Archie Comics Publisher & CEO Jon Goldwater returned to the world famous floating CBR Tiki Room at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the company’s successes and, in the wake of its cancelled Kickstart campaign, its misfires. He also tells CBR’s Jonah Weiland about the growth of their Dark Circle super hero line and how he distinguishes Mark Waid & Fiona Staples’ “Archie” relaunch from the more familiar “Archie” comics still being released in digest form.
In the first part of their conversation, Goldwater lays out the idea behind the Kickstarter campaign as well as the lessons learned from retailer and fan reactions to it. He also explains how Archie has gotten where it is by taking risks and won’t stop just because this one didn’t pan out. He then talks about the acclaimed “Archie” relaunch and how that raises the bar for everything they do moving forward. Luckily, he says, “Jughead” #1 is “everything you’re ever gonna want in an Archie comic.”
On whether there are any regrets with the Kickstarter:
I have no regrets at all. I mean, I regret that all these great folks didn’t get things moving as quickly as we wanted them to, but we tried it and it didn’t work. As you so graciously said at the top of the interview, it’s one of the few things that didn’t just take off for us right away. So if we’re batting .800, that’s a good batting average, and that’s sort of how I feel we are right now.
You do things and you learn from your successes, but you learn so much more from your failures. If you don’t try things, you don’t grow. At Archie, if I didn’t try things, if I didn’t try to put in Kevin Keller or kill Archie or any of these things, man, I don’t know where our company would be right now. I’d be really worried about our company, quite honestly. So this is something we tried, this is something I embraced fully. I understood the risks and… that is what it is. We ended it as quickly as we possibly could. All the nice, kind folks who invested in the Kickstarter we sent them a special gift as a thank you for doing that and we move on. All these books are going to come out, just not as quickly as I wanted them to.
On what the success of “Archie” #1 means for the company:
Everything we do, we try to set the bar so high that I cannot possibly step over it. So with this one, I went into it with the best and brightest hopes and even though I’m an eternal optimist it exceeded all my expectations. Mark just nailed it. Fiona… What can I say about Fiona Staples? Just brilliant. A complete, in my opinion, reinvigoration of our company. Forgetting reinvigoration of our brand, because that is the title brand, that is the “Archie” comic book — to me it’s a reinvigoration of the entire company. It feels so good to get the positive response. To read all the stuff that’s out there in the social media where people are saying, “I had given up on ‘Archie’ and now I’m back” or “I was never an ‘Archie’ fan and now I love this” or “This is the first time I’ve read ‘Archie’ and now I’m in.” It’s really been gratifying.
So the bar is really high, but I will tell you, the other day I read the first script of “Jughead” #1 by Chip Zdarsky and… it’s really brilliant. It’s really, really, really great. I could hype it up, which I’m kind of doing, but “Jughead” #1 is everything you’re ever gonna want an Archie comic to be — and more.
Next Goldwater turns his attention to the company’s growing super hero line and what it will take to make it part of the fabric of Archie Comics for years to come. He also weighs in on whether the line will ever attempt an event or if the plan is to keep things accessible and contained for readers. Finally, things wrap up with a discussion of the new face of Archie versus what Goldwater terms the “classic” version and how both can exist side by side.
On what kind of success Archie’s Dark Circle line needs to reach to become a long term player in the company’s sandbox:
At the end of the day, just like with any business investment, you realize you have to put up some cash before you necessarily get the returns. Obivously at some point we’re gonna want to monetize the Dark Circle line to a certain degree, and that doesn’t necessarily mean through comic books. I mean if our comic book is a loss leader for a film or a TV series or an animated series or some licensing opportunity, great. I’m totally cool with that. But we knew going into it that this is an investment and slow and steady wins the race as far as I’m concerned with Dark Circle. We’re in it for the long haul. There is no thought from my side at all about throwing in the towel. This is a very important initiative for our company and I believe great creative talent who tell great stories, you have cool art, that will always win out. It may take a minute for it to resonate, but I’m convinced that if we keep putting out quality books people will eventually understand where we’re going with our entire line. And hopefully some specific titles — you know some things are gonna jump out more than others, that’s the natural way of things — but we’re in this for the long gaul, absolutely.
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