Introduction by Carlos Mucha
To meet a superhero from your childhood is something that doesn’t happen every day. And when that superhero, your favorite artist of all time, becomes your friend; that goes beyond the greatest dream that any fan could have! Ever since I was a little kid in Argentina, I don’t remember a period of time when I was without his drawings. From a Super Friends (Super Powers) stamp album, card games, action figures, and cartoons, to a Facebook Fan page that I created to share his incredible and legendary artwork.
So, imagine my joy when I found out that José Luis García-López was coming to a convention in Miami, the city where I live and where he lived and created much of his most famous art. Finally, after many years of enjoying his drawings, I had a huge opportunity to know him as an artist, as a person, and as a friend. To see him draw in front of me was a pleasure. And to share a walk and a dinner with so many laughs and histories was to live that happiness that you only feel when you are in the company of a friend that you know from all your life.
In the midst of this, he graciously gave of his time for an interview in which José Luis showed his authentic humbleness and nobility, like a modern Don Quixote.
Founder of the José Luis García-López Fans Facebook Page
Carlos Mucha Interviews José Luis García-López
The following interview was conducted in-person on July 6th, 2014 and included questions submitted by members of the García-López Fans Facebook Page. It was conducted in Spanish by Carlos Mucha and translated to English by Carlos Mucha and Seby R.
Carlos Mucha: First, thank you so much, José Luis, for agreeing to have this exclusive interview in person!
José Luis García-López: No, really the pleasure is all mine.
Carlos Mucha: Thank you. Our José Luis García-López Fans Facebook page already has several thousand members. How did you find out about our Facebook page?
José Luis García-López: Through a friend in common on Facebook, Franck Biancarelli. In a comment, he told me that he was a proud member of the García-López Fans club. I thought he was joking, until I found a link that took me to that page. I was pleasantly surprised that somebody was interested and would like enough my work to create a page with my name. The success that it evidently has, because it has already 5,000 fans or more, is because of the ones that started and maintain the page and not because of me. So, I deeply thank you guys.
Carlos Mucha: What artists have directly influenced you that you would also recommend to other aspiring artists?
José Luis García-López: The thing is that I… I mean, I have many generations behind me. Because of that, the artists I can recommend to the aspiring artists will be unknown to them. But always, the classics are important because they have an artistic education and artistic formation that possibly modern artists don’t have.
Carlos Mucha: Can you give some names of classic artists?
José Luis García-López: Alex Raymond, Frank Robbins, John Cullen Murphy, Harold Foster, Stan Drake, Roy Crane. That’s the American artists. In Argentina, the place where I grew up, learned and began to draw, we had magnificent artists like Alberto Breccia, Jose Luis Salinas. Jose Luis Salinas was famous for the Cisco Kid that he did for King Features. Bruno Premiani and so many more that I don’t dare to name, because I will forget so many more and very good ones. South America is a breeding ground of great artists, and I don’t count myself among them. But really, even now, right here in the United States, you can find artists like Ariel Olivetti and so many other artists of great caliber.
Carlos Mucha: Your depiction of Superman, especially in the 1980s, has often been compared to Christopher Reeve. Was this resemblance ever intentional or simply coincidental?
José Luis García-López: I believe it’s simply coincidence, because I never had that intention. Nobody told me to copy or re-create Christopher Reeve’s features. The samples that they gave me with the faces of Superman and Clark Kent were drawn by Curt Swan. That was my guide for the first Superman I did.
Carlos Mucha: Very Interesting!
José Luis García-López: When was the [Superman] movie released?
Carlos Mucha: 1977 almost ‘78. (Because the movie was released in my country, Argentina, later, I thought it could have been 1977. But it was actually December of 1978 in the USA.)
José Luis García-López: I don’t remember when I did Superman Vs Wonder Woman (Cover date 1978 but on sale in October 1977) but up to that point, I had not seen the movie yet. And before Superman Vs Wonder Woman, I believe I did other [Superman] comics. I believe that the similarity that people find with Christopher Reeve’s Superman is because Christopher Reeve was the perfect Superman.
Carlos Mucha: That’s right. Yes!
José Luis García-López: He was perfect. Not only his body and face with its perfect features, but also his personality was like Superman. He exudes happiness and, let’s say, all the attributes that Superman USED TO have.
