Archaia Studios Press To Be Acquired by Kunoichi, Inc., Not Devil's Due

Rumors circulated yesterday that Archaia Studios Press (ASP), the publisher behind the hugely acclaimed “Mouse Guard,” was in the process of being purchased by Devil’s Due Publishing (DDP). This is not the case.

In a statement released this morning, Devil’s Due CEO P.J. Bickett said, “While DDP and Archaia Studios Press had some initial exploratory conversations, DDP is not acquiring ASP. We are continuing to have conversations with Archaia about the possibilities of working together in some capacity, as we are with many other publishers both big and small.”

The confusion likely grew out of the fact that Archaia is presently in negotiations to be acquired by Kunoichi, Inc., a Chicago-based creative services company founded by Devil’s Due President Josh Blaylock, who left the company some time ago to focus on DDP.

“While we had some initial conversations with DDP directly, it will actually be Kunoichi that is acquiring us,” ASP President Mark Smylie said in a statement that should go wide today. “Further cause for confusion may stem from the fact that we are still in separate talks with DDP about working together on a few opportunities once the Kunoichi acquisition is completed, including a potential publishing partnership of which we are one of several players in the fold. There’ll be more on all of that soon, I hope.”

The news comes after ASP found itself in trouble earlier this year, when co-publisher Aki Lao left the company amid what was reported to be a significant reorganization in terms of day-to-day operations, specifically with respect to shipping books on time.

In response to the rumors reported on Heidi McDonald’s The Beat, several anonymous sources who identified themselves as ASP creators erroneously confirmed the purchase of ASP by DDP, and told The Beat, “A large number of the ASP creative roster are upset that Devil’s Due is refusing to honor their old ASP contracts. Under threat of non-publication, creators are being pressured to sign a new agreement which grants Devil’s Due each and every worldwide right, trademark and copyright, of every nature. Since most of Archaia’s talent signed to the company precisely to retain control of their books, this has been a major stumbling block.”

While DDP is not acquiring ASP, Smylie, who will remain with ASP as Managing Editor, confirmed the outfit is in fact making changes to their standard contract, which, according to other anonymous posters on The Beat, was uncommonly deferential to creators.

“We are indeed shifting from a more traditional publishing contract to something that can be better described as a media rights contract,” Smylie said. “This is in part a reflection both of the overall direction of the comics industry, for better or for worse — every company or individual investor that had talked to us about an acquisition expressed the same sentiment, that our [intellectual property] approach would have to change to match our competitors — and Archaia’s interest in working with its creators on broader and more long term IP development.

“Despite the changes, we have tried to put in place as many guarantees of creator control and protection as we can; at root, we’re still all about trying to find creators who have a specific vision they want to pursue and letting them do that in a way which hopefully profits both them and the company.”

A comics creator himself, Smylie will keep his own title, “Artesia,” with the restructured company and sign the same contract that will be offered to everyone else.

As for what ASP titles will remain with the publisher in its new form, that remains to be seen. "Mouse Guard" is easily the most high-profile of the line, but regarding extra-comics media rights, creator David Petersen confirmed in 2007 that motion picture plans are already in the works, and a role playing game based on the book was released earlier this year. Without naming specifics, Smylie said ASP is still finalizing some individual creator contracts, but expects “most of our previously published titles will be moving forward as part of Archaia’s new publishing schedule.”

Returning to the nature of Archaia’s new contract, Smylie said, “We strongly believe that the new contract is competitive with industry standards and has a high degree of creator control that can these days only be beat by self-publishing.”

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

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