Towards a canon of 1980s Spanish artcomics. (Ceesepe is left out because I profiled him on Wednesday; others who would certainly qualify were left out due to reasons of space and the limitations of my knowledge and taste. Another post filling in some of those gaps is probably due.)
1. Miguel Gallardo is a prolific and wide-ranging cartoonist with several styles at his command, from the Crumb-and-Segar-influenced “línea chunga” (dirty line or nasty line, in contradistinction to the “línea clara”/ligne claire/clear line originating in the classic Franco-Belgian style of adventure cartooning) he popularized in El Víbora to the ironic 50s ad design style displayed in the piece above, to the more scratchy and personal style he uses to portray the world of his autistic daughter.
2. Max is one of the great stylists of international artcomics, a restless visual innovator and an unparalleled designer, whose earliest underground work was already notable for its attention to shape and line and who has only grown from there. His enormous body of work is only patchily represented in English, but he’s still doing better in that arena than most of these people.
3. Mique Beltrán is best known for his stylish clear-line homage to classic adventure strips and movie serials, Cleopatra (which riffs on much of the same material as the contemporary Indiana Jones films, with similar heapings of “ironic” retro racism). More recently he’s drawn the gag-page adventures of Cleopatra’s superpowered son, Marco Antonio, for the children’s market, with the racism toned down but still present.
4. Miguel Calatayud is primarily an illustrator who has occasionally worked in comics, and has moved through several stylistic shifts. An amazing, intricate, and uncompromising stylist of line and design, he belongs as much to the fashion and art world as to comics.
5. Martí is best known to English-speaking audiences as the author of The Cabbie (Taxista in Spanish), a violent, overheated noir tale which contains as much Almodóvar as it does Spillane, but his compact Chester Gould-influenced style, with its corrosive, liquid blacks, has gone in more florid, surrealist cubist directions since then, although murder, violence, and obsession remain his favorite subjects.
6. Mariscal is one of the great polymaths of the post-pop art world, a peer to Keith Haring as well as to Joost Swarte and Gary Panter, a bold, vibrant designer and a loose, gestural cartoonist who has been among the few modern artists to expand on the cartooning language of such divine scribblers as George Herriman and Milt Gross. His pomo-Disney mice the Garriris have given their wry, surreal taken on everything for thirty years, from the underground press in Franco’s Barcelona to the cover of the New Yorker.
7. Micharmut is one of the most singular and confounding voices in global artcomics, a bold black-and-white markmaker who takes the stylization of ligne claire and style atomique to their logical extremes, resulting in a vivid, boiled-energy graphic sensibility, an acquired but highly rich taste more notable for their extremes of shape and line than for their dreamlike, enigmatic narratives.
8. Ana Juan is far from the only woman who could have qualified for this list; she’s just the most vigorous stylist and perhaps the best representative of the “third stream” of Spanish artcomics, after the anything-goes Barcelonan ”línea chunga” of El Víbora and the classicist Valencian clear-line of Cairo. Her vibrant, neon-punk textures and distorted Groszian compositions were one of the primary calling cards of the ultramodernist Madrilenian illustrative school of Madriz, and her later expressionist black-and-white work would be just as striking.
9. Daniel Torres is probably the most well-known of these artists to an international audience, thanks to his campy sci-fi action series Rocco Vargas, which split the difference between French concept-driven sci-fi comics and American superhero soap operas. But beyond Vargas, Torres was the most high-profile exponent of the Valencian clear-line aesthetic (Beltrán and Micharmut were his peers, Calatayud his master), a prolific cartooning powerhouse whose energy, compositional prowess, and sly wit made him one of the major European cartoonists of the era.
10. Nazario was the grandmaster of Spanish underground comics beginning in the 1970s, when his work ran afoul of Franco’s censors, and his lurid sensibility and rigorous drawing style left their mark on every cartoonist on this list, even those whose stylistic development led them in entirely opposite directions. In the 80s, his gleeful embrace of the most socially transgressive and psychologically overheated elements of queer aesthetics made obsessively-rendered queer noir comics a major part of the artcomics scene. Uncloseted, uninhibited, and unable to be sidelined into any kind of “gay comics” ghetto, he claimed Spanish artcomics as the kind of radical space where anything could happen. Sexually explicit European comics would take a regressively heteronormative turn in the 1990s, aiming at the porn audience rather than at the unfettered self-expression of the original underground (which had plenty of its own problematic elements; transgression as a value in itself is thoroughly amoral), and Nazario, like many of his peers, turned to fine arts instead.