We’re sorry to report the passing of Spanish comic artist and editor Luis Bermejo Rojo (frequently credited as Luis Bermejo or, simply, Bermejo), best known in the US for his work on titles such as Creepy for Warren Publishing. His work for British comics included strips such as “Heros the Spartan” for Eagle (taking over from Frank Bellamy), and “The Missing Link”, which became “Johnny Future” for Fantastic in the 1960s – but who also drew for titles as diverse as Boys’ World, Girl’s Crystal, Tina, Tarzan Weekly and the private eye stories “John Steel” for Thriller Picture Library.
He was also notable for his war stories for Fleetway’s Battle and War Picture Libraries, and strips such as “Phantom Force Five” for Buster.
His work has been published in Spain since he began his career in the 1940s. His Spanish credits include work for magazines such as Baladin, Cimoc, Comix Internacional, Hunter, 1984 and Zone 84.
He also illustrated a number of novels.
“Of all the illustrators whose work I knew as a kid, it was his that impressed me the most,” artist Ron Tiner commented in a tribute to Bermejo posted earlier today, “and bred in me the dream that all us narrative artists have, of creating visual stories that reach to the heart of things and touch that thread of humanity that runs through us all, and somehow make the world a better place.
Bermejo began drawing for British titles in the late 1950s, working initially on Girl’s Crystal and Tarzan Weekly, followed by titles such as Thriller Picture Library, War and Battle Picture Library. In 1962, he began drawing the war-themed comic strip “Mann of Battle” for Eagle, and drew “Heros the Spartan” for the title in 1963. While working for Bardon Art from Valencia alongside José Ortiz, Miguel Quesada, and Emilio Frego in the 1960s, along with book illustration work and strips for titles such as Tell Me Why, Once Upon a Time, Look and Learn and Tiny Tots, he also drew “Johnny Future”, written by the Steve Moore, a strip owned by Time UK Bear Alley Books had planned to re-publish back in 2009, a project that sadly did not progress for reasons beyond publisher Steve Holland’s control.
“His work could turn the most banal of story lines into an absolute visual treat,” says Ron Tiner. “His masterful grasp of narrative composition, his delicate ink line and consummate skill in the use of deep shadow endowed his story sequences with a bewitching, moonlit quality unmatched by any other artist-storyteller I ever saw.
“We’ve all got to die. I know. But the departure of someone who has been at the root of your ambition to someday create something of true and lasting value reminds you of what a great debt we owe to the quiet genius of artists like him.”
“Johnny Future” is described as one of the most memorable strips of the 1960s. Debuting in the very first issue of Fantastic, as “The Missing Link”, rubbing shoulders with reprints of US superhero comics, the story became “Johnny Future” after 15 issues and ran for a total of 51 episodes, the only originated strip in the 40-page comic.
“What was so great about that series was the way its pages contrasted the crass, brutal crappiness of the American comicbook with the intelligent, sophisticated artistry of the European product,” enthuses Ron Tiner. “And the difference in the quality of the scripting of the Johnny Future stories was really funny… Where the American superhero would utter an expletive, then don his ridiculous costume to go out and brutalise somebody, Johnny Future was like a diffident Sherlock Holmes – he’d sit down and stroke his chin, thinking ‘I wonder if this event might not be the outcome of what took place at the Windsor hotel this morning!'”
In 1974, Bermejo, along with fellow Valencia Studio artists José Ortiz and Leopoldo Sanchez joined the agency Selecciones Illustrada and soon started working for Warren Publishing in the US, becoming the one of the most prolific artists for the company alongside Ortiz and Esteban Maroto. His credits include titles such as Creepy, and primary artist for The Rook (recently relaunched by Dark Horse), Warren’s most well known recurring character after Vampirella.
Bermejo would also draw the serial “The Fox” in Vampirella in 1981 – 1982 and won the award for Best All Around Artist at Warren in 1981.
Bermejo also drew a series of Lord of the Rings comics, published across Europe (but never in English) between 1979 and 1981, based ion the Ralph Bakshi film interpretation of JRR Tolkien’s story.
He also worked on comic strip adaptations of the works of works by SF author Isaac Asimov, such as I, Robot – and thriller writer Raymond Chandler and was a talented impressionist oil painter.
In 1986, Bermejo started a new bi-weekly Spanish comic in the series Gallant Adventures, a magazine containing “Los Aventuras del Capitán Trueno” (The Adventures of Captain Thunder), scripted by Víctor Moor, drawn throughout bar its final episode, which was drawn by Jesús Redondo. The same comic also featured another Bermejo strip, “El Sueno Eterno”, scripted by Adriano and Jesus Blasco.
• Luis Bermejo, born 12th August 1931, died 12th December 2015.
• Desk Artes: A list of Luis Bermejo’s British comics credits (in Spanish, compiled with the assistance of David Roach)
• Luis Bermejo: 60 Years in Comics (a tribute in Spanish, published in 2009)
• Luis Bermejo: Spanish Wikipedia Page (features more credits for his work than the English language version)
My thanks to Ron Tiner for permission to feature his tribute to Luis Bermejo in this item. All © respective copyright owners (Johnny Future © Time UK)