Carlos Mucha: That is true!
José Luis García-López: So, I feel flattered that people compare him with my Superman but it was never intentional.
Carlos Mucha: Are there any characters that you particularly dislike rendering, or initially had difficulties illustrating?
José Luis García-López: Superman.
Carlos Mucha: Superman?
José Luis García-López: Yes. After so many years, I still find him difficult to draw.
Carlos Mucha: And any characters that you are especially fond of drawing?
José Luis García-López: Well, others are the ones that I designed. Those, of course, are the ones that I like to draw the most. The ones I would like to keep drawing are Batman, Deadman, Jonah Hex, and occasionally Wonder Woman.
Carlos Mucha: Your 1982 DC Comics Style Guide art continues to be used on all sorts of merchandise. How do you feel about this and did you ever envision that those images would stand the test of time?
José Luis García-López: No, no, no. I never believed that. I didn’t at any moment, especially when I was working on it. Also, generally speaking, when you are drawing, you don’t think about the future of that drawing. You think of doing it, seeing it published and that’s it. But yes, it surprises me that after so many years, they keep using that material. Especially all the material from the first guide from 1982, that now has been renamed “retro” material. DC Comics named it that way. In licensing, that material was referred to in that way. A few years ago, it was a fashion designer that did a complete line of purses and many things, all of them with Wonder Woman images. And that was known as the “retro” project. Now, when they ask me to recreate some of those images for the new guides, they tell me “we want the retro style.” (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: We know that you have always been happy with DC. But if you had an opportunity, what Marvel characters would you like to draw?
José Luis García-López: (Thinks for a moment) Well, Conan is not from Marvel, no? But it was.
Carlos Mucha: Yes.
José Luis García-López: Ok, Conan could be. Another could be The Punisher.
Carlos Mucha: Ah, The Punisher? Interesting!
José Luis García-López: I never read it. But I like how he looks, and the possibilities that he can have.
Carlos Mucha: Like serious stories…
José Luis García-López: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t even know how the character is… I mean, what does he do? He is a killer, right?
Carlos Mucha: Yes, a killer of criminals.
José Luis García-López: Killer of criminals… Ok. Then he is a nice guy! (Laughs) “Death Wish”! (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: Do you receive any complimentary merchandise featuring your art or do you have to buy them like everyone else?
José Luis García-López: Sometimes, when they remember or when I remind them. They send me full boxes with merchandise, especially shirts, games, boxer shorts… all kinds of things. Some very surprising ones. Not so long ago, they sent me an iPad cover with all the Superman drawings.
Carlos Mucha: I saw that one! Any licensed products with your art that you are particularly fond of?
José Luis García-López: The shirts because I can wear them! (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: Very good!
Carlos Mucha: Much of your artistic career is with superheroes, but have you ever wanted to draw comics featuring your own original creations that may or may not have anything to do with superheroes?
José Luis García-López: Undoubtedly. The things I enjoyed drawing the most were the ones that were not necessary superheroes. It was science-fiction or westerns.
Carlos Mucha: Like Atari Force.
José Luis García-López: Like Atari Force, like Twilight, like Cinder and Ashe.
Carlos Mucha: All of them great! Your style guide art was the basis for the character designs for the 1985 cartoon, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, the last season of the Super Friends. Have you ever seen this show and if so, what was it like seeing your art in animated form?
José Luis García-López: Well, that is another thing that I discovered on Facebook on the Fans page. I think I saw a link from YouTube where there is a series of clips from that cartoon. I also saw an interview with Paul Levitz and I believe Dan Didio, too?
Carlos Mucha: Yes. It was a special feature made for the DVD of that cartoon.
José Luis García-López: In that interview, they mentioned and showed those cartoons. But really, I’m honest, I found out about all this through Facebook and especially on the Fans page and for that, I owe so much.
Carlos Mucha: But did you like seeing your art in animation?
José Luis García-López: Yes, yes. But I don’t like so much how the faces looked. But that is a problem with the modern limitations of animation, right?
Carlos Mucha: Exactly.
José Luis García-López: It’s because I grew up with Disney, with Hanna-Barbera’s Tom & Jerry and the others.
