Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Character Design--Spanish Women

The Mystery of the Spanish Woman

In this post I don't tell you, I ask you to tell me.

I am fascinated by the iconic Beautiful Female Face drawn by Spanish comic artists. I hope someone out there can tell me where it came from.

I first encountered the Face in the work of cartoonists employed by the Selecciones Ilustradas studio of the late 60s. These young men revolutionized comics with their work both for Spanish publications and for clients in England, France, Germany, and the USA. Among them were Esteban Maroto, Carlos Gimenez, Victor de la Fuente, Jose Ortiz, Jose Gonzales, Luis Bermejo, Rafael Auraleon, Enric Sio, etc. etc. etc. American fans first met many of them in the pages Jim Warren's horror comics, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella.

Though their individual styles varied greatly, all these guys drew variations of the same Beautiful Female Face.

Rafael Auraleon, Jose Gonzales, Adolfo Usero, Jose Ortiz

At first I thought the Face was the product of the studio environment. This often happens when many artists work in the same room, especially if they're young and enthusiastic: they pick up bits of each other's style. Perhaps one of the SI men drew the Face and everybody else liked it and copied it. Or maybe an editor (or studio manager, art director, client) liked the Face and insisted everyone draw it.

Jesus Redondo, Homero

Later, though, I ran across the Face drawn by Spanish artists not connected with SI. It seemed that almost every Spanish comic artist with a "modern" (i.e. post-fifties) style used the Face. 

I associate the Face with the mid-to-late 1960s. I wish I knew more about Spanish comics from this period. Browsing Joan Navarro's excellent gallery of classic Spanish comic art I discovered artwork from late 1950s-early 1960s romance comics in which the women almost had the Face...with differences in hair style and makeup, of course.

 Purita Campos
Did the Face originate in Spanish romance comics? Was there a particular artist who created it and inspired an generation of younger cartoonists? Why is the Face particularly Spanish? A few Italian, British, and Mexican cartoonists used it, but they seemed to do so in imitation of the Spaniards.
 Frank Langford (UK)

Does anyone know the origin of this classic Spanish beauty?


Anonymous said...

Jose Gonzalez (Pepe Gonzalez) was the first one to draw this kind of women in Selecciones Ilustradas (S.I.). Artists like Carlos Gimenez or Luis Garcia copied him their women drawings to learn.

About Gonzalez:

About S.I:


Diego said...

Many of these faces come from some of the stars of the times; I can see Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, among others.

At SI they had their own photo studio and the artists had their girlfriends and themselves pose not only as reference for their own drawings, but to make the infamous "Fotonovelas", picture foto fumetti strips. Artist Luis Garcia was quite the handsome lad, and he usually played the lead character in these photographic love strips, and his then girlfriend was the model for many of Enrich's and Pepe Gonzalez's drawings of Vampirella, as she didn't mind posing nude. Yes, all those paintings and drawings of Vampi come from nude models.

Fernando Fernadez even used one of his girlfriends as reference for many of the love strips he did for the British, and she was a dead ringer for many of those faces.

Lots of these facts come from Fernando's memoirs of working at SI, a fascinating book which is, alas, only available in Spanish. There are countless pictures not only of the work they did there, but of the artists themselves goofing around the studio and posing for the Foto fumettis. And there are pictures of the models they used, too.

Carlos Gimenez's comic book about the same studio is a mandatory read (for those who speak either Spanish or French, as they are still available in those languages).

As to why they all drew the same sort of faces... well let's say, if someone gets it right once, why not copy him? Didn't many american artists copy the Frazetta girl ad nauseum? And let's not even mention the Caniff girls during the fifties...