M O D E R N
M A S T E R S
V O L U M E
F I V E :
Characters TM & ©2005 DC Comics
Edited by Eric Nolen-Weathington
Modern Masters Volume Five:
JOSÉ LUIS GARCÍA-LÓPEZ Table of Contents Introduction by Andrew Helfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Part One: Argentina, Pirates, and Being a Teenaged Pro . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Interlude One: Under the Influence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Part Two: “I Really Felt Very Welcome at DC”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Interlude Two: License to Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 PartPart
Three: From Outer Space to New Orleans and Back . . . . . . . . . 46
Interlude Three: Twilight Gallery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Part Four: Other Worlds and the World Beyond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Part Five: Storytelling and the Creative Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Art Gallery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Argentina, Pirates, and Being a Teenaged Pro with his hands; he’s what you would call an artisan. When he retired, he surprised me with a variety of small sculptures he did—very primitive, or very “naif,” but nevertheless it is art to me.
MODERN MASTERS: Though everyone thinks of you as Argentine, you were actually born in Spain. Where in Spain are you from, and when were you born? JOSÉ LUIS GÁRCIA-LOPÉZ: I was born in 1948 in Pontevedra, which is in the northwestern part of Spain, in Galicia. We lived in a very small, rural town.
MM: Did you have any problems adjusting to life in Argentina? JOSÉ: Not at all. Everyone was an immigrant or a son or grandson of immigrants—from Europe and from neighboring countries, different cultures, even different religions—but everybody get along fine and most importantly, you did not feel like an outsider. The public schools were the great integrators there.
MM: How old were you when your family moved to Argentina? JOSÉ: It was in 1953, so I was about five years old. MM: Why did your family move? Was it for financial reasons?
MM: You were exposed to comics at a very early age. In fact, you even learned to read from comics. Did you have any favorites you would ask for, or did you just look at anything that came your way?
JOSÉ: It was very hard in Spain at that time. In the small villas there was much work, but little prospect towards progress. Because Galicia was the least developed region of the country, a lot of Galicians moved to other parts of the world—this started in the beginning of the 20th century—mainly to South America: Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba.... Argentina was the principal destination— Buenos Aires in particular. Half the population there is of Spanish descent, the other half being Italian.
JOSÉ: Anything, from Donald Duck to Tom & Jerry and all the local funnies. We’re talking about the early years, five to seven years old. Later on, all the adventure strips and books. Yes, I did read Batman and Superman. Time plays tricks with the memory, but I guess I liked Batman more. I was a compulsive reader—I am still. I don’t remember having any favorites, I’d devour all the stuff I could get. I just simply enjoyed reading stories.
MM: What did your parents do for a living? Did either of them have an artistic background?
MM: I read somewhere that you started working professionally in comics at the age of 13. Is that true?
JOSÉ: In Spain they cultivated the land. In Buenos Aires, my father was an official carpenter in a cigarette manufacturing company. My father did and does all kind of things
JOSÉ: There were some small companies in Buenos Aires at that time. They would publish a few issues and then close shop, most of the time owing a bunch of artists money. 6
That’s what happened in my case. I was around 13 and I got a couple of short stories to do. I remember not being paid and giving up on seeing my work in print. Then, a year or so later I discovered one of my stories published in another comic book— it was a western—and that was my first published job. MM: How did you get that first job? Did you have an apprenticeship? JOSÉ: Just being bold and going to companies to show my work. Some places gave me good advice and encouragement and the chance to come back later to show my progress, if any. Others gave me small scripts which I drew, delivered, and never heard about afterwards. Those were the dues you had to pay, but I didn’t complain because I got the chance to practice and get experience. MM: Had you any art instruction in school before working professionally, or were you still strictly self-taught up to that point?
JOSÉ: I was self-taught, I guess. My sister bought me a correspondence art course— Continental School—when I was about ten, but it was all humor stuff. I remember going sometimes to the school offices to deliver the lessons and I would take my “serious” stuff with me. I suppose they realized I liked that better and advised me to show my work to the various companies— and that’s what I did. MM: What was a typical day like for you during those early years of your career? JOSÉ: Well... when I was 14 and making my numerous wanderings trying to break into comics, I got this offer to work at the office of a small comics publisher. I lived in the suburbs with my parents and had a 45minute trip to the city. At the office I did a lot of things, and it was good for me because of the learning involved. At one time it had been a big company, but it had financial trouble and was bought by a person related to the printer. I was, at one point, the only employee, so I did lettering 7
Previous Page: José, the pirate king. A selfportrait. Above: A festive panel from “Roland, el Corsario.”
Roland ™ and ©2005 Editorial Columba.
