May 15, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for May 15, 2015- Ten Will Get You $3.99


** Archie Comics has been getting quite a bit of attention for the past couple of years.  Kevin Keller, Life with Archie and Afterlife with Archie have all been some great strides for comics and have been some dang fine comics as well.  Breaking out of the bubblegum pop that Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and all of those characters have been known for for decades, the last couple of years have seen Archie get fairly experimental and more daring.  Whether it's tackling gay characters, their own characters getting older and moving on with life after high school or the weird situations that they can generate by throwing their characters into a horror story, there's been a push to do new things with their characters that has been rightly applauded by comic fans.

In just a couple of months, they've got Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reimagining Archie and his cast for the 21st century.  Waid is riding his second or third or fourth wave of popularity and thanks to her stellar work on Saga, Staples is getting a lot of recognition the last couple of years.  This comic sounds like the next home run for Archie Comics.  So why stop there?  How does Chip Zdarsky and my favorite artists TBA sound on Jughead?  Haven't you always wanted to see Adam Hughes draw Betty and Veronica?  And Dan Parent and J. Bone should be great showing us the further adventures of Kevin Keller and Veronica.  Welcome to the new Archie Comics!

If you really want to see all of this happen, all you've got to do is throw a few dollars towards Archie Comics Kickstarter campaign for $350,000.

Now honestly, all of these comics sound pretty good with the possible exception of TBA on the Jughead comic.  (Seriously, when will this stop?)  For the longest time, Archie Comics was all but ignored by the direct market fan but these recent moves as well as publishing some truly fantastic comics has put a lot of attention on the comics publisher.

And maybe $350,000 doesn't seem like a lot when you consider in 1998, Mark Waid's annual salary was reported to be $250,000 by Parade Magazine.  That's what Kingdom Come money looks like, boys and girls.  But for Archie Comics, let's try to take a quick look at what this means.

John Jackson's Comichron estimates that in 2014, the Direct Market (comics and goods sold by Diamond Comics through North American comic shops only) was around $540.4 million.  That's an estimate with a lot of qualifiers on it but it's still a pretty good number.  That's easily the best year that Comichron has reported on. Through Diamond, we know that Archie's Direct Market marketshare was 0.89%.  That's roughly $4.8 million in revenue that Archie Comics generated in the direct market last year.  Now due to costs, talent, shipping, distribution and a whole mess of other stuff, that's not profit for Archie Comics.  That's just how much product worth of comics sold through comic shops.  Now I've got no idea what kind of profit margins the comic industry runs at so it's hard to tell how much of that Archie Comics pocketed.

But think of this for a moment...  That $350,000 that they are asking for through Kickstarter is about 7% of the dollar amount of what they sold through Diamond Comics last year.  That doesn't seem like a lot.

And here is where things start to look unstable.  If Archie is needing this money to fund their "New Archie" initiative, it doesn't speak that well to their planning, does it?  On the surface, this looks close to Fantagraphics' campaign a few years ago to fund their publishing but that company was in a bit of dire straits after the death of Kim Thompson.  And Fantagraphics' goal was less than half of Archie's for quite a few more books to get published.

And then there's Archie's Kickstarter rewards.  For $10, you get one $3.99 book and maybe a tweet thrown at you.  So they're asking you to pay over twice cover price to what?  Help them out?  Be a good buddy?  Add a new addition on to Chip Zdarsky's house?  Make sure that TBA gets to draw all of the comics that he wants to?

The Archie Kickstarter looks to be almost the opposite of everything Kickstarter wants to be, particularly the fourth point about their About Us:
4. Creators keep 100% ownership of their work. 
Backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not to profit financially. Instead, project creators offer rewards to thank backers for their support. Backers of an effort to make a book or film, for example, often get a copy of the finished work. A bigger pledge to a film project might get you into the premiere — or land you a private screening for you and your friends. One artist raised funds to create a wall installation, then gave pieces of it to her backers when the exhibit ended.
Unless their meaning "Creator of the Kickstarter" as in Jon Goldwater is the Creator here, this isn't supporting work owned by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Chip Zdarsky, TBA, Dan Parent or J. Bone.  This isn't about supporting creators who need it; this is about helping a corporation who has a profit/loss report to manage and can't afford the creators it wants to have.

Crowdfunding has been one of the truly admirable things that has developed on the internet over the past couple of years.  Just think about what it means if you start using it to help support companies who should be self-sustaining.  It's not always a bad decision but it's also not always the right decision.

** Even with all of this, Kickstarter is great.  There are a metric ton of comic projects on Kickstarter right now.  Brianne and Rob even highlighted a couple of great projects earlier this week.  Go and help a creator publish a passion project that he or she owns.

** Panel Patterers just keep on doing their thing this week.