Archaia's All Access Panel kicked off at C2E2 with Marketing Manager Mel Caylo introducing newly appointed Editor-in-Chief Stephen Christy, Founder/Publisher and new Chief Creative Officer Mark Smylie, and company President PJ Bickett. Bickett took to the stage to talk about Smylie's new position as well the company's goal in the recent shifts and additions to Archaia's editorial roster.
"[Mark] will be responsible for all of the creative oversight in regards to the brand and the basically the direction of the books," said Bickett. "But the best part of it is that Mark will be focusing on what he needs to be focusing on, and that's the creative vision for what we're doing on the company side in regards to the brand."
Bickett mentioned that the company is also looking to bring on board a new editor and a VP of Sales and Marketing. The president said they want to have the most likable team in comics. "I think everyone will enjoy the additional staff we're bringing on," Bickett said. “We really hope they buy into the fact of what we're trying to do here and that's be more than just your ordinary independent publisher. We're trying to bring real stories and a quality to it that's unparalleled in the industry."
Talk then turned to the digital market and its influence on the print side of the industry. Archaia recently began releasing a number of their titles through iVerse, including Roddenberry Productions' "Days Missing" five-issue series. "We're definitely toward advancing all ends of digital," said Bickett. "It's a slow build and since we're a publisher, we needed to make sure we're taking the use of our funds and putting it against publishing — developing new properties, working with companies such as Roddenberry Productions and Floating Door pictures.
"There is a huge market out there that is 10 times larger than we are," continued the president. "We need to do something that's embodied to those people that we can invite them to eventually understand our medium. With that said, we partnered officially with iVerse. I want to make sure that doesn't mean we're going away from the direct market. Unfortunately, I'm extremely blunt, so I'm not going to sugarcoat anything. There's a change that is occurring the direct market and it will continue to change for the better or for the worst. And stores will have to evolve with the times.
"Archaia is a print company, at least as of today," he said. "Five years from now, who knows what's going to happen?"
Bickett and Smylie then departed from the panel. Caylo took over and introduced writers Joshua Hale Fialkov, Tom Pinchuk and David Rodriguez. Before talking about specific titles, Caylo updated the audience on the company's release schedule on a few hardcover trades. Fialkov then talked about his upcoming graphic novel "Tumor,” saying the title was actually the first original graphic novel released on the Amazon Kindle. "It was No. 1 on the device in the graphic novel category for like six months," said Fialkov. "It actually went up to No. 6 graphic novel overall, print included. We beat 'Watchmen' at one point. So, take that Alan Moore. What are you going to do, crazy beard?"
Fialkov went on to explain the basic premise of the graphic novel and the bonuses included with the hardcover release, such as an original short story that serves as a prequel to the book's events and an intro by novelist and Marvel Comics writer Duane Swierczynski.
Pinchuk talked about his upcoming hardcover, "Hybrid Bastards," and brought about much laughter from both the attendees and the panelists with his pitch. "I'm going to make a bold guarantee to everybody here," said Pinchuk. "This is the most cracked, most bizarre, most strangest book you'll find out there. Zeus gets duped into conceiving creatures with inanimate objects — with a lawn, with a car, with a pile of laundry."
Rodriguez talked about his hardcover "Starkweather: Immortal." The book explores the origins of witches, which stems from the final days of Jesus Christ, who splits his powers amongst himself and the 12 Apostles. Eventually, the Church begins twisting the truth and claiming the magic came from Hell instead of Heaven.
Other upcoming projects include "Killing Pickman" issues #3-4 by writer Jason Becker, which Christy described as "Dirty Harry Versus the Devil," and the first issue of the new series "Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier," which hits stores in June. Caylo also announced the American release of "Cyclops" by Matz, which was originally released in France.
Caylo then called for a panelist switch out. As the original set departed the stage, writers Daniel Quantz, RJ Ryan and Trevor Roth, as well as artist David Marquez came on.
Editor-in-Chief Christy announced a new brand extension of Archaia, Black Label. Christy said that Black Label will serve as the home for the company's partnership titles. "It's not an imprint," he explained. "It's a different way of creating books. I'm tired of Hollywood people coming in and putting their faces on books and putting out comics that don't have their heart in it. One of the things that we're very careful about at Archaia is the intention of the book. We like to think that every single one of our books, no matter how different they are, leaves the reader with an experience. With Black Label, we want to apply that same care into our partnership books. We want to make sure the intention is to create an amazing comic and nothing else."
Christy also announced the first two books in the label, the second volume of "Days Missing" and a new original graphic novel titled "Syndrome."
Roth, creator of "Days Missing," spoke about the title and coming from Hollywood into the comics. "Comics as a medium is a place where you can have a direct contact with fans," he said. "You can bring the creation to life without the red tape that studios and things like that bring with it."
The second volume of “Days Missing” picks up after the mysterious end of the first, with the implication that the all-powerful Stewart may not be as unique as he thought and hinted at a female powerhouse. "’Days Missing’ vol. 2 will answer the questions that were left [from first volume]," said Roth. "Her name is Ketis, she is badass, she is sexy, she is everything you want from a comic character."
The creators of "Syndrome," co-writers Quantz and Ryan and artist Marquez, explained how their title explores the origins of evil. Quantz said the story unfolds in four parts through the points of view of four different characters. "One of the things that we did in terms of the storytelling was not reveal everything to you all right away," said Quantz. "We're telling it in these four characters and four points of view. Part of the fun, definitely for us, is the building of information of point of view storytelling. So, not everybody has all the information of things going on."
Christy related the idea to “The Truman Story,” where the participants were unaware that they're being studied in an environment constructed for the sole purpose of experimentation.
"It's a very challenging read," added artist Marquez. "It's not going to be for lazy readers."
"The real discovery of this book is Dave Marquez," said Christy to much applause from the panelists. "It's really incredible as an editor to see an artist who just completely takes their game and elevates it to a whole new level. And I hope that when you're drawing X-Men and Superman you remember your friends from Archaia."
One final announcement included the upcoming August release date of the monthly four-issue limited series "Lucid," written by Michael McMillian with art by Anna Wieszcyk. The series comes from Zachary Quinto and his production company Before the Door Pictures. Christy described the book's premise as "What happens when Harry Potter grows up and decides to work for the CIA. It's spies, with magic. I'm also really excited about the illustrator Anna Wieszcyk. She is 20 years old and her artist on this is incredible — a very kind of cool 'Cowboy Bebop' feel."