Above: Panel from “El Doncel.” Right: Pages from “La Profecia” (1969) and “La Devocion de la Cruz.” Next Page: Two splash pages—one from “La Guardia Suiza,” and one from “El Arpa Rota.”
All characters and artwork ™ and ©2005 respective owners
and paste-up, drew some covers, retouched negatives for offset printing, went to the printer, ran errands, etc., and every time I could, I went down to the basement where their comics archive was at my disposal. When I was 16—after learning a lot there—I realized it was not enough, so I went to art school. I went three times a week from 6 pm to 9 pm. Those days I didn’t go home until night, and between 2 pm—the time I left work—and 6 pm, I went to different bars near the school and worked on the scripts I was getting on the side. I remember doing a whole comic—seven pages—in those bars. Sometimes I even inked there. Now... this thing with the bars needs a little explanation. The “café bar” in Argentina was something similar to those in France, Spain, or Italy. If you know those places or have seen European movies, you’ll get the idea. I could spend hours there with a couple of coffees
and a sandwich. So, I was a “regular.” I sat in the bar section, where people played cards and billiards, and there were plenty of characters to do sketches of—I even used them in my stories—they were very good for Western saloon scenes. Everything went fine until the bar owner discovered I was under age. So, I had to move to the “family” section, usually a place for couples—quieter and better for working, but boring. When not working in the bars, I used to go a lot to the movies and to bookstores—used bookstores mainly. One year later, I left the comics publisher for a small advertising company, and because it was near the school, I enjoyed more time in the city. About a year after that, I finished school and left the ad company and started to work freelance for Squiu, a Catholic publisher, where I did a science-fiction story. Then Charlton, through an agent, and later Columba, where I did most of my professional work in Argentina. I did not have to commute at that point; I was working at home, getting up late and working until very late, the day before a deadline not sleeping at all.
For me, it was the most personal style I saw in comics at that age, and I suppose that at some level I can’t remember now, he was a great influence in my beginnings. At least I’m sure he was a great communicator with kids of my age.
Héctor Oesterheld He was not an artist, but a writer and publisher. In the ’50s he put out two or three magazines of comics and he wrote 90% of the stories. They ranged from war, to westerns, science fiction, historical, etc. He also had the best talent available at that time in South America. I read his magazines later on, in the ’60s. They consisted of short stories, six or ten pages long, and had everything you want (I want) in a comic in a few pages: a good tale, well paced, with believable characters and very distinctive art styles. It was pure joy to read them, because the match of text and art were impeccable. 14
cters Marvel Chara and ©2005 ™ d Ki o ng Ri
I was about 12 years old or so when I read short stories reprinted in Argentina from (now I know) Detective Comics, Atlas, Dell, etc. There were several artist I liked: Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, Don Heck, Gil Kane... and one Joe Maneely. His close-ups were very bold, thick lines and spots of blacks, but his backgrounds, even the figures, were rendered with a thin and regular line. (All these comics were printed in black-andwhite.) I never again saw his work, and because I was very young I’m not able to figure out why I liked his work so much, but at that time I copied his style and even his panels in a short comic I did.
Roland el Corsario ™ and ©2005 Editorial Columba.
When I was about 14, I got a job in a small comics company. Now, it was small then, but it was a big and powerful company in better times, and they had in their basement an immense archive, with every magazine they had ever published from their beginnings in the first decades of the 20th century. They published domestic and foreign material— mainly strips from KFS, UFS, Tribune, and so on. They still had the original lithos. These were two or three strips pasted up on a board proportional in size to a comic or magazine, with new translated copy on it. There were hundreds, thousands of them, almost in no order, and I was in the middle of this treasure. I had the history of the comic strips at my feet, from Bringing up Father, Jungle Jim, Terry and the Pirates, Prince Valiant, Big Ben Bolt, Mark Trail, Brick Bradford, Dick Tracy, etc., etc.... you name it. There were also works from unknown artists (to me) from England, Italy, Spain, France.... At that time I did not analyze comics, I just devoured them.
Under the Influence
“I Really Felt Very Welcome at DC”
MM: What made you decide to move to the United States?
here, and besides—and most importantly—I didn’t have a deadline to finish this job by.
JOSÉ: The movies, the TV series, the comic strips, the music, and all the social and cultural changes going on at that time, first in places like New York, and then influencing the rest of the world. But then, I grew up with a large amount of American culture, so it was almost natural to decide to come here.
MM: Luis Dominguez introduced you to DC and Western when you arrived. Did you know Luis beforehand? JOSÉ: Only his work. I first met him in New York, the same day he brought me to Western, DC, and Marvel. MM: How did you get in touch with Luis?
MM: When did you make the move?
