The Cisco Kid Volume 1 Paperback – October 24, 2011
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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Jose Luis Salinas' first important series was Hernan el Corsario, a pirate series published in the then best selling Argentinean comic book Patoruzu, later known as Patoruzito. This series, done in the early thirties, showcased an artist heavily influenced by Hal Foster, but already just as good as his American counterpart. In fact, Salinas was so good, that he never doubted that one day he would do a comic strip for an American syndicate (something many artists at the time, not only in Argentina, but in America as well, dreamed about). Salinas would later go on to adapt famous books into comic book form, such as the Three Musketeers, The mines of King Solomon, The Jungle Book, etc. He not only excelled drawing the human figure, but also in his animal drawings. To this day, I have never run across another artist who can draw horses and wild felines as well as Salinas did (his tigers and panthers are just astonishing). That in itself made for some art lessons any future comic book artist should follow. Actually, as any comic book artist knows, the hardest to draw are pretty girls and horses. Some artists are good at one and some at the other, but few as Salinas excelled at both.
After his success in Argentina, Salinas moved over to the United States, where he worked for King Features. There he was given the chance to illustrate the Cisco Kid, a strip that was supposedly based on an O. Henry story, but in fact, had very little to do with it (it looked more like a Lone Ranger without the mask and with a Mexican friend instead of a Native American one). The people at King Features must have been gladly surprised by the results, though they asked Salinas if it were possible to make the character a little more "manly". Salinas added a couple of brush strokes here and there on the main character's face, and the job was swiftly done to everyone's satisfaction. The strip ran for almost 18 years, though it never gained the success it should have. Maybe because readers weren't anymore interested in adventure strips, or maybe because they could already follow many other western series on TV. Whatever the case, the Cisco Kid strip ended only as a daily and never got a Sunday page, which is a pity, for if there were any strip that could hold up to Foster's Prince Valiant, it was Salinas' Cisco Kid.
After Cisco Kid, Salinas would concentrate on painting and illustrations, though he made a comeback into comic strips with Gunner, a series about a soccer player. Needless to say, this strip never saw print in America. He would also draw the occasional story for some Argentinian comic books and magazines until, in the early 80's, he was asked by a Spanish publisher to illustrate a comic book based on the battle of Vitoria, a famous conflict of the 19th century that the Spaniards held not only against the French, but the British and Portuguese as well. This book was to be Salinas' masterpiece and a work he intended to do directly in color. Unfortunately, because of health problems, he only got to draw the first five pages before he passed away (if you can ever get a chance to see them, you'll be astonished by the quality of his artwork; Salinas was already in his eighties). The book would finally be completed by Spanish artist Adolfo Usero, who had contributed in the early 70's to the Warren magazines, and wasn't a bad artist himself, but his work paled in comparison with that of the Argentinean master.
Which leads us to this book published by Classic Comics Press, and that happens to be the first volume of what will finally be the complete run of the Cisco Kid strip in book form. A special thanks must be given to its publisher, editor and designer Charles Pelto for taking this endeavor, as few people may remember the strip today.
The book reprints a chunky worth of material (nearly three years of daily strips), in a landscape format (those familiar with the publisher's other books will understand what I'm talking about), and it includes an introduction by another Cisco Kid fan, mainly Sergio Aragonés. It also features a reprint of the original O. Henry story (which, again, had nothing to do with the strip), and a short introduction about Salinas. My review serves only to complete any info you might want on Salinas himself.
About the only complain I have, is that some of the material inside seems to have too much contrast, which blurs out some of the fine line detail of Salinas' brush strokes (Salinas inked this strip entirely with a brush!), and some of the material seems to be of a lesser quality, giving an impression that not all comes from the same source (a problem that remains a constant nowadays when trying to retrieve proofs of old newspaper strips). But overall, considering that this material has not seen print for more than thirty years, it's a miracle we can get anything at all, and the quality is just as good as, or better than most of the other newspaper strip reprints we've seen lately in America (just watch for that contrast next time around, though I don't know if it's a problem with the printer or the designer, or my eyesight is faltering by now).
Here I'm already waiting for the next volume, so don't delay, buy this book now if you happen to be a fan of good comic book art.
from Charles Pelto's Classic Comics Press.
Salinas' lovely line-work,
his exquisite portraiture panels,
combined with his panel to panel story-telling skills
make this work sublime.
The restoration and preservation of comics is as important
as the efforts done for film,
and Charles Pelto and Dean Mullaney deserve recognition
for their efforts in gathering these treasure troves of Comic Art
for generations to come.
I believe the Cisco Kid is the best Western comic strip continuity,
alongside Dan Spiegle's Hopalong Cassidy.
Rod Reed is the scripter and the stories manage to capture the tone of the TV series
but with an illustrative artistry rarely attained in comics or anywhere else.
While strips actually were a feature during this time in newspaper, they were also a very transient thing. As one person said, they appear on Monday and are fish wrap on Tuesday. Someone who wanted to keep a whole story or follow a character had to dutifully clip the strips, save and store them. Even though the originals may have been beautiful, when they were printed they were reduced, and never reproduced very well on bad newsprint... which (with its high acid content) turned brown and crumbles as it ages.
So the recent collections of such strips as Rip Kirby, Steve Canyon, and Secret Agent Corrigan have been a strip collector's version of heaven. That continues with this volume of Jose Luis Salinas' Cisco Kid, originally appearing in 1951-1967. For years, I have seen random examples of the original art. Salinas art is beautiful, but that was a bit before my time. I never knew exactly what the story was or how that daily fit into the continuity. Beginning here, the first couple years are collected from over 60 years ago (1951-3).
To publish a volume like this, you have two options. Use the proofs provided to a newspaper (or the artist) or try to use the original art. Obviously, shooting from the originals would be better, but it would require locating the art from collectors and museums, getting those people to agree to provide images or have the images made, and cleaning them up for publication, all of which is an onerous, and very expensive, task. Using the proofs are a lot easier... if you can find them. And they are not always the best quality reproduction, either. Classic Comics Press took the later route.
As good as the reproduction is in this volume, comparing them to the originals is night and day. There are times that the lines merge and get muddy, and the images aren't as clear as I might like. However, you do get several complete stories which gives the reader a flavor of the wonderful art of Salinas.
My one major criticism of the volume is that it was soft cover; I am assuming that decision was made to keep the book affordable. From my perspective, since this is a volume I want to keep, I would have preferred a hard cover. However, that concession is a small price to pay to have such an important bit of comic strip history reproduced and can't wait for Volume 2.