Thursday, January 5, 2012

R.I.P. Vicar.

This is a particularly sad one for me to write!

We say “Thank You and Farewell!” to Victor Arriagada Rios, better known to most of us as “Vicar” (a clever and easy-to-negotiate derivative of his full name), who left us on January 03, 2012 at the age of 77.

Vicar was one of the very best of the artistic talents toiling for the European publishers, who assumed dominance over the field of Disney comic book production as the once mighty American licensee, Western Publishing, began its long, slow decline into eventual oblivion.

Along with Daniel Branca, Daan Jippes, and Fred Milton, Vicar ushered in a “New Age” of great Disney comic book art in America that began with the assumption of the Disney comics license by Bruce Hamilton and Gladstone in 1985. By the time the Gladstone line began in 1986, we were VERY hungry for this, and embraced the work of these talented folks with a wave of admiration that lasts to this day.

And, after many long and unsatisfying years of Gold Key and Whitman Ducks drawn by the likes of Bob Gregory and Kay Wright… BROTHER, were we READY for it!

Indeed, Vicar and Branca formed the artistic nucleus of the Gutenberghus Group (later Egmont), with their amazingly faithful renderings of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the rest in two different and significant phases of the classic Carl Barks style.

Branca specialized in the look of “Carl Barks Circa 1961” (…that would roughly equate to tales like “Mythic Mystery”), while Vicar epitomized Barks’ most classic look – that of about 1953… think “Secret of Atlantis”.

To me, NO ONE was better at capturing that particular look and feel than Vicar! And, that earned him a very special place among my most favorite Disney comic book artists.

It was my extreme pleasure to have “collaborated” with him on three occasions, providing American English dialogue for stories he’d illustrated (the first two both originally written by the great Lars Jensen and the third by Paul Halas and Tom Anderson).

Heads You Win…Tails You Bruise!” (my title) introduced unscrupulous, nerdy, and hygienically questionable coin collector Melvin X. Nickelby to the Duck Universe in UNCLE SCROOGE # 367, and I was honored to give this creation of Jensen and Vicar’s his definitive (and rather annoying) American voice! I don’t know how many comic conventions Vicar may have attended, but he certainly gave Melvin the “right look”! C’mon, readers… you ALL know what I mean! Right?
Please note: This particular image of Melvin was not drawn by Vicar -- but it's the only one I could find, and it does reflect the character as originally designed by Vicar.

An aside: I was further pleased to have scripted Melvin’s SECOND APPEARANCE in a story I titled “Bad Things Come in Threes” – in which I further upped Melvin’s “obnoxious nerd quotient”, including the notion that he has a Blog (that no one reads!). This WOULD have been published by now if Boom! hadn’t gone “kaboom!”

Next was a particularly fine artistic effort by Vicar in a Jensen story I titled “Uncle Scrooge meets The Synthezoid from the Deepest Void” for UNCLE SCROOGE # 370.
Vicar outdid himself with lots of wonderful sci-fi trappings and character designs, in this tale of alien criminal Tachyon Farflung being pursued to Earth by a titanic robot, who desires the Earth’s (and Scrooge’s) precious metals to replicate. And, Vicar draws a great big cool explosion to boot!

Anyone who calls Vicar’s art “stiff” should take a good look at that one, and reconsider.

Vicar also drew the story I called “Return of the Titan of Tae-Qwon-Duk” for Boom!’s DONALD DUCK # 362. In it, he designed the prominently mustachioed villain I aptly named “Handlebars McTwirlsneer”. I loved the name, as it seemed reminiscent of ‘60s Carl Barks, but it would never have come about without Vicar’s character design to serve as a perfect inspiration.

Rest in Peace, Vicar! Donald, Scrooge, Tachy, Melvin, McTwirlsneer, and I salute you!

My friend Pete Fernbaugh has a great tribute to Vicar that you can see HERE!

GeoX has a nice review of a Vicar story (with lots of art) HERE!

HERE is a detailed story from The Santiago Times, from Vicar’s native Chile.


Here are more Blog links to Vicar Tributes. Please read them and enjoy!
Chris Barat
Ryan Wynns
Comic Book Rehab (Joseph Adorno)


Pete Fernbaugh said...

Great personalized tribute, Joe! (Thanks for linking to my tribute, BTW.)

