Devil’s Due to purchase Archaia Studio Press? UPDATED

Mouse+Guard+Winter+001 Devils Due to purchase Archaia Studio Press? UPDATEDPeter Rios reveals something that has been bubbling along undetected for a while: Devil’s Due is under negotiations to buy Archaia Studio Press. ASP is best known as the publisher of MOUSE GUARD.

Archaia announced a reorganization back in May when biz sider Aki Liao left, leaving publisher Mark Smylie to find new investors. Most creators being published under ASP expressed solidarity with Smylie, but the fate of the company and its projects has been up in the air for some time.

Now it appears that Devil’s Due, which recently announced a licensing deal with Les Humanoides, is also looking to acquire ASP’s properties. It’s our understanding that negotiations with various ASP creators — who all have their own creator-owned contracts — have been in negotiations with DD for a while now. However, according to Rios — or someone he’s quoting, it isn’t really made clear — this has hit some snags:

The purchase has hit a serious snag. A large number of the ASP creative roster are upset that Devil’s Due is refusing to honor their old ASP contracts. Under threat of non-publication, creators are being pressured to sign a new agreement which grants Devil’s Due each and every worldwide right, trademark and copyright, of every nature. Since most of Archaia’s talent signed to the company precisely to retain control of their books, this has been a major stumbling block. With DDP’s unwillingness to honor the spirit of the old contract and refusal to allow creators to take their books elsewhere severe friction has developed between publisher and talent.


Other ASP creators respond anonymously, including this one:

Truthfully, if there isn’t another publisher currently willing to pick the project up right now I’ll simply move on to other projects and give this one a whirl again later.While I don’t think everything is as sinister as your initial informant made it out to be – not being published isn’t a “punishment” of not signing on, nor is it a strong-arm tactic. It’s simply the result of not coming on board with a new regime and deciding to take the book elsewhere – it does suck that a company formed by an independent creator FOR independent creators has pulled a 180 on it’s stance regarding a creator’s rights to his or her property, as these new contracts would indicate.


Sadly, this is increasingly the way of the world. Devil’s Due is certainly within their rights to ask for the kind of deal they offer their own people, but the creators at ASP originally signed on to escape just that kind of control. And yet, clearly, being profitable wasn’t in the cards for ASP, or they wouldn’t be getting shopped around.

We have a few emails out there. Developing.

UPDATE: There is apparently much more to this story, but we’re waiting for official statements.

Comments

  1. Look at the podcast community breaking the news. CGS ahead of the curve! :)

  2. Archaia Creator says:

    It scares me that this is pure rumor and Mark Smylie has not been consulted. I am one of Archaia’s Creators and know the whole story, including that DDP has no part in this deal. If you are a real journalist / blogger, you will do a little more fact checking.

  3. This is why Image Comics rocks!
    Creators keep your rights!!

  4. What I want to know, and wasn’t quite clear… if they don’t sign new contracts with Devil’s Due, can Devil’s Due prevent them from taking the work to another publisher? If Devil’s Due purchases their old contracts from Archaia, can Devil’s Due sit on the work and prevent anyone else from publishing them?

  5. F@*&.

  6. Actual Archaia Creator says:

    The person purporting to be an “Archaia Creator” above either is a) lying about his or her status, or b) has not read the contract, or c) doesn’t know who PJ Bickett is. He’s mentioned by name in the contract.

  7. The second quote has been revised by its anonymous source:

    “What I can tell you is that your original information is mostly accurate and, going forward, I don’t have any intention of signing on under the new DDP/ASP. Truthfully, if there isn’t another publisher currently willing to pick up the book right now I’ll simply move on to other projects and give this one a whirl again later. However, I don’t think everything is as sinister as your initial informant made it out to be, at least not to my knowledge. Not being published isn’t a “punishment” of not signing on, nor is it a strong-arm tactic. I haven’t heard of anybody who has been kept from breaking their original contract as your initial informant indicates and, in fact, know of two creators actively considering it besides myself, both of whom are known to ASP which has offered them no resistance to date, and two others who have successfully broken contract, one of whom having already signed on elsewhere. ASP/DDP not publishing certain titles and releasing them from contract is simply the result of creators not coming on board with a new regime and deciding to take the book elsewhere. If that is indeed the situation the creator is facing, being kept from release of their original contract, I hope he or she will reach out to everybody else.

    The worst part about all this is that a company formed by an independent creator FOR independent creators has pulled a 180 on it’s stance regarding a creator’s rights to his or her property, as these new contracts would indicate. Comics are a difficult market for a publisher like ASP to stay afloat in however, and I respect the fact that certain decisions have to be made when running a business. Unfortunately, these choices and the new direction for the company under the proposed DDP deal don’t jive with a lot of creators, myself included, and that brings us to where we are now.”

  8. While not agreeing with what DDP may be supposedly doing, I could at least understand why they MIGHT be doing such a thing.