JOSÉ: When I arrived here, I had with me a couple of phone numbers. One was for Luis Dominguez and the other was for the cartoonist Arnaldo Franchioni, “Francho,” who used to work for Mad magazine among others. I didn’t know them personally, but I got their phone numbers from people I knew in Argentina. I thought it would be good to have someone to call if I had problems. The first person I called was Franchioni, because I was staying in a hotel and basically I wanted to find out if there was an apartment for rent in the area. Five days later, I rented an apartment near Times Square in the area that was known at the time as “Hell’s Kitchen.” After I got the apartment I started looking for work. I had the address for National Publications— or DC—which I got from the old comics I had in Argentina. The address led me to 3rd Avenue, but when I got there I was told they had moved to 75 Rockefeller Center. So I went there, but I couldn’t find their office. I didn’t know that Rockefeller was a complex of buildings—it was very difficult for me. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find DC. Then I called Luis Dominguez, and I told him that I was trying to get to DC to show my samples and to
JOSÉ: At the end of 1974. MM: Did you have work lined up before you moved— perhaps with Charlton—or were you just hoping things would work out for the best? JOSÉ: No, I didn’t make any contact ahead of time. I just trusted my luck. MM: How long did it take for you to adjust to your new environment? Was there any culture shock? JOSÉ: It didn’t take long. I don’t honestly remember having to adjust. If I ever experienced a culture shock, it was gradual and not a problem. Remember that globalization is not a new thing, so I was ready for New York. MM: Was there ever any time when you thought about moving back to Argentina? JOSÉ: No. MM: Did you continue to work for Columba or any of the other Argentine publishers after you moved to the US, or would that have been too difficult? JOSÉ: In the ’80s I did a mini-series for Columba. At that particular time, their rates were superior to those 20
look for work, but I couldn’t find the office. My English was so limited that I couldn’t understand the directions I had been given. Dominguez told me that that was the day he was going to the city. He had to go to Western, to DC, and to Marvel. We met up at Western Publishing on 5th Avenue. He took me into their office and they gave me a script. He introduced me to the people at DC and I got a job to ink over Curt Swan. After that he asked me if I wanted to be introduced at Marvel, and I said, “No, please, I have enough.” [laughter] I didn’t know Luis Dominguez. I was familiar with his work—I even copied some of his work when I was a kid. He was a wonderful person who helped me in so many ways, especially by introducing me to the manners and customs of the city: what to eat, what not to eat, where I should work, where I shouldn’t work. At that time in the ’70s the neighborhood near Times Square wasn't as nice as it is now. [laughter] MM: Who did you talk with at Western?
JOSÉ: I met two people. One was Wallace Green, who was editor-in-chief of that department of Western. The other was an editor whose name I cannot remember. He had a moustache and thick glasses. It’s a pity I forget his name, he was very kind to me. Later on when I went to Western I tried to go at the same time Luis would go, so he could help me with the language problem. I didn’t dare to take the subway—I thought I would get lost. What I did was walk from 9th Avenue and 45th Street to 3rd Avenue. I thought it would be a short walk, but it actually was a long walk. The blocks in Manhattan are very long, and I would always forget about the other avenues I had to cross along the way, like Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue. So I usually was a little late. The editor asked Luis if I was reliable, because I was always late. [laughter] MM: What did you have in your portfolio? Did you have your work from Argentina or your Charlton work? 21
Left: From mildmannered Clark Kent to Superman, the Man of Steel. DC style guide art from 1998. Above: Pages from the Eternity Watch mini-series, published by Columba in the ’80s. This series is the only work José has done for an Argentine publisher since his move to the US in the early ’70s. Superman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. Eternity Watch ™ and ©2005 Editorial Columba.
Above: These Big Ben Bolt samples didn’t win José a newspaper strip, but they did help him get work from DC. Next Page: During his early days at DC, José was often paired with Filipino artist Ernie Chan. Here José inks Chan’s pencils for the cover of Flash #238. Inks Flash ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. Big Ben Bolt ™ and ©2005 King Features Syndicate, Inc.
JOSÉ: Basically what I brought from Argentina were the historical stories, the book adaptations, things like that. MM: So you took the actual printed copies of your work. You didn’t have samples of your inks or samples of your pencils? JOSÉ: No, no, I didn’t bring any pencils. I did do a few things especially for my portfolio. I did three sample strips of Big Ben Bolt, because I was aware that they were looking for someone to replace John Cullen Murphy, who at that time was taking over Prince Valiant. The people at Columba had told me about it, and I went and tried my luck at King Features. [laughs] 22
Back in Argentina, we felt that syndicated newspaper strips were more important than comics. We knew all the syndicated characters there, so for us the comic book characters were secondary. I also did two to four pages of continuity—something with gangsters or spies, I think—just to have an example of my work. But I guess the most important thing for the editors was to see what I already had published. It was a good amount of work, and I suppose they liked it. MM: Who did you talk with at DC? Most of your first work for DC was for Julie Schwartz, so I assume you talked with him that first day.
