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Jon Goldwater discusses 2012 and what lies ahead for Archie Comics

Jon Goldwater

Archie Comics is old and new at the same time, still churning out comics featuring the Riverdale gang we all grew up with but mixing it up in interesting ways — with graphic novel compilations, the addition of the gay character Kevin Keller, and the dual-storyline Life With Archie magazine that ages the cast up into their 20s.

The end of the year seemed like a good opportunity to check in with Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about 2012 and the company’s initiatives for 2013. While Archie kept a pretty high profile in 2012, with a new Kevin Keller comic, the Archie Meets KISS miniseries, and the return of the Red Circle superheroes (in print as well as digital form), there was also quite a bit going on behind the scenes, both positive — Goldwater says they really figured out how to market their products in the current climate — and negative — a legal feud between Goldwater and Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit that bubbled out into the public eye last year but was settled in June.

Goldwater covers a lot of bases in the interview; one interesting nugget is that the monthly comics most people would think are the flagship Archie product are not a significant source of revenue for the company, although they are important both as a marketing tool and as the place where new stories run first. It’s also interesting to see how Goldwater regards the company’s deal with MAC Cosmetics as the first step toward global marketing of Archie products.

Robot 6: What’s new at Archie?

Jon Goldwatwer: We got a lot of great stuff coming up in 2013. 2012 was fantastic. I feel like every year we take these tremendous steps forward, from putting out Life With Archie and figuring out how to make that work — we have gained traction on that — to things like Archie Meets KISS, things like Kevin Keller, groundbreaking day-and-date digital. We look at 2013 being one of these big groundbreaking years

The first thing we have coming out is a partnership with MAC Cosmetics called Archie’s Girls. It launches February 2013, and it’s going to be a global launch. It’s going to be in every MAC store, not just in freestanding stores but in department stores as well. Wherever you want to go, you are going to have Archie right there. It’s truly our most important licensing deal in the last 30 years.

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Riverdale gang meets Glee cast on cover of Archie #641

BuzzFeed has debuted Dan Parent’s cover for Archie #641, the first issue of a storyline in which the Riverdale gang meets the cast of Fox’s hit musical comedy-drama Glee. The image is kind of odd, in that it looks as if someone may have gone in after the artist to touch up the faces of Glee characters Rachel, Finn and Quinn. See the full cover below.

Announced in July, the crossover is penned by comics writer and Glee co-producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Parent, and arrives on the heels of publisher’s much-publicized “Archie meets KISS” storyline.

“If you go back to the beginnings of modern music, if you will, with Elvis and moving forward with the Beatles and [Bob] Dylan – they established culturally the tone of what’s going on in the country,” Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater told Comic Book Resources. “That’s what I’ve been trying to establish in Riverdale. The characters stay the same, but Riverdale changes. And as musicians change in the culture, they can seamlessly integrate into comic books.”

Archie #641 arrives Feb. 27.

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Comics A.M. | Alan Moore’s Neonomicon challenged in South Carolina

Neonomicon

Comics | The Greenville County (South Carolina) Library has removed two copies of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon from its shelves after a mother filed an official challenge to the collection’s sexual content. Carrie Gaske said that although her 14-year-old daughter found the horror book in the adult section, she thought “it looked like a children’s comic,” and would be fine for her to check out. Daughter Jennifer soon discovered Neonomicon wasn’t the “murder mystery comic book” her mother believed it to be. “It was good at first,” she said. “Then it got nasty.” How “nasty”? “The more into I got the more shocked I was, I really had no idea this type of material was allowed at a public library,” Carrie Gaske said. “I feel that has the same content of Hustler or Playboy or things like that. Maybe even worse.”

