Archie Digest #269… My Final Archie Story…

ArchieDigest #269

I’ve been talking about this pretty openly online. I’ve held off making any sort of formal announcement until I did some thinking and until I told a few people privately first. I didn’t want my father, for instance to learn about this because my aunt read it to him off her Facebook feed. He’d only imagine the worst and I needed to see him face-to-face in order to best explain things to him so he’d understand. I think most people in my Inner Circle know by now and if I haven’t told you personally, I apologize. I might follow up this post with a couple of more private messages. I’ll also be linking to this from my Facebook page later. After all, I may as well try to milk this for a little extra traffic to the ol’ website.

A couple of weeks ago… January 2016 as of this writing, … I delivered my FINAL story for Archie Comics. The story is one I wrote and drew entitled “Happiness Is A Clean Puppy.” It will be featured in Archie Digest #269, pictured above, and, I believe, on sale this May. Buy it! Let me go out with big sales! That’ll show ’em!

I had no idea this was going to be my last story until I handed it in to the production manager at Archie Comics. He told me he wasn’t going to be having any more work for me for “the foreseeable future.” The reason was an “inventory backlog.” I have my own thoughts on this reasoning which I may go into in another post. I don’t question the production manager. He’s a good guy who does the best with the circumstances he’s given. I don’t question his reasons. I do however question the reasons he’s given. I spoke to Victor Gorelick, Archie Comic’s co-president and the man who had brought me in twenty-two years earlier. He was shocked to learn that I wasn’t going to be given anymore work. He had no idea.

I didn’t talk to anyone else and no one else spoke to me so I went home. That’s how I ended my twenty-two year run at Archie Comics.

This may sound sad, but in all honesty Archie couldn’t have ended at a better time for me. My partner and friend, Dan Parent… the LAST Classic Archie guy left standing at Archie… are in the thick of producing our Die Kitty Die book. My very good friend Gisele Lagace is lining up lots of work for me at Pixie Trix Comix and next month, convention season starts up again. I have lots of commissions on my table to get through as well! It’s a busy time and I’m still out here drawing.

If the truth were told, I should REALLY have walked away from Archie a lot sooner. The writing had been written on the wall in big flaming red ceiling-to-floor letters for a long, long time now, but sucker that I am, I always insist on being the guy who stays to turn off the lights after everyone else has left. I’m always hoping things will get better!

Well, things have!

Thanks to everyone who has been very kind and supportive and has come through with very nice things to say. I firmly believe this is a change for the better but it’s never any fun not walking away on your own terms… especially after twenty-two years. Its times like this that you appreciate all the people in your corner. It’s their kind words that see you through times like this. Some people have reached out already and I appreciate their good thoughts. I’ll still be drawing and I’ll still be posting right here. Please leave a comment below. I’ll happily answer any questions as best as I can.

Thanks!

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27 comments on “Archie Digest #269… My Final Archie Story…”

  1. Adam Walmsley Reply

    Nelson and I host a get together for ex-Archie employees whose lives are better now that they don’t work there. It’s every Thursday at the VFW and you’ll welcome to join us now. Sometimes we run out of space so get there early. JoePep brings his famous oatmeal raisin cookies and TJ always does his magic act.

    • fernando Reply

      That sounds like a blast, Adam. We might want to look for a bigger venue to hold these get-togethers. That VFW is going to get very crowded!

  2. Adam Alamo Reply

    Looking forward to your future projects, while continuing to enjoy your extensive , 22 year body of work. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again, you were and are one of the greats.

    • fernando Reply

      Thank you very much, Adam. I’m only getting started. Archie Comics was only my launching pad! Your support and friendship have made a huge difference during what might’ve otherwise been a pretty scary transition!

  3. Brendan Wright Reply

    I always knew I wanted Archie vs. Predator to be drawn in the classic Archie style, but once the new style was announced, I was especially glad to get to be part a book in the classic style while it was still in vogue. It feels a little weird in retrospect to think of AvP as one of the last big hurrahs of the classic style, given the fate of so many of the characters in it, but it was such a great time, and it was an honor to work with you. I personally can’t wait to read Die Kitty Die and see what else is coming up, and I hope we get to work together somewhere else down the line. Congrats on 22 years, and break a leg on the great-looking stuff you’ve got coming up!

    • fernando Reply

      Thank you very much, Brendan.

