Here’s one from the Archives! Searching through the vault, I’ve hit upon a vein of some of my old original art for Archie Comics… and let me tell you… I don’t have a lot of that stuff left! I went from having mountains of it to having only one little stack… well maybe not so little… left. This is what happens when you stop working for them for over five years.
This relic is one of a handful of covers I have left from the “Old Days.” This is the cover art to Archie’s Funhouse #20 featuring my pencils and inks by the great Bob Smith, one of my favorite inkers ever to save my pencils! I don’t remember who wrote the gag but I’m pretty sure this one isn’t one of mine. This one is a rarity in that the lettering was added digitally as indicated by the note in the margin. Even at this late date, Archie Comics was still using traditional hand lettering… especially on their covers.
By this point, Archie Comics had developed very specific ideas about their covers. Cover gags were becoming scarce and dialogue on the covers was becoming even more rare. The trend as Archie pushed it was for large close-ups of smiling faces. If there were full figures, the figures had to be in very generic standard poses… sitting on steps, posing on a beach, sitting in a pile of leaves, etc. It was boring but their goal was to produce cookie cutter artwork that they could “re-purpose” over and over.
This one was towards the end of my twenty-two year run. The date at the bottom indicates the pay period for this cover. I would have been paid for this one on September 4, 2015 which meant I would have turned this one in within two weeks earlier. As things went back then, I was probably given the gag during a visit to the office and I most likely turned it around that same day within a couple of hours. I had a reputation for being fast and reliable so I used to get a lot of covers back then that way. They knew I’d be in the office every Friday (eventually it’d be every Thursday… and then every other Thursday!) so I’d often find one or two covers waiting for me to draw that very day. I loved it. It was a great system that benefitted both Archie and myself.
2015 would be my last full year at Archie. When I handed in this cover circa that August, I had no idea it would be among my last. Six months later in February 2016, I’d stop getting any work at all. There was no conversation. There were no warnings or good-byes. After twenty-two years, I very abruptly was cut off. I wouldn’t receive any reasons until I started talking about my dismissal publicly. It was then that Archie Comics finally reached out to me to let me know that I “wasn’t fired” but I wouldn’t be getting any work from them or any money. They floated different reasons but the truth was that they were in the midst of their “reboot” and they were courting “Big Name” creators like Mark Waid, Fiona Staples and Adam Hughes… and Brother! That Adam Hughes gambit sure bit them on the ass! They cut back on what they called “Classic Archie” and those of us they considered “Classic Archie artists.” Dan Parent was kept because they’d made a commitment to him and he was on salary. They had no intention of actually cutting me loose permanently, but they also weren’t going to be giving me any work for the foreseeable future. Knowing them the way I do, I know exactly what they had in mind. They wanted me to quietly “go away” and “hang out.” In a few months, when their “Big Names” left them, they might have called me back. They might even have asked me to replace one of these “Big Names” and ape their style. They’d done this before when they replaced Norm Breyfogle with me on the Life With Archie magazine. My versatility and my ability to duplicate existing styles was well known. “Make it look like Norm… only better,” I was told.
I however didn’t go away quietly. Unlike Dan DeCarlo and Stan Goldberg, I didn’t favor Archie by going off and dying. Instead, I spoke out about my dismissal and I was very critical about their output and their direction which I did not think was good or smart . I didn’t work for them anymore. I could say whatever I wanted. Archie of course took offense to my criticism and it was then that they “officially” fired me.. or whatever they want to call it. Even then though they still didn’t speak to me directly. They’d call in Dan Parent and yell at him about the things I was saying publicly. “Fernando fired himself,” they said to him.
To this day, I still get asked often “Will you ever work for Archie again?” I’ve developed the standard reply, “You can never say ‘never’ in this business, but this as close to ‘never’ as you can get.” There are many, many reasons for this and maybe if anyone is interested I’ll get into it in another post. For now, enjoy Fan Fiction Friday and as always, keep checking back here for more of my work, news, and the inside dirt!
Keep drawin’, Everybody!!