* This week David Roach, British comics artist of Judge Dredd, author, comics historian, and long-time TI subscriber takes over as guest author so I can enjoy a brief break. Many thanks, David!
I’m not an expert on Camps’ career prior to his British debut in 1960 but I would imagine it fits in with the majority of Spanish artists. Camps was born in 1929 which makes him a little bit older than most of the generation who worked for the U.K – a generation born after the Spanish Civil war growing up in a country that was both isolated and considerably poorer than the rest of Europe. Interestingly many of these artists were born and drew in Barcelona which must have the highest density of comic book artists anywhere in the world.
The biggest publisher in the country was Bruguera and like many others much of Camps’ earlist work appeared in their titles such as Pulgarcito and Aventuras De Capa Negra . Bruguera published far more than just comics though and camps also illustrated a series of classic childrens books including Robinson Crusoe, Heidi and Robin Hood. However, the company apparently paid quite badly so when the opportunity arose to work in Britain the artists jumped at the chance.
Differences in the exchange rate between Sterling and the Peseta meant that artists could earn as much as 3 times their usual Spanish page rate and though many came to loathe the unending succession of romance strips they had to draw most made a very good living out of them nonetheless.
When the Spanish artists hit Britain they were a revelation. Though many were very young , barely out of their teens in fact, they had an astonishingly assured grasp of anatomy and draughtsmanship coupled with a very modern sophistication in their rendering which made most of the British artists look decidedly old fashioned.
In the field of Romance the most influential artist was Jorge Longaron (later to find fame in the U.S. drawing the Friday Foster newspaper strip) whose pared back rendering and stunning girls looked thrillingly modern.
Inspired by Longaron his fellow artists in the S.I studio set the visual tone of British romance comics for over 20 years and Camps soon proved to be one the very best. Camps’ strip work is almost indistinguishable from Longarons’ and as you will see from the examples this week he mixed a thrillingly loose and expressive line with a sophisticated sense of composition – check out the use of negative space. His girls are absolutely typical of what I would call “the Spanish look” – heavy lidded, thickly mascara’d eyes, big hair, big lips, lithe, languid figures and a look that just screams the '60s.
Camps’ U.K strip work spanned the years 1961 to 1967 mostly appearing in the Fleetway titles Valentine, Roxy and Serenade.
The latter is particularly interesting because its’ covers featured a limited amount of colour which allowed the artists to be very bold and inventive and I think Camps work here is some of the very best in the genre.