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Francisco Solano López, 1928 – 2011

He may be best known in the U.S. for the many (stunningly drawn) X-rated comics he created for international consumption late in his 50-year career, most particularly the long-running Young Witches, but Argentina’s Francisco Solano López was a titan of South American comics, on a level with the great Alberto Breccia, the temporary honorary Argentinean (during the 1950s) Hugo Pratt, and the hugely influential writer Hector Oesterheld (who collaborated with all three).

Solano López was a workhorse comfortable in any genre, whose muscular, realistic artwork was instantly recognizable by the detailed textures created by clusters of short pen lines that gave it a noticeable resemblance to John Severin’s; his signature work in his native country was the ongoing science fiction series El Eternauta (created by his friend and collaborator Oesterheld), to which he returned periodically throughout his career.

A page from Deep City.

Like most Argentineans, Solano López was affected by that country’s political turmoil (Oesterheld became one of the political “desaparecidos” in 1977) and he was forced into exile several times when the authorities started casting a suspicious eye on his work, which often featured themes of corruption and repression — themes that flowered most distinctly in the comics he created during these exiles to Spain and elsewhere, including the brutal, dark detective series Evaristo (written by Sinner writer Carlos Sampayo and published as Deep City in the U.S. in 1986) and especially two deeply despairing works written by his son Gabriel, Historias Tristes and the standalone graphic novel Ana, which ends with the naked corpse of his heroine on a garbage dump, half eaten by vultures.

Solano López must also be credited with employing, training and encouraging a young cartoonist who would go on to become one of the most honored artists in the comics world: José Muñoz.

Page from Freaks.

In his last two decades, Solano López (who had returned to his now less perilous homeland) became more of an international gun-for-hire, gamely entering the X-rated comics field with his series El Instituto (Young Witches in the U.S., as published by EROS Comix), a cheerfully perverse saga of supernaturally-powered sisters that morphed into a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style extravaganza featuring historical characters behaving very libidinously, as well as the lush, full-color Sexy Symphonies. He also drew an adaptation of the classic horror movie Freaks, as adapted by Jim Woodring (for the Fantagraphics imprint Monster Comics), and returned, beginning in 2001, one last time to his beloved Eternauta, now written by his regular collaborator Pablo Maiztegui (POL).

The cover for a 1983 volume of Eternauta

Speaking as someone who worked with Solano during much of these last two decades (and who met him when he visited the United States), I can say that he was the absolute exemplar of the courtly South American gentleman, an enthusiastic and ultra-reliable professional, and an artist to the core. I can still remember him sitting quietly in a corner of the Fantagraphics house on one of our ratty office chairs, surreptitiously creating stunning pencil drawings of staffers, which he would then present to the delighted subjects. His life and his work were defined by integrity, skill, and courage. I am delighted to have worked on and published so many of his comics, honored to have known him, and saddened that he is no longer with us.

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9 Responses to Francisco Solano López, 1928 – 2011

  1. Olly Hill says:

    Sounds like a true gent. His Deep City is a beautiful piece of work and i would love to see more from him, come on fantagraphics, do your thing!

  2. Steve Flanagan says:

    Solano López’s work was also part of the comics experience of many Britons of my generation, as he worked extensively for IPC/Fleetway’s boys line in the 1970s on such series as “Jonas Stark”, “Kelly’s Eye”, “The Wild Wonders” and “Raven on the Wing”. He will be much missed.

  3. Robert Boyd says:

    Ever since it was published as a comic book, I’ve longed for a book collection of Freaks. Solano was one of my favorite artists–and was, indeed, a gentleman.

  4. Lew Stringer says:

    Just a slight correction Steve. The Wild Wonders was drawn by Mike Western, another one of the greats who worked on UK comics. As you say though, Solano Lopez was very prolific in British comics of the 1960s and 1970s, illustrating strips such as ‘Adam Eterno’ for Lion, ‘Galaxus’ for Buster, ‘Janus Stark’ for Smash, ‘Nipper’ for Score ‘n’ Roar and numerous other long running strips.

  5. Kid Robson says:

    I’m only familiar with most of his work for British publisher IPC/FLEETWAY in the ’60s & ’70s, but that was enough to leave an indelible impression not only on my then-young self, but also on thousands of other kids in Britain at the time. Those same comics were also distributed overseas, so no doubt countless other children from diverse countries were introduced to his distinctive style in this way. MASTER OF THE MARSH, TRI-MAN, GALAXUS, JANUS STARK, ADAM ETERNO and various other strips all contributed to the comics-reading experience of kids growing up in the ’60s & ’70s. A sad loss – but his name and work will live on in the minds of grown up children everywhere.

  6. Alec Trench says:

    He was one of the greats.

    Lew Stringer shows a few of Lopez’ pages here,

    and (scroll down and look for “Planet Underwater”) here.

    Over here is a fairly detailed biography, which links to a “complete” list of his UK jobs.

    R.I.P.

  7. Alec Trench says:

    More of the Solano Lopez’ pages, here:
    http://petergraycartoonsandcomics.blogspot.com/se

  8. patrick ford says:

    Kim, I wonder if you have read any of Pratt’s collaborations with Héctor Germán Oesterheld? Many Pratt aficionados hold these books in higher regard than the Corto books, and I was wondering what you think?

  9. doggy1108 says:

    I embrace this man’s Talent.I am 59 yrs young and enjoy he”s creativity as an artists.

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