The Vicar art you highlight is the work I came to respect. There were only a few stories in the very early issues of Disney Comics' "Uncle Scrooge" (that I read years after they were first printed) where I found his art to be a bit stiff.

98 percent of the time, though, I enjoyed him, Branca, and Jippes equally. I especially like how you "define" which eras of Barks Vicar and Branca were emulating. Profound insight!!

With only 300 (approximately) stories of his printed here in the States, we have a great deal more of his work to see.

I'm wishing on a star, even as he sails onward beyond them to his resting place.

Joe Torcivia said...

And, a great tribute by you as well, Pete!

Anyone who hasn’t already done so, take the link and read Pete’s entry!

As to the “specific looks of Barks”, that’s what made both Vicar and Branca great! Their expert mastery and recreation of those very specific looks – and (I might reemphasize) at a time we Americans hungered for just such a thing. And yes, Vicar’s art DID get more lively as time passed, as you can clearly see in stories like “Synthezoid” vs. the “Bob Foster Era”.

He also worked almost right up to the end! Glad to know there is a great deal of his work left to see. Now, all we need is a publisher to print it!

Comicbookrehab said...

Nice photo! Reminds me a bit of Clarence Nash when he would pose with this awesome Donald puppet that was a ventriliquist dummy.

I believe there are only three stories drawn by Vicar that have been reprinted more than once in the U.S. - 1) "Go Slowly, Sands of Time", 2) "Circus Seats/The Best Seat In The House", and 3) "A Day In The Life of Scrooge".

I'm not sure if Vicar drew "Hang Gliders Be Hanged", but if so, then that would make it the 2nd original story by Carl Barks drawn by Vicar. Pretty cool.

Joe Torcivia said...

Clarence Nash? Yeah, actually! I was wondering where I’d seen that sort of image before! Nice observation! Not to mention the rare Vicar reprints.

Though, there was one more that most folks might not think of… that being “Return of the Titan of Tae-Kwon-Duk”, that Boom reprinted in the “Feathers of Fury” trade paperback!

…Of course, that depends on your definition of “reprint”.

*I’m*countin’ it, though!

Comicbookrehab said...

Ah, but then that would make your story the 2nd drawn by Vicar to be printed in a "Graphic Novel". The first was "Uncle Scrooge Stamps Out Crime", which Gladstone printed with thier album print of Barks "Golden Fleece" story. That might have been the first one I'd ever read by Vicar - Scrooge mails out all his greenbacks in envelopes before a gathering of crooks storms the money bin. Geoffrey Blum scripted. :)

Joe Torcivia said...

Wow! I forgot about that one! But, yeah!

Also depends on your definition of a “Graphic Novel”.

I think I first heard the term back when all comics were 32 pages and on newsprint. To me at least, “Graphic Novel” meant a single, special, long story that began and completed in a one-volume (often larger in physical size, but not always, than a standard comic book) square-bound publication with higher quality paper.

The first one I remember (not “THE” first, but the first I remember) was Marvel’s “Revenge of the Living Monolith”. “The Dark Knight” could also qualify, though it was made up of periodical chapters and started a format of its own -- the prestige square-bound comic-sized book. Grant Morrison’s “JLA: Earth Two” may have been my favorite actual “Graphic Novel” of all time.

A book that collects previously printed stories – or just a bunch of stories period, but not a single story created expressly for the “Graphic Novel” format -- is, to me, a “reprint collection”… or what we commonly call a “trade paperback”. Or, once upon a time, we called them “albums”, or other names.

Then, there’s that “grey area” that includes like Gemstone’s “Blotman” volumes. I wouldn’t exactly call them “Graphic Novels”, but I’m not sure how else to categorize them. And, maybe that’s “just one more area of fun” in our great hobby!

So, I’d say that the Vicar stuff in question appeared in a “reprint collection”. But, that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion. Still, it’s special to me either way, to have been in one with Vicar. I actually call it: “My only reprint” -- and it stands proudly on my den bookshelf.

Comicbookrehab said...

If you called the Blotman books "Grahpic Novels", then you could add a story you scripted - "Now Mueseum, Now You Don't" as your first graphic novel. Go right ahead. :)

Joe Torcivia said...

Say, thanks! I *like* the idea, but “Now Museum…” was only seven pages.

Doesn’t quite stand up to Grant Morrison’s “JLA: Earth Two”, does it? :-)