A Creative Ride at Dark Horse
Daniel Chabon JD ’15
At Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, Oregon, Daniel Chabon was distracted when a Facebook message popped up on his computer screen.
His eyes opened wide in disbelief. A Canadian editor was reaching out with news that Margaret Atwood, famed author of The Handmaid’s Tale, had an idea for a comic book series. Chabon quickly messaged back, hoping he wasn’t being pranked. He wasn’t.
“I was kind of shocked realizing I was entering a publication deal with THE Margaret Atwood,” says senior editor Chabon. “I wondered how I was going to give editorial notes to one of the world’s most famous writers.”
As it turned out, Atwood, who has a “great sense of humor,” was a delight to work with. In 2016, Dark Horse Comics published her graphic novel Angel Catbird, the first in a three-part series.
Chabon is an Eisner Award–nominated comic book and graphic novel editor with a master’s degree in book publishing from Portland State University and a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School. He says he learned to become an editor under the Hellboy series. While at Dark Horse, he’s worked on a stellar collection of titles, including the smash horror hit Harrow County and the Eisner Award–winning rural superhero series Black Hammer. In the spring, he’ll debut X-ray Robot by Mike Allred, “a pulp-inspired retro sci-fi comic.”
Chabon says, “Comics have been in my family’s blood for generations.” His grandfather’s New York City print shop published comic books in the 1940s. His father, an avid reader and collector of older comics, shared that passion with his sons. In 2012, his older brother, Michael, published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about the Golden Age of the comics industry.
Chabon grew up in Washington, D.C., and vividly recalls attending smaller comic book conventions every week. “My dad and I bought and collected first-appearance copies of Wolverine and Mad Magazine,” he says. He also got hooked on EC comics like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Two-Fisted Tales, “which were very dark and initially banned by Congress.”
Chabon moved to Portland in 2008 to attend PSU. His father, a pediatrician and lawyer, told him that earning a law degree would offer flexible career options. By the time he entered the evening program at Lewis & Clark Law School, he was already working full time at Dark Horse.
“The school’s Socratic teaching method forced me to change the way I think, listen more intently, and be confident in my arguments,” says Chabon. “My days ran from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., plus reading 100 pages of case law when I got home. It was a long four years!”
He also learned to build relationships, a hallmark of his editorial style. While Dark Horse is known as a leader in horror comics, Chabon works on a wide range of projects, including archival collections, licensed/franchise works, and art books. Original owner-created titles are his favorite because they allow maximum creative freedom. He enjoys bringing authors, artists, colorists, and letterers together, often in unexpected pairings that bring surprising results.
“Daniel has a keen eye for graphic storytelling, a great sense of what will appeal to the widest range of readers,” says Cullen Bunn, author of Harrow County. “Publishing comics with all their moving parts is like wrangling cats.”
An avid reader, Chabon says he’s a news junkie and loves manga and graphic novels. He unwinds by taking long bike rides and playing with his dog, Zell.
“Portland has a rich comic book community with a ton of publishers and creators,” says Chabon, who’s currently juggling around 30 projects. “I consider them collaborators, not competitors. We support each other in getting more books published.”
—by Pattie Pace