When extraordinary Spanish artist José 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 José to his Wiki bio, the latest addition to Portraits of the Creators.
José 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A recreation of the unpublished Marvel Spotlight #12 cover from 1980.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.