The Complicated Archaia Studios Press Sale
Over the last few days, there have been reports that Archaia Studios Press was being acquired by Devil’s Due Publishing. Not so, according to an official statement from Mark Smylie, Archaia’s founder. The company will be acquired by Kunoichi, Inc., instead.
Says Smylie, "We’re in the process of being acquired by Kunoichi, Inc., a creative services company based in Chicago that was co-founded and co-run by [DDP President] Josh Blaylock until he exited the company to focus solely on Devil’s Due."
This would explain some of the confusion, as Kunoichi maintains a close relationship with Devil’s Due. Kunoichi has been referred to as DDP’s "sister company." Further, Devil’s Due CEO P.J. Bickett owns Kunoichi as well.
Kunoichi exists to creating new materials for existing properties under contract to companies such as Marvel, Hasbro, and Rockstar Games. They have not, until now, been a publishing concern.
Bickett felt compelled to clarify matters by releasing a statement of his own: “Normally, Devil’s Due Publishing would not comment on unattributed rumors. But, due to the amount of queries we have received about this, we want to set the record straight.
“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.”
Smylie’s statement goes on to say: “While we had some initial conversations with DDP directly, it will actually be Kunoichi that is acquiring us. 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.
“In regards to contracts, we are indeed shifting from a more traditional publishing contract to something that can be better described as a media rights contract; 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 IP 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. I’m signing ARTESIA to the company under the same contract as everyone else and am remaining on board as the managing editor, so I wanted to make sure that creators had as much final say over their properties as possible. We’re still in the process of finalizing a few individual creator contracts, but it’s looking like most of our previously published titles will be moving forward as part of Archaia’s new publishing schedule. 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.
"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," Smylie continues in his statement.
Under the new Kunoichi deal, Smylie will serve as managing editor for Archaia. The company has published several comics since its founding in 2002, including David Petersen’s Mouse Guard.
Attention was drawn to this new deal when several Archaia creators complained that their contracts wouldn’t be honored under Kunoichi’s roof.
"We are indeed shifting from a more traditional publishing contract to something that can be better described as a media rights contract," Smylie says of those rumors. "This is in part a reflection both of the overall direction of the comics industry, for better or for worse."
Smylie says that creator control and protection will be guaranteed as much as possible under the new contracts. As a sign of good faith, however, Smylie himself will sign his creator-owned Artesia under the arrangement.
"I’m signing Artesia to the company under the same contract as everyone else," he says. "I wanted to make sure that creators had as much final say over their properties as possible."
Further, Smylie is convinced that most of the company’s already published titles will continue under Kunoichi as previously scheduled.
A. David Lewis, a creator with an Arachia contract, told Heid MacDonald at The Beat, “As I understand it, Archaia is becoming an imprint, with Mark Smylie still at its helm. I do not know whether it will carry the DDP logo or just be a ‘sister’ company to DDP. But I expect there will be some interface (or ‘synergy’ or one of those other cool business words) between the two. Whether it’s an imprint OF DDP or an imprint WITH DDP is unclear, I admit, and I’m sure Mark et al will clarify that once all the ink is dry.
“I would have preferred to leave it to Mark and company to discuss themselves and at their own pace. But, they’ve been keeping things quite kosher. They announced they were restructuring, they contacted us all, they got us all new, legit contracts, etc. I don’t get why this alarms everyone so. I’m only speaking out to say that I’m pleased, overall."