Dark Horse Comics has made a name for itself with great creator-owned projects like "Sin City" and the "Hellboy" comics, but way back in 1986 the publisher kicked things off with "Dark Horse Presents," an anthology series that went on to become the publisher's longest running title and many readers' first introduction to some of the industry's most celebrated creators.
In April, the publisher will relaunch "Dark Horse Presents" for a new generation of readers, kicking things off yet again with a mix of new and established creators — and one particular project that comic book movie fans will want to take note of. Veteran writer/artist Frank Miller will offer a sneak peek at "Xerxes," the sequel to "300," in the first issue of "Dark Horse Presents."
"Frank [Miller] was a big part of the original 'Dark Horse Presents,'" Dark Horse president Mike Richardson told MTV News. "'Sin City' started out as a series of eight-page features in the original 'Dark Horse Presents.' Sometime later, we did the '300' graphic novel as a comic series, so Frank is a big part of Dark Horse Comics' history."
According to Richardson, the "Xerxes" preview will consist of several pages of the upcoming comic and an interview with with Miller about his decision to continue the story he began in "300," and which was later adapted into a live-action film directed by Zack Snyder. A film based on "Xerxes" is also in the works, with Snyder and many of the other members of the "300" movie creative team.
Along with previewing "Xerxes" in the first issue of "Dark Horse Presents," Miller also contributed a "Xerxes"-themed cover for the anthology (seen below).
"He's working so hard on 'Xerxes' that it seemed like the best way to do it was to have the preview in 'Dark Horse Presents,'" said Richardson. "I know people are excited to see this prequel to '300.'"
While "Xerxes" will eventually be published as a limited series, Richardson said they're not ready to announce a release date for the first issue at this point — so the April issue of "Dark Horse Presents" will indeed be the first look at Miller's follow-up to the epic tale of King Leonidas and his Spartans taking on the might of the great Persian Empire.
Back in July 2010, Snyder offered up a few details about the plot of "Xerxes," saying it won't be a typical sequel or prequel story.
"['Xerxes'] follows Themistocles and the Battle of Artemisium, which coincidentally happens on the exact same three days as the Battle of Thermopylae [which was the basis of '300']," Snyder told MTV News last year. "This one starts off with a quick retelling of the why of the Persian wars. It starts off at the Battle of Marathon and then it goes back to Themistocles finding out that Persians are invading again. and off we go over to learn a little bit about why Xerxes is the way he is."
And even though "Xerxes" the comic seems to be developing in parallel with the film, Richardson indicated that Miller's focus remains on the print version of the story at this point, and what he's seen of the book so far is "terrific."
"Frank is concerned with doing the best comic series that he can," said Richardson. "As always, he's focused on what he's doing, and he's trying to make this the best story he possibly can. He's having a lot of fun with it, and the stuff looks sensational. We have a few issues of the book in, the story is done, and he's just executing the comic series now. It's going to run a number of issues."
But "Xerxes" isn't the only big project to get the spotlight in the first new issue of "Dark Horse Presents." A new story in the world of Paul Chadwick's "Concrete" (which Peter Jackson once wrote a screenplay for) will also appear in the issue. As Richardson pointed out, "Concrete" was one of the original mainstays of "DarkHorse Presents" when the series first launched, so its presence in the relaunch will bring things full circle.
"We have a lot of great projects in there," he said. "We're trying to bring in a broad spectrum of projects. . . We have a Howard Chaykin story, a Richard Corben series, it has Dave Gibbons in it. . . We'll have the return of 'Star Wars: Crimson Empire,' too."
Given the series' history and the long list of upcoming projects that will be making their debut in the series, don't be surprised if the pages of "Dark Horse Presents" offer an early peek at some of tomorrow's biggest big-screen adaptations, too.
"I think that's always in the back of our minds, but despite our success in the film business, that's never been the primary reason we do a comic series," said Richardson when asked if the anthology could also provide a good testing ground for potential adaptations. "We always look to do a great series, and we know that some of them will be successful in other areas. Dark Horse Presents has a variety of opportunities in it."
"Our focus has always been great creator-owned projects," he added. "We see ourselves as a creator-friendly company and we're always looking for great comics."
"Dark Horse Presents" #1 hits shelves in April. Check out the two covers for the first issue below, featuring Frank Miller's "Xerxes" and Paul Chadwick's "Concrete."
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