A Retailer Concerned About Archie’s Business Practices

Retailer Brandon Schatz, in a post at The Beat (no longer available), points out a lot of interesting observations about Archie Comics’ recent business practices. I hadn’t realized that they’d suddenly jumped their cover prices up to the now-standard $3.99, but the other concerns — eliminating digests and series, shipping late, missing solicitations — make me worry as well. He says

Afterlife With Archie #6 cover

It would be easy to say that the company is entering a period of creative and cultural renaissance. Unfortunately, this seems to be down to necessity more than anything else. A look at the various moves the company has made quietly in the background paints a picture of quiet desperation. …

The current Archie line consists of their flagship title (Archie, of course) and a bi-monthly shipping Betty & Veronica series — as the buzzy Kevin Keller ongoing has very recently joined the scrap pile. The rest is either licensed, or part of a new darker initiative that has been met with heavy delays. While the line still has some consistent performers, recent signs have pointed to the company having some cash flow problems….

These are all things publishers do or have done when they are in trouble. Low selling books get their production schedule slashed, books ship late as the company waits on money to come in. Writers start looking more and more like people from the editorial masthead (Alex Segura, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa) as the overlap generally saves money.

He makes a significant case out of Aguirre-Sacasa’s Afterlife With Archie being planned as a monthly but not being solicited as one, but he doesn’t point out the likeliest reason why — this is what happens when you start working with writers from Hollywood to chase media attention. It happened with Kevin Smith at DC and J. Michael Straczynski at Marvel, to name two of the most obvious examples (and I never expect to see Jeph Loeb’s Captain America: White). The fact is, the Hollywood day job is more important and pays better. Then again, artist Francesco Francavilla is doing a lot as well, working on Hawkeye and his own Black Beetle as well as a number of covers.

Schatz goes on to promote the importance of regular shipping in building audience and thus sales. There are a lot of important ideas in his essay, although I hope he’s wrong about the company. If nothing else, I found out that Afterlife With Archie has its own website that includes a release schedule.


4 Responses to “A Retailer Concerned About Archie’s Business Practices”

  1. Anthony Says:

    In Archie’s favor, they have Sabrina in their stable, who seems to be the most popular character they have as far as TV’s concerned (the 90s sitcom, several animated series including a current one on the Hub). But still, it’d be a shame to see them go under (wonder who’d buy the characters/assets?)…

  2. Johanna Says:

    The concept of Sabrina is so simple and classic that yes, there’s a lot of potential there that’s been recognized in other media. I’m almost afraid to read the latest Afterlife With Archie (#6), because I know it’s a spotlight on her, and I’m afraid of what they might do…

  3. Brandon Schatz Says:

    That could very well be why that book is late – especially with Francesco Francavilla on art. The question becomes, if that’s the case, why add another title to his schedule – the monthly horror Sabrina book?

    As for the release schedule, they definitely doctored that with hindsight. Most have shipped way after the dates promised when I placed orders, although they now have corrected and are soliciting solid dates, which helps with retail budgeting. I’m not sure if I stated it strongly enough in the article, but I don’t want to be right. I just worry, having watched these same signals from companies like CrossGen, Speakeasy, and a handful of others – and I love their books!

    @soupytoasterson

  4. Johanna Says:

    I know what you mean, Brandon, and thank you for clarifying. Those of us who’ve been around for a while tend to see these kinds of signs as worrisome. (I’d forgotten about Speakeasy!) I hope your post is back up at the Beat soon for a fuller discussion.

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