May 23, 2011

Reclaiming History: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Welcome to a new installment of Reclaiming History, an ongoing series where the Comics Cube! tries to balance out what the history books say and what actually happened! Click here for the archive!

Today, we reclaim history in honor of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, the most important comic book artist that everyone hasn't heard of!

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, to more than just one whole generation of comic book readers, is DC Comics. He is the standard and the model by which everything is based.

But Duy, you ask, what works has he done that would give him that classification?

Well, you can see his stellar storytelling work on THE MANY WORLDS OF TESLA STRONG:

Click here for this installment of Comics Techniques and Tricks!


KAL, an Elseworlds story he did with Dave Gibbons, where Superman lands in medieval times:


The SUPERMAN VERSUS WONDER WOMAN story he did back in the 70s:

Click here for this installment of Comics Techniques and Tricks!

But the work he is probably best known for is the original BATMAN VS. HULK crossover, which came out in 1981 and is available in CROSSOVER CLASSICS:

This one piece of work is an incredible showcase of layout, design, and figure work. For example, to this day, I believe that Batman can beat the Hulk by using sleeping gas and then kicking his stomach in. I know a lot of hardcore comics fans have problems with that notion, but Garcia-Lopez drew it so well and so convincingly.

This is from two separate pages, put together. I found it on Google.

Later on, the Joker gets ultimate power, and we get pages like this.

So Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is a very dynamic storyteller. But it doesn't really say why he's so important, does it? Well, we're getting to that. And the most amazing thing is, I don't even have to say a whole lot. This entire story can be told in pictures.

You might also be thinking that Garcia-Lopez's figures look very default. Like maybe they're the versions that you see on lunchboxes and everything. Well, that's because they are.

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is the artist behind the model sheets for DC Comics. For much of the 80s into the early 90s, his drawings were the bases for the works of every. single. artist. working at DC Comics. He drew the style guide:

And he made sure that everyone knew how everyone was drawn. Check out these model sheets:

He also did a lot of promotional material. I know I've seen these images on lunchboxes, bags, and T-shirts before, and I'm sure you have too:

Plus, just look at the design work on those babies. Isn't that great?

In MODERN MASTERS #5, an issue devoted to Garcia-Lopez, Andrew Helfer makes it clear that Jose Luis was held for a long time as DC's secret weapon. Every editor in the business knew him, but few knew his name and much less his phone number. DC kept it abreast for so long because they were afraid that Marvel would snap him up with a better offer. They had every reason to fear that (if I were Marvel, I would have). And so, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez became the man who kept DC Comics consistent across all their books. The artists of DC Comics had it so much easier, because they had Garcia-Lopez to work off of.

Unfortunately, it's this "secret-keeping" that makes him a prime subject for Reclaiming History. In fact, in DC Comics' retrospective book, DC COMICS: SIXTY YEARS OF THE WORLD'S FAVORITE COMIC BOOK HEROES, he has all of three blurbs in captions accompanying photos, and only one mention in the body of an actual article. If you weren't familiar with him, you'd never have known he did the cover.

Garcia-Lopez's craftsmanship is unparalleled, and it's best illustrated by an anecdote told in MODERN MASTERS #5. Legendary European artist, Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius, was looking at Garcia-Lopez's work. He asked Helfer, "This Garcia-Lopez, he uses models, no?" When Helfer said, "No," with a smile, Moebius' only answer?


This may be the highest compliment another artist can give to another artist, but as a fan, I can give this guy the highest compliment I can give anyone. When I think about pretty much any character from DC Comics, the versions that I see in my head — even with Neal Adams' Batman, George Perez's Wonder Woman, and Gary Frank's Superman — are those of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

In my mind, he is DC Comics.

Some Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez works right here:


Jon Gorga said...

Duy, thanks for enlightening me about a little known artist!

I've got a few of those iconic designs holding permanent residence in my head too. And now I know it was Garcia-Lopez! I was only familiar with his name from the one issue of "Nexus" he was pinch-hitting for Steve Rude.

Man, that Wonder Woman vs. Superman page is a little miracle of sequential storytelling. Very cool.


Duy Tano said...

Thanks, Jon. And I knew it — I knew someone would know these images and not know where they came from. And yes, he's an incredible storyteller - I bought The Return of Donna Troy just for his layouts alone!

Joe Jusko said...

Jose is a genius. While many current fans may not know him you'll find very few pros who don't worship his talent. This is a VERY welcome and deserved tribute.

Duy Tano said...

Thank you, Mr. Jusko!

CrisMan said...

Thanks for sharing this knowledge, Mr. Duy.

Having been born in the 80s I can also say that my mental images of the DC Universe are undoubtedly from Mr. Garcia-Lopez, and I never realized it. I even own that yellow Batman tin sign. :)

I totally agree in regard of the Superman vs WW page. It's just so fluid that I can animate it in my head.

And I remember drooling over that surreal Joker page from the Hulk vs Batman crossover when I was in 8th grade, I think.

Awesome post. Keep up the great work!

Prof. Roy Richardson said...

AMEN! My wife June Brigman & I are huge Lopez fans, and have several of his originals in our collection.

Duy Tano said...

Crisman: Please, no "Mr." Just "Duy." Or "Mr. Cube." Glad you enjoyed the article!

Prof. Richardson: Thanks for stopping by! What I wouldn't give for a Garcia-Lopez original!

jnramage said...

Loved the article on Garcia-Lopez.

I first encountered him in New Teen Titans when he did some Perez fill ins. I actually thought he was better than Perez. His name on a book always made me want to buy it.

Duy Tano said...

George Perez is my favorite artist of all time, but I have to give Garcia-Lopez the edge when it comes to layouts and dynamism, and maybe even figurework.

Jorge Tovalín González-Iturbe said...

Lovely article.

I'm 30 years old. I grew up admiring the beauty of Garcia-Lopez designs for DC.

DC Comics should change its name to GL Comics.

A fan from Mexico.

MustafaJackson said...

Thank you Duy,

This is a well derseved tribute to Sr. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. I have been a fan of his for many years and am proud to call him a friend. Sr. Garcia-Lopez's work is everything you want in a comic book artist and so much more. He is the ultimate storyteller and a consistant talent, we who know of his work are much better for it.
Thank you again for making the work of Sr. Garcia-Lopez a topic of your blog.

MustafaJackson said...

Thank you again for posting the this tribute to Sr. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, or as some of us refer to him on Facebook; The Meastro.

Darrell D. said...

Great post on a great artist.
If you can find it, hunt down Twilight, written by Howard Chaykin with some gorgeous art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Well worth the hunt, as I'm sure DC hasn't bothered to collect it.

Duy Tano said...

That's on my hunt list, Darrell. Thanks.

Joe Jusko said...

Twilight is remarkable.

Doc said...


The wonderful and amazing Garcia Lopez. Wonderful analysis of his layouts Duy. His sense of space, direction and comic book staging is always top notch. His figure work looks simple in it's construction and is superb, his attention to detail spot on, his love of 'character' illustration evident in even his minor characters. He draws the most beautiful and expressive hands.
Beguiling and seductive work. I return to it again and again. I'm truly 'charmed' by this 'Master'.
Check out his Atari series for DC as well as Cinder and Ashe.

Tim Hamilton said...

I remember buying "Atari Force" as a youngster just to see his art. No offense to the writing (who wrote that book?) but it was just a toy tie in so...I'm not sure I actually read it.

Tim Hamilton

Stefano Lanza said...

Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is one of my favorite artists! is a great artist

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