Right: “The Music of Minox”—a six-page story published in Starstream #1 in 1976—was José’s only job for Whitman. Below: Detail from the splash page of Hercules Unbound #2. Next Page: Page one, page four, and a detail, all from “Mister Mxyzptlk’s Circus Caper.” This story had actually been written off before being pulled out of inventory to be published as a back-up in Superman #351 in 1980. Of course, the credits had to be updated, as Denny O’Neil had long since stopped using his Sergius O’Shaugnessy moniker.
Hercules Unbound, Mxyzptlk, Superman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. The Music of Minox ™ and ©2005 respective owner.
I only remember a few of the regular books I did at that time. There was “Jonah Hex” and Hercules Unbound. But everything else, I would start something, and the deadlines would catch up to me and they would give me something else. MM: Like the “Hawkman” back-up stories in Detective. JOSÉ: Yeah, I remember those. MM: Did you like “Hawkman” a little more than— JOSÉ: No. [laughter] MM: You didn’t enjoy “Hawkman”? JOSÉ: No. MM: What about it did you not like? JOSÉ: I don’t know. I was having a hard time with super-heroes. It wasn’t what I liked to draw. I was okay doing westerns; I was okay doing Hercules Unbound. I was okay, I guess, even doing Superman, but other characters... I just didn’t have the feel for them. MM: What made Hercules Unbound more enjoyable for you? JOSÉ: I guess, it was because I had the chance to create something. I could do
things with those characters that I could not do with the established characters. At that time, I did several Superman stories and covers also. Superman was sacred; you had to kneel before the character and do him in a certain way. That was very hard for me. When I had the chance to create something myself, I felt a sense of freedom. MM: How did the book come about? Did they approach you with the idea of a new book, or did you ask for something new? JOSÉ: They offered it to me. I don’t remember asking for any specific job. Everything I’ve done is because they felt that I was able to do it. MM: So you designed the Hercules character? JOSÉ: Yes.
MM: Did you do a lot of sketches of different costumes, or did you know what you wanted from the start?
Jack Kirby, so I thought you might have seen that. JOSÉ: A lot of very good artists I came to know better once I was here in America. I might have heard their names in Argentina, but I never had a chance to see their stuff.
JOSÉ: It was a very simple costume. I don’t think we spent too much time on it. MM: Was the approval process fairly easy?
MM: What did you think of Wood’s inks over your pencils? He tended to make everyone’s pencils look like Wally Wood, and he did that to some degree with you, as well.
JOSÉ: Yeah, it wasn’t a big deal. Later on with other characters, it was different. For instance, Atari Force took a long time and had to go through a lot of people before we were given a go-ahead. But in this case it went pretty fast. I did two, three, four sketches of the character and gave them the chance to choose one. It was the same process I went through with the covers.
JOSÉ: The only thing I regret about it was to not have the Wally Wood from a few years earlier. To be honest, Wallace Wood was a great artist, and great artists can be very good inkers and improve another penciler’s work, but I don’t think Wally Wood at that time was at his best. It was an honest job, but for my
MM: On Hercules Unbound you worked with Wally Wood. Were you familiar with his work before you came to America? JOSÉ: No, I became familiar with his work here. Remember, in Argentina we knew a lot about the comic strips. MM: Well, he had worked in comic strips. He inked the Sky Masters strip over
Below: Batman #321 cover art.
Alfred, Batman, Jim Gordon, Joker, Robin ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
MM: When you were working on the “Deadman” stories for Adventure Comics, did you look back at what Neal Adams had done earlier for visual cues?
comfortable with that approach. My point of departure for drawing Deadman, Superman, and Batman, started from Neal Adams.
JOSÉ: I modeled the character on what Neal Adams did. The same thing happened with Superman, because I felt more
MM: Deadman is an observer during a large part of his stories. Was it challenging to find ways to make him an active part of the story when he was just hovering above the scene? JOSÉ: No, because when there was something happening with the other characters, I could show Deadman’s reaction to that. I don’t remember having any specific problems.
