I’ve been sometimes asked “who were your greatest influences when it comes to coloring comics?” The answer is easy. Growing up in Spain my two idols were Richard Corben and Moebius. In the 1970s these two giants changed the comics medium, including its colors. It is important to note that these two artists did complete art, including color painted by hand. The fact that they no longer color their own work is a sign of how much things have changed. But in Europe artists still tend to color their own work for the oversize graphic novels that they call “albums.”
A series of fantasy albums appeared a few years back, which stood head and shoulders above all others. Deicide, written by Carlos Portela and illustrated by Das Pastoras is an underrated masterpiece.
The story begins in a familiar set up: in a primitive tribe a virgin sacrifice must be done to appease an evil god. The virgin in this case happens to be the chief’s daughter and there is a love triangle between her and two warriors that pursue her. Predictably one wins the contest for her affection but his actions have dire consequences. The setting brings to mind Bloodstar, the brilliant Robert E. Howard adaptation by Richard Corben. But a mystical aspect is also introduced on the first pages, reminiscent of Moebius’ esoteric work like is 40 Days in the Desert. Soon the story becomes a quest for the lost soul of the beloved, an Orphic voyage though an Oz-like world (the hero’s companion is a twisted version of the Cowardly Lion), complete with deserted vistas, strange creatures, and alien cultures. After 92 pages the story reaches a dramatic cliffhanger. And then… well, the proverbial “To be continued…” That was six years ago and both creators have since moved on to other projects.
Das Pastoras is now working with Jodorowsky in the Metabarons cycle, so the story may never be finished. Yet despite this fact and its somewhat clichéd premise, the execution of Deicide is extraordinary. Each page vibrates with an internal life that I have not seen since Liberatore drew those insane Ranxerox stories in the eighties… Das Pastoras is a true comics master in all areas: his storytelling is pitch perfect, his mise-en-scène is impeccable, like Moebius, Corben and Liberatore, he combines caricature and realism flawlessly, his designs seem like ethnological records from lost civilizations, fully developed and coherent, his creatures are bizarre and familiar at the same time… and his color… well his color is just perfect! It’s a rare combination of realism and subjectivity where line and shape are perfectly integrated. His watercolored landscapes are evocative and inviting. They “feel” like natural environments, even if they are part of alien worlds.
In the U.S., Deicide has had a spotty publication history: in 2002, Humanoids Publishing translated a well-printed oversize hardcover of the first chapter, subtitled “ Rage Against the Gods.” Two years later, DC Comics reprinted the story bundled with the second chapter under the subtitle “Path of the Dead.” This later reprint suffered from having its format reduced to standard American comic size and poor printing where the yellows saturated all the pages. So there is no perfect edition in English to enjoy both of the existent chapters of the saga. I recommend getting the first English hardcover “Rage of the Gods” and the second volume in its French or Spanish editions, where they were produced properly… This is an amazing achievement and a feast for the eyes of any lover of the Fantasy genre, and proves that the revolution Corben and Moebius started four decades ago continues to this day.
José Villarrubia is an artist and illustration professor with extensive comics credits to his name, perhaps most notably two projects with writer Alan Moore, The Mirror of Love and Voice of the Fire, both available from Top Shelf Productions.
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