ISSUE #59: The Rain in Spain
Welcome back, CBSI, to a brand spankin’ new issue of Cover Tunes. Okay, so this past week, I went deeeeeeeeep down the rabbit hole of 70’s and 80’s magazine covers. Those that know me will know exactly why. Suffice it to say, when I was somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, I was already acutely aware of girls (mostly due to Carrie Fisher as Slave Leia and Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman… thank you, ladies. Thank you SO much). I was already sitting down with the cheerleaders at the local high school’s basketball games instead of up in the stands with my parents.
Thus, it seemed logical that when I was staring at the newsstand, I wanted copies of Vampirella, Savage Sword of Conan and Heavy Metal. Wanting is nice, but I was not allowed to have those magazines as they were too risque for a 7-year-old. As a result, I wanted them even more and was enamored with the covers (since that’s as much of them as I ever got to see).
When I was heavily collecting comics the first time around (now we’re in the late 1980’s, mind you), I went back and began to grab up copies of those magazines that I liked the looks of, but it never really occurred to me until recently (read as, “the past 5 years”) to actually look at the names of the artists. Even as far back as that little kid sitting with the cheerleaders, I already instinctively understood that those covers were the pinnacle of comic artistry. However, I didn’t really think the world agreed with me since those mags were largely worthless and I was picking them up out of dollar bins.
However, I then found the world of comic art auctions and realized that original pieces by artists such as Frazetta and Torres Prat and Sanjulian were selling for the kinds of cash that masters were selling for. For those that are unaware, a Frank Frazetta painting just sold for $5.4 million (His “Egyptian Queen” for the cover of Eerie #23). Of course, that particular example is an outlier, but the world has taken notice of these artists as REAL artists rather than just pulp nonsense and that makes me happy since these Cover Tunes articles are all about the appreciation of art. Most of these magazines can be had for less than $10 in mid-grade condition and less than $20 in high grades.
I have to remember that I write these in order to celebrate with all of you that which I enjoy most and hope you all share my sentiments. Thus, this week, I’d like to turn focus on my particular favorite group of Spanish artists who worked (largely) for Warren Publishing during the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1971, many artists from the Barcelona Studio of Spanish Art agency “Selecciones Illustrada” started appearing in Creepy and other Warren magazines like Eerie and Vampirella and would go on to dominate Warren magazines throughout the 1970s. A few of my favorites are featured, this week. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have for the majority of my life.
PUBLISHED: Warren Publishing – November, 1971
ARTIST: Manuel Perez Clemente (Sanjulian)
Often viewed as a clear disciple of Frank Frazetta, Sanjulian was able to transcend that with his own abstractness. At times realist and at others, impressionist, Sanjulian has some of Warren’s (and comic’s) most striking covers to his name. The painting mastery in his work is beyond question and his palette which is often muted (albeit, not on this particular cover), blends elements of 1960’s aesthetics into a very “70’s” style. This cover is a fantastic example of the melding of those instincts and which simultaneously creates a work of sheer macabre beauty. With a slew of covers for both Eerie and Creepy along with many for Vampirella, as well, Sanjulian was a staple in Warren publishing and one would be hard-pressed to go wrong with any/all of them, especially when found cheaply. I am also a HUGE fan of #79 which is often used on reprint anthology and trade covers for Creepy.
JOSE PEPE GONZALEZ
PUBLISHED: Warren Publishing – January, 1979
ARTIST: Jose ‘Pepe’ Gonzalez
Gonzalez didn’t have an enormous body of cover work like some of the others on this week’s list, but what he did give us are some astonishing pieces like this one. The color on this cover is astounding and brings a unique life to Vampi. Most of his work was on the interiors of Warren’s books and, much of the time, in the form of inside cover pinups that almost all could have been used as fantastic covers. As a matter of fact, this particular #75 has the feel of a slightly more rendered version of one of those pinups. Just an amazing cover that really pops AND stands out from the others in the run.
PUBLISHED: Warren Publishing – October, 1972
ARTIST: Luis Dominguez
Dominguez, like Gonzalez, above, was not as prolific as say Sanjulian or Enric, but his contributions are among the best of the Warren covers, much akin to this magnificently creepy cover and others like it. Of Argentinian birth, Dominguez would come into Warren with the lump of “Spanish” artists of the 70’s along with the rest of the crop featured, this week. However, unlike the others on the list, Dominguez went on to work heavily for DC and Charlton on their respective horror, war and western titles such as House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Jonah Hex and many others. With a slightly “brighter” style than the others (in color, not in mood), Dominguez’s work stands apart nicely from the others.
PUBLISHED: Heavy Metal Communications – June, 1984
ARTIST: Esteban Maroto
While not a Warren-related title, I was equally enamored with Heavy Metal during this “education” of my youth. Some of the most brilliant fantasy covers of all time grace the covers of Heavy Metal and this is definitely one of them. While Maroto did do a smattering of covers for Warren, this particular Heavy Metal issue stands out to me as being the high-point of his work. It is a layout masterpiece and a gem in fantasy publishing. It is not as overtly sexified as many of the contemporary Heavy Metal covers and I appreciate that subtlety. Of course, the Sorceress is amazing and sexy, but I really love the dragon on this one. For more on dragon covers, check out Clint Joslin’s incredible “Run the Table” article on Dragons from last week.
ENRIC TORRES PRAT
PUBLISHED: Dronte – 1976
ARTIST: Enrique ‘Enric’ Torres Prat
Sometimes “Enrique,” sometimes “Enric” or “Enrich” and sometimes just “Torresprat” (depending on what era he’s painting in), Enric dominated the covers of Vampirella through the 70’s and early 80’s having 55 of the 114 published covers (don’t forget the 1972 annual). The next most featured artist on Vampi only had 8 for reference sake. It’s tough to even imagine Vampirella without Enric. I know, I know… most of you are saying, “but what about Frazetta?” Well, I’m not taking anything away from dear old Frank and his cover from Vampi #1 is an icon, but Enric was definitely THE MAN on Vampi. He created visceral, sexy full compositions full of grit and emotion and (did I already mention?) sex. There is really no argument that he was the perfect painter for the job. If one takes a look at his other non-comic work (for instance, his myriad of Spanish paperback novel covers), it is clear that this is a master painter and not just some comic industry hack.
Since I’ve already featured Enric’s Vampirella covers in past issues of Cover Tunes (Cover Tunes #58 and Cover Tunes #30), I’ve featured an odd one, this week, that is tough to get in North America, but easily obtained from foreign websites such as todocolleccion for under $5. There’s more to the story on this cover which I will be doing a short article on very soon, but I wanted to share it with the masses in this format, first. I hope you enjoy it. My copy is on the way from Spain as we speak.
And that, my dear friends, brings us to the end, yet again. There are many more Spanish artists in this group of talented illustrators, but I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites. I REALLY hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did writing it. This was a fun revisiting of a life-long love affair. Please, do drop a comment to let me know your thoughts and favorites. Until next time, be well, thanks for reading and happy hunting.