Monday, March 20, 2017
Illustrators Special #1: Warren Magazines - The Spanish Artists
Warren saw him out of courtesy rather than any desire to do business; his comics were struggling in an overcrowded market and hiring new talent was low on his priorities. Depending on who tells the story, Warren saw the samples Toutain had brought with him and immediately / a week later offered his artists work, most notably putting Jose "Pepe" Gonzalez to work on Vampirella. Over the next few years, Toutain became integral to Warren's success – the science fiction comic 1984 was his suggestion, for instance – and the artists of the S.I. agency produced some of their most memorable work for the company.
This special issue looks at the work of six artists in particular, with an introductory piece on Toutain setting the scene. Both Enric Torres-Prat and Sanjulian (Manuel Perez-Sanjulian Clemente), the first two subjects of this volume, never tackled comic strips (Enric was too slow, Sanjulian was too awful) but became famous as cover artists, using their skills as illustrators to create a formidable body of work. Enric produced 52 covers for Vampirella alone, and Sanjulian produced 60 for Warren, mostly for Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella.
Inside the covers of Vampirella, Pepe Gonzalez revolutionised the look of the strip. A precocious talent, Gonzalez bored easily and, having made Vampirella his own, he all but abandoned her, disappearing for days rather than working, leaving strips half finished. He could not paint: the iconic Vampirella poster published by Warren signed by Jose Gonzalez was only pencilled by him; the actual painting was done by Enric.
In later life, Gonzalez let himself go completely and was unable to look after himself, let alone work in any coherent way. It was Toutain and, after Josep died, his widow and family who tried to keep Gonzalez working and healthy until his death in 2009.
Luis Garcia was considered the new Pepe Gonzalez when he found his way to S.I. in 1961, aged only 15. He learned technique from those around him in the S.I. studio and soon became a prolific artist of romantic stories for Britain's comics for teenage girls. Visiting the UK a number of times during the Sixties, he embraced the hippy spirit, having then recently experienced life at an artist's commune a few miles outside Barcelona.
Garcia was a member of El Grupo de la Floresta, where artists would help out each other. One of his fellow artists was Esteban Maroto, four years older and another teenage prodigy. By the mid-Sixties, Maroto was experimenting with radical layouts for his strip 5 x Infinity and Wolff, and he would draw over 100 stories for various Warren magazines in the 1970s and 1980s. Maroto would also draw for DC in America and DC Thomson here in the UK.
Another prodigious artist, Jordi Bernet, is the subject of the final feature. Born into a family of cartoonists and scriptwriters, Bernet gained vital experience assisting Jordi Buxade before approaching Bardon Art, who put him to work on westerns and adventure stories for the British market, mostly for Victor, although also including work for Hornet, Smash!, Tiger and Lion.
The production on this special edition cannot be faulted. The artwork on show is spectacular, representing some of the best work of these immensely talented artists. Each essay gives context to characters and comics you may not have seen before and it is this discovery of whole new worlds of comics that makes the book so easy to recommend.
The Illustrators Special Edition is available directly from Book Palace, as are current and back issues of the regular Illustrators magazine.