The library allows children age 13 and older to check out books from the adult section with their parents’ permission. The library system’s two copies of Neonomicon have been removed from circulation while a committee reviews the content. [WSPA.com]

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Archie Comics executives settle bitter, bizarre legal battle

Nancy Silberkeit with Jon Goldwater (right) and Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick

The yearlong legal feud for control of Archie Comics has ended with a settlement that restores embattled Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit to her position at the company. However, the confidential agreement was criticized by the granddaughters of Archie co-founder John L. Goldwater, who claim that both executives’ “hands are dirty.”

The Associated Press reports that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich approved the deal Wednesday, bringing to a close the bitter, and frequently outlandish, dispute between Silberkleit and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater that became public in July 2011, when Archie accused Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees and sued to bar her from the company’s Mamaroneck, New York, headquarters.

Silberkleit, who stepped into the role of co-CEO in 2009, following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit (son of Archie Comics co-founder Louis Silberkleit), countered that Jon Goldwater is a chauvinist who was mounting a smear campaign to drive her out of the company, and sought $100 million in damages for defamation. The fight escalated in January when Goldwater, son of John L. Goldwater, sued to have Silberkleit removed as a director and CEO, claiming, “Unless Silberkleit is removed as a director and an officer, the company — an iconic American company — is in serious danger of failing and being liquidated.” That was quickly followed by a temporary restraining order prohibiting Silberkleit from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con to resell 5,000 one-day passes

Comic-Con International

Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]

Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]

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Quote of the day | Is Riverdale becoming a ‘lefty utopia’?

Occupy Riverdale cover by Jill Thompson

“We are progressive, and we do reflect what’s going on with the kids today, but we also have that Mayberry R.F.D. vibe, and that will never change either. Riverdale is a place where everyone is welcome, everyone’s included, and you’re not judged by anything but the content of your character.”

– Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, in a column at Slate.com
in which writer Ruth Graham observes a shift to the left in Riverdale with the introduction, and subsequent marriage, of gay character Kevin Keller, the wedding of Archie and Valerie, and the arrival of the Occupy movement. Goldwater points out, however, that Archie isn’t a Democrat; he’s an independent: ““Archie goes with whomever is doing the right thing for his friends, for his town, and for his family.”

Stan Lee is mightier than his Mighty 7

Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 #1, which bears the logo “Stan Lee Comics” on the cover but is published by Archie Comics, is, as you may guess from the cover—which also features Stan Lee’s floating head exhorting one of the book’s virtues—is a new Stan Lee joint.

It is a pretty bad comic book, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s a remarkably, even exceptionally bad comic book. But there’s still an irrepressible, hard-to-hate charm about the entire endeavor.

That’s probably down to the magic of Stan Lee. At this point in his career, the guy’s entered into a sort of lovable old rascal phase, and I often find myself forgiving him a lot in the same way I forgive older relatives and relations a lot, putting negatives down to either “Well, he’s old” and “But think of what he’s done in his life, he deserves some slack.”

That, and there is a genuinely inspired idea here, although Lee’s floating head does a poor job of selling it on the cover (and Lee’s back-of-the-book editorial does a worse job of it). The contents of the book orbiting that one inspired idea are so completely generic and derivative that I kept wondering if they were intentionally so.

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Comics A.M. | Could WonderCon’s Anaheim move be permanent?

Anaheim Convention Center

Conventions | WonderCon was held in Anaheim, California, this year because the traditional venue, San Francisco’s Moscone Center, was closed for renovations. Heidi MacDonald wonders whether the shift will be permanent, and a lively debate ensues in comments. SFBay, meanwhile, informally surveyed exhibitors, and found many retailers saw a steep drop in sales from last year, while many artists saw an increase in revenue. [The Beat]

Retailing | ICv2 sees an uptick in manga sales in comics stores and speculates that the Borders bankruptcy has led readers to a variety of different channels, including the direct market, which could be an opportunity for comics stores to expand their customer base. [ICv2]

Digital comics | Digital distributor comiXology will offer HD versions of all its comics for readers who use the new third-generation iPad, and Jason Snell says the new retina display and the HD comics make for a much better reading experience. [Macworld UK]

