‘Super Men’ by Seby
Growing up in India in the early ’80s, there were not many opportunities to be exposed to American comic books. Lucky for me, Superman was one of the few characters that found its way to the local newsstands. I was four years old when I was introduced to my first Superman comic. A next door neighbor boy, who was a few years older, brought it over to my house. I’ll never forget the image of a man clad in bright colors and wearing a long cape lifting up a ship from the water. I don’t remember what issue that was or who drew it or wrote it, but that image was something I would never forget. From then on, I became a Superman fan for life.
When my family immigrated to the U.S. in the mid ’80s, I was quickly made aware of the legions of other superheroes whose exploits I could read in print and follow on TV. But my favorite still remained Superman. And then came that fateful day when I went shopping with my parents. As we passed by the home video department, my eyes quickly transfixed on an image of Superman in the flesh! It was the VHS cover to Superman-The Movie, with Superman flying towards the viewer dressed in the outfit that was unmistakably imprinted in my mind since childhood. This wasn’t just an actor playing a role, this WAS Superman! From then on, I became a Christopher Reeve fan for life.
During various outings with my family to the local stores, I was inundated by the plethora of Superman merchandise: the t-shirts, the posters, the lunchboxes, the coloring books! I was in awe of the great art. Superman, as well as the other DC heroes, were always smiling and taking great joy in being superheroes. As it should be! Even at that young age, my artistic sensibilities were developed enough to realize that it was one artist who was drawing all of these fantastic images. The Superman drawings looked so much like Christopher Reeve. Or maybe Christopher Reeve just looked so much like Superman? Whatever the case, from then on, I became a fan of this unknown artist for life.
In the days before the Internet, it was frustrating to have such limited access to information regarding my interests. When Christopher Reeve had his accident in 1995, there was suddenly an influx of media coverage surrounding his life. It was the kind of attention I had always hoped Reeve would get, but it came under such tragic circumstances. It was only after the accident that I found out more about Reeve’s personal life, which centered around his devoted wife and children. The man I had always seen as Superman was very much human after all, but no less a hero because of it.
I was also on a personal quest to find out the identity of “the unknown artist” whose art I so admired. Having come across an Atari Force comic in the early ’90s, I couldn’t help but notice the stylistic similarities. The art was credited to José Luis Garcia-Lopez. I still was not certain if this was him, but it was my first promising lead. Over the years, I would only see Garcia-Lopez’s art sporadically on fill-in issues or one-shot stories. I couldn’t understand why such an exemplary artist wasn’t being used more by DC. Eventually, in the mid 2000s, I was able to find a book dedicated to Garcia-Lopez’s career entitled, Modern Masters, Vol.5. Finally, I would have the answers to so many of my questions! Garcia-Lopez started working at DC Comics in 1974 and was assigned the formidable task of creating thousands of licensing images starting in 1982. This “Style Guide” art was collected in a massive album and was only available to DC employees as reference material or to licensees interested in using the art for merchandising. Practically, all of the superhero images that I grew up loving came directly out of the 1982 DC Style Guide. These images proved so popular that they continue to be used on merchandise to this day! Over the decades, Mr. Garcia-Lopez has continued to churn out countless more style guide images to keep pace with the changing times. Far from being under-employed, Garcia-Lopez was DC’s “secret weapon,” as former DC Comics editor Joe Orlando considered him. Unfortunately, being a secret weapon also meant that only a small fraction of the millions who grew up seeing his art actually knew his name!
Both Christopher Reeve and José Luis Garcia-Lopez have influenced my life in ways that I could not possibly fully articulate in this brief narrative. They each gave life to a hero that I grew up idolizing through their individual artistic interpretations. Indeed, when I think of Superman in the flesh, I think of Christopher Reeve. When I think of the comic book Superman, I think of Garcia-Lopez’s art. Their legacies continue to grow thanks to loyal fans who have taken up the responsibility of making sure their contributions are not overlooked. Fans sites such as CapedWonder™.com and the Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez Fans Facebook Page provide an invaluable resource for fans looking to learn more about these two remarkable individuals. Individuals I will always consider to be real life Super Men.
October 31, 2011
Thanks very much, Seby, for sharing your wonderful story and love for all things Christopher Reeve and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez Superman! I, too, am a HUGE fan of Jose’s incredible portfolio, having recently added a copy of the 1982 DC Comics style guide to my collection.
Seby is a very giving and kind gentleman who has supported this website for a long time. I so appreciate it, Seby!
For more of Mr. Garcia-Lopez’s art, please visit the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez Gallery.