      I stated above that I regret not leaving Archie a lot earlier, but thinking about it again, hanging in there long enough to get to do ARCHIE VS PREDATOR with you and Dark Horse was absolutely worth it. AVP remains one of my most favorite project that I was ever involved with and you were a joy to work with. I hope we do get to work together again soon. Thank you again for everything!

  4. Dan Parent Reply

    You will thrive just like your idol, Laura Branigan! Oh wait a minute , bad example …

    This will be OUR biggest year yet Fernando ! Aside from being one of my best friends in the world , I honestly can say you’re the MOST talented !

    So, before your head gets too big , we have lots of drawing to do on kitty, so get cracking !

    • fernando Reply

      My dear friend, what can I say? You have me in tears over here!

      I couldn’t think of undertaking a project like Die Kitty Die with anyone else. We work smoothly together. We travel well. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Kitty would not be happening were it not for you. It’s sad to put Archie behind me after all these years, but I’m confident you and I are going to be better for it. I’ll be honest. It’s been a tough, disappointing time, but your friendship and support have really helped see me through. You’ve really helped my faith that this is really for the best! We do have a big year ahead of us and its only beginning!

      Don’t worry about my head getting too big. I can always count on you to bring me back to Earth.

  5. Gisele Lagace Reply

    I’ve LOVED your work at Archie, but if this is what it took to push you and Dan to do a creator-owned project, well, so be it. I feel all comic book creators should have at least ONE thing on the go that they own. Also, thank you to agreeing to do some gigs over at Pixie Trix; it’s been a blast seeing those pages come in. Things may change in the future with Archie, but regardless of what you work on, I’ll be there buying & enjoying it.–Your fan & friend, Gisele 🙂

    • fernando Reply

      Although things have been bad at Archie for a while, this still comes as a huge disappointment and more than a little depressing. I couldn’t imagine, however, going through this without your support and your friendship. At a time when I might feel more than a little alone and scared, you were really there for me, Gi. I can’t express my gratitude enough. If losing Archie means you and I get to do more work together than this really is for the best! Thank you!

  6. daren Reply

    Thanks for the explanation Fernando. Wow. I’m looking forward to all the Astrocomix and Pixie Trix you’ll be doing but I’m still gonna yell about this.

  7. Dennis Reply

    It makes me sad to see ACP let classic Archie stories wither away. It does make me sort of resentful of “the new Riverdale” but I guess it’s not really their fault either. It’s just not what I want, what got me interested in reading Archie Comics. Yes, it’s the classic generation of artists like DeCarlo, Lucey, etc. but it’s also the 1990s/21st century creators like Fernando, Dan, Jeff Schultz, the Kennedy brothers, Gisele. I don’t know about the Kennedys, but I’m glad to see all the others have something else in the works, whether as a webcomic/digital or print. That’s the same kind of thing that attracted me to Archie Comics in the first place, and the thing I will support going forward, not just “Archie characters in any form”. The style, tone, and creators are more important to me than long-running characters that can be morphed into any style or tone to suit what the public is buying. Just keep on making comics, you guys, that’s all I ask.

  8. Paul Castiglia Reply

    Fernando, I am in huge debt to you for bringing my Archie’s Weird Mysteries stories to life (not only with your superlative art but also your helpful script suggestions), but even more so, because of your friendship. I appreciate all the times you participated in joint autograph signings with me. and all our discussions about comics – not just the biz but everything we love about comics as entertainment and as an art form; and nostalgia, classic movies and pop culture in general. I am also very grateful to you for your support of my other endeavors. It’s meant a lot to me that you’ve shown up at events such as the movie screenings where I sometimes speak. You are tops in my eyes – in both comics and in life! Thank you, my friend. I wish all the best and every success in your endeavors ahead.

    • fernando Reply

      Thank you very much, Paul. Archie’s Weird Mysteries will forever remain one of my all-time favorite gigs. It’s right up there with Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. and Archie Vs Predator! The feelings are mutual for me, My Friend. You’re always someone I just enjoy listening to. We can shoot the breeze for hours about all the pop culture stuff we love and I’m sure we shall again. Thanks for your support and all the very nice comments, Paul. We’ll talk again very soon!

