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Jose Gonzalez, 1939-2009
posted March 18, 2009


Jose "Pepe" Gonzalez, the Spanish artist whose stunning depictions of the Vampirella character during a short but highly influential stint working with that character burned her into the comics consciousness perhaps above and beyond its strength as a concept, died recently after falling into a coma.

imageA facile illustrator at an early age, the publishing specifics of Gonzalez's early career are unclear. He was definitely recruited into comics work by Selecciones Ilustradas manager Josep Toutain, although whether that preceded followed a few projects as a teenager is unclear. At any rate, Toutain was apparently wowed by Gonzalez's precociousness in realizing popular art styles. He worked at first for SI on a western series but quickly moved into romances that showed off his skill depicting the female form. This included a productive stint at Fleetway, where he worked for the magazines Blue Jeans and an adaptation of the television show The Avengers

Gonzalez came to Vampirella soon after that character's creation. He became the primary artist with issue #12. Thus began a short but impressive run with Gonzalez employing a variety of styles including a popular, romanticized style slightly reminiscent of photo-realism that in many ways outlived the comics in which it appeared. He would contribute a story per issue until #34, intermittent stories through issue #82, and one-page pin-ups starting in 1975. According to one count of Gonzalez's output, he drew 53 comics starring the character.

In contrast to the approach brought to the character by other artists, Gonzalez's Vampirella looked like a stunning model but wasn't exaggerated or idealized beyond that lofty standard. His version was grounded in a way that allowed Gonzalez to depict her in multiple styles and, I think, so firmly established the character visually so that subsequent artists could make departures from that basic approach without losing their audience. There are very few achievements in comics exactly like that one, a definitive seizure of a specific, memorable character.

Gonzalez won something called the Best Art Of The Year Comicon Award in 1971 for his first regular issue on the character, and a subsequent award in 1974 for work on issue #33.

He would after his short run return to Spain, where he worked on a few comics stories and established a successful although decidedly non-lucrative career as a visual artist near Barcelona. Two comics series from the publisher Norma to which he contributed were Chantal and Mamba. He returned briefly to Warren in the early 1980s, contributing to six issues of Vampirella before the publisher's bankruptcy. According to various profiles, he also established a successful but non-lucrative career as a visual artist near Barcelona.

A lovely appreciation of his Vampirella comics may be found here.