We’re sorry to report the passing of veteran Spanish artist José Ortiz Moya (best known in the UK as José Ortiz), whose work British comic fans will recall from comics such as Scream, the 1980s Eagle and 2000AD.
Reporting his passing, the Spanish newspaper Levante notes Ortiz, who was 81, was a perfectionist as an artist and one of many comic creators that are considered part of a “golden generation” of Spanish comics.
“He was the consummate professional,” commented former Eagle editor David Hunt on learning of his passing. “Max the malevolent computer [in The Thirteenth Floor] was a brilliantly conceived idea by Alan Grant and John Wagner which first appeared in Scream drawn by Jose. The Eagle editorial team were delighted to inherit the story and it became a huge hit for its readers. Ortiz never once let us down.”
José Ortiz Moya was the son of a painter who first began drawing at just 16. He worked as an assistant to Manuel Gago, author of El Guerrero del Antifaz (Mask of Guerrero).
His first published work was El Espía (The Spy) for Editorial Maga. He then moved to Valencia to share a studio with his brother, Leopoldo (who died last year), and other comic strip professionals such as Luis Bermejo and Miguel Quesada, which became known as the Escuela Valenciana (Valencia School).
Ortiz went on to draw several more strips for Editorial Maga including: El Capitán Don Nadie (1952), El Príncipe Pablo (1953), Sebastián Vargas (1954), El Duque Negro (1957), Balín (1955), El Duque Negro (1955), Pantera Negra (1956), and Johny Fogata (1960).
At the end of the 1950s he also began working with Toray and Brugera on Sigur el Vikingo and a series about histories of Western gunmen – Hazañas del Oeste – as well as illustrating novels such as Bisonte Extra and illustrating adaptations of classic novels under the umbrella title Colección Historias such as Los Viajes de Gúlliver (Gulliver’s Travels) and Las Cruzadas (The Crusades).
In the 1960s he began working for the publishers in the United States, Britain and Italy, drawing war strips commissioned via the Bardon Art Agency run by Barry Coker, who sourced artists for IPC and who is much-praised by talents such as Brian Bolland and others. Ortiz drew the fondly-remembered newspaper strip Caroline Baker, Barrister at Law for the Daily Express for two years and series such as “Smokeman” and “U.F.O. Agent” for Eagle.
On Bear Alley, Steve Holland notes Caroline Baker was said to have been written by a “famous barrister” but the real author was Willie Patterson, a favourite scriptwriter of mine who also wrote Jeff Hawke for the Express. Ortiz is said to have come over to the UK especially to draw sketches at a magistrates’ court.
He also drew The Phantom Viking for Lion and contributed to Fleetway collections like Air Ace Picture Library and the Battle Picture Library.
In the 1970s, Ortiz worked with editor/writer Josep Toutain (who also worked with creators such as Dick Matena) on Mitos del Oeste (Myths of the West) books about the old American West, published in both Spain and distributed in the United States. Their success led in turn to Ortiz’ work for Warren, on a huge range of strips for their horror, fantasy and science fiction titles Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, and was declared Warren’s best artist in 1975, drawing over one hundred strips for the company. Ortiz credits at the time also included work on strips such as Tarzan, Son of Tarzan and The Crow.
He also continued his work for Toutain, on titles such as the highly acclaimed Los Cuatro Jinetes del Apocalipsis (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) – and enjoyed an eight month run on the licensed strip “The Persuaders” for Britain’s TV Action, as well as drawing for Diana and Warlord.
After 12 years of work for the US and elsewhere Ortiz returned to working for Spanish companies, and on his own projects. In the 1980s he again worked on historical strips, largely with writer Antonio Segura, re-telling, for example, the story of the infamous Jack the Ripper as Las Mil Caras de Jack el Destripador (The Thousand Faces of Jack the Ripper) and many other series, all drawn in his distinctive style.
The partnership was very successful, despite the decline in comic sales in Spain in recent years. Ortiz and Segura also created Ives (later renamed Morgan) and began the humorous sci-fi series Burton & Cyb in 1987, followed in 1990 by the series Juan el Largo – and Hombre, a post-apocalyptic saga, in the magazine Cimoc.
He also worked on British comics Eagle (drawing “The Tower King” and “The House of Daemon”), Scream (drawing “The Thirteenth Floor”) and drew a large number of “Rogue Trooper” strips for 2000AD as well as Judge Dredd.
“I looked at a lot of José Ortiz when drawing ‘Rogue Trooper’,” artist Dave Gibbons commented on Twitter. “[I was] thrilled when he drew some.”
In 1982 Ortiz became co-publisher at the short-lived magazine house Metropol with nephew Leopoldo Sánchez, and Mariano Hispano and Manfred Somme, releasing just three titles in one year of operation – Metropol, Mocambo and KO Comics. Ortiz drew his well-known strip Man for the latter title, as well as illustrating the strips Bogey and Frank Cappa.
In the early 1990s Ortiz drew Bud O’Brien u Ozono and in 1992 completed two highly respected albums as part of a series, Relatos del Nuevo Mundo (Stories of the New World ), published by Planet for the Spanish market as part of the celebrations marking the fifth centenary of the discovery of America. An ambitious undertaking spanning some 25 large format hardcover colour albums incorporating one long strip each, Ortiz contributions for this were La Civilización Inca (The Civilization of the Incas) and Orígenes del Hombre Americano (The Origins of American Man). Other comics artists on the project also known for their US work included Jesus Redondo and Alex Niño.
Sadly, the Spanish comics market seems in just as much of a decline as the UK in recent years but Ortiz continued to find work beyond its borders, working on the cowboy strip Tex Willer for Italian publisher Sergio Bonelli, along with other strips such as Ken Parker and Magico Vento.
In 1998, the Asociación de Amigos del Tebeo de la Región de Murcia (the Association of Friends of the Tebeo of the Region of Murcia) awarded Ortiz the honour “Paparajote de Oro” for his work. He was also awarded the Grand Prize – the Gran Premio del Salón – at the 30th Barcelona International Comics Convention in 2012.
“A favourite of mine since I first saw his work at the age of eight, and still a favourite now,” commented artist and Warren Companion co-author David Roach on the news. “A sad, sad loss.”
Our sympathies to José’s family and friends. He will be much missed.
• José Ortiz Moya, born 1st September 1932, died 23rd December 2013
• Lambiek Entry: http://lambiek.net/artists/o/ortiz_jose.htm
• Excellent bio (in Spanish) at: www.murciacomic.com/quienesquien/ortiz.htm
• Le Cancon de Tristan: Tribute to Jose Ortiz Moya, 23rd December 2013 (in Spanish)