Every issue of the anthology series Dark Horse Presents opens with a short editorial by Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson.
I look forward to it every month. Richards is a comics industry legend – executive, creator (he writes the monthly series 47 Ronin), and fan of the medium. You can tell.
And it’s one of the few honest and thoughtful editorials you’ll read comic books. It’s a refreshing change to the boosterism being printed everywhere else even if I don’t always agree with his argument. (But isn’t that the point?)
In issue #23 of DHP (April 2013), Mike remembers the (presumably) unsung comic talent and, in many ways, a pioneer Toren Smith (1960-2013).
Dark Horse has published comics for over 25 years, and as you might imagine, we’ve worked with thousands of writers, artists, agents, lawyers, and others in virtually every profession related to comics. Some, of course, are well known, if not downright famous…the superstars of the industry. Others who have had a major impact in relative obscurity. You may not have heard of Toren Smith’s name used in many conversations about the important people in comics’ history, but you should have.
Toren was one of the very first to recognize the potential that manga (Japanese comics) had in America. A writer and artist himself, he was the first foreigner to come to Japan with the intention of bringing manga to American publishers, beginning with Eclipse Comics and then primarily through his long relationship with Dark Horse. The quality of the translations and repackagings from Toren’s company, Studio Proteus, is still considered the gold standard for translated manga, as evidenced by SP’s work on Appleseed, Blade of the Immortal, Ghost in the Shell, Domu, Oh My Goddess!, and many others. Toren was also a key figure in the inception of the manga/anime fan scene, and it is no exaggeration to say that without Toren’s tireless efforts and steadfast commitment to excellence and to the otaku community, manga might never have achieved the widespread popularity it enjoys today. He is owed much by many.
Torn was a valued collaborator and a good friend, and he is greatly missed.
I was really surprised to find out Toren was from Alberta. There’s just something incongruous to me about a prairie boy becoming the vanguard for manga in North America.
Congratulations, Toren. Thanks for helping bring all this great literature to our attention.