    Getting burned by Dabel Bros I’m sure has them on quite the defensive and wanting to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

    Needless to say, I hope everything works out in whatever way its supposed to and the remaining Archaia books do come out. I want to see the rest of Miranda Mercury and Secret History!

  9. Isn’t PJ Bickett the CEO of Devil’s Due?

  10. Hmmm… how many of the contracts are for just hardcover editions? Mouse Guard was published in HC by ASP, by Villard (Random House) in TP. Could a creator let the HC edition rot quietly in contract limbo, while publishing a trade paperback edition somewhere else? Would an omnibus edition collecting two trades into a hardcover violate that contract?

  11. It has been made clear to me from the start that I am free to take my book to another publisher if I no longer wish to stay with Archaia. And having spoken directly with the publisher he is confused by the claim that Archaia would try and stop an unhappy creator from taking their creation elsewhere. If they want out of their original contract all they have to do is ask. That is my understanding anyway.

  12. YetAnotherArchaiaCreator says:

    I have to sound off with the host of actual ASP creators doing some talking here…

    In the matter of the first “Archaia Creator”, that’s complete horse bunk. Whether intentional or ignorance is the question there.

    As for the dissatisfaction with the new deal, that’s up to each individual creator and, in tandem with “ArchaiaCreatorAlso” I have to second that nobody has been given any issue with wishing to take their property elsewhere. Some creators already have, as the second anonymous quote from Rios’ blog sites.

    Bottom line is, agree or disagree with the terms of the deal nobody is being forced to sign the dotted line for fear of losing their property forever in the annals of unpublished hell. The spirit of our original contract is being honored, if nowhere else, in our ability to pick up sticks and move on.

  13. YetAnotherArchaiaCreator says:

    I have to sound off with the host of actual ASP creators doing some talking here…

    In the matter of the first “Archaia Creator”, that’s complete horse bunk. Whether intentional or ignorance is the question there.

    As for the dissatisfaction with the new deal, that’s up to each individual creator and, in tandem with “ArchaiaCreatorAlso” I have to second that nobody has been given any issue with wishing to take their property elsewhere. Some creators already have, as the second anonymous quote from Rios’ blog sites.

    Bottom line is, agree or disagree with the terms of the deal nobody is being forced to sign the dotted line for fear of losing their property forever in the annals of unpublished hell. The spirit of our original contract is being honored, if nowhere else, in our ability to pick up sticks and move on.

  14. If Archaia’s contracts allow the creators to pick up and leave at any time, then there’s pretty much nothing for Devil’s Due to buy. It would be a pretty foolish purchase for them, I would think.

  15. That could be why they’re still in talks. See who agrees to their deal. If enough do, then Devils Due will buy them out. If nobody does then they don’t.

  16. While I am none of the above, I *am* and have long been an Archaia Creator — and I do need to say, quite clearly, that NO ONE has been either forced into a contract nor prevented from seeking other venues for their works. Suggesting either is ludicrous.

    “My name is A. David Lewis, and I endorse this message.”

  17. Chris says:

    I wonder if the recent economic downturn and credit crunch is affecting ASP from getting funding.

  18. mario boon says:

    @James Kochalka: I think much would depend on Mouse Guard being part of the package

  19. Damn it. I showed ASP a new comic I was working on and they were interested and my best hope for publication! Crap, I guess self publishing is the way to go.

    I hope all the creators escape with their rights intact.

  20. James:

    As far as I know if a company buys another company the original company’s contracts remain in force until renegotiated. The new company cannot arbitrarily invalidate contract terms without voiding the contracts, leaving the talent free to go elsewhere. Unless the contracts already contain a clause allowing for that, in which case the talent should’ve read more carefully. But that’s unlikely to be the case. The new company cannot compel talent to accept new terms of the company’s choosing. It’s like if I sign a contract with you to paint your house and then sell my painting business to Mario Boon, by buying my business Mario buys my contractual obligations, unless those are specifically exempted from the purchase, in which case I’m still responsible for painting your house. Or I/we can give you your money back and tell you to get someone else to paint your house.

    The only leverage a comics company would have in this instance is fear and doubt, playing on talent fears that they will be unable to find another publisher. Were Devil’s Due to buy Archaia – and I don’t have any knowledge that this is the case, I’m just using the example – they would not be able to threaten to withhold publication or bury projects to pressure talent into renegotiating deals. (Pretty sure that kind of pressure is criminally illegal, actually; I think they could get prosecuted by the state for that, not just civil-sued.) They could publish under existing terms until current contracts run out then renegotiate, renegotiate terms in good faith, or default on the contracts, which would void them and release talent and projects to find publication elsewhere. Mouse Guard would likely be with a book publisher in a not New York minute, and I suspect many of ASP’s other properties, like Robotica and The Killer, would also quickly find eager publishers, though perhaps not terms identical to ASP’s.

