Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jose Ortiz

On 23rd of December 2013 the world of graphic novels lost Jose Ortiz Moya.
 Ortiz was one of the old school of European artists working in Fleetway’s stable in the 70s and through to the 80s, although he did far more than those familiar comics, and even worked with some bigger names, in particular Vampirella and the celebrated post-Apocalyptic series Hombre. A talent for portraying the macabre and desolated landscapes would serve him well, however, with what Fleetway had in mind for him.
Tower King
My introduction to Ortiz’ work was through Eagle and the- yes, post-Apocalyptic Tower King. Set in a modern London after the entire planet has had its electrical power ripped away by a rogue satellite, The Tower King nodded its way to Mad Max and his predecessors, but unlike, say, Damnation Alley or A Boy and his Dog stayed entirely within the city, sensibly taking up the opportunities its slow decay could offer visually – Ortiz’ sketchy style seems perfect for reducing such landmarks as Big Ben’s tower and, of course the Tower of London itself to dusty, matchstick ruin. I love the look of it, and Ortiz renders his hero Mick Tempest like his other leading men - weathered and drawn, sketchy and leathery, toughened by the challenging landscape around them.  Similarly, his turn on companion strip The House of Daemon drew on Ortiz’ skill with horror to produce a truly phantasmagorical strip that, in black and white simple ink, held its own impressively among the comic’s louder photo strips. I relished both Tower King and Daemon, and stuck with them until their equally satisfying conclusions (reliably, scripted by John Wagner and Alan Grant), but as I’ve described earlier on this blog, I didn’t linger with Eagle; my loss, in a way, because it meant that I missed out on the comic’s devouring of ill-fated horror mag Scream and the much-celebrated Thirteenth Floor series, a horror based around a sentient elevator which reunited Ortiz with Grant and Wagner.
House of Daemon
I’d moved to 2000AD, as the story goes, but Ortiz moved with me, providing the initial episode of a Dredd world strip I still harbour a soft spot for, Helltrekkers (Wagner and Grant again, testing the waters early for the Judge Dredd Megazine) and more ambitiously, a stint on Rogue Trooper, which moved the blue-skinned genetic infantryman from Nu Earth to the even more alien world of Horst. Ortiz’s turn (and the larger Horst storyline) isn’t recalled fondly, following as it does such a strong run by the likes of Cam Kennedy and an at-his-peak Brett Ewins, yet Horst’s weird, bestial soldiers based around the forms of bats, lizards and (to a suspiciously Gigeresque end) horseshoe crabs came out the better for being rendered by Jose, I think.
Rogue Trooper
So Ortiz, for an old-school artist, proved an effective bridging artist between my Eagle days and my 2000AD future. His work didn’t have the immediate crazy thrill of a Mick McMahon, Kev O’Neill or Ian Gibson piece (alongside whom he’d feature), nor the clean lines of Brian Bolland and his detractors, but instead alongside other Euro artists like Ezquerra, Massimo Belardinelli and Jesus Redondo, he’d bring in a fluid style that for a while complemented 2000AD’s woozy, weird and ravaged worlds.

It's a style which I miss already.


  1. Was never a fan of Ortiz, a bit too scratchy for my liking, but I really loved the fluidity of the character poses in Redondo's work, especially in "Return to Armageddon."

  2. Yeah, I like Redondo, too - Return to Armageddon for sure (it's just been collated for the first time since its debut I think!) and his book of Nemesis (book 3?)

    I felt bad not really enjoying Ortiz' Rogue at the time as well, but him being on art duties was really the least of the issues with the strip. He was following up what should have been the end of the series with the Traitor General tracked down and everything!

  3. As someone who stayed on past House of the Demon though the absorbed 13th floor (and past the point where max the computer took over Eagle's editorship in a Thargesque kinda way (but not Big E thankfully), I think the jump off was probably well timed. 13th Floor was memorable, but had a kind of tweeness, and lacked the surreal chills and horror of House...

    David R

  4. Cheers Dave!

    Yeah, it's funny, that. I've no doubt I felt I was growing 'out' of Eagle at the time (being a venerable 13 years of age), but the weird element was also that around the time of the end of daemon and Doomlord Eagle retired its photostrips, which were honestly rotten, but I kinda liked them in that they gave the mag its own identity. Mind you, around that time too they brought in some strips (Crow Street Comp was one?) which seemed a pale imitation of other media success stories (something on TV rhyming with Strange Bill, for example) and while earthly stories and ripping police/war/detective things were all fine and everything, the next stop on my teenage pop culture train looked much more enticing all round. To this day I've not read a single page of Max and his multi-floored machinations (although I believe Hibernian Press put a short-run collection together of it and one of Doomlord. Good on them!)

  5. Nice piece, keep an eye on Hibernia's facebook page in the next few days for news on the Tower King!

  6. Thankyou, sir. I certainly will! I'm still kicking myself for not picking up your Doomlord and 13 Floor collections when they were available :)