carla hernandez

Twenty-Five Good Spanish Comics from the 2010s

Hi and welcome to a new tumblr celebrating Spanish comics. I wanted to use this first post, in the late winter of 2015, as an overview of the past five years of Spanish comics, talking about (my necessarily biased and limited choices for) 25 pretty cool comics by Spanish cartoonists, writers, and artists published in this half-decade.

This cannot be a comprehensive list; I live in the US and don’t have infinite resources with which to check out everything interesting published in Spain. This is, if I’m being perfectly honest, a list of mainstreamish comics and graphic novels that has enough interest from genre aficionados and other well-established audiences to be widely pirated online. All of it is worth reading and perhaps more importantly worth looking at. Even if you can’t read Spanish. (Some of them are in fact available in English; others will be soon.)

It’s also more heavily weighted toward the front half of the decade, because the kind of comics I’m interested in take a little longer to get pirated than the average US punch/shoot/zap-em-up.

In no particular order:

David Rubín, El Héroe (Astiberri)

A post-Paul Pope epic-length two-volume deconstruction and reconstruction of superheroes informed by mythological heroes (or vice versa), splitting the difference brilliantly between Jack Kirby and Adventure Time. I haven’t seen pages this single-mindedly dedicated to thrill-power since Akira. Two volumes to date; English edition forthcoming.

Max, Vapor (La Cúpula)

The great stylist of the Spanish post-underground tackles the philosophical basis of asceticism, questions of identity, and dick jokes. English edition (not an ideal translation; we miss you, Kim Thompson) available.

Miguel Fuster, Miguel. 15 Años en la Calle (Glénat/EDT)

A former romance agency artist who burnt down his house and spent fifteen years a homeless alcoholic on the streets of Barcelona records his memoirs with dense, scribbly fortitude. Three volumes to date.

Lola Lorente, Sangre de Mi Sangre (Astiberri)

The debut graphic novel from a young art student with a striking style and bravura design sense, starring two children, one non-genderconforming, the other non-neurotypical, who forge a fraught friendship in the shadow of tremendous loss and instability.

Enrique Fernández, Los Cuentos de la Era de Cobra (Norma)

Animator and illustrator Fernández dives into a lushly-rendered high fantasy epic, more Arabian Nights than Game of Thrones (as befits Spain’s actual medieval heritage). First sold to the French market; but when the authors are Spanish, I count it. Two volumes to date.

Laura & Felipe Hernández Cava, Sarà Servito (Ponent)

Another of the post-underground generation, using her faux-naive line to illustrate the adventures of a female spy in seventeenth-century Venice. The script by one of the legendary Spanish comics writers allows Laura to indulge her interest in decadence, class war, lesbianism, and murder.

Juan Berrio,  Miércoles (Sins Entido)

One of the twee-est motherfuckers in world comics, let alone Spanish, but with a design sense and line that is to die for. This snapshot of a single day starring a host of anonymous urbanites might belong more to the world of gag cartooning than graphic novels; Berrio’s triumph is that there’s no difference.

David Sánchez, No Càmbies Nunca (Astiberri)

Any of Sánchez’ deadpan, horrifying, and darkly hilarious graphic novels could have made this list; he’s heir to the satirical macabre tradition of David Lynch, Dan Clowes, and Charles Burns, with perhaps a more anarchic, post-Adult Swim sensibility. Which somehow doesn’t undercut the gut-churning effectiveness of his work.

Alfonso López & Andreu Martín, Máxima Discreción (Panini)

Two of the founders of socially-engaged Spanish comics-for-adults in the the late 70s unite for a gimlet-eyed noir with gorgeously fluid watercolor-and-dry-brush art. López was always a good artist, but in the last ten years he’s become great.

José Domingo, Aventuras de un Oficinista Japonés (Bang)

A surreal, 8-bit video game-esque travelogue “shot” almost entirely from a single angle. Goofy, gross, funny, deeply imaginative and oddly moving. English edition available, although only the title needed translating.

Paco Roca, El Invierno del Dibujante (Astiberri)

Spain’s premier “social cartoonist” of the 21st century tells the true story of the moment in the 1950s when five Barcelona cartoonists tried to break free of the powerful children’s publisher that kept their art and all rights to their work, and failed. A thoroughly-researched, deeply affectionate look at a vanished era, with some resonance for those who don’t know anything about Spanish comics history, but much more for those who do.

Bartolomé Seguí & Gabi Beltrán, Historias del Barrio (Astiberri)

Seguí’s chameleonic style, which morphs to fit the tone of whatever story he’s telling, was present from his earliest work in the mid-80s. Here he revisits that time with a script from a fellow Mallorcan, and nails the uncertainty of youth in post-dictatorship freefall. Two volumes to date.

