Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Spaniard in the Works (part 6)

When we argue about the naming of a thing or a person, what we're really talking about is our releationship to it. The same person can be 'mother' and 'daughter' to different people, or 'friend' and 'enemy'. It all depends where you're standing.

A new book that came out six months ago from Artist Paco Roca, El invierno del dibujante, (The winter of the cartoonist) is a world class piece of work. I only say it that way because his other major works appeared first in France but he chose to launch this one in Spain. This is not an oddity these days. All of my own books are published in countries other than the one I live in. And in the past the Spanish artist has often had to look abroad for his bread and butter. I was enjoying the work of Spanish comics artists long before I ever knew it. Accomplished draftsmen in formidable quantities were filling up the pages of English comics weeklies when I was a kid, beginning with Jesus Blasco drawing The Steel Claw in 1962. Their names and details still remain largely a mystery to me. Blasco's wikipedia entry ends with: "His work is relatively unknown in the United States, with his main exposure being three appearances in Warren Publishing's Creepy, which were all miscredited to other artists."

There's a great blog here by Manuel Deskartes devoted to showing the work of all those hard working guys of whom so little is known. In Deskartes archives I found a page of Stingray by Sebastian Boada that I could well have enjoyed as the title was a favourite of mine in the early 1960s. I'm sure there would have been an economic element in this favouring of Spanish talent, a way of doing things more cheaply, because I know publishers too well. But that's not to diminish the level of that talent. And there's a whole world of facts and details here that I would be happy to learn about. This is where Manuel Barrero could tell me a thing or two thousand.

But whereas in the 1960s the artist became an anonymous cog in another country's machine, Paco travels as an author. He gives interviews and talks about his themes and ideas. Entrecomics transcribed the dialogue from a Panel on the graphic novel at the Spanish convention Getxo and posted it on Dec 22 2010. Here Paco explained that for him the idea of the graphic novel was about freedom, from format, from genre, from continuing characters. It's a new era of comics, he said, in which the subject can be anything. Seeing it as a 'liberation' may be a particularly Spanish angle on la novela gráfica, but he is obviously talking about the same thing as I am.

He's also talking about it in his book. It is set in 1957 and is about a coterie of cartoonists, persons who actually lived and whose work Paco grew up reading. They attempt to extricate themselves from the oppression of an industrial system that was crushing the potential of their work. It's set in the time of Franco's regime and there is undoubtedly a lot happening on different levels. I don't yet have this prize winning book to discuss in detail, having read it under hurried circumstances while in Spain, but It fits with a few points I want to make.

I love Roca's sense of place and time. The whole story is here. The city, the grey atmosphere of winter, the little boy looking longingly at the comics hanging from the rack at the kiosk. Ahead of the men is the optimistic note of the two cheerful girls at far left, behind them the alert authority of a police officer.


If this impeccably composed wraparound cover was all that existed of this project, it would already be a masterpiece in my mind.


I think this is a promotional poster of the same ensemble from a different angle.


And until some publisher does us the favour of an English language version, I'm presuming that kid in the background is being scolded because he won't get his nose out of the comic so he doesn't walk into the traffic. (if there is more to it I'm sure someone will shortly inform me)




And here is the editor, censoring with his red pen.



Roca's book is an intelligent and well wrought 'novela gráfica', but in my enjoyment of the vividness of his pictures just now, I find myself thinking about one of the problems of the graphic novel environment. With the increasing recognition of the form as a literature, with its official entrance into 'Literary Studies', we have seen a critical tendency to talk about the books more exclusively in terms of their structure and intelligence as narrative texts, as 'reading' (or at the lowest level just as a story). I often see valuable things being overlooked. Do our critical writers still enjoy pictures for their own sake as they certainly did in the old days I spoke about at the top? Then they could recognise one artist from another and mentally separate them from the childish nonsense these artists usually had to work with. I'm not saying we should all traipse back there, just that we should think for a moment about that and whatever else may have been traded away.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Daren White said...

I like the Cinzano ad on the bus.

5 July 2011 8:11:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Loris Z. said...

Eddie,

I so want to get my hands on this book... I missed my chance to buy it in the Buenos Aires book fair, because I had spent all my remaining money on a book by José Muñoz. Thing is, the few copies that arrive here in Buenos Aires literally fly away. The guy I buy books from (he doesn't have a proper store, just an office) misordered a copy in Catalán, I'm seriously thinking on buying that copy from him...

As for the page you mention, the mother is scolding him because after all she does for him, if he ends up being less than a minister... (second panel) but he's so "cazurro" (clumsy, dumb) she's not seeing it happening.

In the second page she's telling him that they'll get late for school, and she says that she's going to go to heaven for this (raising him). The kid promises her to study a lot.

