Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
Darren Davis is a warm, fun-loving, articulate man with a perennial smile and a twinkle in his eye. Upon meeting him, you’d never guess he’s been on the cover of Tim Magazine. But he has.
Topping his list of favorite things in life is his dogs, Australian Shepherds Grayson and Merrick. “My dogs are pretty much #1 with me,” he says. “I had dogs growing up, but I really didn’t connect with them . . . they were just . . . there. These dogs, I’m not only connected, but I want to be sure I parent them well. I get down on their level and really try to make sure they feel comfortable, safe and loved.”
Darren’s other first love got him where he is today: successful comic book publisher and owner of Blue Water Productions, and a man routinely sought out by national media such as CNN and Fox, magazines, and others.
“I grew up in West Lake Village in Ventura County California,” he explains. Not far from Hollywood, “It was there I got my fascination for the entertainment industry. While friends in college were collecting baseball cards I was collecting information about the Hollywood biz.”
“Also — I grew up in an area where they filmed everything — The Muppet Movie was filmed right outside my elementary school; it was fun to meet Jim Henson and the Muppets. Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, Dukes of Hazard, Knight Rider . . . all were filmed there.”
Darren’s first professional gig was as an intern at E! TV — “it lasted six years, and was the best job ever,” he says. “I learned so much about the industry. And it was fun — I would run tampons from one boss to another, buy Playgirl for the boss . . . I would do anything.”
From there Darren went to USA Network, and then Lions Gate Entertainment, where “I learned all about advertising and marketing.”
Then came a job offer from DC Comics, doubling his salary. “I said bye-bye entertainment, hello comics.”
Ultimately becoming the agent for top comic book writers and artists, Darren appreciates that, “I was getting their autographs just a couple of years back, and I had become a peer.”
The skills, experience and savvy Darren had acquired equipped him well for the opportunities ahead. His first comic book, 10th Muse, was the sixth highest-selling comic book in 2001. He was on his way.
“I hired one of the best writers and one of the best artists at the time and used the celebrity angle.” Rita Mero, who as ‘Sable’ was hailed as “one of the first divas of WWE,” and who appeared on the cover of Playboy three times, was THE 10th Muse.
“While other [comic book publishers] focused on celebrities and not content, I did both,” says Darren, musing on his success. He founded Blue Water Productions in 2005, “and it’s been going strong ever since.”
Dramatic changes swept the comic book industry in 2008. “Where X Men sold 1 million copies, now we were seeing sales at more like 100,000 copies. All the numbers dropped. I went outside the box and started doing biographical comic books, which hadn’t been hot for 10 years.”
“We started with Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and focused on the female empowerment angle,” he says. “Whether you like them or not, you’ve got to respect their accomplishments.” Rather than the common adaptations of the past, Darren says his biographical comic books were more like sequels, each having his unique stamp.
The books took off. “CNN and Fox, were all over it,” he says.
Darren next expanded the brand to include women who’ve had important social impact, such as Ellen DeGeneres. One development of the time was inviting his subjects (of unauthorized biographies) to dedicate proceeds to a nonprofit. Ellen chose to, supporting the Humane Society of the United States. One such case backfired, however, resulting in an organization issuing not only negative media releases, but even death threats.
Undeterred, Darren pressed on, knowing by now what to do to get where he wanted to go. A book on Barbara Walters, for example, was likely to get him airtime on The View.
“Because of my background,” he says, “it was kind of like a game. And it was fun. I have always been humble about publicity, and I know how to behave in the company of celebrities. While I might be totally giddy on the inside, I know how to be gracious and cool on the outside.”
Good thing, as he keeps company with some very big names — many of whom he is a huge fan, like William Shatner, Adam West and Olivia Newton John, to name just a few — not to mention very big names on the business side of Hollywood. Of course that’s between doing interviews with national networks and publications that continue to respond to Darren’s latest titles — which he releases at the incredible rate of five per week.
“I stagger them so I don’t bog down the media — one female empowerment book, one on a total pop star. So I’m working way ahead. Right now I’m working on November titles.” And yes, he confirms, he’s got great writing and artistic talent with him. “I couldn’t do this without them. And, I won’t do a book until it’s done. I am a control freak, so I’ve got my hand in at every level. And it works; it helps that I really know (and love) pop culture . . . .” Having also spent time learning politics, Darren seems to have enough knowledge in each area of the types of books he publishes to make it work. Very, very well.
While many have been optioned for films, just one has so far almost been made — Wrath of the Titans, a sequel to Clash of the Titans.
Indeed, having a film or films made from his work is on his bucket list. When asked if he himself would like to be in the spotlight, he says, “I am now.” And while interviews with CNN, Fox, and the like are routine by now, there are moments he calls “highlights.”
“Being in Vanity Fair was pretty cool!” he says. As was ringing the bell at NASDAQ and having his comic book and name appear on the jumbotron in Times Square. And while being featured in Forbes was a little “meh,” he says, being on the cover of Time Magazine? “That impressed me.”
Darren Davis is certainly one to watch. For those of us here in Portlandia, while we can catch him on the air and in magazines like everyone else, most often we’ll find him at the park with his two best friends.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her 3-pack, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.