Alberto Breccia

The Myths of Cthulhu by Alberto Breccia, based on Lovecraft.

Often referred to as "The master of black and white", Alberto Breccia was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on 15th April 1919 and moved with his parents to Argentina at the age of three years. The Breccia family moved into the bario area of Buenos Aries - the area of the slaughter houses.

His original intention on leaving school was to become an accountant, but he abondoned his studies to take up art on a full time basis. In 1936 he created his first character Mister Pickles, a humouristic strip which he sold to El Reservo. Next he created another comic little fatman character called Don Urbano which he sold to Paginas in Columbia.

In 1938 the publishing group Editorial Manuel Lainez asked Breccia to create vignettes of well known people for Tit-Bits. Breccia created the design, texts and lettering obviously inspired by the great artists of the day: Burne Hogarth and Alex Raymond. He went on to provide various strips for Lainez until the end of the war.

At the end of 1945 Breccia left Lainez to go freelance and created Gentleman Jim (published in La Razon) based on scripts by Issel Ferrazzano. The pair then went on to create another comic strip series called Jean de la Martinica which was published in Patoruzito. Another important event that year was the birth of his son Enrique Breccia - who was born in Buenos Aires in 1946.

During the 1950's he became an "honory" member of the Group of Venice that comprised of ex-patriot Italian artists like Hugo Pratt, Ido Pavone, Horacio Lalia, Faustinelli and Ongaro as well as other honory members such as Solano Lopez, Carlo Cruz and Arturo Perez del Castillo. In 1957 he joined Frontiera Editorial, under the direction of Héctor Oesterheld, for whom he created several stories of Ernie Pike.

Above, two tradecards issued as part of a set of 50 in Argentina in the 1950's. Drawn by Breccia

In an interview, Breccia relates how, whilst drawing Ernie Pike, he was walking with Hugo Pratt, who told him "You are making shit, you can do better", which annoyed Breccia greatly, although he admits that at that time he was trying to find his style, though unsure of what that would be. At that time he was building his house and needed money, so he accepted a script by Oesterheld for a character called Sherlock Time, a detective from outer space. After drawing the first 150 boards, Breccia left to work in publicity. In 1958 Breccia's series Sherlock Time began in the comic Hora Cero Extra, and was to become one of the turn-key comic strips of all time.

In 1960 he began to work for European publishers via the Barcelona based art agency, Bardon Art, where he drew for the Fleetway publishing house of England some episodes of Spy 13 (TPL 336 - Mountains of Terror: TPL 348 - Gamble with Danger: TPL 376 - Sea Scourge), and John Steele (TPL 399 - Motif for Murder) for Thriller Picture Library and for Cowboy Picture Library some episodes of Kit Carson (361 - The Commanche Prince , 402 - Apache Manhunt, 410 - The Hunter, 447 - Danger Money, 450 - Trigger Man). He also contributed stories to the Lone Rider and Wild West Picture Library series - all westerns. [His son Enrique Breccia would also draw a few stories for Fleetway in the late 1960's]. This period did not last long as:

"I got tired of drawing westerns. Immediately after, already in 1962, Mort Cinder came along. In that period my wife became seriously ill, she had to have a kidney transplant and in the end she died, and this sank me into a depression in all the senses, morally and economically. Then I left the comic strip, when I had already drawn 206 pages of Mort Cinder, because while she was ill I had to buy medicines for her every week and these cost more than I earned. After her death I left everything and with some friends we founded a school that was called Institute of Art and of which I was director until 1971; it eventually had forty five professors, the best school in Buenos Aires for each specialty: cartoons, illustration, publicity, comic strip, cinema, etc., we got to have 700 students."

The school was Escuela Panamericana del Arte in Bueonos Aries, the friends included Pratt, Pereyra, Zoppi, Borisoff and others. In Mort Cinder Breccia started to investigate other techniques. The face of the antique dealer Ezra Winston, companion of the immortal Mort Cinder, is the face of Breccia himself, whereas the face of the protagonist is that of his friend and assistant, Horacio Lalia. Mort Cinder was published 20 July 1962 in issue Nº 714 of the Misterix comic, and carried on until 1964.

The Life of Che drawn by Alberto and Enrique Braccia and scripted by Hector Oesterheld.

In 1968 Alberto returned to comics, joined by his son comic artist Enrique Breccia, in a project to draw the brilliant comic biography of Che, the life of Che Guevara, again with a script provided by Osterheld, and later another biography, this time Piron (both for the comic magazine Danieri), also Cthulhu (based on Lovecraft). Whilst the life of Che was unpopular in Argentina, it was popular in other quarters. Breccia was approached by the American Embassy as to whether he could do a similar biography on John F. Kennedy - unfortunately the project never matierialised.

In 1969 Osterheld rewrote the script of El Eternauta, for the magazine People. Breccia drew the story with a decidedly experimental style, resorting to diverse techniques to obtain a work that was anything but conventional and moving away from the commercial. Breccia refused to modify its style, which added to the tone of the script, and was much different from Solano Lopez' original.

During the 1970's he contributed to many European magazines such as Linus, El Globo, Alter Alter, Il Mago, Charlie Mensuel and Metal Hurlant.

Alberto Breccia passed away in Buenos Aires on 10 November 1993. All his children seem to have inherited some of their father's talents and are comic artists and/or illustrators in their own right: his daughters Christina Breccia (born 24/2/1951), Patricia Breccia (born 17/9/1955) and his son Enrique Breccia (born 1946).

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