.

Mystery writers are masters of legerdemain – that skillful, distracting technique of a magician to get the reader to look there when they should be looking here. All the information is presented – you just have to pay attention. And like a good mystery writer, Kindt constructs his story so carefully that the story’s path is clear in the end.

Comics creator Matt Kindt. Photo by Sharlene Kindt.

This is not a story that leads you by the hand and tells you what to think. As Oliver Sava noted in a 2013 AV Club review, the reader can be “overwhelmed by the simultaneous overflow of information and lack of exposition, which generally made me uneasy while reading … it felt like being handed a box of puzzle pieces without any visual context, and the pieces didn’t quite fit together on their own.”

And the wavery, watercolor art is very different from the bold, dramatic images readers are used to seeing in a traditional comic book. Paul Montgomery perceptively notes in his review on iFanboy, “Though Kindt’s aesthetic won’t win over every reader, his watercolors lend perfectly to the story’s themes and tone, that murky milieu of a dream upon waking. If it’s not as refined a look as mainstream comics, it’s far more emotive, far more expressive. I can’t imagine this story under anyone else’s brush.”

Hmmm …

a unique, kinda linear but twisty narrative?

a unique art style that fits the story perfectly but may take getting used to?

a mystery that in the end, makes sense (kind of)?

Look like the Dark Horse/Universal Cable Production partnership have some intriguing and surprising mind games in store for the television genre landscape.

For more information on Dark Horse titles in general, check out DarkHorse.Com.

MattKindtShop.com has both beautiful artwork and an introduction to his many other works.

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