Creator Profile: José Luis García-López by Jerry Whitworth
Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Carmine Infantino, Alex Toth, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, and George Pérez: any list describing some of the master artists to have worked within comics would undoubtedly include these names. However, an individual often overlooked yet deserving of this company is José Luis García-López. Born in Pontevedra of Galicia in Spain in 1948, García-López emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina with his family when he was five years-old where he discovered comics becoming a fan of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Prince Valiant, and Terry and the Pirates as well as became enamored with the art of José Luis Salinas, Alberto Breccia, and Joe Kubert. Going to an art school at age ten, learning a cartoonish-style, García-López would work professionally at around age fourteen for small publishers using a self-taught style before refining his skill at age sixteen with a more professional art school (where Alberto Breccia was an instructor) while continuing to work for local publishers. By his late teens, he was working for Charlton Comics through an art agent on titles like Career Girl Romances, For Lovers Only, Ghostly Tales, Hollywood Romances, I Love You, Just Married, Love Diary, Romantic Story, Sweethearts, Teen Confessions, Teen-Age Love, and Time for Love. Around the same time, he also worked for local publisher Columba, most notably for the magazine Fantasía where he drew the series Roland, el Corsario for author Ray Collins (and later Héctor Germán Oesterheld, alternatively known as H.G.O.). García-López was assisted by friend and fellow artist David Jonathan Mangiarotti during his stint with Charlton and Columba and who took over art duties for Roland, el Corsario after García-López’ departure.
In 1974, José Luis García-López moved to New York where he began work at Gold Key and DC Comics. For the former, he worked on titles like Grimm’s Ghost Stories, Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. The artist’s Charlton work drew the attention of Dick Giordano, a legendary artist who got his start at Charlton where he later became executive editor heralding the creation of the Action Hero line with help from Steve Ditko and through Ditko became an editor at DC Comics before partnering with Neal Adams to establish Continuity Associates. Giordano discovered Garcia-Lopez’ work and contacted his agent to solicit art from him and fellow artist Garcia Seijas, later leading to a move to America (particularly New York) simply because that was where the work was coming from (though, García-López chose to move without any prior arrangements with any publisher). Getting his start as an inker for DC Comics under editor Joe Orlando, the artist received his first job as penciller for Weird War Tales #41 (September 1975). Within a few years, Orlando came to regard García-López as his “secret weapon,” so far to try and keep his contact information close to the vest and keep his artist happy to avoid him getting snatched up by the competition. In short order, García-López’ plate was filled working on issues of Weird War Tales, Detective Comics, Adventure Comics, Hercules Unbound, Joker, Superman, Weird Western Tales, Batman Family, Tarzan, Jonah Hex, World’s Finest Comics, DC Special Series, Superman vs. Wonder Woman All-New Collectors’ Edition, DC Comics Presents, House of Secrets, The Brave and the Bold, House of Mystery, Batman, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Omega Men. In addition to these books, García-López was also highly sought after as an inker working in such a capacity on significantly even more titles. However, its the projects he next worked on that became what he is most fondly remembered.
DC and Marvel, two of the biggest comic book publishers in the United States, have worked together on several occasions. Their first joint venture was a Wizard of Oz adaptation followed by two specials featuring their biggest stars in Superman and Spider-Man. Their next project, Batman vs. the Incredible Hulk, featured the two heroes duke it out before battling the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds. Published, like the previous Superman/Spider-Man books, in tabloid size, the story was written by Len Wein and drawn by José Luis García-López. The tabloid format would be abandoned for future joint ventures, the next of which was the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans. Under editor Joe Orlando and writer Andy Helfer, José Luis García-López (along with Dick Giordano as inker) went on to spend nine months creating the DC Comics Style Guide. Around one hundred fifty pages in length and produced in 1982, the Style Guide was generated as a book licensors could lift art from and put onto products. Featuring dozens of the publisher’s most iconic characters, the book was a huge success as its art began appearing everywhere and on everything from clothes to school supplies to toiletries and beyond. In this way, García-López’ art was the initial exposure to people across the globe for DC Comics. Considering the beauty of the work, many artists internally emulated the art (basing the appearance of DC’s characters on García-López’ depiction) and as employees were given personal copies of the book, rumor has it some tried to do work for DC at the time just so they could get their hands on a copy. The Style Guide updates every year, often times only slightly with around a dozen new pages, and for many years García-López continued to be its artist. Eventually, style guides were produced for each major franchise at the company (Superman, Batman, etc) where to this day García-López contributes art. Art from the original guide to this day frequently appear on merchandise (considered by many to be the iconic representation of the characters despite changes to their appearance over the years).
