Archie Comics

Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m busy pitching woo with the one I love, so to tide you over here are a bunch of comics or semi-comics pictures celebrating love and the Holiday That Hallmark Built. Enjoy!

Lois Lane debuts with Superman in Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, June 1938. Clark Kent pines for Lois but she only has eyes for the Man of Steel. And the superhero genre's psychological issues with identity and romance are off and running.

Archie Comics #3, Summer 1942, art by Harry Sahle features one of comics' classic love triangles. Will Archie choose Betty or Veronica?

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Comics shed scarlet letter

Seal of Approval gone from comics (click for Washington Post article)

Last week, DC Comics announced they are no longer submitting their comic books for approval by the Comics Code Authority. The CCA is (or was, I suppose) a content review board created by the comic book industry in 1954 to reassure parents and newsstand dealers that comics with the Seal of Approval on their cover were safe for children.

Starting in April, DC Comics will instead utilize their own in-house grading system, modeled somewhat after the rating system used for video games by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. This is similar to Marvel Comics‘ decision made in 2001.

The day after DC’s announcement, Archie Comics responded to an inquiry by announcing their own abandonment of the Comics Code starting in February. They had apparently stopped submitting their comics for review over a year ago.

LA-based Bongo Comics, publishers of Simpsons Comics, made a similar move last year without any fanfare. They replaced the Seal of Approval with a simple “All Ages” rating, as observed by Bleeding Cool.

Most other comic publishers never bothered to submit their comics to the Comics Code Authority for review and approval.

While an important moment, this is mostly symbolic. Newsstands refused to carry comics without the Comics Code Seal of Approval in the 1950s, but most people today don’t even know what it means. That’s if they even notice the Seal. Publishers have been shrinking its size on their comic book covers for decades.

The Comics Code Authority was set up by the Comics Magazine Association of America, which itself was meant to be a trade organization for the comic book industry. The establishment of both was in response to the damaging Senate hearings on comics’ effects on juvenile delinquency. While the Senate subcommittee found no direct cause and effect between the content of comics and delinquency in children, the proceedings were a manifestation of a growing PR problem for the industry and comics in general. Magazine articles, TV programs and books were sending parents a lot of messages that comics were toxic for children. Local politicians starting taking action, attempting to ban or curb the sale of comics. This went so far as to incite comic book burnings in several towns across America.

It all came to a head with the televised Senate hearings in New York, and the creation of the Comics Code, which demanded that publishers join the Comics Magazine Association of America for a fee. The alternative was to lose distribution, since newsstand dealers began refusing carrying comics without the Seal of Approval, not wanting the risk of a lawsuit from an angry mother. Seemingly in an instant, hundreds of publishers and artists were finished. Readership plummeted. And an entire medium and art form was tainted as unsafe, unintelligent trash.

Comics barely survived. Public opinion has been slowly turning around thanks to transcendent work from all corners of the industry. So while the Comics Code Authority lost its authority a good 15-20 years ago or more, it is encouraging to see it finally whither away. After 57 years, the symbol of a simplistic generalization and dismissal of comics as a legitimate art form, comics’ scarlet letter, is gone.

Archie leads the digital comics revolution

Archie goes digital

Who would have thought? A publisher often viewed as very traditional and conservative like Archie Comics is leading the way toward digital comics.

The New York-based publisher announced yesterday morning that starting April 1, all of their comic books will be available on their Archie Comics app the exact same day and date that those same issues are on sale at comic book stores and newsstands. Print comics will remain at $2.99 an issue. Digital versions will be priced at $1.99 each. The app, developed by iVerse Media, has been downloaded from iTunes nearly 1.8 million times for use on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. That number is expected to grow significantly when Verizon carries the iPhone next month. A version for Android phones and tablets is planned this March.

This is definitely a big deal. Archie Comics is one of North America’s oldest publishers, right alongside DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Like the two superhero publishers, Archie has iconic characters with a huge recognition factor both nationally and internationally. That a major publisher like Archie has made the jump to simultaneous releases is a huge vote of support for digital comics. Most have felt that for digital comics to truly work, this would need to happen. Marvel, DC and other publishers have toyed with one-off day-and-date releases, usually pricing them equal to or more than their print versions.

