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Dark Horse Lays Off Employees as Sales Slip Around Comics Industry

Dark Horse Comics laid off seven employees today, in departments ranging from editorial to marketing to design, and including editors Shawna Gore and Dave Land. The layoffs follow slipping sales across the comics industry, and the movement of Dark Horse’s market share, once third, to fifth in the industry behind Image Comics and IDW.

Aaron Colter, Dark Horse’s former Marketing Coordinator (and an occasional ComicsAlliance contributor) who was fired by the company last month, shared his impressions about the layoffs with ComicsAlliance. While he attributed the staff reduction in part to the bankruptcy of Borders, one of the biggest retailers purchasing titles from their manga line, he also pointed to missteps with a number of high profile titles as a more significant contributing factor to the lagging sales and the subsequent layoffs.”Properties like the Jim Shooter Gold Key relaunch and Janet Evanovich’s Troublemaker are expensive to buy and even more expensive to produce, and both of those projects were known to be toxic [by employees] before publication,” said Colter. “The print-run of Troublemaker was insanely high, unwelcoming to established fans, and overpriced for most comics readers. Similarly, the Gold Key character relaunch was overreaching, over printed, and quite frankly worn-out.”

Colter described delays in the Dark Horse digital comics program, which was initially slated for January but not yet released, as a missed opportunity for the company, and said that concerns about both the development of the digital comics program and more significantly, the viability of major comics projects like the Gold Key relaunch were raised numerous times by Dark Horse employees, but ultimately dismissed by upper management.

“I have sat in several meetings going over numbers and plans for books like Troublemaker and have seen voices of dissent point out the obvious: that Dark Horse is spending too much money on projects that the majority of modern comic readers do not want to purchase,” said Colter. “And the answer was always the same, get on board because this is the direction the train is heading.”

A Dark Horse representative confirmed the number of people laid off, and said that further staff reductions were not anticipated, but declined to comment further.

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