Op-Ed: Why The Archaia/Boom Merger Might Work Out Well For Everyone

The world of comics publishing was shaken at the end of June when it was announced that Boom! Studios had acquired Archaia Entertainment, merging two of the most respected indie companies into a single entity.  And while from a certain perspective, this seemed like a natural pairing – two titans of the small press teaming up to take on the world – it also raised some concerns among readers, creators, and press.

Because rightly or wrongly, the two companies’ public profiles couldn’t be more different.  The general perception breaks down more or less like this: Boom! is a company that produces a large library of licensed titles, and Archaia is primarily creator-driven.  Boom! focuses on serial comics, whereas Archaia has built their reputation on releasing high-quality hardcover graphic novels.  Boom! cranks out a ridiculous array of variant covers and exclusive limited-edition printings for their successful titles, while Archaia takes a more artisan approach, producing deluxe presentations complete with bound-in bookmarks, embossed gold leaf lettering on the spines, and high-quality matte paper stock.

But so far as I can tell, the two companies are far more similar than they may seem to the casual observer – both in terms of their publishing slate, and their deals with creators.

Boom! may be best known as the publisher of titles such as “Peanuts,” “Adventure Time,” “Planet Of The Apes,” “Regular Show,” and the upcoming “Sons Of Anarchy” series, but they also have a history of releasing original properties (including Roger Langridge’s “Snarked!,” Si Spurrier’s “Six-Gun Gorilla”, and Sam Humphries’ “Zombies Vs. Fanboys”).  And while the immediate association most people have with Archaia are the titles like David Peterson’s “Mouse Guard,” Charles Soule’s “Strange Attractors,” Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s “Return Of The Dapper Men,” and Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos’ “Cow Boy,” they’ve also had great success with licensed titles (such as their acclaimed adaptations of the Jim Henson Company properties “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal,” “A Tale Of Sand,” and “Fraggle Rock”).

And contrary to popular belief, Archaia was not set up like Image, to be primarily a publisher for creator-owned comics: most of their contracts for original work make Archaia the exclusive licensor of the intellectual property, give them power of producer for any ancillary projects, and give the company and the creators a 50/50 split of the returns from said projects.  Boom! operates in a similar fashion, splitting all intellectual property ownership between the creators and the publisher.

That is not to say that these are better or worse deals than a full creator-owned arrangement – it’s an entirely different set-up, with different advantages and drawbacks.  In addition to publishing, Archaia puts a lot of time and effort into getting their titles developed for film and TV (which can potentially pay creators far more than a simple comic deal).  Boom! is similarly reliable at getting their original properties in front of Hollywood movers and shakers, and they have secured development deals for a number of their titles (the first Boom! feature film, “2 Guns” starring Mark Wahlberg and Denxel Washington, hits theaters on August 2nd).  Both companies have also built a reputation for conducting extensive PR, advertising, and outreach campaigns for their publications (whereas traditionally, with Image and other publishers, it falls to the creator to handle publicity for creator-owned books).

Ultimately, both these companies have produced lots of high-quality work, been up-front and honest about the deals they offer, and despite some differences in strategy, both have a reputation for treating artists and writers with respect.  So when I heard about this merger, I reached out to creators who have relationships with Boom! and Archaia to gauge their reactions.

Jerry Gaylord, artist of Boom’s “Fanboys Vs. Zombies” commented that “…Boom! Studios is a great place to work. I have had nothing but great experiences with the editors and other creators.  Boom! and Archaia teaming up can only mean good things for comics creators and fans.”

And when I spoke to Charles Soule, author of Archaia’s recently released “Strange Attractors” graphic novel, he offered this: “From what I know about the merger, the intention is to bolster the ability of both companies to continue to put out great stories in their own unique style.  Archaia isn’t going away (which is great, because they’ve put out some of the coolest books I’ve seen in years – not to mention my own ’Strange Attractors’)…  I think they’re a great fit for each other, and I look forward to working with both Archaia and Boom! in years to come.”

So while I understand the initial alarm that ensued when this deal was announced, I’m fairly encouraged by what it means for both companies.  I read and enjoy all styles of comics: superheroes, fantasy, biographies, original work, licensed titles – I read “Adventure Time” (and its spin-off series) every month, “Tale of Sand” occupies a place of honor on my bookshelf, and I’m eagerly awaiting the new “Cow Boy” volume.  I like both Boom! and Archaia, I appreciate their different approaches to publishing, and I’m hopeful that this alliance will allow them even more room to expand, innovate, and bring us wonderful work.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MTV Geek.

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