Dark Horse Digital: Mike Denning Talks Development

Dark Horse’s Senior Web Developer talks about the new Dark Horse app and the process behind it. From the Dark Horse Digital Blog:


Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson may think he has the best job at Dark Horse but he would be mistaken. I do. After 16 years with the company, I have, in fact, carved out the best job at Dark Horse.


And although my title for the past few years has been Senior Web Designer, I actually do more than banner ads, web design and updating cover graphics (you don’t think they got updated by themselves, do you?).  Check out the features section of darkhorse.com and you’ll see my legacy at Dark Horse:  thousands of previews, desktops, animations, games, 360s, flipbooks, etc.  A couple of my favorite projects over the years have been the recent trailer for the uber-terrific Blacksad, the Bettie Page Dress-Up Magnet Set, and the Umbrella Academy Dallas trailer. But now I’ve found a new passion… built upon the skills those previous projects had provided me.


Way back in the early part of 2009, I caught wind that we were thinking of creating iphone app for our comic Terminator Death Valley.  So I knocked on doors and barged in to meetings and convinced them that I should be the one to create the digital assets for it.


I know design. I have an expert knowledge of Photoshop and Fireworks and the rest of Adobe’s Creative Suite. But most of all, after 16 years, I know where all the digital files are archived on our servers.  It would be a mistake to underestimate that last bit of knowledge.


After the success of the Terminator apps, we charged ahead and created more standalone book apps. Those were pre-iPad and one type of iPhone resolution days. Those Apps required extensive reformatting to make them work on the iPhone. Every panel and every word balloon were cut-out and placed new on the page. New cover and credit pages were designed. For example:


But creating all this additional design work and reformatting was not a sustainable model. We needed to build a reader. So back in the day (a Wednesday–thanks Dane Cook), Dark Horse Director of Online Marketing , Matt Parkinson, and I spec’d out a Dark Horse Reader iPhone application proposal:

This proposal was hammered out while Apple was busy developing the then secret iPad…. and those months of work by Matt and I were ceremoniously tossed aside when the iPad was announced. It was back to square one.


This time, however, it was not Matt nor I but our Vice President of IT, Dale LaFountain, and the Senior Developer Lennon Day-Reynolds who came up with a new reader spec… for both the iPhone and the IPad and they added a web store to support it.  This is now the free Dark Horse App we have just released last week which, by god, I hope you’ve downloaded.


Since July 2010, I have worked to prepare our comics for this new digital world. Using Adobe’s Creative Suite, me and my team, no longer have to reformat comics to fit the iPhone’s small screen.  Instead the integrity of the creators’ vision is kept intact and we use proprietary software developed by our crack development staff to establish “viewports” which allow you to use what we call “panel zoom” on the iPhone of the original comic book page. We use the original covers and credits.  The beauty of this new methodology is that we can produce these digital comics much, much faster, thus enabling a launch of nearly 300 titles and more coming every month–from current releases and the extensive Dark Horse backlist.


So I think you can see why I have the best job at Dark Horse. I get to be creative, develop fun stuff for the website and now, I’m on the tip of the spear for our future. And I get paid for it! Boom!



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