I’m legitimately confused by my own reaction to the Archie Kickstarter campaign. Please let me put that another way. I’m intrigued by how confused my reaction is.
I can not think about it without about 9 different thoughts/emotions blasting through my mind that are both contradictory and sincere.
Let me back up. I’m assuming you know that Archie just announced a $350,000 Kickstarter campaign to print a “Betty and Veronica” and “Jughead” comic alongside their flagship reboot of Archie #1 (there’s also a Kevin Keller book in there somehow, but the publisher couldn’t state how it would be printed in an interview, so I can’t assume it will be). There’s been a lot of debate on both sides of whether it is “right” for publishing company in its 75th year to be using Kickstarter to fund books. And all of that debate makes perfect sense to me. I’m dizzied by how I agree with ALMOST EVERY POINT MADE!
I thought I’d list the pros and cons I’ve seen about this issue and put my own two cents in on. Qualifier: I probably won’t know who made these points first, so if it was you, please excuse my paraphrasing without attribution.
CONS (Gonna get these out of the way first so we can end on the positive stuff):
IS THIS THE BEST WAY TO FUND?
The Archie Comics group can afford to make this investment on their own. Especially if they indeed have space at every Walmart and Target store as they’ve implied. It’s possible, even likely, they do not have $350,000 cash on hand. But there is no way they couldn’t find someone to lend them the capital to do this (And I’d assume at markedly smaller finance fee than the 10% of Kickstarter fees you give up to the platform).
For 75 years they ‘ve built the infrastructure to do this the traditional way. Why jump on Kickstarter?
MAN IT PISSED OFF SOME LOCAL COMIC SHOPS
If you’ve read my blog you know that Kickstarter is not viewed favorably by some (most?) comic shops. This is unfortunate timing asI’ve noticed my LCS’s seem to have been pushing Archie’s weird mashups as of late. Archie vs Predator, Afterlife with Archie, etc.
SO MUCH MONEY!!!
What in the world do they need $350K for? They’re advertising 3 series and only 2 of them are guaranteed to go to print at this time. The publisher said they’re budgeting in 6 issues of each series in that amount. So maybe it makes sense? They are putting top tier talent on these books. If they are paying what those creators deserve, times 24 books (4 series, 6 books each) and printing a ton, then the amount probably checks out. But why start out there? Why not start out with a budget that pays for one book each and then add books as stretch goals.
I’m going to be honest. This part of my essay is really about the arrogance of a company not really doing their due diligence on the platform. Right now they’ve made $31K in a day. Pretty impressive (I would have died to have made 31 K in total on our three campaigns). But that’s only 9 percent of their goal in day one. That is actually a scary place to be with all of the publicity this campaign has garnered. If they fail to reach their goal they are going to look terrible. Forever.
HOW DOES THIS EFFECT ADVERTISING?
This one is all me. I haven’t purchased an Archie comic at the grocery store in a while. Do they have advertising? If so, will a Kickstarter backer be annoyed at reading a book filled with ads, which that backer actually funded printing of? Maybe they don’t do ads and this question is null and void? I know that I don’t mind commercials during Agents of Shield, but would be pissed if I had to stop in the middle of Game of Thrones for a Tide commercial. It’s about who pays for the product. I accept advertising if it is the engine that provided me the entertainment. If I pay for it myself, I do not want to be bothered.
MORE COMICS. MORE PLACES
I always answer X-Men 194 when asked what the first comic I ever read was. And if asked which comic was the first I bought, I answer Spider-Man 300 (I rode home with it on the handle bars of my bike. Don’t worry, my luck at purchasing a valuable comic at the time was erased by my ignorance of keeping it nice). But in retrospect those answers aren’t actually correct. Archie Double Digests were definitely my first comics. If I was good at the grocery store I was allowed to take one home every few weeks. I don’t remember much about them, but I devoured them at the time.
I can not get too upset about a campaign that’s goal is to create a new spot for young kids to get their hands on their first comics. If I’m still doing this in 20 years, it will be because other people have made that first introduction into a child’s mind with sequential art.
KICKSTARTER IS SELF-SELECTING
There is no better place for the consumer to vote on your project than Kickstarter. If enough people, with enough dollars are not convinced your project deserves to see the light of day, then you get nothing. As much as I had questions above, the people who are pledging know exactly who they’re pledging to, what they’re getting and what the project is for (now there are some very specific unanswered questions, but in general it’s above board).
FAMOUS PEOPLE USING KICKSTARTER IS GOOD FOR US LITTLE GUYS
There is a nice little crowd of people who wade through the comics section of Kickstarter and back projects constantly. Some of our backers have pledged over one thousand projects. The vast majority of the people out there however, have never even heard of Kickstarter. I find myself describing what Kickstarter is to 80% of the people I speak to in real life. And I don’t even want to tell you how many people have used the term “Begging on the internet” when it’s brought up (another essay, another time).
These high profile campaigns by “famous” or “Rich” people or entities that receive blowback actually introduce the platform to many people. Some will never back another project again. Most will. The following evidence is anecdotal I grant you, but since it’s about me, I’m standing behind it. I have backed 82 projects over the last three years. Know what the first one was? I was backer number 24,290 of Amanda Palmer’s Campaign for what would become Theatre is Evil.
Amanda came under some of the same criticism as Archie is now. Though as an artist branching away from a corporate overlord, I still think she deserved less side-eye than she got. And who knows how much of it is valid, and how much of it is jealously.
But amidst that criticism is this. She turned me on to Kickstarter. It was a famous name, and a big ticket campaign that finally convinced me to bite the bullet and jump aboard. And I enjoyed it so much 81 other projects have been backed (oh and of course, I’ve conducted three of my own).
I DON’T WANT TO BE A HYPOCRITE
Kickstarter is a wonderful tool. I continue to plan to use it until a different revenue stream presents itself. If that means, I’m Kickstarting issue, 6, 7, 8 etc of Tart over the next few years, then I have no place to condemn any other entity doing the same thing.
I don’t know what to think? Where do you fall on this?
If you are on the pro side, please go back the Archie Kickstarter. I won’t hold it against you at all.
If you are on the con side, please don’t. I won’t hold that against you, either.
Either way, please check around the other projects that are being funded right now and see if you can get a few bucks to a little guy too. Either in addition to your Archie pledge or in defiance of the campaign – Note: I do not have a campaign running right now, so don’t worry, this isn’t a fishing expedition for more backers : )