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Robot 6 Q&A | Jon Goldwater on Cheryl Blossom

Just when you think they had run out of ways to shock us, Archie Comics delivered some startling news last week: The latest twist in the Life With Archie series is that Cheryl Blossom, the pretty, flirty, wealthy girl of Riverdale, has run up against a problem she can’t take care of with a smile or a credit card: She has breast cancer. (Note for Archie newbies: Life With Archie follows the Riverdale characters as twentysomethings and is not part of the regular Archieverse.) We checked in with Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater to find out what happened and how this storyline will be handled.

Robot 6: First of all, why Cheryl Blossom? Is it because her identity is so tied up with her appearance?

Jon Goldwater: Well, Cheryl’s such a recognizable character—to fans and people only loosely familiar with Archie. We really wanted this story to resonate, so it had to be an important character that fans could connect with.

Robot 6: Can you tell us a bit about how this particular plot will unfold—how did Cheryl find out she has cancer, how serious is it, how do her family and friends react?

Jon Goldwater: We’ll see how her family reacts in the coming issues—mainly her brother, then her “extended” Riverdale family, which consists of Archie and friends. Cheryl set out to become a big star in LA and gradually found out how difficult that was. In the process, she also discovered that she had breast cancer and realized she had to come home to Riverdale for treatment.

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Comics A.M. | Archie co-CEO talks Kevin Keller marriage, boycott

Life with Archie #16

Comics | Bryan Young talks to Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about the attempted boycott of Life With Archie #16, which featured the marriage of Kevin Keller, as well as the changes that have taken place within the company to make that marriage possible. “When I got to Archie my first mandate was to talk to the staff and creators and say ‘Change things up. Try new things. Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.’ If there was an idea I felt was out of line or too crazy, I’d nix it. But for the most part, people like Dan Parent came to me with excellent ideas and suggestions. Kevin Keller is a perfect example of that. I don’t think you would have seen the previous regime publish Kevin.” [The Huffington Post]

Awards | Cartoonist Alison Bechdel has won the 24th annual Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. [GalleyCat]

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Comics A.M. | Archie, Graphicly partner to sell comics via Facebook

Archie Comics

Digital | Archie Comics will begin selling its comics through its Facebook page, which connects readers with Graphicly. With almost 120,000 fans, the page does seem like fertile ground. “It’s really a major move toward connecting the potential reader to the product,” said Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “We make it easy and hopefully create a new, lasting part of our fan base.” [The Huffington Post]

Retailing | Matthew Price takes the temperature in the room at ComicsPRO and says that retailers want stability — they credit the consistent shipping schedule for the New 52 for part of that line’s success — and creativity. The overall mood seemed to be optimism, with Diamond Comic Distributors reporting that comics sales were up slightly in 2011. [NewsOK.com]

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Comics A.M. | Batmobile covered by copyright; more on Archie feud

A Batmobile replica from Gotham Garage

Legal | A judge refused to dismiss DC Comics’ lawsuit against Gotham Garage, a manufacturer of custom-made Batmobiles, ruling that the design of Batman’s vehicle is indeed copyrightable. DC sued the California company in May for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming Gotham Garage is confusing the public into thinking the cars are authorized products. The manufacturer asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Gotham Garage “ignores the exception to the ‘useful article’ rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Nancy Hass provides a broad overview of the legal battle at Archie Comics that pits Co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit against each other for control of the 73-year-old company. Silberkleit, who spoke briefly to Hass before a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order last month, called claims that she’s threatened and harassed the publisher’s employees and vendors “completely untrue.” [The Daily Beast]

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Judge orders Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit ‘not to do anything’ for Archie

Nancy Silberkleit

Just a week after Archie Comics Co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater sued to remove Nancy Silberkleit as a director and co-CEO, a New York judge has barred her from entering the company’s offices, or performing any work for the 73-year-old publisher.