Tony Sandoval, La Serpiente de Agua (Dibbuks)

Gothic magical realism from one of the more interesting mainstream European stylists (this was published in French first). More dreamlike than the cover suggests, it’s about relationships between young adolescents and their fantasy lives, beautifully rendered in fading watercolors.

Miguelanxo Prado, Ardalén (Norma)

One of the graphic geniuses of Spanish comics returns for his first major graphic novel since the 90s with an allegorical vision of memory lost and recovered, rebuilt, by the charting of suboceanic depths.

Montesol, Speak Low (Astiberri)

My affection for #spanish comics in the 80s means that the cartoonists who came of artistic age in that time are probably overrepresented on this list and in my interest; Montesol is another of the post-undergrounders who broke a long silence with this, a beautifully sloppy meditation on the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War on the generations that followed.

Carla Berrocal, El Brujo (Ponent)

One of the most exciting and inventive young Spanish cartoonists tells the story of a wizard and his coven, his familiars, his lost love, and his travels in the human realm. By using a variety of graphic techniques, no two pages alike, Berrocal creates a subjective world of magic and surrealism that could only exist in comics.

Carlos Hernández & El Torres, La Hulla de Lorca (Norma)

A biography of the famous Granadan poet Federico García Lorca, told through Hernández’ exquisitely-rendered duotone images and El Torres (who has experienced some success in the horror end of the US market) providing a surprisingly vinegary text.

Danide & Marcos Prior, Fagocitosis (Glénat/EDT)

A collection of satirical strips on the 2008 credit crunch and the particularly disastrous economic and social effects reverberating since then in Spanish society. (Phagocytosis, the reference of the title, means the absorption of a smaller organism by a larger; the cultural imperialism of the US is one obvious metaphor.) One of the few books on this list that probably wouldn’t translate very well outside its immediate context.

Alfonso Zapico, Dublinés (Astiberri)

A cartoon biography of James Joyce (the title means Dubliner) by one of the most underrated cartoonists of the twenty-first century. Zapico’s lively, detailed line and engaging compositional sense makes a heavy-duty literary biography a relative breeze. The companion volume La Ruta Joyce (Zapico’s travel diary of the research for this book) is if anything more fun. English edition available; I haven’t seen it.

Iñaket & Mikel Begoña, Tristísima Ceniza (Norma)

Yup, another one about the Spanish Civil War. (If I’d allowed 2009 to sneak in, there would have been two more.) This one focused on Robert Capa, the Hungarian photographer responsible for some of the iconic imagery of the war, and his German Jewish companion Gerda Taro. Iñaket’s loose, sketchy line is a lovely contrast to the seriousness of Begoña’s script.

Álex Fito, Raspa Kids Club (Glénat/EDT)

A collection of short stories and other pieces, tied together by the conceit of a kids’ club where the kids tell macabre and socially unconventional stories. Fito’s style is both slick and cutesy – not unlike a less astringent Chris Ware – which only makes the bottom-dropping-out of his mordant tales all the more piquant.

Pablo Auladell, El Paraíso Perdido (Huacanamo)

One of the least conventional comics artists of his generation, Auladell is comparable to Dave McKean or Kent Williams, a painter who sometimes tells stories in comics. This adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is remarkable for his ability to create imagery that stands up to the Old Masters (Blake, Doré),  who have rendered this saga of pride and damnation before.

Víctor Santos, Intachable. 30 Años de Corrupción (Panini)

Probably one of the most prolific, and certainly among the most stylish, representatives of the new Spanish mainstream, Santos is becoming a familiar name in US, where he’s drawn for Vertigo, Image, and Dark Horse, but he’s extremely popular in Spain for his high-contrast fantasy, historical, and noir comics. This juicy yarn of political corruption and crime in post-crisis Spain is only the tip of the iceberg.

Susanna Martín & Isabel Franc, Sansamba (Norma)

Franc is a gay Spanish novelist whose forthright lesbian novels were very popular in the 90s; in the 2000s she began collaborating with cartoonist Martín to tell the story of her mother’s breast cancer. Their second collaboration is also autobiographical, about Franc’s relationship with a Senegalese immigrant and the civil, religious, and sexual clashes that result.

José Luis Munuera & Juan Díaz Canales, Fraternity (Astiberri)

A dark but sweet fable about an ancient monster and the boy who loves him, by two Spanish creators best known for their work in the French market (and indeed this was originally sold in French). Reminiscent of The Iron Giant, and not only because of Munuera’s expressive, lushly digital art. There were two volumes in French; the Spanish edition is combined.