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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

The (Cover) Art of British War Comics: Day 4

Thursday, October 09, 2008

After 3 days of Italians today's war artist is a Spaniard – or a Catalan to be precise – Jordi Penalva.


His first British work (and if I’m honest , the first of his work that I’m aware of anywhere) appeared in Cowboy Picture Library from 1959-1962. When that title was cancelled he transferred over to the war comics where he would go on to paint over 200 covers. I like to think of Penalva as the Spanish Frank Frazetta as the pair both have a fantastically rugged and dynamic approach to painting.


Penalva’s covers are invariably full of finely chiselled , extremely handsome heroes (apparently modelled by the artist himself) set against a background of orange or crimson explosions. Unlike the Italian artists who usually painted on board Penalva painted on canvas, usually roughly primed with Gesso , which gave his covers an excitingly textured look. More than any other painter in British comics I think Penalva had a pulp- feel to his work and I think he would have fitted in nicely alongside the likes of Norman Saunders or Norm Eastman in the notorious 'Men's Sweat' magazines of the 50’s and 60’s .


Penalva’s war covers were commissioned through the Belgian A.L.I agency which represented a number of Spaniards, but he was simultaneously working through the Anglo-Spanish Barden agency which had strong ties to the Scandinavian market. So in addition to the (at least) one war cover a week he was painting for Fleetway, Swedish readers could find his romance illustrations in womens magazines and covers for collections of James Bond, Modesty Blaise and Juliette Jones comics. In the seventies he moved over to Fleetways arch rivals D C Thomson where he painted 100’s of covers for their war comic Commando.


Of all the artists I’ve covered this week Penalva is probably the most familiar to American readers since in addition to his British work he painted some superb covers for Warren comics such as Eerie and The Rook, Marvel's Dracula Lives and numerous science fiction and romance paperbacks. In recent years he seems to have found work painting collectors plates (that’s porcellein rather than metal printing plates ! ) which I must admit is somewhat outside my area of expertise – but they do look nice.



* This week's posts are by David Roach, British comics artist of Judge Dredd, author, comics historian, and long-time TI subscriber. All this week's images are mostly taken from the original art and can be found in his latest book, "The Art Of War" published by Prion books in the UK. An earlier volume "Aarrgghh It’s War" came out last year and each contain over 1000 of the best war comic covers.

This week's images are © IPC Media.

1 comment

  1. Isaac Asimov never met George W. Bush, but he said " Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Obviously he was speaking of those who start wars, not those charged with depicting them.. So much to sink your teeth into, these are great!

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