Interlude 2: Below: Back cover of Jose’s first foray into licensing art—a 1978 brochure used to sell DC promotional comics to restaurants, utility companies, etc. Inks by Dick Giordano. Next Page: Pencil art for 1980’s (DC’s first) style guide. All characters ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
MM: How did you get involved in doing style guides and art for the licensing department? JOSÉ: Well, again, everything was decided by others, not by me. I left New York at the end of the ’70s—1979 or 1980. I lived for a year to a year-and-a-half in Miami. While I was there I did several stories, including Batman vs. the Hulk, a DC Comics Presents with Robin [#31]. And I’m not sure, but I think it was just before the Star Raiders graphic novel, I got a call from Joe Orlando. Joe Orlando was interested in getting me back to New York. They
License to Style
brought me to New York for about a weekand-a-half and told me about the project they had in mind. Warner already had style guides done for animation—the Looney Tune characters. The idea was to do something similar for the characters at DC. They wanted something that would unify the DC character line so that no matter who was drawing them, the characters would still look they belonged in the same world. I remember we had a meeting with an executive from Warner, and we had a supervisor from Warner, also. I went back to Miami Beach and started working on it.
Part 3: This Page and Next: Color character designs for the Star Raiders graphic novel.
Star Raiders ™ and ©2005 Atari, Inc.
From Outer Space to New Orleans and Back
MM: Star Raiders was the first graphic novel published by DC, and the first time you colored your work for an American publisher. Did you use colored pencils for the figure work and then go in with watercolors? JOSÉ: When I first started, I didn’t have a clue how to do it, really. I did color at art school, but the coloring we did at Columba were only guides for the printer. You would put a sheet of paper over the original, and with color pencils you would show what colors you wanted. Most of the
time the printer would use some other colors or the wrong intensity of the colors. [laughs] In this case, it was direct color, and the first 20 pages I was just figuring out what to do. After those pages I knew more or less what I wanted and how to get the results I was looking for. I’m really happy with the drawings, but I’m not happy with the coloring. If I had to color again, I would prepare myself better beforehand. But, you know, it was something they put in front of me. I told Joe Orlando I had never done coloring, and gave him every reason I could think of
why I shouldn’t do it. I told Andy Helfer, too. I met Andy over the phone at that time. MM: He was a special projects editor then. JOSÉ: Yes. But they convinced me. Joe told me, “No, you can do it. Go ahead, I trust you.” And so I did the job. MM: That says a lot about their faith in you that they would give you a job doing something you’d never done before. JOSÉ: What happened was it wasn’t originally meant to be a graphic novel. First of all, this was related to Atari and their video games; they had a game called Star Raiders. The idea was to do comic book stories with painted art that were related to the games. There was a list of four to six projects they were going to do at the same time. I remember Ernie Colón was doing one, which later on was published as a graphic novel, also. Atari was supposed to publish the stories in a magazine with two or three stories, 20 pages each, in each issue. While all this was getting started, I don’t know what happened, but DC decided to publish the stories themselves, only as graphic novels, and they chose the one I was doing to be the first one.
just drawing the story. Then they called and told me they were going to publish it as graphic novel and they were going to have to change part of the story and the ending. MM: Did you have to change anything in what you had already finished? JOSÉ: No, I had only done about 20 pages, and the changes they had to make were later in the story. At that point I only had the script for the first chapter, which was 20 pages—I didn’t know how the story was going to end yet. MM: How did you prepare for the job? Did you do a lot of preliminary work since you were coloring the book, too?
MM: So it was originally intended to be serialized in a magazine—something similar to Heavy Metal?
JOSÉ: Yes, I did a lot of warm-up drawing, especially with the coloring. But before that, we created the characters, and because it was in the beginning solely an Atari property, they had to approve everything. We had to pay special attention to the design of the characters—we worked closely with Andy Helfer on that. He provided me with ideas, suggestions, photostats, to help me understand the look that they wanted. Then I did several color sketches and eventually we agreed on the look for the two central characters. I got photostats of the Hukkas;
JOSÉ: Yeah, something like that. MM: Had you already started work on the story before they switched formats? JOSÉ: Most of the book I did while I was in Miami Beach, so I wasn’t aware of a lot of what was happening—I was 47
the proper preparation. I was learning on the job. MM: Did you start on Atari Force right after finishing Star Raiders? JOSÉ: I think so. MM: You had to go through the approval process all over again, right? JOSÉ: Oh, yeah. By that time I was back in New York, so I went to the office every week and was more aware of what was happening than I was while living in Florida. But, yes, for Atari Force I did a lot of sketches, and those sketches were revised by everybody, from the editor to the writer to the publisher. We spent several days working on this—meetings with Andy Helfer and Gerry Conway. MM: Was it your idea for Professor Venture to always be smoking a cigar? JOSÉ: I think that was my idea. [laughs] You know what? When you aren’t sure what to do with a character’s hands, it’s always nice to put something in their hands. At that time it was still okay to show someone smoking a cigar. But I think it was my idea. I don’t think Gerry was smoking then. [laughter] MM: I think it also added to her personality. She didn’t get a lot of face time, but when she’s there she really stands out. Did you have a favorite character in the series?
they were already created by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano for the mini-comics. MM: So the Atari Force mini-comics had already been done before you started Star Raiders?
