Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dear Jon and Nancy, an open letter to the CEOs of Archie Comics

For those unfamiliar with Jon and Nancy, my blog post titled "Archie-the foundation" provides some crucial back story.

Dear Jon and Nancy,

First off, I'm a fan. Sincerely. Not just of Archie, but of yours. These past 8 months have seen the revitalization of Archie comics through the "Proposal" story and the overwhelming success of Archie for mobile devices, and I have no doubt that this "Riverdale Renaissance" is due to the two of you.

Great job.

I worry though, about your new deal with CAA.

I understand the allure of Hollywood money, and the merchandising bonanza that could surround a feature film, really I do. I'm not naive, I know money talks in this world. I can see how it makes total sense to try and get Archie on the small and silver screens. I'm not questioning it as a business decision.

As a creative decision it seems like a one way ticket to mediocrity and creative ruin, the first step on a slippery slope that can only end in tears.

Your families have spent 65 years building something truly, truly great. Isn't that why you both stepped in to run the company rather than see it sold? Archie isn't just a character, or a property or a franchise.

Archie stands as a testament to ideals and values our consumption-driven society has discarded.

Proof of this is the fact that Archie is still a family business. Marvel Comics long ago became a corporate monster, with no higher ambition than cynically churning out more product than their Direct Competition to capture a higher market share. DC Comics, a subsidiary of a giant entertainment conglomerate, at least showed a glimmer of creativity for the last few years, but it's all over now with the recent executive shake-ups. Somehow, Archie Comics has always been run by your two families, and continues to be. You guys are one of the only successful family companies left that hasn't been consumed by an uncaring behemoth.

More important though, is the fact that Archie hasn't yet been compromised. We've never had to endure "Dark Archie" (OK, Betty went Goth once, but she just wore a
black dress and lipstick), Reggie has never gotten in to drugs, there are no pregnancy tests or alcohol problems. Archie Comics, under your families' stewardship, has never relented in its quest to publish wholesome, moral stories (the less said about the Christian Archie comics from the late 70's the better) with a healthy dose of slapstick thrown in. Who can argue with funny 5 page morality tales that teach us fair play is best, honesty is the way to go and messing with Midge Klump is bad for your health?

And then there's the humour. Archie gags are timeless. Sure, some of them are kind of tired, but the majority of them are quite funny. While everyone else have lowered their standards in a quest for the cheap laughs and an easy buck, Archie Comics has stayed strong. You are one of the only shows in town for comedy that isn't aimed at the most vulgar common denominator.

Take a look at this quote from the Variety story on the deal: "this comes as Hollywood is quickly gobbling up established branded properties, as evidenced by Disney's pending acquisition of Marvel Entertainment and Warner Bros.' recent exec overhaul of DC Comics." All Archie is to Hollywood is a proven profit generator, nothing more.

Don't let Archie become just a property. It's good that there are still things left in this world that have real heart behind them, not just sales projections and focus groups.

There are many, many ways to bring the characters off the page without resorting to this.

Remember, the easy way is the path to the dark side.


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