After the recent passing of longtime Egmont Phantom artist Carlos Cruz, ChronicleChamber has reached out to one of the colleagues who knew him best: Team Fantomen editor Ulf Granberg. Ulf has kindly contributed the following tribute to one of the very highly talented artists in the Egmont team.
Carlos Cruz was recruited to ”Team Fantomen” by me in 1987. In the mid 80’s the Swedish production of stories with the Phantom for the Scandinavian market was in full swing, with an annual output of 650 – 700 pages by four scriptwriters and eight artists. But in order to meet sudden problems, drops and even stops in this flow, the production had to be 750 pages or more - and I had to find at least one more artist to be able to sleep peacefully at night.
Carlos Cruz was suggested to me by Luis Llorente who was running Creaciones Editoriales, a comic art agency based in Mottingham outside London. Luis was an old friend of Norman Worker who had been writing Phantom scripts for me since 1976. Creaciones Editoriales was one of the agencies which served the Publishing houses of IPC in London and DC Thompson in Dundee with stories for their line of comic books.
Luis knew I was looking for more artists (and scriptwriters) for the Phantom and a year earlier he had suggested artist César Spadari - based in Buenos Aires – to me. César submitted a sample page and I hired him right away. Today, 30 years later, César is still drawing stories with the Phantom for the Swedish comic book.
The procedure was very much the same this time – Carlos submitted two sample pages and when I took the pages out of the tube and looked at them, I immediately realised that this was the work of a master hand.
Carlos had a very fine and distinct line, his figures were in good control and his Phantom figure was big, muscular and powerful.
Needless to say Carlos Cruz was hired on the spot and with returning mail (to Luis, the agent – Carlos didn’t speak English) I also included the first in a long line of Phantom scripts to Carlos. This script titled Kano & Aybol, a take off on the tale of ”Cain and Abel” in the Holy Bible, was written by Donne Avenell – also a good friend of Norman Worker – who had joined ”Team Fantomen” in 1978 on the recommendation of Norman.
Carlos did a wonderful job on Kano and Aybol and the adventure was published in issue 15/1988 of the Swedish Fantomen comic book.
A couple of months later his second story – The Cagliostro Mystery written by Norman Worker – was published in issue 19/1988.
And so the it went on… Carlos delivered a finished story roughly every third to fourth month for the next fifteen years. Always very carefully drawn, always on time, always reliable. I can’t remember Carlos Cruz ever missing a deadline during his entire career as artist on the Phantom.
In all Carlos drew 55 adventure stories with the Phantom – one of them was (of course) The Man from la Mancha, written by Norman Worker and published in issue 8/1992. Carlos’ last story was The Horn of Roland, again on a script by Norman Worker and published in issue 6/2004.
Like most of his fellow artists on the Phantom Carlos took great pleasure in drawing period adventures with old sailing ships, old weapons and dresses of the period - and/or jungle stories with wild animals.
I met Carlos the first time in 1988 in Malaga together with Luis Llorente and Norman Worker. We came down from London to the south of Spain for a couple of days and we spent a marvellous afternoon and evening in Carlos' house – which was very close to the sea, sitting practically on the beach – having dinner together with all his family. We were dining on a patio outside the house and on trellis-work over our heads wine grapes were growing and hanging down within easy reach for the dining guests. It was magic! His daughter presented me with a plaited bracelet in different green colours as a memoir of the visit. I still keep this bracelet today…
The next day Carlos wanted to guide us around Malaga and he was particularly eager to show us all his offices, he said, and I was quite puzzled until we reached his first ”office”. It turned out to be a tapas bar. In fact all his offices were tapas bars, and I think I lost track of how many we made a stop at long before we were halfway through the full number of them.
How I got back to the hotel that afternoon I still don’t know. Probably the scriptwriter and the agent gave the poor editor a helping hand. On the third day in Spain Luis, Norman and I visited the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, but that’s another story.
I’m so sad to learn that Carlos Cruz now has passed away. He was a great artist from those times when drawing realistic series demanded true craftsmanship, hard and meticulous work and scrupulous care to every detail.
Many thousands of readers in Scandinavia and Australia have enjoyed and admired his work over a long period of years. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Carlos.
Descanse en paz, mi amigo.