Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Rafael Lopez Espi Gallery

Self taught artist Rafael Lopez Espi began his long career in 1953, initially drawing war stories for the Symbol Publishing House. His work also appeared in The Press doing portraits, and in comic stories Atlantis and The Drums Bruc for the daily National Solidarity. Soon afterwards, he went to work for Josep Toutain's agency, where the artist started out doing comics for the colored supplement of La Prensa.  Later on, Espi drew romance comics for the British girl magazine Glamour, followed by various Western strips. During the 1960s  his work increased in the foreign market drawing for both Bardon Art and Luis Ferraz, with whom he created the adventure series Don Starr. Other successful Westerns followed including Rex Raven, Billy McGregor and Riffle, as well as several war and romance stories for the British publisher Fleetway such as Air Ace, Battle, Roxy, Marilyn, Valentine. After his military service in 1964, Espi collaborated with the Spanish publisher Toray on Sioux, Tales of the West, Robot 76, and Galaor Editions drawing Lawrence of Arabia. But the creator perhaps is best remembered for his sixteen year run with Vertex Editions painting hundreds of covers based on the original Marvel Comics creations as well as his comic series Mytek. Rafael left the comics scene for several years to concentrate on book covers for German publishers and various toy advertisements until in 1992 when he then collaborated with the Swedish agency Dalger Press, creating the girl's comic Conny which appeared in the Swedish magazine Häst Min, and was reprinted by the German comic Bastei Verlag. The artist then returned to expand on his extensive portfolio of illustration work. 



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Adventure Comics "The Wrath of ... the Spectre"

From his first appearance in the Golden Age in More Fun Comics #51 (Jan. 1940) the Spectre was has been one of DC comics most long lasting characters. Created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily, the series began when hard-boiled cop Jim Corrigan, on his way with his fiancée to his engagement party, was murdered by being stuffed into a barrel filled with cement and then drowned. His spirit was refused entry into the afterlife however, instead being sent back to Earth by an entity referred to only as "The Voice" to eliminate evil. This started his long career wreaking vengeance on criminals. But my first encounter was in the Bronze Age 1970s revival, as DC brought the Spectre back in  Adventure Comics #431. Beginning with the 12 page "The Wrath of ... the Spectre" in issue #431 (Feb. 1974). Writer  Michael Fleisher, and artist Jim Aparo produced ten stories through issue #440 (July 1975) that became controversial for what was considered gruesome, though bloodless, violence. The story goes that once editor Joe Orlando was mugged, he quickly decided the world needed a really relentless super hero. The Spectre came back with a vengeance and quickly became a cause of controversy. Orlando plotted the stories with Fleisher, as they emphasized the gruesome fates of criminals who ran afoul with the character. With The Comics Code recently liberalized, the series pushed its restrictions to the limit, often turning evildoers into inanimate objects and then thoroughly demolishing them. Jim Aparo's slick art showed criminals being transformed into everything from broken glass to melting candles, but Fleisher was quick to point out that many of his most bizarre plot devices were lifted from stories published decades earlier. In the series' letter column, some young fans indicated uneasiness with this new depiction. In issue #435, Fleisher even introduced a character that shared their concerns, a reporter named Earl Crawford. The series was eventually canceled with scripts written but not yet drawn, but fortunately these remaining chapters were penciled by Aparo and published in the final issue of Wrath of the Spectre, a four-issue miniseries in 1988. But enjoy the story that started it all, the first and probably best of these tales featured below... 





Sunday, February 15, 2015

Italian Cover Artist...Mario Caria

Mario Caria studied at the School of Decorative Arts in Rome, before taking his first steps as an illustrator designing sets for the "Paradiso and Favalli"  film studio. The young artist then drew covers for Polar Books and various movie stills, as well as several posters for the 1960 Olympics Games. In 1962, he worked for the Nerbini comic series "Avventura West" and created his one and only own comic in 1963: "I Fratelli Senza Paura" (“Brothers Without Fear”), a Western story written by Emilio Fanelli. But Caria's best remembered for his work with publisher Fratelli Spada, as their most prolific cover artist. He produced hundreds of covers in the 1960's and 1970's, that appeared not only in Italy, but reprinted around the world. Star Trek, The Phantom, Brick Bradford, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant , and Mandrake, were just a few of the popular characters he painted monthly. Mario was renowned for producing dynamic action scenes by only a simple phone call with an editor, able to capture the exact  image for a cover. With that simple format, he illustrated  around 40 covers per month. Once leaving publisher Fratelli Spada, Mario Caria worked for numerous Italian editors (both in books and comics as well as television magazines) until the early nineties. Outside print, he returned to Dino de Laurentis Studios drawing scenery for the sets. In 1992, an auction sale of his original works - mainly composed of his Fratelli Spada covers - was organized at Christie's offices in Rome, recognizing the value of his outstanding work over his many years as an illustrator.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pulp Covers from the Past!

Pulp magazines (often referred to as "the pulps") are inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 through the 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed with ragged untrimmed edges; in contrast, magazines printed on higher quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages filled with lurid or exploitative stories  and sensational cover art. Pulp covers were printed in color on higher-quality (slick) paper. They were famous for their half-dressed damsels in distress, usually awaiting a rescuing hero. Cover art played a major part in the marketing of pulp magazines. Many artists specialized in creating covers mainly for the pulps; a number of the most successful cover artists became as popular as the authors featured on the interior pages. Among the most famous pulp artists were Walter Baumhofer, Earle K. Bergey, Margaret Brundage, Bruce Minney, Mort Kunstler, Edd Cartier, Virgil Finlay, Frank R. Paul, Norman Saunders, Nick Eggenhofer, (who specialized in Western illustrations), Hugh J. Ward, George Rozen, and Rudolph Belarski. Covers were important enough to sales that sometimes they would be designed first; authors would then be shown the cover art and asked to write a story to match. So enjoy some of these sensational examples from the golden age of pulp fiction.