    • fernando Reply

      In the “Old Days,” the policy was that all new material had to wait FIVE YEARS before it was reprinted. In these desperate days, I doubt that’s still the policy or that there even IS a policy! It seems like EVERYTHING is getting reprinted… over and over and over… It’s understandable. Reprints are free for Archie. They don’t pay reprint fees or royalties so as long as they can keep printing and distributing their old stuff, they can keep scooping up largely “free” money. Despite the utter neglect the digest books receive, they remain the company’s largest selling product and financial backbone. Amazingly, they invest less and less in these products. They cut back on the new material they put in them and the artists that work on those few new stories are horribly paid compared to what Archie is paying the teams on those “New Riverdale” books. It’s a real, real shame how those digests are being neglected to death. Imagine a poor cow that Archie insists on milking but refuses to feed! Those digests with their wide distribution and audience-reach can be a platform for a lot of growth but the company has been very short-sighted with their fixation on the Direct Market!

      As far as the new Archie goes, there are a couple of things to think about. First… the new Archie is really being treated as a separate brand from the “Classic Archie” stuff that appears in the digests. Again, these are desperate times for Archie so you can never say never, but I’d find it jarring to have a reboot Archie story in the middle of a largely Classic Archie-filled digest. The Reboot and the Classic stuff just has two separate and distinct audiences. Secondly, Archie has resisted sticking the longer book-length stories in the digests. With the digests shrinking from time to time in terms of page count, a twenty-page story… which is what those reboot issues run… would take up a lot of real estate inside a digest. Of course a couple of years ago, the regular Archie books all switched to book-length stories (Archie’s president once said to me “The five page story is dead” simply because he didn’t know how to promote it. There’s TOO much wrong with that philosophy for me to take apart within a brief parenthetical phrase!) so the digests are going to be faced with the question of whether or not to reprint these longer stories very time soon!

      As for the New Look Archie material, I remember it started out strong. There was a tremendous outrage to the announcement of the New Look because most people mistakenly believed that it was going to permanently displace the Classic Archie style. Maybe this outrage was all spent by the time the Reboot was announced because whereas Classic Archie kept going during the New Look, Reboot Archie totally pushed Classic Archie off the racks and into the wastelands of the digests! Archie put out a number of New Look stories over the course of a couple of years. I couldn’t say for sure how well they did, but I’d guess those returns were indeed diminishing. Eventually they said, “No more.” I don’t remember if those stories were ever collected or reprinted. If they haven’t, I suspect they eventually will be. At the very least, you’ll probably see a digital release of some sort of New Look collection. Archie seems to love digital collections. It’s all pure profit! There’s no printing. No distributing… and once again… no royalties or money of any kind paid to the creative teams.

  9. Steven Scott Reply

    Best of luck to you on this next exciting chapter in your artistic career Fernando! Die Kitty Die is the next logical step and you guys deserve to see it take off and cement your talents for a whole new fan base.

    You’re right, it’s never fun to not leave on your own terms. But if I can tell you what I’ve told my former colleagues, it’s that you’re way better off now and life is about to improve in ways you never thought imaginable.

    Welcome to the other side, sir! We’re happy to have you and excited to watch you develop your new brand and achieve great success. You have my respect.

    • fernando Reply

      Thanks a lot,Steven. That does make me feel better. You’ve certainly gone on to better things so I know you know what you’re talking about!

  10. Andrew (from Ottawa) Reply

    Hi Fernando,

    It was great to see you at Ottawa Comic Con this past weekend! I’m just reading this news today, so wanted to send you a quick note to say your artwork always amazes. I LOVE my latest commissions from you. Looking forward to seeing you at another Comic Con soon!

    Andrew

    • fernando Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, Andrew. It’s always good to see you. I’m glad my work finds such a good home with you. We’ll catch up again at another Comic con very soon!

  11. Frank Cooper Reply

    Fernando
    I’ve emailed you and thank you for 22 years of wonderful creations at Archie. I’m sorry that they aren’t the kind of company that I thought.

    • fernando Reply

      Thanks, Frank. I appreciate the support. Archie Comics, in the end, turned out to be exactly the type of company they have a reputation for being. I was naive to believe they wouldn’t do it to me. It’s a shame it ended the way it did. I’m not so naive to believe they could have kept me going forever and twenty-two years is a Hell of a run but if it had to end, they could’ve gone about it so much better than in the classless way they did. Thanks again, Frank.

      This week, I’ve been swamped wrapping up Animal Jam so I’ll respond to your email as soon as I can.

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