The temporary restraining order was issued by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in response to charges that Silberkleit ignored a Nov. 28 injunction prohibiting her from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.

Goldwater’s lawsuit insists “the ink was barely dry” on Kornreich’s previous order when Silberkleit violated it by having unnecessary contact with staff. According to the New York Daily News, Silberkleit acknowledged under oath Tuesday that she contacted freelance writers about participating in an anti-bullying comic announced last week.

“I thought it was a good idea to do a book about bullying, because I’m right here in the midst of it myself,” she testified. “I’m the one being harassed and abused here.”

Issuing the new order ahead of a Feb. 2 contempt hearing, Kornreich didn’t mince words: “She is not to do anything for Archie Comics Productions.”

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Archie co-CEO accuses company of smear campaign

Nancy Silberkleit

Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit claims the company’s lawsuit against her is merely “a thinly veneered attempt to smear my name and gain complete corporate control” for her counterpart Jon Goldwater.

The lawsuit, filed early last month, accuses Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees, and sought to bar her from the publisher’s Mamaroneck, N.Y., headquarters and from representing the company at Comic-Con International. A judge allowed her to return to work and attend the San Diego convention, but she’s not permitted to talk to vendors.

According to Archie, Silberklet’s “offensive” behavior dates back to 2009, when she stepped into the co-CEO role following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of co-founder Louis Silberkleit. In one incident, she allegedly interrupted a meeting and pointed to each of the four men in the room, shouting “PENIS, PENIS, PENIS, PENIS.” In another, she reportedly complained that her “balls hurt.” Another employee asserts he heard Silberkleit say, “All you penises think you can run me out.”

The company contends it hired an outside firm to investigate employee allegations of Silberkleit’s actions, and was advised to cut ties with her.

However, The Journal News reports that Silberkleit denies the allegations and claims that Goldwater, son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater, is a chauvinist who’s attempting to drive her out of the company.

“He has called me ‘stupid,’ a ‘moron,’ and ‘despicable,’” the former art teacher said in an affidavit filed last week. “In the presence of others he has told me to ‘shut up’ and ‘why can’t you be sweet, nice and quiet like a lady?’ ”

She accuses Goldwater of making corporate decisions without her, canceling a children’s literacy tour without telling her, and turning employees against her. “Mr. Goldwater long ago and repeatedly has told some employees and also people within the industry that he would get rid of me one way or the other,” Silberkleit wrote.

Her attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. A hearing is set for Aug. 16 in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.

SDCC ’11 | Archie gives Kevin Keller his own series

Kevin Keller

It may have seemed daring for Archie Comics to introduce their first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in Veronica #202 last year, but it’s a move that has paid off handsomely. Not only did the move draw a lot of attention to the publisher, but Kevin himself has proved to be a popular character, and his creator, Dan Parent, has been fleshing out his personality and backstory in a four-part miniseries that debuted last month. Today, the New York Times revealed that Kevin will get his own series next year, and readers will get some glimpses of the grown-up Kevin in the Life With Archie magazine, which features dual storylines in which Archie marries Veronica and Betty, respectively. And yes, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater says, they are going there: Kevin will get married in early 2012.

Parent has already taken on another controversial topic in the current miniseries, which reveals that Kevin’s father is in the military and Kevin himself would like to serve someday. The comic also tackles homophobia head-on but in a very Archie kind of way, by having the kids who are taunting Kevin turn out to be friends from his old school who were just trying to get a rise out of his Riverdale buddies. These new friends are a refreshing addition to the cast, and hopefully they will stick around for a while. Parent says that Kevin will be class president in the new series, but he adds, ” “Even the most popular kids are not popular with everybody. There’s some adversity he’ll have to deal with.”

As for controversy, Goldwater says it’s a non-issue: “Out of all the people who subscribe to the Archie books, we only had seven total cancellations,” he told the Times.


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