June 24, 2013

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A Few Thoughts on the Boom!/Archaia News

Boom exploded the comics news cycle today.
For those who may not have heard about it, word went out today that Boom! Studios, one of the bigger small independent comics companies, has acquired Archaia, one of the other bigger small independent comics companies.

I'm not going to try to re-invent the wheel with this, so I'll skip most of the news part of this and focus on my own thoughts.  You can learn more about it from my Newsarama bosses and a film-centric take from Deadline (who broke the story, or at least was the first outlet I was linked to).

The short version, for those who aren't into reading long press releases, is that Boom! is taking over Archaia and making it one of their imprints, ala KaBoom!, their children's line.  This grows Boom! a bit and gives Archaia a bigger presence in comic stores.  Apparently, while Boom! is a solid seventh in the rankings, Archaia was only pulling .25 percent of the market, according to Newsarama.

Even their logo is pretty.
If you've never seen an Archaia book in the flesh, they're GORGEOUS.  No expense is spared in putting them together, which made them quite attractive to the book market.  (See this display I once photographed at the Inner Harbor Barnes and Noble in Baltimore, Md.)  Unfortunately for Archaia, the bookstore market isn't exactly very strong right now, and I think they were hoping it would be a viable option in place of trying to be yet another voice screaming in the direct market, to say nothing of the fact that the next Archaia book with an exploitative cover on it will be the first one I've ever seen.

The other issue for Archaia, and I wonder if this will change under Boom! is that because their books looked so nice, they also were expensive.  I'll be honest, even before I went to 90% digital, I tended to pass on Archaia books because of the cost.  It certainly set them out from the other companies, but not necessarily in a good way.

I am definitely glad the company is continuing.  According to this CBR article, Archia was apparently struggling to keep it going in 2012, so it's nice to see them merge rather than fold.  For Boom!'s part, this gives them a new set of properties to develop and some really strong creative talents, such as Chandra Free and Tom Brown, just to name a few.  Though my reading experiences with Archaia are far fewer than with Boom!, they've been quite positive and I think the two companies will merge together well.

Of course, as with anything comics these days, there's the movie angle.  The Deadline Hollywood article above raves about the movie potential of both Boom! and Archaia, and even the Boom! press release notes the number of characters in their stable.

I've noted before, most recently in a Newsarama review that's upcoming, that Boom! does a great job of finding smart comic concepts that play out across four, eight, or twelve issues, mostly in a science fiction/superhero world.  They're usually by creative teams that don't have a lot of word of mouth (though that's changing, with the addition of Paul Jenkins, for example) but that create solid comics that are enjoyable.  Their set of Mythos comics are great fun, and now and again, they do go big name, such as when their former Editor in Chief Mark Waid was writing Irredeemable.  Even losing Disney's Muppets didn't slow them down, as they went and got Garfield to replace it.

By adding Archaia, Boom! now gets to play in the fantasy sandbox, with a similar set of creative names--folks who are excellent at what they do but aren't immediately recognizable.  It's an area of growth for them, and I think it's smart that they reached out to an existing resource rather than try something entirely new.

So far, folks seem positive about the move.  I didn't notice any negative vibes on Twitter, and the company cheerfully let this picture out to the masses.  As Heidi McDonald notes, "Indeed, Boom! has been smartly riding the success of periodical comics while staying small and focused. Adding Archaia’s great library of highly personal fantasy and genre books should be a great move for both brands."

I have a lot of respect for both companies and I hope this merger does well.  We all win as readers when more comics are available, especially when curated by a company with a solid plan, as Boom! appears to have.  Can this move Boom! up s notch in the rankings?  I guess we'll see.  It's too early to speculate.  However, given their vision, I wouldn't be surprised if we see further growth (either on its own or by merging again) in the years to come.