JOSÉ: Morphea and Dart. Tempest to a lesser degree. Babe was fun to do as well—and Pakrat.
JOSÉ: Yeah. In Atari Force I had to use Martin Champion and the spaceship from the mini-comics. MM: You used a couple of the other characters, too, but they were only around in a few panels. Looking back, did you enjoy the coloring process? Would you like to try it again sometime? JOSÉ: Yeah, I enjoyed it. I worked twelve hours a day on that story, with the help of my wife, but I was into the job and the story and the characters. I really enjoyed it. It was hard work, but it was something new for me— something I had never done before. I remember reading a comment from Bill Sienkiewicz about the coloring—and he was right—“too many colors.” [laughter] But, you know, I was trying to find my way, and it was difficult from one day to the next without time for
MM: What was it about those particular characters that made them favorites? JOSÉ: I guess that the characters I enjoyed most were Morphea and Babe. I don’t know why, because I usually feel more comfortable 48
Right: A page from José’s six-page chapter in 1988’s Wonder Woman Annual #1. Below: Preliminary design of Twilight’s Tommy Tomorrow. Next Page: More preliminary design work for the Twilight mini-series— Tommy and Ilda.
Ilda, Tommy Tomorrow, Wonder Woman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
JOSÉ: Well, I suppose I was able to approach it in terms of the story only. When I’m doing something and I’m into it—not only Cinder & Ashe, but certain drawings or sequences—I get tense. I am acting what I am drawing. That’s a good sign, because it means the writer is doing his job. When you work with this type of comic, where the emotions are more important than the actions, then you try to reflect that in the drawing. I don’t know if I explained it well, but that’s the general idea. MM: Was there ever talk of doing a sequel? JOSÉ: I would like to do one, but it doesn’t look like DC is interested. They did try at one time to sell it as a TV series, but they were unsuccessful. MM: You did a sixpage story for the first Wonder Woman Annual that also relied heavily on emotion. JOSÉ: It was scripted by George Pérez? MM: Yes. JOSÉ: And the editor was Karen Berger. I remember that story, but I don’t remember the storyline. It was my first and only chance to work with Karen Berger. But even though I didn’t work directly with George Pérez on Teen Titans, I was looking at what he was doing. It was a nice job, I guess. I did almost all the inking with a brush. 58
MM: Did you design all the characters for Twilight, or did Howard Chaykin do some of them? Because a few of them have a somewhat Chaykin look to them, particularly the women. JOSÉ: No, I did the designs. What Chaykin did, as usual, were very rough panel layouts—showing that he would like six panels or three panels or whatever—and that’s all. You know what? Some people have asked me if I was influenced by Howard Chaykin on that job, and I tell them no. Actually I was influenced by Chaykin—by American Flagg— when I did Atari Force, but not with Twilight. But when he’s writing, he uses a lot of text. Just for one panel he might have five or seven balloons, for instance. You have to establish where to put those balloons, and sometimes it’s useful to add inserts.
All Characters ™ and ©2005 DC Comics
In preparation for his work on Twilight, José spent over two weeks sketching and designing the characters and their world. The following is a sampling of those drawings:
Part 4: MM: For the next few years you worked mostly on the Elseworlds books. Between the historical settings and the finite lengths of the stories, the Elseworlds line really seemed to be tailor-made for you.
Other Worlds and the World Beyond freedom even though it was written full script? JOSÉ: Yeah. You know, I take a lot of liberties when the writer is not clear; when that happens I try
JOSÉ: They certainly kept me busy with those. [laughter] Again, for me it’s easier to work on books that don’t have a deadline. And I liked the storylines. They were more interesting to me than the regular Superman and Batman characters—they were different. MM: The first one you did was Superman: Kal, which was set in the Middle Ages. I guess this gave you another opportunity to pull out your old reference files. JOSÉ: Oh, yeah, sure. MM: What did you use for the painting on the cover? Is that a watercolor? JOSÉ: I used the same tools I used when I worked on Star Raiders, but I was a little more confident by that time. They didn’t use it for the whole cover. MM: It only took up a quarter of the page and ended up being just an element of the cover. JOSÉ: Yeah. I like it. After Star Raiders I didn’t do any coloring until this cover and a cover for The Spectre. It was a nice to do it for a change. MM: How was your working relationship with Dave Gibbons? JOSÉ: Oh, terrific. Because if I were to write, I would probably write in the same way he did. We were on the same wavelength. It was a full script, but only with the obvious indications. MM: So you still had a little 67
Below: Page 19 of Superman: Kal. Superman and all related characters ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
Right: Superman: Kal, page 18. Below: José’s character design for Access, the reality-hopping centerpiece of the Amalgam storyline. Next Page (Clockwise): The cover to Doctor Strangefate #1 — inks by Kevin Nowlan. Before and after—Jose’s pencils and Kevin’s inks. And penciled pages introducing the cast of characters.
