When extraordinary Spanish artist Jos√© Ortiz¬†passed away last year, I was busy with a time-consuming project. But the news caught my attention because I’d known¬†and admired his work since my teen years.
While looking over his Wikipedia biography, I saw it had no copyright free image of him for the article. So, not having ever seen a photo of him, I searched¬†the web and found one to use for a very quick portrait (that I was not at all happy with but thought it would be better than no image until I’d find more time to get back to it). Some 8 months later, the image was removed by another editor at Wikipedia, citing this was a drawing of Jean Giraud (Moebius), not Ortiz. Looking around, I realized I had followed up on a mistaken identity of the photo that another site had made. I’ve recently found the time to correct it and re-posted a proper portrait of Jos√©¬†to his Wiki bio, the latest addition to Portraits of the Creators.
Jos√© Ortiz was a master of the comic book arts. Some of his work can be seen at the top of this search page.
Over the last couple of years I’ve done a series of re-creations of past covers for DC and Marvel for comics art collector and historian¬†Shaun Clancy. It’s given me a chance to re-imagine some of the covers that I thought could have been better designed and drawn, in retrospect.¬†Here’s the original Spiderman-207 cover from 1980.
And here’s the re-creation.
A recreation of the unpublished Marvel Spotlight #12 cover from 1980.
The story was published a decade later in Marvel Superheroes Fall Special #3.
More about this series here:
When I first heard about a year ago from Steven Bergson that a Jewish comics anthology is in the works, my first thought was: “What, another one?” ¬†It might have been a natural reaction since¬†living in Israel for more than 3 decades, where the local comics scene itself is one big collection of Jewish comics. Though a small country with an even smaller market for the drawn books, Israel has contributed its peculiar spice¬†to a Jewish flavor of¬†comics stories. Or at least the Israeli version of what’s perceived to be Jewish.
The¬†comics art-form has grown slowly but steadily here since the establishment of the state. Eli Eshed¬†perhaps¬†best chronicles¬†its history, which is too much to elaborate on now.¬†¬†So, here are a few links to his work: Hebrew Comics – A History;¬†Ben-Gurion’s Golem;¬†Israeli Super Heroes and¬†Hebrew Superheroes. There’s also a list of Israeli Superheroes at International Hero¬†and a comprehensive bibliography of articles about Jewish/Israeli comics and creators, posted by Steven Bergson to that site in 2008. The launching of Uri-On¬†in 1987 coincided with a resurgence of the medium¬†under¬†the hands of¬†creators like¬†the late Dudu Geva, Michel Kishka, Tomer Hanuka, Asaf Hanuka, Rutu Modan,¬†Noam Nadav, Ze’ev Englemeir, Uri Fink, Nimrod Reshef, Dorit May-Gur, Ofer Zanzuri, Jacki Yarchi¬†and too many more talents to list here. All these, by the way, are only part of a picture¬†that’s¬†made more complete with the¬†slew of faith-based¬†educational comics published in¬†the Ultra-Orthodox communities.
But I know this means very little outside of the¬†small home turf. ¬†So, looking around for any collections of Jewish oriented comics in the American and European markets revealed that such a product¬†is a¬†nearly nonexistent commodity. A somewhat unlikely phenomenon, I’d thought, considering the influence that Jewish creators and publishers have had on the comics culture.
Soon after Steven’s announcement, Clifford Meth¬†joined the project and in turn asked me to illustrate the short story he was writing for it, “I See the Dogs”. Clifford and I have been working together for years and were in the throes of¬†collaborating on¬†“Comic Book Babylon”. His script for the anthology was a hard-hitting twist on a rabbinical adage that takes place in Poland, on the eve of the Holocaust. Taking on the project introduced me to its publisher, Andy Stanleigh, founder¬†of the relatively young Toronto based Alternate History Comics, sporting an impressive website previewing Titan, The River Pilot’s Delta and Hobson’s Gate. I was deeply immersed in another project at the time but was able to work around it to Illustrate Clifford’s story. It was¬†of the more gratifying¬†comics-related experiences that I can remember.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago¬†when The Jewish Comix Anthology arrived in the mail. A plush 256 page hardcover collection, wrapped with¬†an exquisite dust¬†jacket and sporting more than 40 entries with¬†a diversity of stories¬†and art that can hold the¬†interest of¬†most anyone attracted to comics. A gracefully coordinated compilation,¬†edited by Steven Bergson and embellished¬†in¬†the luscious¬†visual¬†flair that Andy Stanleigh’s work is known for. Stories ranging from Jewish folklore and faith-based wisdom¬†to street-wise skirmishes and other-world¬†fantasies. Alongside the work of legends Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Joe Kubert, Trina Robbins, Harvey Pekar, Tony Isabella, Mike Friedrich, Tony Dezuniga and Ernie Chua, are the contributions of a new generation of talented creators, serving readers with their take on the vastly¬†diverse culture and heritage. After spending¬†a weekend with the book, I emerged¬†from¬†it feeling privileged to¬†be¬†a small part of it. Some reviews are posted¬†at the project site, as well as the Jewish Herald Voice, Sequential Pulp¬†and Open Book Toronto.
In his introduction to the anthology, Steven¬†suggests¬†that¬†the reason there haven’t been more such collections is likely in the small¬†market they cater to. Knowing the perils¬†of small markets such as we have in Israel,¬†certainly supports that view. ¬†On the other hand, in his foreword to the book, Clifford¬†elaborates¬†on what the term Jewish encompasses, citing a Lenny Bruce definition that hammers¬†the ish into it. But in a time when¬†much of the world is sharply divided over¬†Israel and the Middle-East, sometimes blurring the line that distinguishes the homeland state¬†from the¬†global¬†Jewish community, it¬†may be¬†possible to understand the sparsity of Jewish comics as an expression¬†of a certain¬†humility – and¬†an acceptance of a reality that the Jewish people¬†contend with as a member of the family of peoples. A humility of accepting¬†the reality of a¬†small audience¬†for specifically Jewish comics – and perhaps an acceptance of the broad comics culture itself as the broader¬†Jewish¬†flavor for the brewing¬†of spicy illustrated tales.
With the advent of this first excellent volume,¬†The Jewish Comix Anthology¬†allows the pot to settle somewhat, elevating¬†the flavor¬†up to the top of a delectable¬†comics stew.
The¬†Jewish Comix Anthology can be purchased at the Alternate History Comics Shop.
About a year ago Jim Salicrup¬†asked me if I was interested in drawing a WWE Superstars¬†cover for their Super Genius¬†imprint under the Papercutz¬†graphic novel line. It was to be a sort of homage to¬†a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, featuring wrestler John Cena tied together with¬†his rival Randy Orton, by the spooky-crazy Wyatt Family!
When I finished the line art, I wanted to also use the color to¬†incorporate all the elements. But I was reluctant to ask about taking on the coloring chores¬†worrying it would take¬†work away from their colorist. ¬†So I did a quick color rough that I submitted along with the line art, and emphasized that this was just a suggestion of how the colors might be approached. I thought that was enough intervention and waited for the cover to be released. For some time, the color rough was used as a preview on their site with a slug: “Not Final Cover”. My impression was that it was being colored from scratch and would not look like the rough I submitted.¬†When the book was released last March, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my color rough was used as is, with only a slight¬†tone modification to Cena’s shirt.
I’ve been away from web communication for about a year now, but it’s better late than never to say this: Jim Salicrup’s¬†good cheer and warmth are¬†of the strongest memories I have of the early years visiting Marvel’s offices. Good to see that light still¬†illuminating the¬†comics community today.