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
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.