Archie Comics raised many eyebrows two days ago by starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise $350,000.
Here is the description of the campaign;
The world took notice when we announced that we would—for the first time in 75 years—relaunch Archie with a new #1 issue. With your help, we can build off that huge anticipation and expand the new Riverdale to include three new series crafted by the biggest names in comics: JUGHEAD (from writer Chip Zdarsky and artist TBD)
BETTY AND VERONICA (from writer/artist Adam Hughes)
and LIFE WITH KEVIN (from writer/artist Dan Parent and inker J. Bone)
—crafted by the biggest names in comics, from the company that has built a reputation as the most daring, progressive and fan-friendly place in the business. This is your chance to have a hand in building a new Riverdale—for everyone!
The strange thing is that the new Archie #1 was solicited to comic shops last month. So to say that comic retailers are bewildered and upset is an understatement. Many comic retailers are cutting their orders on Archie#1 or refusing to carry any comics from Archie. Both fans and pros are wondering why is Archie running a Kickstarter in the first place.
Recently Archie has had huge success with their horror takes on
Afterlife With Archie
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Over the past few years they have made real strides to get more males and older readers with books like
Archie Vs Predator
Archie Meets Glee
Archie Meets Kiss
And the upcoming Archie VS Sharknado
They even killed off Archie in the last issues of Life With Archie (This was a spinoff book with alternate stories of the cast from Riverdale. So he kind of sort of died but not really)
They have also had some great revamp of their superhero line under the Dark Circle Comics banner with
And their upcoming The Hangman
In the regular Archie line they introduced the first gay character Kevin Keller that was applauded by the LGBT community and was very successful sales wise too.
So this leads to the question why the hell is Archie going to Kickstarter to raise money? Some of it certainly has to do with the very public hostel infighting and lawsuits with the two leaders Nancy Silberkleit and Jonathan Goldwater that along with rumors that past owners and possibly current owners have bled the company dry and that to make a deal for Archie Comics to get into Target and Wal-Mart the funds need to be raised. In an interview with Jon Goldwater he responded to critics of the Kickstarter campaign,
We explored all options. The plan always was to do these books. However, when the chance arose to be a presence at Wal-Mart and Target we couldn’t turn that down — and that made us pivot in a major way, financially and in terms of manpower. So, these titles that we’re so excited about had to be put on a slower track, to speak generally. At that point, we realized we needed some kind of outside funding if we wanted the books to come out faster — in time to really maximize the opportunity presented by the great “Archie” #1 numbers, and to truly “relaunch” the two other most important books in Archie history. “Jughead” and “Betty & Veronica”, in a timely manner that signals — “This is a new beginning!”
You can read the full interview HERE
The bigger question I have it’s one thing to do a Kickstarter for individuals or small businesses to help get a project off the ground but while I understand that Archie is not Marvel or DC Comics there are many other publishers that are just as small as Archie that have survived without crowd funding. Now there have been other small comic publishers that have went the crowd funding approach to help them raise money for the company. Most notably Fantagraphics ($222,372 of $150,000 goal), Last Gasp ($83,000 of $75,000) Slave Labor Graphics ($13,330 of $85,000 goal). There was also the debate about this similar issue when the Veronica Mars Movie owned by Warner Bros. was financed through Kickstarter.
It’s very interesting that comic retailers were not up in arms about those campaigns like they are about Archie. That is probably due that most retailers rarely order books from those three publishers and until recently probably ordered very few copies of the regular Archie comics and digests. For years the only Archie Comics that you saw were at the newsstands and in the checkout isle of a grocery store. That market has certainly dried up for Archie and I’m sure that is why they launched the more direct market books like Afterlife With Archie and the Dark Circle books. If the shop I go to is any indication they are ordering on the lower end of the scale of most of the Dark Circle books that is about 10 to 15 copies maximum. Afterlife and Sabrina is maybe 20 to 30 copies. I really doubt that most stores order this many of any of the Archie direct market books and probably do not bother ordering the regular Archie comics and digest unless they are special order for a customer.
The only reason that retailers are up in arms is the timing of this announcement. They have already ordered Archie #1 and with 21 different covers and Mark Waid writing and Fiona Staples artwork probably ordered a fair amount of the book because the creators appeal to the direct market. Will the Kickstarter eat into sales of the comic at local comic shops? I kind of doubt it because people who go to comic shops generally go on Wednesdays when book first hit the shelves and they are not willing to wait around to have Archie ship the books to them when they get them. I myself did the Kickstarter for Fatagraphics and the book that I pledged money for arrived months after it had hit the stand and the only reason that I wasn’t entirely furious was that it was a signed edition. A regular comic reader will probably still buy their copy at their local comic shop because of the convince and possible discount on the book. I know that I have already ordered the comic and looked at the Kickstarter and had no interest beyond the variant covers but the pledge price was way to high for me to care to put up the money for them.
In the end I see both sides to the issue. Archie probably should have timed the Kickstarter better but they are using the publicity of the launch of Archie #1 to get people to donate to them. While I think that retailers have some right to be upset I doubt that they are going to lose a ton of money on Archie #1 because regular customers and the public will go to their stores to buy the book. Not everyone will see the Kickstarter or contribute to it.The one thing for sure would be to see Archie go belly up and not have the chance to see this reinvention of Archie would be a shame.