Kickstarter Ethics

It was big news (as far as these things go) a few months ago when decades-old comic book character Archie Andrews was killed off in his own title, stabbed while trying to protect the life of a dear friend. Anyone who reads comics knows that dead inherently never really means dead forever, so no one was really surprised when news came that Archie was going to be rebooted with a fresh look and new attitude for the character’s 75th Anniversary thanks to a new #1 issue and the creative team of comic book superstars Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. It was only a matter of time.

Most companies like to publish several titles in continuity with one another, and Archie Comics would be remiss not to do the same. What surprised a few people though was the manner in which they chose to pursue some of these other titles. It was announced on May 11th that Archie Comics would be launching Kickstarter campaigns for three potential new titles: Jughead, Life with Kevin, and Betty & Veronica.

If you are wondering why a major publisher needs to take to a crowd-funding site, then you’re not alone. A lot of independent creators feel that it is taking notice away from smaller projects that don’t have the same kind of name recognition that a company that has existed since the 1940s. Simply put, the argument is that Archie Comics doesn’t need the help that a crowd-funding platform gives them.

It is the same argument that was raised when the Veronica Mars movie went up on Kickstarter, or when Zach Braff went there for his latest directing effort. Do they need it? Are the hurting other creators? No one is going to argue that Kickstarter has enabled many worthwhile projects to happen, but is there an unspoken ethics to its use? And if such a distinction between worthy and non-worthy projects exist, who makes the call?

There is another issue. Retailers are saying that it will hurt the comic book direct market that exists. The direct market is a complicated issue you can read all about here.

The direct market model does have a lot of problems though. Diamond Distribution Services holds a near monopoly in the industry, and I’m all for innovation, so I can’t fault a company for wanting to try something new. And even though there’s something that rings strangely wrong about the situation to me, if people want to support a Kickstarter for Archie Comics, then who am I to tell them they are wrong? It’s their money, and they are free to spend it as they see fit. That’s the very spirit of capitalism and Kickstarter.

No matter where you fall on the issue it’s got to be more worthwhile than potato salad right?

UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, Archie Comics has pulled their Kickstarter campaign.

Keith Cunningham
Keith is a freelance writer at Black Powder Design and a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in animation. Keith hosts a podcast on the Deliberate Noise Network titled The Keith Show Show starring Keith. He is also the illustrator and writer of his own comic series called Stale Popcorn.