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Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

by Robert Greenberger

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is a veteran comics artist who is revered by his peers but only mildly appreciated by his readers over the last forty years. In his quiet, unassuming way, he has proven one of the most influential artists in pop culture because for the most part, it is his work that consumers see on lunch boxes, apparel, greeting cards, and tons of other licensed material. Back in 1980, he was tasked with creating DC Comics’ first style guide and as his editor Andy Helfer wrote, “In no uncertain terms, Jose’s vision of the DC super-heroes is the vision that introduces millions of children (not to mention their parents) to the world of DC – a number far greater than comic book readers.”

Born in Spain in 1948 and raised in Argentina, Garcia-Lopez was a classically trained illustrator fascinated by comics and went to work for a small company when he was 14. He was exposed to and influenced by page proofs littering the office, exposing him to Joe Maneely, Alberto Breccia, Dean Cornwell, Alex Raymond, Hal Foster and others. He actually made his American debut at the ripe age of 18, drawing stories for Charlton Comics. In 1974, drawn by American pop culture, he immigrated to the united states where fellow artist Luis Dominguez introduced him to DC Comics’ editor. He was put to work immediately, becoming the company’s secret weapon given his versatility.

Rapidly, he became one of the company’s premiere artists, earning him a role on Julie Schwartz’s Superman titles. Now, in chronological order, DC is reprinting that work in the hardcover Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. The title collects Superman #294, 301, 302, 307-309 and 347, DC Comics presents #1-4 and 17, and all-new Collector’s edition C-54. Interestingly, his first Superman story, inking Curt Swan on a private Life of Clark Kent backup story in Superman #289 is absent.

Wizard once wrote, “Many long-time Superman readers of the early 1980s saw Garcia-Lopez as the natural successor to [Curt] Swan. though his style is a lot more romantic and adventurous than Swan’s, his version of the man of Steel blended the best parts of Swan’s naturalism with a visage that resembled film’s Christopher Reeve.”

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Jose took a few minutes to remind me he was already a 10-year comics veteran when he first drew the Metropolis Marvel. “Superman was my very first experience drawing super-heroes,” he wrote me, “and just a handful of months after arriving to new York. I was never confident with how I drew the character; in those times he was the most protected property of DC and to introduce any change in the character it was a heresy. I felt limited with all the editorial guidelines and for my own professional limitations and couldn’t find my own voice in the book.”

What makes these stories worthy of reprinting has everything to finish with Garcia-Lopez’s fine artwork which shows a great rapid growth from beginning to end. His work is strong, solid and well-crafted but never flashy and trendy so he’s often overlooked by readers who have been very slow to genuinely appreciate his work. He is given solid if unspectacular scripts by Gerry Conway, Martin Pasko and a smattering of others.

The first using is a The private Life of Clark Kent back-up tale, with inks from Vinnie Colletta and is as pedestrian as it gets (although you can’t expect too much in a short short like these). Instead, we really get to see him strut a bit with the first solo battle between the man of Steel and Solomon Grundy in Conway’s story, with inks by Bob Oksner (figures), Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek (backgrounds).

Conway was a Superman mainstay in the later 1970s and is mainly represented here given his volume of material. Back then, there was little issue to issue continuity so we go from #307’s “Krypton–No More!” to #309’s “Blind Hero’s Bluff”, all inked by Frank Springer, and they are mainly interchangeable. but boy, did the supporting cast look great, with Lois during one of her height sexy periods. His Supergirl was pretty damn fine, too. Jose’s stuff looks even better when he inks himself such as Superman #347’s “The Sleeper Out of Time!”

Garcia-Lopez was a craftsman and the minimized page counts of the era indicated he was able to nearly keep up with the demands of a monthly title. He was made the regular artist of the new DC Comics Presents, with Superman partnering with other heroes. The book kicked off with a two-part Superman/Flash race, by Pasko and inker Dan Adkins, that’s over-plotted, thanks to Schwartz, and adds little to the legendary “who is faster” question. issue #3 took the action Ace into outer space as he and Adam odd met up in a tale from David Michelinie while #4 was with the metal men andwriter Len Wein. The schedule verified too much so he bowed out from there, revisiting Metropolis rarely afterward.

Later in 1978, he was back and bigger than ever – literally. He cut loose with all-new Collector’s edition #54, pitting Superman versus wonder woman in a 72-page tabloid-sized tale from Conway and Garcia-Lopez and frequent inker Dan Adkins.

Looking back, Garcia-Lopez wrote, “The Elseworlds books starring Superman are the ones I remember a lot more fondly because of the previous experience and the freedom I had to interpret the character. beside these ‘70s books, I did hundreds of Superman poses for the style Guides, but never again a real Superman book, so now I’m shocked for all the positive feedback about those old strips. I know I did them with honesty and trying to do the best I could but never could reach the heights of a Curt Swan or Neal Adams, for instance. and I mention only these names because they were the ones I was checking out for inspiration at the time.”


Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

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