The world of comics publishing may be one filled with fantastical ideas, dynamic art and rabid fan enthusiasm, but it's also a take-no-prisoners industry.
Monday afternoon, Speakeasy Comics announced it would cease operations. The publisher has previously come under fire from some creators who worked with Speakeasy, including complaints of late delivery, lack of response and poor promotion.
Last November, CBR News spoke with Speakeasy Chief Adam Fortier about a deal involving Speakeasy and Los Angeles based Ardustry Entertainment. Fortier told CBR News at the time, "Recently we partnered with a company called Ardustry Entertainment. There are a bunch of different aspects to this partnership, but one of the keys is getting into the entertainment industry-- which is fun and cash filled, from what I hear. Please tell me nobody's lied to me about that."
Following the Ardustry deal, Speakeasy began to change its focus, ceasing publication of a number of books, which many observers assumed was done as a cost-cutting measure. At the same time, some books left the publisher by their own choice, such as Frank Espinosa's critically acclaimed "Rocketo," which moved to Image. New, high profile books were also announced by Speakeasy, such as Rosario Dawson's "Occult Crimes Task Force." The book has since been set up at 12 Gauge Comics and will be published through Image.
Regarding the partnership with Ardustry Entertainment and where it currently stands, CBR News spoke with Ardustry's Wayne Williams, who handles Business Affairs for the company, on Monday evening. Williams told CBR News, "We had an option to buy Speakeasy Comics, subject to due diligence, but we did not move forward." He noted that Ardustry did not issue any press releases about the deal. "We hold Mr. Fortier in the highest regard," said Williams. "He's one of the brighter guys in the business. He's a brilliant person in the industry and we're still looking forward to doing business with him in the future."
Monday night CBR News spoke with Speakeasy Chief Adam Fortier, who when asked for a reaction to the comment made by Ardustry said, "At this point all I can say is I'm going to take some time off for reflection to determine what my next move will be.
"At the end we decided it was unfair to keep going forward if we were no longer confident the situation would resolve itself," continued Fortier.
Fortier said that Speakeasy received none of the money it expected to receive from Ardustry and that it was one part of what led to his decision. "Had it come in, we would have been able to honor all our commitments.
"Right now I'm speaking to everyone we have obligations to and are doing our best to address the situation," continued Fortier.
While the company has closed up shop, it has not filed for bankruptcy protection. "You declare bankruptcy when you want to screw as many people as possible," said Fortier. "Regardless of what is said or done, people will have their opinions, but at the end of the day all of us at Speakeasy want to be able to live with ourselves and this is the best way we can do it."
Fortier said he spent much of the afternoon trying to contact as many creators he worked with as possible, noting there are still some that have yet to be reached. As to the reaction from those creators, "There was a fair amount of disappointment. I haven't spoken to everyone yet, but I'm making my way through it. This has been incredibly hard for me personally and will take me a while to recover. I will be eternally grateful that my creators have not made this harder than it already is.
"We're going to spend the next couple of weeks generating our reports to find a fair and equitable solution for all involved," said Fortier.
As to the problems that led to the closure of Speakeasy, they didn't stop with the problems with the new partnership. "We were still getting low sales, some creators owed us large sums of money and some projects were not completed," said Fortier. "These all had a negative impact on us. Image can handle all the creator owned books they want. That's something I'll never get into again."
Times are especially hard for independent publishers. The overwhelming majority of comic sales in the direct market go to the publishing juggernauts of Marvel and DC Comics. The challenges faced by independent publishers certainly added to the problems Speakeasy encountered, and Fortier outlined a vicious circle faced by smaller publishers. "I know why consumers and retailers don't support small publishers Retailers and consumers only support publishers who show solidness. But publishers need that support to get solid. If a multi-millionaire like [CrossGen Founder] Mark Alessi couldn't afford to float all his projects, how could mere mortals survive? I hate to say it because I've loved comics for a long time, but I just don't think it's a health place to be right now."
Late Monday evening, CBR received the following statemet perpared by Brandon Jerwa, Dan Jolley, Marie Croall, who collectively have work coming under the name Voicebox Comics that was to be published by Speakeasy.
Obviously, this is distressing news for a variety of reasons. On a personal level, we feel for the situation and the effect it will have on Adam Fortier and Speakeasy's employees, not to mention the many fine creators whose books will be losing their home, just as ours will.
That being said, we must find a publisher for the Voicebox books immediately. We would hate to see 'Shelter,' 'Sawed-Off Mojo' and 'The Last Bastion' end up at separate publishers, but we have creative 'families' of our own that must be tended to in the aftermath of this surprising turn of events. We started this venture to make books that we believe in and we are absolutely not going to abandon that vision under any circumstances. We will be examining all other options immediately, but if any publishers are interested in one or all of the books, please contact Jessica Blackshear at your earliest convenience.