    – Grant

  21. James:

    As far as I know if a company buys another company the original company’s contracts remain in force until renegotiated. The new company cannot arbitrarily invalidate contract terms without voiding the contracts, leaving the talent free to go elsewhere. Unless the contracts already contain a clause allowing for that, in which case the talent should’ve read more carefully. But that’s unlikely to be the case. The new company cannot compel talent to accept new terms of the company’s choosing. It’s like if I sign a contract with you to paint your house and then sell my painting business to Mario Boon, by buying my business Mario buys my contractual obligations, unless those are specifically exempted from the purchase, in which case I’m still responsible for painting your house. Or I/we can give you your money back and tell you to get someone else to paint your house.

    The only leverage a comics company would have in this instance is fear and doubt, playing on talent fears that they will be unable to find another publisher. Were Devil’s Due to buy Archaia – and I don’t have any knowledge that this is the case, I’m just using the example – they would not be able to threaten to withhold publication or bury projects to pressure talent into renegotiating deals. (Pretty sure that kind of pressure is criminally illegal, actually; I think they could get prosecuted by the state for that, not just civil-sued.) They could publish under existing terms until current contracts run out then renegotiate, renegotiate terms in good faith, or default on the contracts, which would void them and release talent and projects to find publication elsewhere. Mouse Guard would likely be with a book publisher in a not New York minute, and I suspect many of ASP’s other properties, like Robotica and The Killer, would also quickly find eager publishers, though perhaps not terms identical to ASP’s.

    You’re right that unless ASP owns/controls the rights to the properties they publish, there’s really nothing for anyone to buy, except for maybe ancillary data like mailing lists. This is one reason so many comics publishers insist on having a piece of the rights to whatever they publish.

    ON THE OTHER HAND…

    Should a company go into bankruptcy, which is handled under a different and somewhat capricious set of rules, a bankruptcy judge could effectively void all those creator-owned contracts AND freeze the properties by declaring them assets of the company, which would make them available for sale with the proceeds going toward paying off the company’s debts. Which is a really sucky proposition for talent. Even if you have it in your contract that in the event of a bankruptcy your property cannot be considered a company asset, a bankruptcy judge can declare that merely a dodge to shield assets and void it.

    – Grant

  22. “they would not be able to threaten to withhold publication or bury projects to pressure talent into renegotiating deals”

    If the contact gives them the right to publish the work, but not the obligation to publish the work, then they could in fact sit on those rights and refuse to publish. It happens all the time. I’ve had publishers overseas sit on a book for years while I wait for the reversion clause to kick in and the rights return to me. But if there’s no reversion clause then they could exert even stronger pressure on the creator…

  23. [Quote] “ON THE OTHER HAND…

    Should a company go into bankruptcy, which is handled under a different and somewhat capricious set of rules, a bankruptcy judge could effectively void all those creator-owned contracts AND freeze the properties by declaring them assets of the company,..”

    People involved with WOWIO/Platinum take note…

  24. Kunoichi No Peachy says:

    Being one of the creators who pulled out of the deal after having reviewed the Kunoichi contract, it seems highly likely to me that the deal is not going to go through.

    As difficult as this would be for Mark Smylie and the many talented people contributing to ASP’s reputation for quality, I also think it might be best for them in the long term, given how much of Archaia’s greatness is based on the independence of the vision of its many creators.

    Simply handing over one’s property to a well-intentioned but short-sighted ‘media rights group’ is an easy and seductive option, but like many such bargains with the devil, can only end in damnation.

Trackbacks

  1. […] [Publishing] Heidi MacDonald passes along rumors that Devil’s Due is set to buy Archaia Studio Press. […]

  2. […] October 8th, 2008Author Kevin Melrose Despite reports circulating yesterday, Archaia Studios Press is being acquired by Chicago-based Kunoichi Inc., and not Devil’s Due Publishing. […]

  3. […] In response to the rumors reported on Heidi McDonald’s The Beat, several anonymous sources who identified themselves as ASP creators erroneously confirmed the purchase of ASP by DDP, and told The Beat, “A large number of the ASP creative roster are upset that Devil’s Due is refusing to honor their old ASP contracts. Under threat of non-publication, creators are being pressured to sign a new agreement which grants Devil’s Due each and every worldwide right, trademark and copyright, of every nature. Since most of Archaia’s talent signed to the company precisely to retain control of their books, this has been a major stumbling block.” […]

  4. […] I don’t know why everyone keeps going on about this “Archaia Studios Press” being bought out… I had thought it was the publisher of Publisher of Mouse Guard being bought out… Or at the least, The Publisher of Mouse Guard and they’ve got some good French licenses as well. I mean sure, The Publisher of Mouse Guard is publishing other books, and they’re all produced by nice-enough folks and there’s a general level of quality to the line which speaks well of managing editor Mark Smylie. But The Publisher of Mouse Guard publishes Mouse Guard, which is a phenomenally successful indy publishing story, possibly the best-selling indy comic of the past few years. It’s sold tons and tons in hardcover, and the soft cover edition was published and distributed by an imprint of Random House, Villard Books, which is a pretty big deal. So why hasn’t anyone mentioned Mouse Guard in all of these proceedings, then? […]

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