In 1979, I was exposed to a new artist. The style was dark, highly detailed and has been described as baroque steam-punk. Unbeknown to me, this was one of the first Argentinian artists to work on British comics who was heavily influenced by the American Silver Age comic greats.
The artist was Quique Alcatena – and I swiftly grew to love his work. While I devoured his work, I little realised I was absorbing a master class in Surrealism so when I began to be exposed to the work of Picasso and Dali, I was already primed to enjoy and appreciate their art, too.
As a lone British Comics fan in a sea of American Comic fans, I often felt like I was a lone voice shouting in the darkness as very few would consider the phenomenal art in Starblazer as being praiseworthy in the same manner as the artists working on DC or Marvel titles during the same period.
With the advent of the Internet, I found that I was not the only fan of Alcatena’s work. I also discovered a treasure trove of his work that I had not been aware of before. Some I have been able to pick up – other pieces still elude me. This love of his work brought me to the attention of Argentinian documentary maker, Diego Arandojo, who asked if I would be interested in seeing more of Alcatena’s work.
Of course I would, says I – and I was intrigued when he sent me a link to a private download.
To my great delight, I was given exclusive access to Alcatena, a documentary that will be coming to a comic con near you – once we escape lockdown.
The documentary features a wide-ranging interview with Alcatena where he talks about his childhood, his apprenticeship with Chiche Medrano, his work on DC Thomson comics such as The Crunch, Hotspur, Victor and Starblazer – and a myriad of other subjects. (A little known fact is that Alcatena was so popular with DC Thomson editors that they were on a rota as to who could commission work from Alcatena next)!
From there, Alcatena talks of his work on Skorpio, Anteojito and the creator owned Hacha. If, like me, you were unaware of Hacha before now, it was also most a twin of creator owned British title TOXIC, which was launched with lofty ideals but could not crack the market or deliver the hoped for change in working conditions for comic artists and writers.
Quique talks of his time working for DC and Marvel. During this part of the documentary, it becomes obvious that this was a bittersweet moment for him and he … but no spoilers here. Needless to say, for all you FOOM and DC devotees, it is the part of the documentary that will interest you the most.
The documentary also features contributions from some of the greats that Alcatena has worked with – and one thing shines through is that Alcatena is considered a modest genius by all especially by his peers and mentors. And when those peers are such as Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, Oswal and Silvestre Szilagyi, you know you need to pay attention to them.
The documentary is beautifully shot and features a soundtrack that wil have you thinking the Cocteau Twins have released their latest concept album. The cinematography and soundtrack perfectly complement each other in combining to allow the viewer to viscerally experience the feeling of entering one of Quique’s creations.
I would have noticed more, but I spent as much time lost in reading the shelves behind each of the contributors, to see what books they owned, as I did reading the subtitles.
In writing this review, I have re-watched the documentary to see if I could mention anything else. And there is so much more… But if I mentioned it all, what would be left for you to discover?
I will finish this review with this final thought. My idea of an ideal documentary is one that you can watch over and over again and still find something new in each viewing and this documentary hits that bullseye dead centre.
This is just such a documentary.
This is the 2015 version of the documentary, previously featured on downthetubes – the 2020 edition is substantially updated…
• Argentinian documentary maker Diego Arandojo