The "liberation" angle is something that I believe is shared also here in south america. I'm not saying latin america because I'm not really followingon what's happening in Mexico, but I can totally vouch for that feeling/sense being shared from Argentina to Colombia, Venezuela and everywhere in between.

Cheers,

--Loris

5 July 2011 8:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The kid is an homage to Toni Guiral, sometimes editor and publisher and expert in the comics of the time. He helped Paco Roca with the documentation and Paco gallantly made him this homage... though Toni hadn't been born yet!

6 July 2011 12:40:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Destabbio said...

Here you can see a part of italian edition of L'inverno del disegnatore di Paco Roca

6 July 2011 2:12:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Octavio B. (señor punch) said...

Hi Ed, a pleasure, reading all theese posts. By the way, I believe the "surrealistic comments" you mentioned in some moment are mine. Not sure, but... funny description anyway;)

And Roca deserves an English translation, yes. A great 'tebeo' and a love letter to our classic authors

6 July 2011 4:50:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Octavio B. (señor punch) said...

inglés, buf, cansa (so tired...) :D

6 July 2011 4:50:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Loris, thanks for sharing the information.
Anonymoua and Destabbio too.

and Octavio.. yes I noticed you were a participant in all those bun-fights.

now it's all gone quiet.

6 July 2011 5:03:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Octavio B. (señor punch) said...

better yep, peace, and...ideas, of course!!!

6 July 2011 5:09:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Eddie,

I feel under qualified to join in the current debate, but this Paco book looks great. I'll have to get it in Italian (I can get by in Italian) if an English version isn't available soon.

Off-topic, but because it's sure to be of interest (or infuriation) due to the final line, I post this notice from another webiste about a comics show on BBC Scotland next week:

ScotWatch: Next Monday at 10pm on BBC Two Scotland only (accessible through Sky.FreeSat/iPlayer to the rest of the UK), Artworks Scotland.

Scottish writers Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and Alan Grant are three of the biggest names in the world of comics. Between them they have created adventures for Batman, Superman, Judge Dredd and The X Men, and the plots of films such as Wanted and Kick Ass. ArtWorks Scotland tells the story of how Scots took over these American icons and also uncovers the world’s first comic strip in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

6 July 2011 5:59:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was me, Ben Smith, failing to sign off there.

6 July 2011 6:00:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Santiago García said...

Paco Roca is one of the finest artists working on contemporary comics here in Spain. I would go so far as to say that he's right now the "face" of the graphic novel in our country, after having sold more than 30.000 copies of "Arrugas".

What's beautiful about "El invierno del dibujante" is that it bridges the gap between our traditional (and long lost) "tebeos" and the graphic novel of our days, proving once again that the graphic novel is not outside of the realm of traditional comics. To the contrary, I would say that the contemporary graphic novel is the movement that is doing more in order to reclaim the history of comics, which the industry (the same industry that enslaved the characters in this comic) always forgot.

I hope you can read this book in English soon.

Or at least browse it at lenght in Spanish :)

6 July 2011 6:09:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Ben, I was hoping you'd turn up before long. It's been a bit loony here of late.

And them bloody scots are getting in everywhere.

6 July 2011 7:45:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

I'll have to see if my favourite comic shop in Rome (L'Aventure) has it in Italian (it's a French comic shop mostly).

6 July 2011 2:00:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

The subject reminds me a little (only a little as there is no political context) Jiro Taniguchi's "A Zoo in Winter".

6 July 2011 2:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Santiago García said...

spacedlaw: Yes, it's a comic about comics, like "A Zoo in Winter" or Tatsumi's "A Drifting Life", but it's completely different in tone and intention.

Here in Spain we've got another great comic about comics: Carlos Giménez's "Los Profesionales", which chronicles the history of the Spanish artists who worked for international agencies based in Barcelona during the Sixties and Seventies. People like Pepe González (Vampirella), Jordi Longarón and many others who did a lot of work for Fleetway, Warren and others.

6 July 2011 2:33:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger David Jack said...

I loved the read of "Arrugas" and I was really impressed with the craft of "El Invierno del Dibujante" as even where Paco is obviously copying pictures for some locations, the feel still being of life and interpretation rather than copy. Same goes with the body languages and conversations over meals, bars and so, they are a beauty without the feeling of "dvd-pausa-and-copy" but well crafted, beautifully created with understanding of the characters, mottos and so.

Paco Roca is amazing.

Do you know about Marcos Martin? he works for Marvel: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lngdzp6z2a1qznfri.jpg
Is hard to believe that something like this (in terms of story telling) is published in Mainstream comics.

David

6 July 2011 6:38:00 pm GMT-5  

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