When you think of the hubs of comic book publishing, cities like New York and Los Angeles likely come to mind. In recent years, however, Portland has come to be a mecca of comic book publishing in its own right. Home to indie comic staples such as Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, and Top Shelf Productions, Portland boasts at least seven comic book publishing houses and an ever-growing number of comics artists and writers. In this post, I’ll be taking a look at some of Portland’s local comic publishers, beginning with the one that started it all.
- Dark Horse Comics
Today Dark Horse is America’s largest independent publisher of comic books and manga, but when founder Mike Richardson started the company in 1986, it launched with just two initial titles. By the end of that first year, Richardson had added nine more titles to Dark Horse’s list. Two years later they would revolutionize the comics adaptation market with the release of comics series based off of Aliens, Predator, Star Wars, and more. Since the beginning, Dark Horse has treated writers and artists as partners, offering them more control over their work than other comic publishers might. Dark Horse and Mike Richardson are credited with bringing the world of comics publishing to Portland.
- Oni Press
Oni Press founders Bob Schreck and Joe Nozemack believe art can be used to tell any story. With that in mind, the two former Dark Horse employees started Oni in 1997 with the goal of bringing a more innovative and diverse set of stories into comic form than had ever been seen before. Specializing in publishing original stories of the non-superhero variety, Oni has published hits such as Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Wasteland by Christopher Mitten.
- Top Shelf Productions
Chris Staros and Brett Warnock met at a comics convention in 1997. Soon after that, they decided to go into business together and form a new kind of comic book publishing house. Originally publishing under the name of Primal Grove Press, Top Shelf publishes everything from autobiographies to erotica to all-ages genre fiction; they specialize in handsomely crafted graphic novels. Alan Moore’s Lost Girls and From Hell and Craig Thompson’s Blankets are just some of the award-winning books that Top Shelf has published.
- Sparkplug Books
Founded in 2003, Sparkplug Books was founder and publisher Dylan Williams’s attempt to put more of the “book” into “comic book.” Williams ran Sparkplug from 2003 until his death in 2011, after which his wife Emily took over operations along with Virginia Paine, who is now the owner and publisher. In keeping with Williams’s original vision, Sparkplug is still a small company that publishes mainly avant-garde comics graphic novels. Sparkplug also acts as a distributor for multiple zines and comics from creators all across the country. Many in the industry are calling Sparkplug the next Portland comic publisher to watch.