hen 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.
Labels: Spanish comics, The Spaniard in the works