Archie Comics Pulls Plug on Controversial Kickstarter

Archie Comics Pulls Plug on Controversial Kickstarter

by May 16, 2015

Does a Well Established Publisher Need an Extra $350K?

On Friday, Sonic comic publisher Archie Comics canceled a five day old Kickstarter that sought $350,000 to go toward the debut and support of three new revamped Archie universe series.

In a statement to Comic Book Resources, Archie CEO Jon Goldwater said that “ as a unique and innovative way to celebrate the company’s upcoming 75th anniversary and to bring attention to some new titles that we are extremely excited about,” but added:

While the response to these new titles has been amazing, the reaction to an established brand like Archie crowdfunding has not been. Though we saw this as an innovative, progressive and “outside-the-box” way to fund the accelerated schedule we wanted to produce these books, it became another conversation, leading us further away from the purpose of this whole campaign: to get these amazing books in the hands of fans faster than we could on our own. While we fully expected our goal to be funded, it was no longer about the books and how amazing they will be. We don’t want that. This is why we’re shutting the Kickstarter down today.

The effort sought the six figure amount to expedite and promote the release of a rebooted Jughead and Betty and Veronica series, as well as the launch of Life with Kevin, a series focusing on the Archie universe’s first gay character, Kevin Keller. At the time of the cancellation, close to 10% of the amount had been collected. Those backers will not be charged.

In an interview held Monday with Comics Reporter, Goldwater said Archie had just dedicated “a small fortune” to guarantee shelf space for its digests at Wal-Mart and Target, hinted future series launches could in part be crowdfunded should this one be successful, and argued that despite Archie Comics being in business for three quarters of a century, it’s “scrappy” compared to corporate competitors Marvel and DC–a term used on the Kickstarter page:

The point we’re trying to make is more about the perception of Archie, because it’s been around so long, is on the same level of corporate money DC or Marvel have. We aren’t on that level. We are “scrappy” in that context. That’s why we used that phrase.

That remark didn’t sit well with some critics, and throughout the week Archie reps insisted that while the publisher has the resources to publish these series without crowdfunding, it could not do so on the schedule they desired without outside support.

Crowdfunding, in the right circumstances, can be wildly successful for original or even spiritual successor projects. It has brought to fruition the successor to Mega Man from a startup company founded by its creator Keiji Inafune, Mighty No. 9. It recently ensured a full boat of features for Banjo-Kazooie follow-up Yooka-Laylee, also from the former’s original developers. Even in the Sonic community, it has provided opportunity. As we have covered here extensively, Sonic Fan Remix developer Pelikan13 received nearly $25,000 to go toward the ongoing development of The 90s Arcade Racer; that project is still slated for release, albeit a couple of years later than anticipated. GalaxyTrail’s Sonic inspired Freedom Planet collected more than $25,000 on Kickstarter to support what would become one of the widest and most successful independent platformer releases in years. Even Sonic series writer Ian Flynn uses Patreon to earn a little extra money to support independent series Radiers of the Abyss; Flynn earns $75 a month as of this article’s publication from the effort.

But Archie Comics is not a startup, nor is it a one-man operation. As a private non-traded company, they do not publicly disclose their financials. They do, however, have several licensing deals, including with Sega for the Sonic brand and Capcom for the Mega Man brand, ship their comics globally, and are prominently featured in newsstands from mom-and-pop comic book stores to big retailers such as Barnes and Noble.

As we have also covered here extensively, Archie was the subject of a long, brutal legal battle with former Sonic series writer Ken Penders over the rights to many secondary characters created during his tenure. That suit was settled and dismissed in 2013; financial terms were not disclosed. There have also been numerous reports of in-fighting between Archie’s owners in recent years.