There is a lot of concern amongst comic shop retailers that digital comics will steal away their business. So there has been a lot of careful walking on eggshells on the issue because publishers don’t want to damage their relationship with retailers. Archie having the courage to do this probably has a lot to do with them not having as big of a reliance on the comic book store market as other comics publishers. Archie has had a strong presence in grocery stores and other newsstand outlets for some time, and their comic shop sales have been historically weaker due to that market’s preference for superheroes. Archie primarily publishes comedy and teen romance comics, although they have some adventure comics, such as the licensed Sonic the Hedgehog comic.

Reflecting their forward-thinking approach, one of the first comic books to be released simultaneously will be the first issue of Kevin Keller, a mini-series starring the first gay character in Riverdale. Also confirmed for simultaneous print and digital releases: Archie, Archie & Friends, Betty, Veronica, Betty and Veronica, and Jughead. There will also be a digital exclusive release, Reggie and Me.

Archie’s press release states “all Archie titles” but some news reports have stated that may not translate to their entire publishing line. It’s unclear at this time whether Archie’s licensed comics, namely Sonic the Hedgehog and the upcoming Mega Man, will take part. There is also the Life with Archie magazine, which continues two what-if story lines of Archie living a married life with Betty and Veronica.

Also no word yet on whether the same release schedule will apply to ArchieDigital.com, a subscription-based digital comics platform for desktop reading instead of mobile devices.

Speaking to the retailer fears of losing business, there’s also this article from Comics Alliance’s David Brothers on exactly who is the audience for digital comics and what they’re buying. There’s still a lot of unknown but initial information seems to suggest that they are not the same people going to their local comic book store every Wednesday. Whether this data and Archie’s bold move will encourage other publishers to adjust their release schedules will remain to be soon, but general consensus is saying it’s a matter of when, not if.

For more: The Archie news was picked up by the New York Times, USA TodayMTV and the Associated Press, which has been picked up by ABC News and other news organizations. Interviews and coverage naturally occurred at all of the comics news sites like Comic Book ResourcesComics AllianceiFanboy and IGN.

LA Comics News Roundup: publishers kickstart 2011

All the news that’s fit to shove through internet tubes. Here’s the world of comic books and graphic novels in LA and beyond over the last week or so, with some commentary:

= Boom! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon gets the prestigious Comics Reporter Holiday Interview treatment, talking about the culture and climate of the LA-based publisher and his journey to his current position. Read it

= Silver Lake store Secret Headquarters was named Bookstore of the Week by the LA Times book blog Jacket Copy. More acclaim for a shop that in 2008 was named one of the World’s 10 Best Bookstores by The Guardian. The LA Times article also gives mention to local LA artists Martin Cendreda (Catch Me If You Can) and Sammy Harkham (Crickets). Meanwhile, I have somehow still not checked out this store. Read it

= The ever-expanding Comic International: San Diego could add a balloon parade through downtown San Diego to kick off the festivities. City Council District 4 President Tony Young, a self-proclaimed comic book collector and fan, floated the idea in his New Years address and expanded on the idea in an interview. Read it

= Comics industry numbers from Diamond Comic Distributors, the primary method comics publishers get their comics and graphic novels to comic book stores and other outlets, has released their reports on 2010 and as expected print comics took a hit. “Annual sales of comic books, graphic novels, and magazines to the comic book specialty market declined slightly in 2010, down 3.5% from 2009.” Comics industry number-cruncher John Jackson Miller estimates that the industry generated $415 million last year. The comic shop market hit a peak of $437 million in 2008. However, he counters this gloom with data showing the fourth quarter of 2010 ending 2% up from fourth quarter 2009 due to graphic novel sales. This supports some cautious optimism from some as early signs of a turnaround. Read it: part 1, part 2, part 3 (more…)

Archie and Hero Initiative help comics creators

Click to visit Hero Initiative's Archie 600

It wasn’t too long ago that the men and women who gave their blood, sweat and tears to make comic books for you and me weren’t compensated all that well for their time and effort. Aside from a rather stingy page rate, the vast majority of creators had no health insurance, no 401k plan, little to no rights to the work they created, basically no benefits at all. Today it’s a lot better, mostly for those that are lucky enough to work for major publishers. But the truth remains – the artist’s life and the freelancer’s life are risky ones in any industry.

