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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

In Memoriam: Francisco Solano Lopez

Francisco Solano Lopez at the Lucca festival in 2007. Photo by Giacomo Bartalesi. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
(via Lew StringerThe Comics Journal and lanaicon.com): We're sorry to report the death of legendary Argentinian comics artist Francisco Solano Lopez, whose work for British comics across several decades enthralled and inspired countless comics fans.

Lopez, who has died of a cerebral hemorrhage aged 83, is perhaps best known to British comic fans for his work on strips such as Adam Eterno (which first appeared in Thunder), Janus Stark and Kelly's Eye, but worldwide he's perhaps best known as the co-creator of the controversial comic El Eternauta, first published in Hora Cero Semanal from 1957 to 1959, a strip he would return to many times in his long career.

A more than capable artist across many different genres, some of his more recent work includes the adult series El Instituto (Young Witches, published by EROS Comix in the US), a cheerfully perverse saga of supernaturally-powered sisters.

'El Eternau
Born in October 1928 in Buenos Aires, Lopez began working in 1953 for the publishing house Columba, where he met long term working partner Hector German Oesterheld. When  Oesterheld founded the publishing house Frontera, they worked on a new strip that told the story of a schoolteacher, Juan Salvo, and his family who fight against an invasion of aliens, and confront them on the battleground of Buenos Aires: El Eternauta.

Lopez was inspired by the idea of alien invaders in the creation of the character, and Oesterheld liked science fiction, revealing in one interview that his origins came from the success of another SF character, Rolo, an adopted Martian.

From the start, this story of a man fighting against alien invaders (the epitome of faceless authority) struck an instant chord in Argentina. Now regarded as something of a symbol of struggle in his native country, its subject matter commenting on social injustice, dictatorship and US imperialism that brought its creators unwelcome attention from Argentina's military junta of the time. Eventually, Lopez was forced to flee the country, ending up in Spain from where he began to start work for Fleetway in late 1959, finally moving to London to be closer to his scriptwriters.

'The Vikings' - Lopez' first Adam Eterno
work for Thunder Number 17
His many British comics credits included Battler Britton for Thriller Picture Library,  Galaxus: The Thing from Outer Space and Pete's Pocket Army for Buster, Janus Stark for Smash and Valiant, Kelly's Eye for Knockout and Valiant), Raven on the Wing for Valiant, Adam Eterno for Thunder and Lion and much more. (DanDare.info has a full listing of his British credits).

"Although the artist found fame in adult comics (and found credits where due, unlike on his anonymous UK work) his strips formed a huge and important part of British comics," Notes Lew Stringer. "Due to the gritty edge of his style his pages still seem exciting and vibrant today."

The workload was enormous and Lopez was aided in the demands of his British publisher by artists in his own art studio in Buenos Aires such as Ramiro Bujeiro, Tibor Horvath, Silvia Lechuca, the Schiaffino brothers, Julio and Jorge with whom Lopez had worked on Bull Rocket in the early 1950s, and Nestor Morales.

Lopez returned to Argentina in 1974, planning to work for publishers Columba once more, but Oesterheld convinced him to continue with the second part of El Eternauta with a new publishing house, the Editorial Records - but the dangerous political climate forced Oesterheld to go into hiding and, after a mysterious fire at his house Lopez again headed for Madrid, Spain, from where he gained publication of El Eternauta and a new SF story, Slot Barr in the Italian magazines LancioStory and Skorpio.

'Evaristo'
By the 1980s he was living in Rio de Janeiro, working for US publishers such as Dark Horse and Fantagraphics as well as Italian comics, producing two news strips – El Ministerio and El Televisor with Ricardo Barreiro and a tough police series Evaristo from scripts by Carlos Sampayo.

Ever able to adapt to almost any style, he started working on erotic comics in the 1990s, achieving success with strips such as El Prostíbulo del Terror and Sexy Symphony, produced in collaboration with his son Gabriel Solano Lopez as writer, a full-colour series without words for the magazine Kiss Comix.

Franciso and his son achieved joint success in comics with the surrealist Ana, published by Fantagraphics, following a French girl  from her days as idealistic student to adult burnout and beyond.

His work in adult comics gained him First Prize for Best Erotic Author in the Barcelona Erotic Show and Best Cartoonist Realist from the Diario de Avisos in Spain.

The Comics Journal notes he also drew an adaptation of the classic horror movie Freaks, in 1991, as adapted by Jim Woodring (for Fantagraphics imprint Monster Comics).

In 1995 he moved back to Buenos Aires and returned to his beloved Eternauta in 2001, now written by his regular collaborator Pablo Maiztegui (who signs his work as 'POL'). This time, though, it had a more ambitious story, set 40 years in the future in a Buenos Aires rebuilt by the invaders, where massive brainwashing of the survivors made people believe that the alien arrival was peaceful, and only a few know the truth.

An article for Bahianoticias.com, published in March 2010, reveals the authors' intention was to portray a different form of domination - based not on military might but in manipulating the masses.

"We're taking a look at the present time, based on an explicit metaphor," explained Lopez. "The country invaded by aliens, which are actually international finance... we were interested in showing how the invaders were able to perpetuate the domination through the mechanisms of democracy."

A recent illustration by Lopez for Telam's Seccion Impossible
Continuing to work into his 80s, he signed a deal with the Argentinain natonal news agency, Télam, to illustrate two new editorial projects - a historical comic strip centring on two adventurers, sort of local time travellers, by Pablo Maiztegui and a sitcom by Teodoro Boot which describes the life of Mr. Monti, head of a family and magazine writer who uses his imagination to make ends meet.

The latest episode of Sección imposible includes the dedication "Adiós Maestro, con el afecto y la admiración de siempre." (Goodbye Master, with affection and admiration forever).

While this award-winning artist's comics spans many decades and he will be best remembered for his politically charged El Eternauta, fans in Britain will always remember him best for his memorable contributions to the likes of Buster, Valiant and Lion. He will be much missed.

• Francisco Solano Lopez, born 26th October 1928, died 12th August 2011

Web Links

Francisco Solano Lopez - Lambiek

Career Overview for Bahianoticias.com - on Flickr (in Spanish)

Francisco Solano Lopez Biography on DanDare.info

A full listing of his British credits on dandare.info (first published in the French magazine Pimpf Issue 11)

Tributes and Obituaries

Bleeding Cool

Blimey! It's Another Blog about Comics

Comics Journal
"Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three)."

Comics Reporter

Lanacion.com: report of Lopez death (in Spanish)
El dibujante Francisco Solano López, que ilustró la mítica historieta El Eternauta, creada por Héctor Germán Oesterheld, falleció esta madrugada luego de una hemorragia cerebral de la que no se pudo recuperar.

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