For over six decades, the so-called “patriarch” of Spanish comics, Jesús Blasco Monterde (1919-1995), excelled because of his extraordinary combination of versatility, virtuosity, and prolificacy. Blasco created two of the most iconic characters of Spanish comics, Cuto and Anita Diminuta; and he is particularly revered by British readers as the foremost artist of The Steel Claw.

Jesús Blasco debuted professionally in the magazines Pocholo and Boliche in 1935. For the latter, he created a kid strip where he first introduced the character Cuto. By that time, Blasco was heavily influenced by funny-animal cartoonist Floyd Gottfredson, though his stylistic spectrum evolved to encompass detailed realism and a powerful chiaroscuro, inspired by Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff.

After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Blasco reinvented Cuto as a globe-trotting reporter, for the boys’ magazine Chicos. Through Cuto’s adventures, he criticized Franco’s dictatorship in the form of fictional totalitarian regimes. For the girls’ magazine Mis Chicas, Blasco created Anita Diminuta, a young heroine in the realms of marvelous folklore. This strip was produced by Blasco alongside his siblings Pilar, Alejandro, and Adriano. They worked together frequently and it is hard to determine who drew what in their many collaborations.

In the mid-1950s, Blasco was one of the first foreign artists to enter the British comics industry. During the following two decades, his adaptability enabled him to cultivate a wide range of subjects and styles: the western exploits of Buffalo Bill (Comet), Billy the Kid (Sun), and Kit Carson (Cowboy Picture Library); the adventures of English heroes Robin Hood and Dick Turpin (Sun); fantastic stories for young children (Playhour; Teddy Bear); and romance for girls (Mirabelle, Valentine), amongst many others. His best-remembered British work is “The Steel Claw” series for Valiant (1962-68, 1971-73), about an antihero with a metallic hand that confers him the power of invisibility. It achieved cult status, thanks in no small part to Blasco’s atmospheric art. For the earliest issues of 2000 AD (1977), Blasco created the action-packed series “Invasion!” alongside Pat Mills.

Blasco’s works for other markets included: the western strip “Los Guerrilleros” for Belgian magazine Spirou; an adaptation of the Bible for French publisher Dargaud; the Tarzanesque character Tumac for Sweden; a few short horror stories for American publishers Marvel and Warren; and some adventures of Italian publisher Bonelli ‘s top character, ranger Tex Willer. At the same time, his production for Spain comprised periodic returns to Cuto and a short-lived revival of the hugely popular El Capitán Trueno. His talent was recognized through prestigious awards like the Italian Yellow Kid and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; in Spain, he was the first president of the Saló Internacional del Còmic de Barcelona.

— Jesús Jiménez Varea

Further Reading

  • Bulmer, Ken and Jesús Blasco. The Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man. London: Titan Books, 2005.
  • Merino, Ana (Ed.). “Spanish Comics: A Symposium”, International Journal of Comic Art vol. 5 no. 2 (Fall 2003): 3-153.
  • Roach, David A. “The Spanish Invasion”, Comic Book Artist vol. 1 no. 1 (Spring 1999): 64-77.