Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alfredo Alcala, Master Draftsman

Alfredo Alcala, Master Draftsman

'Black Colossus', Savage Sword of Conan #2, October 1974

Starting in the late 60s and accelerating in the early 70s, many Filipino artists were recruited as freelancers for the major comic book publishers in the US, such as Marvel, DC, and Warren. These artists included Tony DeZuniga, Gerry Talaoc, Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino, Ernie Chan, and Alfredo Alcala.

'A Night in the Unlife', Dracula Lives #9, November, 1974

Alcala (1925 – 2000) was self-taught and had an established reputation as a skilled artist, and the creator of the Filipino comic book ‘Voltar’, when he began working as an inker and artist for US publications. He initially worked primarily for Marvel and DC, but starting in 1977 he worked mainly for Warren. Alcala turned to animation in 1990 and afterwards did very little comic book art.

'Garden of Evil', House of Mystery #226, August-September, 1974

Alcala was a superior draftsman, whose work – which had something of a 19th-century flair to it - showcased his skills at cross-hatching and shading. Despite what must have been a heavy workload for him from Marvel, Warren, and DC in the 70s and 80s, all of Alcala's stuff that saw print is of very high quality.

'They Hunt Butterflies, Don't They', House of Mystery #220, December, 1973

Unfortunately, a compilation of Alcala’s comic book work is not likely, nor, given the multiple publishers he worked for, feasible from a licensing / reprint rights standpoint. However, the Comic Book database lists the myriad individual comics for which he provided inking and penciling, and some of these can be obtained from comic book shops. 

Probably the best approach for admiring Alcala’s penmanship is to obtain the inexpensive black-and-white trade paperback compilations of 70s four-color comics, such as the DC ‘Showcase’ series, or the Dark Horse compilations of the ‘Savage Sword of Conan’ magazines, excerpts of which are posted here.

'The Curse of the Crocodile', House of Mystery #119, November, 1973

Because they are printed in black and white, these compilations really allow for the appreciation of Alcala's draftsmanship, without the interference of the low-quality color separations used in the original comic books. It's much easier to see the intricate cross-hatching and shading that Alcala routinely brought to almost every panel. Some of the larger panels must have taken him a day or longer to complete – this was back in the days when Photoshop and other drawing / art software simply didn’t exist.

'The Deadman's Lucky Scarf', House of Mystery #224, April- May, 1974

It's tempting to think just how good Alcala's penmanship might look, were he to be here to submit his work to modern comics and graphic novels, with their superior reproductive technologies and print quality. 

'The Man Who Dies Twice', House of Mystery #225, June - July 1974

Then again, given how so many contemporary comics are formatted to publish flat line drawings that are colored and shaded using Illustrator and Photoshop, it's unclear if artwork like Alcala's would even have a market at either the big publishers, or the indie publishers............

In any event, here are some selected panel's of Alcala's work for DC, Warren, and Marvel.

'The Promise', Weird War Tales #9, December, 1972

'October 30', Weird War Tales #11, February, 1973

'The Ultimate Weapon', Weird War Tales #15, July, 1973

'Death is A Green Man', Weird War Tales #20, December, 1973

'Black Colossus', Savage Sword of Conan #2, October 1974

'Iron Shadows in the Moon', Savage Sword of Conan #4, February, 1975

'The Citadel at the Center of Time', Savage Sword of Conan #7, August, 1975

'The Citadel at the Center of Time', Savage Sword of Conan #7, August, 1975

'The Trouble With Tin Men !' (The Rook), Eerie #105, September,1979

'The Inheritance', Vampire Tales #8, December, 1974

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