What are the Dark Horse Comics animated adaptations?

Dark Horse Comics’ live-action movies and TV series are more successful, but their animated adaptations deserve a second look.

Dark Horse Comics is a company that emerged during the small-press comic book boom of the mid-1980s, and it made its mark with both original and licensed titles. In the case of the former, the company has had considerable success with cross-media adaptations, most notably with its characters on the big screen, as seen with 300, The Mask, Sin City, Mysterious men and Hellboy, but its success has also translated to television. During the last years, Umbrella Academy and Foreign resident created, with many other adaptations to varying degrees in development, but it’s the Dark Horse anime adaptations that are the most prolific, as seen below.

Duck (1994-1997)

Duckman Cartoon Cast

Introduced in 1988 Dark Horse Comics Presents #22, Everett Peck duck appeared several times in this anthology series before receiving a one-shot in 1990. Peck’s work in the animation industry paved the way for the production of a pilot episode from the Klasky-Csupo studio, best known for its many Nickelodeon series and distinct art direction. This led to USA Network picking up the series starring Jason Alexander as Private Dick/Family Man for four seasons from 1994 to 1997.

Unlike other upcoming series adaptations, the involvement of Peck and duck being produced for adult prime-time audiences meant that the adaptation was remarkably faithful to the comics. The only major change was that Duckman became a widower, with the characterization of his late wife being passed on to his sister-in-law, Bernice. Crude, rude and far from politically correct, duck was never a big ratings hit, but the series reached 70 episodes and received several Emmy Award nominations. Currently unavailable for streaming, duck has been released several times on DVD since 2008.

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Big Guy and Rusty the Robot Boy (1999-2001)

Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot Animated Series

Big Guy and Rusty the robot boy premiered on Fox Kids in September 1999, a pivotal moment in time for the former children’s programming juggernaut. With his hit series x-men and Spider Man finished and Power Rangers’ ratings a far cry from a few years earlier, Fox Kids needed a hit due to fierce competition from the WB Kids! Despite ordering 26 episodes, only six episodes aired before Big boy was pulled until early 2001, when the remaining episodes aired weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

Based on the 1995 two-issue miniseries by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, Big Guy and Rusty the robot boy faithfully adapted the setting and characters from the source material while toning down the grotesque imagery and body horror of the comic. The original story’s Japanese setting was also changed to the United States, and Rusty was now an American creation. The issue of his partnership with Big Guy was also resolved by the end of the pilot, with the two a team moving forward. After airing on Fox Kids, the series aired on other networks and was available through streaming services, but can currently only be found in its 2016 Complete Series DVD set.

Big Dog Mendoza (2000-2001)

Fat Dog Mendoza anime series

Based on a 1992 one-shot written and illustrated by Scott Musgrove, Big dog Mendoza was a 26-episode animated series that aired from 2000 to 2001. Easily the most obscure Dark Horse property to be adapted into animation, the series itself is largely unknown to American audiences, having been produced for Cartoon Network UK. The series retained the absurdist tone of the original comic while making it kid-friendly, and it gave equal attention to Fat Dog’s Little Costumed Buddy.

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Created with Musgrove’s input at every level, the series is notable as one of the final productions of Sunbow Entertainment, the studio best known for bringing Hasbro’s IP library to the small screen in the 1980s. Official of the series uploaded all episodes in 2016.

The Mask (1995-1997)

The Mask animated series

From the anime series discussed, The mask is arguably the best known and best known. Hot on the heels of the runaway success of the 1994 film, the animated series draws inspiration from the film while toning down the violence and increasing the over-the-top humor. Premiered on CBS in 1995 and continues for 54 episodes over three seasons, The mask was the first of three animated series based on Jim Carrey’s trio of blockbusters from 1994 to debut this year.

Starring Rob Paulsen as Stanley Ipkiss, the series largely retained the trappings of the feature film compared to the even more violent comic books. John Arcudi, author of the first three The mask miniseries, even contributed two episodes, both as far removed from the tone of the original books as possible. Unavailable on streaming services at this time, most digital retailers carry the series, and the first season was released on DVD in 2018.

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About the Author

Kimberly B. Nguyen