Superman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. Access, Dr. Strangefate and all related characters ™ and ©2005 DC Comics and Marvel Characters, Inc.
to make things clear for myself. Sometimes the writer leaves it for you to decide how to do things, and sometimes they are so clear that you don’t have to worry about anything—the moment you read the script the images immediately come to you. In this case—as with most of stories I worked on—I was lucky with the writer. I’ve never gotten into an argument with a writer. [laughter] MM: After Superman: Kal, you penciled a book that wasn’t an Elseworlds, but might as well have been. I’m talking about Doctor Strangefate, which was one of the Amalgam crossovers between DC and Marvel. I assume you designed the characters for that story. Did you have to get approval from Marvel and DC, or just DC since they were handling the editorial on that particular title? JOSÉ: First I did a couple of sketches of a character they needed for another story. Then I did the characters for Strangefate and sent them the sketches, and they chose the ones they liked. Then I just did the story. There were no problems. MM: Was that the first time you were inked by Kevin Nowlan? JOSÉ: I think so. They told me, “...and we’ve got Kevin Nowlan to do the inking,” and I said, “Great!” [laughter] MM: He actually changed a couple of things in the inking. Did that bother you at all? JOSÉ: Really? I’ll have to take another look. MM: There’s one panel where the White Witch is looking up at Strangefate seductively and you had her head tilted, but Kevin drew it as straight upright. JOSÉ: I didn’t know that. MM: I hope I didn’t get Kevin in trouble. [laughter] JOSÉ: What I notice is when the inker is doing something that doesn’t work. If I draw something that feels right to me, then there is no reason to make a change. But if the inker makes a 68
Below: José’s exquisite recreation of a classic Murphy Anderson cover done for the Julie Schwartz tribute book, DC Comics Presents Hawkman Hawkman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
JOSÉ: I don’t know how to compare them, and besides I don’t like to do that. [laughter] The last Deadman I did is, of course, more fresh in my memory. It was a pleasant experience; it wasn’t better or worse than working with Andy or with Len Wein. With Len, they were self-contained short stories. When
I did the mini-series with Andy Helfer, it was a different thing, telling a larger story. With Len, we already knew the character and Len could just tell the stories. Andy was developing and changing aspects of the character, and there was more conscious work involved. The two-part story with Steve Vance was more like the self-contained stories— there was no real development of the character there, just the story. MM: It was a detective story, in a similar vein to Len’s stories, just with more room for character interaction. Plus, you were able to spend two issues drawing a beautiful girl in her underwear. [laughs] JOSÉ: Yeah! [laughter] MM: Just a couple of years ago you revisited Hawkman with a fill-in issue. Did you like him a little more this time around since you didn’t have to draw him in costume? JOSÉ: Yeah, yeah. [laughter] And in the only shot of Hawkman in his costume that I drew, I took off his mask. [laughter] I don’t remember that it called for that in the script, but I took the mask off anyway. [laughter] It’s a difficult mask, really. I guess you have to spend time drawing the character in order to develop a way to do it. Just doing the character here and there is difficult.
MM: What’s your typical work day like? Do you have a set time period in which you work, or does your schedule tend to change depending on what you are working on?
JOSÉ: When I can, I try to do most of my work in the mornings—at least the hard work of inking, layouts, and things like that. [laughter] I spend a few more hours working in the afternoon, and depending on the deadlines, I might work one more hour in the evening. But, really, I don’t have too much discipline—but don’t tell my editors. [laughter] I mean, there are so many things that need to be done besides the work. MM: Well, sure. You can’t sit at your drawing board 24 hours a day. There are normal, everyday life things that have to be done. JOSÉ: Some weeks you can put a lot of hours into work, and some weeks you have other important things to do and you spend less time working. So I don’t have a strict schedule. Some days I work six hours, some days I work eight hours, some day I only work four hours—it depends. MM: What are the tools you normally use? Is there a certain density of pencil you prefer? JOSÉ: It depends on the weather. [laughs] Because if the weather is a little humid I use
Storytelling and the Creative Process a softer lead, and if it’s too dry I use a slightly harder lead. Really, to do penciling you don’t need to much—just the pencil and the eraser. [laughter] For the inking, I can’t really say, because I don’t do too much. Whenever I get a chance to ink, I have to cover two or three pages to refamiliarize myself with the pens and brushes, and to decide on what I’m going to use. And it depends on the density of the ink, the kind of paper I’m using—things like that. It’s not something I’m doing every day, so it’s a little hard to say what I use. I might use one thing today and something else tomorrow—I never know.