Following the massive undertaking of the original DC Comics Style Guide, José Luis García-López moved on to work on a comic book adaptation of the video game Star Raiders for Atari. Despite the game’s critical response, the video game market as a whole crashed but DC decided to publish a shortened version of the adaptation as a graphic novel anyway so as to not waste the art García-López produced. His project that followed was also one licensed with Atari. Originally comics packaged with five of Atari’s games, Atari Force became a new monthly series written by Gerry Conway and drawn by García-López. Best identified as a cult favorite, the artist drew ten of the first twelve issues before leaving the book where Eduardo Barreto picked up its art duties. Around this time in 1984, Kenner had been awarded a license to produce a toyline for DC Comics called Super Powers. So named because the line’s figures could perform actions when manipulated in certain ways (giving them “super powers”), the Super Friends television series was resurrected to tie-in with the toys. Where for years the Super Friends were based off of character designs by Alex Toth, the new Super Powers animated series was based largely off of García-López’ Style Guide work. Further, his designs were the model emulated for the sculptors of the action figures for the line and his art was often used for the toys’ packaging. Along with artists like Jack Kirby, George Pérez, Ed Hannigan, Mike DeCarlo, and Dick Giordano, García-López produced artwork for the line which included a massive series of merchandise with the Super Powers logo on virtually anything a child could possibly have any interest in (predominantly, featuring art from the Style Guide). The cartoon lasted two seasons, the toyline ended after three waves, but the merchandise thrived for years, one of the last notable items for the franchise being a 1988 calendar drawn by García-López. The toyline and merchandise was generally replaced by the DC Super Heroes line (supported by the 1989 film Batman), again generally featuring García-López’ work. The artist’s next assignment was rather daunting, having to take the art reins of what’s today revered as one of the best comic book series runs of all time.
In 1980, DC Comics managed to attract fan-favorite artist George Pérez from Marvel’s the Avengers by offering him Justice League of America. While taking on these chores, Pérez would also join writer Marv Wolfman in reviving the Teen Titans (previously composed of the League’s sidekicks). A huge hit, becoming DC’s best-selling book and competition against Marvel’s hit the Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans saw the old team joined by new members Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, and Changeling (formerly Beast Boy of the Doom Patrol) battling a new host of enemies like Deathstroke the Terminator, the Fearsome Five, Trigon, Brother Blood, Blackfire, Terra, and Cheshire. Despite the book’s popularity, Pérez had to leave the title after four years to dedicate his time to another collaboration with Wolfman in Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was perhaps only natural that García-López would take over such a legendary run working beside Wolfman (though, García-López would have to abandon his beloved Atari Force to take on the assignment). However, the artist has only one great weakness: deadlines. It is challenging for García-López to do a monthly title because of the amount of work and detail he puts into his drawing, a process that is time consuming (in an interview, the artist admitted the time it takes him to draw one page many others could produce three to five) and complicated by García-López’ admitted difficulty to follow deadlines. As such, García-López worked on the title for five issues before passing the reins to Eduardo Barreto. García-López during this time became a frequent contributor to Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, an encyclopedic comic book series generally featuring notable characters for DC Comics (calling for work not unlike what the artist produced for the Style Guide). He would go on to again collaborate with writer Andy Helfer on the limited series Deadman (García-López admitting he bases his depiction of the character on Neal Adams’ interpretation, similarly with Superman and Batman) but much of his time became dedicated to drawing work DC could license to vendors (including Super Powers), a truth then and generally true today.
José Luis García-López largely abandoned working on a monthly series, again most of his time devoted to drawing DC Comics’ licensing art. In 1988, he worked with Gerry Conway on a mature mini-series called Cinder and Ashe and provided the art for Howard Chaykin’s 1990 mini-series Twilight (which earned him a nomination for an Eisner award for best artist). García-López would be tasked with providing character designs for a female-geared toyline for Mattel called Wonder Woman and the Star Riders in 1992 that would be accompanied by a cartoon and comic book series. However, orders were so low for the line that it was shelved (reportedly, retailers couldn’t fathom trying to sell an action series to little girls as so much time had passed since franchises like She-Ra and Jem were around). Generally, García-López’ comic art would go on to generally be covers, pin-ups, and back-up or short stories. In 1995, he drew Dave Gibbons’ Elseworlds graphic novel Superman: Kal and the following year drew the Doctor Strangefate one-shot for the Amalgam Comics event which earned him a nomination for the Eisner award for best penciller/inker team with his inker Kevin Nowlan. García-López has gone on to work on Batman: Reign of Terror, Superman Inc., Realworlds: Superman, Just Imagine Stan Lee with Dave Gibbons Creating Green Lantern, On the Road to Perdition, DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy, Batman Confidential, JLA: Classified, and Wednesday Comics: Metal Men. He contributed to a story for Penthouse Comix as well that went unpublished. José Luis García-López is remembered today for the licensed art he has and continues to produce and considered to have provided one of the best interpretations of Superman ever produced (alongside the likes of Curt Swan, Neal Adams, John Byrne, and Dan Jurgens). A hardcover trade collecting García-López’ Superman work entitled Adventures of Superman: José Luis García-López is set for release April 2013. A rather famous tale Andy Helfer likes to tell about his friend García-López is of when famous French artist Jean Giraud, better known as Mœbius, visited the DC Comics offices and looked at an image of Wonder Woman drawn by García-López behind Helfer’s desk. Asking Helfer, “This García-López, he uses models, no?”
Helfer replied “No.”
Giraud responded, “Son of a bitch!”