The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization, works to help creators who have fallen on hard times and need some help, whether that be with making rent or covering medical costs. One of their creative fundraising efforts is to work with a publisher to reprint a recently popular comic book with a variant blank cover, and then have comic book artists create one-of-a-kind covers to be auctioned off. An art book of all of the cover sketches is later published. 100% of sales goes to the Hero Initiative to help them maintain safety nets for creators in need.

The awesome image above by Cliff Chiang depicting Archie and the gang as a high school garage band is one of the sketch covers for Archie #600 from Archie Comics. The original version of the issue was published over a year ago as the start of the much-discussed story line by Michael Uslan and Stan Goldberg where Archie finally decides between Betty and Veronica.

To take a look at all 50 covers (they’re all great!), visit HeroInitiative.org. To buy the original artwork and help a good cause, check out the Hero Initiative’s eBay auctions that launched yesterday. Archie Covers: Fifty Times an American Icon collecting and reprinting all 50 covers will be published later in the year.

LA Comics News Roundup: Comics vs. Toys begins, Borders ends

All the news that’s fit to shove through internet tubes. Here’s the world of comic books and graphic novels in LA and beyond over the last week or so, with some commentary:

= Rebranded Eagle Rock comic store Comics vs. Toys gets profiled on how it came into existence. Answer: From the ashes of two neighboring Eagle Rock comic stores Another World Comics and Mini-Melt Too. In a time when stores are closing and people in less populated areas are lucky if they have a store within a 3-hour drive, it’s amazing to think that two stores existed side by side for a year. I shopped at this store for maybe a year when it was still the Meltdown Comics satellite shop Mini-Melt Too, after Another World Comics had already closed, and really appreciated co-owner Ace Aguilera going out of his way to get me the comics I liked, which can skew off the beaten path at times. It’s one of those small but great stores that LA is lucky to have in abundance. Read it: Eagle Rock Patch

= And speaking of stores closing, the LA Weekly looks at the slow death of the Borders in Westwood. The Borders company will give severance pay, but hasn’t told the store employees their last day. Apparently it will be when the store has been picked clean at severely discounted prices. Read it: LA Weekly

= Two 24-year-old Los Angeles men, Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, each have to pay $750, complete 10 days of community service (picking up trash), and remain on probation for 3 years for selling fraudulent passes to this past summer’s Comic-Con International: San Diego comic book and pop culture convention. They pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in San Diego Superior Court. They had sold a pair of 2-day passes to 2 women for $120 each on Craigslist. The passes ended up being photocopies of exhibitor badges, so naturally the women weren’t allowed in. Both men were arrested on the last day of Comic-Con. Read it: Sign On San Diego

= For you creative types, comics lettering and calligraphy innovators Comicraft, based right here in Los Angeles, had their annual New Year’s Day Sale, and “secretly” extended it through the holiday weekend. Maybe it’s still happening when you visit. See it: ComicBookFonts.com

= Comics Alliance wrapped up their Digital December, a month long look at the state of digital comics with excellent interviews with nearly every major player and articles by David Brothers and Laura Hudson: (more…)

Betty or Veronica?

Questions don’t get much more epic than this. This is the biggie, people.

Look, if Archie can’t decide after 60 years…

Actually, this one is pretty easy to me. Betty Cooper. I mean, her mom is named Alice Cooper. Alice Cooper! How could you pass up that opportunity? Every time we visited their parents, I would see how many song references and references to biting the head of a chicken I could work into casual conversation.

Plus, who needs Veronica’s drama? Too spoiled.

Ask me anything about the world of comic books & graphic novels, performing & acting, improv comedy, Dig Comics, and anything else that seems relevant.