Retro Comics Feature – the Dylan Dog comic That Never Was, from Atomeka Press

Fans of Italian comic character Dylan Dog were sent into a spin earlier this month after an “extremely rare American magazine with Dylan Dog cover” was offered on on eBay Italy. They got even more excited when the as yet unidentified cover, carefully anonymised by the seller keen to sell it for an eye-watering price, by British artist John Bolton, proved to be a promotion for an English language Dylan Dog collection that was never published.

While Dylan Dog, an investigator of the paranormal, is hugely popular in Italy and indeed, much of Europe, the character’s publication history in English is, sadly, a bit underwhelming. Dark Horse was the first US publisher to succeed, releasing a limited edition series with covers by Mike Mignola in 1999, subsequently collected as The Dylan Dog Case Files. (Good luck finding a cheap copy of that, it seems).

Dylan Dog monthly No. 431 - Sergio Bonelli Editore
The latest monthly Italian issue of Dylan Dog published by Sergio Bonelli Editore

Today, the stories of ex-cop who battles against evil as a “nightmare investigator,” created back in 1986 by writer Tizlano Sclavi for Italian publishing house Sergio Bonelli Editore have been published most recently in English by San Diego-based Epicenter Comics.

However, back in 1993, Britain’s Atomeka Press, now AtomekaArt, attempted to bring Dylan Dog to English audiences, two series, the character retitled “Damien Darke”, were trailed in Diamond PREVIEWS, and elsewhere: “The Living Dead”, with covers by John Bolton; and “Trapped in Time”, with covers by the late John Watkiss.

  • Diamond Previews - June 1993 Cover
  • Diamond Previews - June 1993 - Damien Darke advertisement - art by John Bolton  (Dylan Dog)
  • Diamond Previews - July 1993 Cover
  • Diamond Previews - July 1993 Damien Darke Promotion (Dylan Dog)
  • Diamond Previews - August 1993 Cover
  • Diamond Previews - August 1993 Damien Darke Promotion (Dylan Dog)

“The character rename was purely down to a general consensus that Dylan Dog as a name wouldn’t be taken seriously,” Dave Elliott tells downthetubes. “It was done in conjunction with Sergio Bonelli, who approved the renaming.”

While the promotions for “Damien Darke” in three issues of PREVIEWS in 1993 were in black and white, there was a promotion in colour, too, the source of the Italian eBay seller’s “cover” offer, that sent some Dylan Dog fans into determined overdrive to find the source.

John Bolton’s cover for “Damien Darke” – The Living Dead #1 appeared in colour – but where?

Thanks to them, we now know it ran on the cover of the comic industry preview magazine Comics Scoreboard No. 46, cover dated August 1993, published by Heroes World.

Atomeka Press, also known as AtomekaArt, founded by Dave Elliott and the late Garry Leach, was originally established to publish the A1 anthology in the late 1980s/early 1990s. First operating from 1988 – 1997, the imprint was revived from 2004 – 2005.

In 1992, Tundra set up its UK office and several Tundra-funded titles were published under the Atomeka imprint, including Monster Massacre, Bogie Man, Hugo Tate, Lords of Misrule.

Sadly, it was Tundra’s collapse that meant the planned “Damien Darke” series didn’t go ahead. “We were also going to be publishing manga as well,” Dave reveals. “The first was to have been GON, from Kodansha, that went to DC.”

After Titan Comics launched, Dave worked on numerous titles as part of a co-publishing deal, the publisher’s initial line favouring creator-owned material. This included a further revival of Atomeka’s A1 anthology.

Never one to not keep busy, Dave has continued to work in comics to this day, teasing that, long term, new projects are in the works from Atomeka, which will be revealed in due course. We wish him and his team the very best of luck in their en

More about Dylan Dog here on the Sergio Bonelli Editore web site

Epicenter Comics, the current US publishers of Dylan Dog, are online at epicentercomics.com

Buy Dylan Dog on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Dylan Dog Fans (in Italian) – dylandogofili.com | Facebook

• Europe Comics is a great resource for European comics published in English at www.europecomics.com | You might also want to check European Comics, although it appears this site hasn’t been updated for a while

Atomeka Press

Atomeka Press (aka Atomeka Art) on Facebook

Creating Comics: Atomeka publisher Dave Elliott’s plan to save the US comics industry (2018 downthetubes feature)

Grand Comic Database: Atomeka Titles

Grand Comic Database: Atomeka Titles (Tundra titles)

Richard Sheaf is documenting the vintage publishing catalogue of Atomeka on his Boy’s Adventure Comics Blog, as follows

The original A1 series (from 1989)

A1 series (from 1992)

The Epic comics anthology (1992)

With thanks to Gianni Bevilacqua for sending me on this quest, Reuben Willmott for scans, and, especially, Dave Elliott, for not minding being mind probed about vintage projects!

• This article was updated on Wednesday 24th August to reflect identification of the mystery promotional cover

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.



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