Carlos Mucha: They had more movement.
José Luis García-López: Yes, when everything was draw by hand. (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: I always thought that your art on merchandise should always come printed with your name. Would you like that?
José Luis García-López: Well, yes. Because I have very little production in comics, of course I would like it. But it’s not something that is usually done for licenses. Meaning, for licenses, the character is the most important thing, and the way you present it for the different buyers spotlighting the character. Not who makes them. I mean, it’s part of the deal, you know.
Carlos Mucha: Right. When I see your art on merchandise in the stores, I always say “That art is by Jose Luis!” Does it makes you want to say it, too, when you see it?
José Luis García-López: Oh, yes! I never lose an opportunity to say “That is by me! That is by me!” (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: We feel the same way about that.
José Luis García-López: Well, you can see it (points to his t-shirt with a Batman image drawn by him). This is for when somebody asks me “What do you do?”
Carlos Mucha: “THIS! This is what I do!”
José Luis García-López: Yes, the shirt with a drawing for the licenses.
Carlos Mucha: In the beginning, did you feel the impact of “Wow! I’m working for DC!”
José Luis García-López: No, not really. (Laughs) You have to consider that I came from Argentina and back then, growing up, the Superheroes were not as important as they are now. Now the superhero is like McDonald’s or Starbucks.
Carlos Mucha: You didn’t grow up with that…
José Luis García-López: I didn’t grow up with that. Yes, Superman and Batman were published sporadically. I do remember reading Batman, which I liked. But never were they that important to me. I mean, in my development as an artist, I was watching other kinds of things. The Argentinean models that I had were a strong personality more linked to the European models and not so much to the [North] American models. But we all knew and respected the great artists from [North] America, especially the ones from the syndicates.
Carlos Mucha: Is there a difference in working on style guides for movie and TV related properties as opposed to the standard comic book style guides?
José Luis García-López: Oh yes, there are many differences. When it’s a style guide for the movies, you have to wait for the necessary documents with the picture references for the props like the Batmobile or the new Batman mask. Because for each movie, they invent a new Batman mask in order to sell a new toy, and everything is like that. Also, all those documents come marked with your name to make sure that you won’t share it before the right time. The style guides for the comics are different. Many times, first, the editors are consulted to know what is currently been done. You also have to take into account what is wanting to be done, like a classic Superman? Or a new Superman, now known as the New 52.
Carlos Mucha: Are there any comic book writers or artists who you have yet to work with or that you would like to work again with?
José Luis García-López: I worked with many great writers. Gerry Conway, the writer of Jonah Hex (Michael Fleisher) when I was drawing the book. I wanted to work with Archie Goodwin, but I didn’t.
Carlos Mucha: How do you feel about seeing so much of your art on your Fan page, some of which you haven’t seen in years and some of which you probably forgot you drew?
José Luis García-López: Well, yes. That is always a surprise. Sometimes I wonder how you guys find things that are unknown to me. Things that I don’t even know if they got published, when or how.
Carlos Mucha: What emotions do you feel when you see them after such a long time?
José Luis García-López: I feel the itch of curiosity, because I want to know how you guys found them and from where! You guys spend more time on Google than me, I don’t know.
Carlos Mucha: What do you think of the “Praise be his name” expression that some fans state whenever your name is mentioned in writing, on podcasts, or blogs?
José Luis García-López: What? No, it can’t be. (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: Yes, really! They say “José Luis Garcia-Lopez, praise be his name.”
José Luis García-López: Oh my God. Oh my “Gosh!” I don’t know. I’m now finding out about this.
Carlos Mucha: Yes, it’s your nickname lately.
José Luis García-López: No, no. Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re saying! (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: Finally, do you have a message for your fans, many of whom grew up idolizing your art?
José Luis García-López: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for remembering my work and for still, even after so many years, continuing to like my work. And I hope to keep entertaining you all for many more years in the best way I can. And thank you so much to the administrators of the Fan page. Without them, I’m nothing. (Laughs)
Carlos Mucha: Nooo!
José Luis García-López: At this time, I’m nothing. But at least I’m having my “15 minutes of fame” like Andy Warhol used to say.
Carlos Mucha: Thank you so much, José Luis, for giving us so much joy!