Archie Comics, but I really didn't get back into them until about a year ago. Before that, I'd read the various digest magazines that you can buy at the grocery store when I was young and more recently I've been reading LIFE WITH ARCHIE for a few years now, but it's only since 2012 that I have been interested in Archie Comics' other titles, such as ARCHIE, KEVIN KELLER, and NEW CRUSADERS. Plus I've been picking up digests again. But it gradually occurred to me that Archie Comics really isn't putting out much original material. In fact, right now I'm reading most of their original material (with the exception of their SONIC and MEGAMAN licensed books). The only comic book I'm not buying regularly that features original material is BETTY & VERONICA (more about that below). But VERONICA, BETTY, and JUGHEAD have all been canceled over the past year and it's very possible that there were other titles that also found themselves subject to cancellation or (in the case of JUGHEAD) hiatus.
I understand that Archie Comics make a lot of money from its digests compared to its ongoing original print comic books! Then again, why wouldn't they make money from those digests? At this point, it is all reprint material. From what I understand, they don't pay royalties to most -- if not all -- of their creators for reprint material. So they are paying for someone to compile each digest issue and for the materials, but not to writers and artists (or minimally). So it makes sense that digests are less expensive to put out.
Not only that, but Archie Comics' various digest books are generally more accessible to new readers. I can go to my grocery store and pick up any Digest or Double-Digest book put out by Archie Comics. But -- with the exception of LIFE WITH ARCHIE -- it's difficult to track down their monthly and bi-monthly comic books. My comic book shop only gets them if I ask for them. Barnes & Noble is the closest shop to find them with any regularity.
Here is the honest truth. I would not have gotten back into Archie Comics if LIFE WITH ARCHIE wasn't being sold at my grocery store. The cover grabbed my attention, I decided to splurge on an issue, and I've been hooked ever since! And because of that specific decision, I now buy ARCHIE, KEVIN KELLER, NEW CRUSADERS, LWA (of course), and about 3-4 different Archie Comics digest titles! I also buy what appear to be an original digital comic book called REGGIE & ME every other month (a review of the first three titles will be published on this blog later this week).
Where am I going with all this?
I have been researching different Archie Comics characters that interest me and wondering where and when they first appeared for various reasons. Raj Patel? He debuted in TALES FROM RIVERDALE DIGEST #21. Toni Topaz? She debuted in JUGHEAD DOUBLE DIGEST #176. Archie Comics' "Dynamic New Look" series? It started out in BETTY & VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #151-154 and then subsequent follow-up stories showed up in a variety of other digest titles.
Archie Comics used to include original materials not only in their comic books, but also in their digests and double digests. But, with the exception of the final JUGHEAD story from his comic book that never saw print before it went on hiatus but instead got published in JUGHEAD DOUBLE DIGEST, I am not aware of a single digest or double digest coming out over the past year by Archie Comics that has featured original content. Instead, it has all been reprint material.
To be fair, I have enjoyed many of these old reprint stories, such as COSMO THE MERRY MARTIAN, PAT THE BRAT, GINGER, and SEYMOUR. And, once again, I realize that these books are making money for Archie Comics.
It's Archie Comics' new stories that show up in the press. When Archie married Veronica (and later Betty), it grabbed attention. When Kevin Keller married Clay Walker in LIFE WITH ARCHIE, it grabbed attention. When ARCHIE featured an "Occupy Riverdale" storyline, it grabbed attention. When Salem the cat switched Riverdale into Reversedale, it grabbed attention. When Archie met KISS and when Kevin Keller met George Takei, it grabbed attention. When Archie married Valerie from the Pussycats and broached the subject of interracial romance -- something that even my non-comic book-reading biracial son paused to comment upon -- it grabbed attention. The upcoming Glee storyline has grabbed attention already.
The most attention that the Archie Comics digest books have gotten lately is one-time news stories that each title will feature "Double Double Digest" issues starting this year.
Publishing increased reprints while cutting back on original content might make sense in the short-term, but not in the long-term. Gradually newer (or return readers) like myself will begin seeing the same stories reprinted again and again and we will want to buy new stories. We will gradually leave if there aren't newer stories. Plus, the reprints do not grab the attention of the media (comic book press or mainstream press). So there are fewer opportunities to promote the company to those who may not read this material.
I anticipate a new original title featuring Sabrina the Teenage Witch once her new animated series begins. If it is published, I will purchase it. If they ever release a new ongoing title featuring Jughead (as kind of promised), I will purchase it. If Archie Comics begins including original stories in their digest titles again, I will purchase those titles. And where are the long-promised modern relaunches of classic Archie characters like Cosmo the Merry Martian and Sam Hill? If Archie Comics ever publishes them, I will purchase them! In other words, I am going to make a conscious choice to purchase Archie Comics titles that feature original material over those that don't effective this month.
And I encourage you all to actively check out their original monthly and bi-monthly titles, too!
Let's get this trend turned around. The only way we will do this is to support these original titles and then to talk them up to our friends!