Entries in Pepo Pérez (1)

Sunday
Feb202011

Comics in Spain: Paco Roca

My wife is from Spain and so we tend to spend time there regularly. When there, we stop in comics shops, looking and asking for anything interesting. We've found some good artists, but one stands above the crowd: Paco Roca. Without doubt his greatest book to date is the moving and beautiful Arrugas (Wrinkles), a graphic novel about effects of aging and Alzheimer's, told through the sensitively drawn members of a retirement home. It's a gorgeous and truly affecting narrative.

Roca has other books. Perhaps the best being El Faro (The Lighthouse), a touching fantasy tale of the seaside in the time after the Spanish Civil War. A member of the defeated Republican force takes refuge in a broken-down lighthouse with its erstwhile keeper.

His other recent books are also worth reading though they are somewhat less successful, at least to an international audience. El Invierno del Dibujante (Winter of the Draftsman) is a peon to the comic artists in Spain during the fascist era. It's full of touches about life during that dark period, only marred by its limited accessibility to those unfamiliar with those leading artists (E.g., Francisco Ibáñez of Mortadelo y Filemón). The characterizations tend to run together to the uninitiated, though the story is otherwise beautifully drawn and well told.

His other recent book, Las Calles de Arena (Streets of Sand), is as gorgeously executed as any of Roca's other work, but is a work that ends up feeling considerably rushed; it's a kind of Alice in Wonderland of many subplots cut down to a size well beneath what the story requires. A shame, since it's otherwise a very promising work.

Roca deserves wider exposure. His work is of the highest artistic quality and every page is Spanish through and through -- it isn't an attempt at international sales or anodyne acceptability. I hope that someone will eventually see that he deserves an English-speaking audience, and if so, the place to start is with the inimitable Arrugas.

Are there other great comic writers in Spain? Certainly. Another interesting artist is Pepo Pérez, who has a post-Watchmen contemporary take on the superhero in El Vecino (The Neighbor).  It's Superman as young adult slacker, not perhaps the most original take but well executed, at least in the first two books (combined into a single volume). The third tends towards a dull cynicism that, combined with poorer draftsmanship, makes it less interesting.

More? I'm looking ...