After years of licensing the publication of its hardcover art book collections, Archie Comics is moving some hardcover production in-house and has just released its first title, The Art of Betty and Veronica. The art book follows the Archie characters through the decades, focusing on how their stories and fashions evolve, with spotlights on the many artists that have drawn Archie over the years.
“We’re expanding in a lot of different publishing areas: trade paperbacks, digital, all books go online, and we had never done a hardcover art book,” said Victor Gorelick, Archie Comics editor-in-chief, who co-edited the book with comics’ archivist Craig Yoe. The Art of Betty and Veronica was released in November with a first print run of just over 7,000 copies, and Gorelick said he is happy with the early orders.
Archie Comics has previously relied on licensing deals to do such books. Both Abrams and Dark Horse have published archival collections of Archie material, and IDW Publishing is doing some books featuring different Archie artists, Gorelick said, citing “an agreement we signed quite a few years ago.” Gorelick said that while Archie “can’t do the volume of titles that Dark Horse and IDW can,” in-house production is more lucrative for the house. Yoe, a much praised independent comics archivist, editor, and designer with a long history of producing high-quality archival collections of comics works, handled the production along with his wife, who did all the book design.
Gorelick said the house has two other hardcover art books in the works: The Art of Archie Covers, a look at Archie comic book covers over the years, and an Archie 75th anniversary collection, due in 2016. The Art of Archie Covers will be produced in-house and Yoe will again co-edit the cover art book, but Gorelick said the publisher has a tight deadline to get the 75th anniversary book done in time and may revert to a publishing partner. The book will focus on “the history of the company, everything from before Archie was around [including] pulp magazines and adventure comics” from the late ’30s, Gorelick said.
In the future, Gorelick said, “We would like to do all publishing if we could,” but he said most likely Archie will produce some titles itself, while licensing and co-publishing others. “We’re concentrating on little steps,” he said. “It took a year to put [The Art of Betty and Veronica] together. It was the first time I ever worked on a book like that and you learn as you go.”