DEVIL'S DUE VS ARCHAIA STUDIO PRESS CREATORS? UPDATED
Devil's Due Publishing made a name for itself over the years mostly due to its licensed properties such as GI Joe, Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. A wikipedia entry claims it's one of the ten largest comic publishers in the US. What it seemed to lack for the most part was the creator-owned/original property side of things. There have been standouts such as Hack/Slash and Drafted (which is even billed as a DDP Original Series) but I can't say there's been much buzz on a reader level for much else. And one of the criticisms of the company that have been expressed is that they should be developing more original properties to balance the licensed side of things.
So to acquire a publisher like Archaia Studio Press (ASP) would go a long way to covering that angle of creator-owned/original properties.
Except that doesn't seem to be the case. Read on:
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.
If this nugget of information turns out to be the case, I find it hard to imagine that Devil's Due would be dicking around someone like David Petersen and his successful Mouse Guard property. Or maybe that's the reason why DDP is being so aggressive. Or what about Artesia or Killing Pickman? Certainly these aren't as high-profile as Mouse Guard, but they have strong critical following. Is this the reason why there's been a drop-off of projects and severely late shipping books coming out of ASP lately (if they come out at all)?
One of the reasons why I pay attention to ASP is because of their support for creator-owned properties and for their willingness to take chances. I've talked to many, many creators over the years that have had projects with ASP and they speak incredibly well of the company. If you see ASP at a convention, you see a company that puts their creators out there, accessible to the fans and to the comics press in a way that's more about promoting the work than the company. So I can't imagine that the creators are going to be silent for much longer if there is dispute over their work and their rights to their work.
And Devil's Due will receive some major backlash. Especially ironic considering Devil's Due themselves are in a feud right now over Hack/Slash and a licensing dispute over Re-Animator, going so far as to publish three of their issues outside of Diamond and issuing a press release on the matter to spread the word and drum up support.
Let's see what develops.
Requests for comments/confirmations have been sent to all parties. I've received the following so far, both wishing to remain anonymous for obvious reasons:
"I'm not sure what all the other ASP creators are thinking and/or what deals are being made or have been made. It's still touch and go for me with contract negotiations. Don't really want to comment any further than that at this time. Lets wait and see what happens though."
and a revised quote:
"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."
" This part of your first quote in my own personal experience does not seem to be true.
'refusal to allow creators to take their books elsewhere'
At no point have I been led to believe that I can't take the book somewhere else if I do not wish to sign up with DDP. My negotiations with Archaia have been friendly."