Below: Concept sketch for Batman Returns. Batman ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
in black-&-white again, but you didn’t do the full art so you weren’t able to take full advantage of the chance to experiment again. Even though you only penciled the first and third books, did you try to approach the job with that same mindset? MM: You also had to take into consideration the print size of the book, since it was printed as a digest book. Did it throw your timing off at all doing only three or four panels per page? Was there an adjustment you had to make in terms of pacing?
I enjoyed the job. My problem is I don’t ink often enough, so I don’t have a lot of trust in myself when I do ink. With a short story that’s more of a handicap, because with a full story you can start inking in the middle of the story and do a little here and a little there so that by the time you get your confidence back it....
JOSÉ: No, it was actually easier. Well, it was easier, but at the same time it meant more effort, more work on my part as an artist. When you do a regular comic book page, perhaps you can do a large panel and then two, three, four smaller, perhaps less important panels—some insert panels, some close-ups. You can spend more time and effort on the large panel and then balance that with less time and work spent on the small panels. Perhaps if you don’t have much action or movement going on in a page, you can try to lay out the page in a way that at least conveys a sense of movement. In the case of
MM: You get a more consistent look. JOSÉ: Yeah, it’s more consistent looking than with a short story. MM: With On the Road to Perdition you worked 79
Previous Page and Left: José liked the textured look he used in the backgrounds of these Batman Returns concept sketches, so used it again in his “Batman Black and White” story. Below: Pages 20 and 21 of On the Road to Perdition: Oasis. Since the print size of the book was 5 1/2" x 8", José drew two pages on each board. Batman, Catwoman, Green Lantern ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. On the Road to Perdition script ©2005 Max Allan Collins. On the Road to Perdition artwork ©2003 DC Comics.
On the Road to Perdition, you have two or three panels, and that’s it. You have to tell the story in those panels, and you can’t really play with the layouts. If you go to the cinema or watch TV, everything takes place within the same sized frame. It’s the same thing with this type of comic: everything is happening within more or less the same sized panels. You can’t pull one image out to focus on like you can in a normal comic book. MM: You’ve talked about your layouts being conservative, but I see them as often being quite dynamic. JOSÉ: If you compare me to some other artists, I am very conservative. I don’t think I’m very good at exaggeration, which puts me at a disadvantage when drawing comic books. I try my best to be dynamic, but it doesn’t always come naturally to me. MM: Do you think that maybe that comes from being heavily influenced by the newspaper strips early on? JOSÉ: Perhaps. The super-hero is a different thing. You have to learn different tricks in order to do them. I’ve been trying to learn those tricks from the time I arrived here. MM: How would you say your style has changed over the years? Have you ever made conscious changes in your approach? JOSÉ: I don’t remember ever making changes in a conscious way. I would say any changes in my art are the result of a natural evolution. Maybe in certain stories I would 81
Previous Page: Layouts and pencils for On the Road to Perdition: Detour, pages 18 and 40. The layouts are actually quite colorful, as José will go over the pencil roughs with colored pencils to pick out which lines he wants to use. Left: On the Road to Perdition: Detour, page 70. Above: While José may not think he’s good at exaggeration, he uses it to great effect in this Batman and Robin action pose from the 2000 DC style guide. Batman, Robin ™ and ©2005 DC Comics. On the Road to Perdition script ©2005 Max Allan Collins. On the Road to Perdition artwork ©2003 DC Comics.
All characters ™ and ©2005 DC Comics.
Elvira, Mistress of the Night ™ and ©2005 Queen B Productions. Artwork ©2005 DC Comics.
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José Luis García-López
This volume of the Modern Masters series looks at the life and work of José Luis García-López. Ask any comic book artist who the best draftsman in the business is, and you’ll come up with one answer: García-López. A master of anatomy, of composition, and of storytelling, he not only astounds his readers, but his peers as well. He is also one of the most visible artists in the industry, as his illustrations can be seen on toy packaging, in DC’s “Got Milk?” advertisements, and even on jars of peanut butter. But it’s his work on DC’s “Big Three”—Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman—that earned José Luis GarcíaLópez the title of Modern Master. Modern Masters Volume 5: José Luis García-López is composed of an extensive, career-spanning interview lavishly illustrated with rare and unpublished art, as well as a large sketchbook section. (120-page trade paperback with COLOR) $14.95 (Digital Edition) $5.95 http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_70&products_id=308
Published on Feb 20, 2014
The latest volume of the Modern Masters series looks at the life and work of one of today’s top comic-book artists, José Luis García-López....