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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Archive's Sunday Comics - The Gay Cavalier

The Spanish comic artist Matías Alonso is best known to British readers for his contributions to the D. C. Thomson weekly The Victor. The blog of Illustration Art Gallery has an excellent backgrounder about him in which comics bibliographer Steve Holland explains, among much else, that Alonso drew for the comic for 23 years, beginning in 1967.

Alonso began working as a teenager for comic books in his native Spain in the 1950s. A Spanish commentator noted that he quickly gained a fine reputation for his historical strips with "ships and military uniforms drawn with an eye for detail, and the exotic settings showing the influence of Hollywood movies. To counter this rather thankless attention to realism, Alonso tried to make the pages stylistically interesting, although the results could be somewhat mannered."

Steve Holland continues, "By the mid-1960s he was firmly established in the UK market, drawing for Commando, Battle Picture Library, Air Ace Picture Library and War Picture Library, sometimes working in collaboration with Luis Bermejo and with Eustaquio Segrelles. A fine example of his collaborative work with Bermejo can be seen in the Heros strip that appeared in Eagle Annual 1967, although his contributions to Boys' World Annual 1968 and especially the 1969 volume, show what he was capable of working solo."

Both the fine Boys' World strips Steve mentions were scripted by Keith Chapman, best known today as western novelist Chap O'Keefe. They gave Alonso full rein to showcase his skills with historical material.

Steve tells us, "Alonso later established himself in Spain as a painter – noted for his landscapes of northern Spain and of Spanish ports with boats jostling in the water– and has had his work exhibited in Barcelona and Madrid."

Here are the complete eight pages of the Boys' World strip The Fighting Cavalier, excerpted from the 1969 annual published in 1968 by Odhams Books Ltd.  Gay Martin Crosby ("gay" had a different meaning then, remember?) confronts the evil Dr Goar and his frightening henchman, the Hairy Giant. The story is an imaginative take on the English Civil War of the seventeenth century when the puritanical Oliver Cromwell overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned the country into a republic, which he ruled as "Lord Protector" for almost five years.

Click the pages to enlarge the artwork and enjoy the detail. Look, too, for hints of what fan Peter Richardson describes at the Cloud 109 blog as Alonso's "distinctly weirdly torrid and idiosyncratic take on comic strip art"!



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