Madefire, a digital comics platform that launched to much fanfare in 2011, is quietly shutting down, leaving many buys and apps powered by its technology in limbo. The company was founded by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden. Sharp left for things like Green Lantern, but Wolstenholme stayed until the end.
According to a notice on their website, the company has entered into a assignment for the benefit of creditors (ABC), a kind of soft bankruptcy. The announcement was made earlier this month, and buyers of comics on their app have until the end of the month (Friday) to download them.
On April 7, 2021, Madefire, Inc. (the “Company” or “Madefire”) entered into an assignment for the benefit of creditors (the “Assignment”), which is a state-level insolvency proceeding similar to the bankruptcy. Madefire has made a general assignment of its assets to an assignment entity, a California limited liability company by the name of Madefire (Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors), LLC (“Assignor”), a subsidiary of Sherwood Partners, Inc.
Due to the uncertainty of this situation, the following actions have been taken:
– All new book purchases have been suspended indefinitely.
-Any publication of new books has been suspended indefinitely.
-Support and future updates to the Madefire app have been suspended indefinitely.
-Access to purchased content stored in the cloud may be limited and therefore customers are encouraged to upload all previously purchased content from the cloud to the Madefire app before the end of April 2021.
Further information regarding the process can be found at www.proofofclaims.com/Madefire.
The Madefire app powered several comic book apps, leaving those stores in limbo as well. The Archie Comics app shut down yesterday, the 28th. Also, they were carrying books from many publishers, including Boom and Scout – digital collections of these comics won’t be available unless you download them now.
UPDATE: To clarify, although some people have tweeted that Madefire is powering Dark Horse’s digital app, this has nothing to do with Madefire and their comics are still available. Buy with confidence!
You can read a lot about Madefire’s history here at The Beat, including their splashy launch all the way back in 2012 which included comics from Sharp, Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz and more.
The company got its start back when comic book apps for the then recent iPad were something of a gold rush for investors. Throughout its history, Madefire has been a technology leader, offering “motion books”, a portal to download your own comics, and many other digital promotions (a partnership with Deviant Art, for example, and later Magic Leap). These were (at least from an outside perspective) attempts to set up the buying platform by a larger entity – the classic Silicon Valley business plan. Although Madefire tried to catch the eye of Apple or Microsoft, another tech giant… it never really caught on.
Along the way, they raised a lot of capital. According to Crunchbase, they had $16.4 million in funding – but I’m told it was even more than that. Investors included a disgraced actor Kevin Spacey and musical artist Duck.
Ultimately, reading digital comics through a dedicated app outside of comiXology (which was bought by Amazon in 2016) and “motion comics” technology simply never became a popular way to read comics. . Meanwhile, the more open “webtoon”-like comic book portal and its many competitors are racking up millions of views per month.
Although the shutdown has been flying under the radar all month, a few people noted its passing on Twitter, mostly with shouts of unanswered calls to tech support.
Well I found that almost all of my comics that I purchased digitally on @madefire left because of their bankruptcy. I’m incredibly angry because I’ve had YEARS of @boomstudios comics there. It’s so shitty that Madefire didn’t let anyone know easily…
— Mike D (@BirdmanDodd) April 26, 2021
Archie Comics addressed the end of their application on their website and offered free comics to download via comiXology:
To our valued Archie App customers,
We regret to inform you that the Archie application will cease its activities from 04/28.
We realize that this is a surprise and we strive to do well with our loyal customers. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience.
With that in mind, we’re working with our digital partners at ComiXology to bring you a one-month free trial of their premier streaming platform, ComiXology Unlimited, where you can find our entire Archie digital library, day and date . with his release. You’ll find nearly every comic currently on the Archie app and more through this service, for less than what you paid for Archie Unlimited. To register click here.
We are of course aware that many of you have made individual purchases via the app. To compensate for the loss of these purchases, we’re offering a free digital set of Archie Comics titles, including some of our best-selling collections. Some of the titles featured in this bundle include:
Best of Archie Deluxe Vol. 1-4
The Best of Betty and Veronica Vol. 1&2
Best of Archie Americana Vol. 1: Golden Age
Best of Archie Americana Vol. 2: Silver Age
Best of Archie Americana Vol. 3: Bronze
The Best of Josie and the Pussycats Vol. 1
The Best of Archie Comics: 75 Years, 75 Stories
The Best of Archie’s Christmas Comics
The Complete Sabrina the Teenage Witch Vol. 1: 1962-1971
The Complete Sabrina the Teenage Witch Vol. 2: 1972-1973
Archie Modern Classics Vol. 1-3
Archie Vol 1-6
… and more
To use your download link, please email [email protected] (include the email you registered with the Archie app) before June 1, and we’ll get back to you with a download link that includes the titles above and more.
If you have any questions, please let us know via the email address linked above.
Thank you for being a valued customer of Archie Comics.
Also in limbo are all of the comic book properties launched by Madefire, including some notables such as Mono by Wolstenholme and Sharp. Titan released a print edition, but its “motion book” format no longer has a way to be viewed. Sherwood Partners, the assignee of Madefire, appears to be a company that specializes in liquidation, and they have a all about intellectual property on their website.
Ultimately, many creators who worked with Madefire may have known he was rolling the dice on a win that never came. I’ve written many stories about Madefire over the years and have interviewed Wolstenholme a number of times, including on a (retrospectively) kind of “end of an era” panel at NYCC that also included Tom Akel, then responsible for Webtoon but who will soon leave. The folks involved with Madefire have always seemed very sincere about a love of comic books – something that perhaps didn’t translate very well to Silicon Valley investing games. Digital comics platforms have tried to play the game from start-up to acquisition a few times, none with a footprint as large – or as stubborn – as Madefire. In the end, readers spoke with their wallets and their eyes: people prefer free comics, paper comics and Amazon (comiXology).