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Cesar Spadari. An Eulogy on a Great Phantom Artist

The team at Chronicle Chamber have long been admirers of Cesar Spadari's artwork as they grew up reading his stories in the Fantomen and Frew comics. While we never had the opportunity to correspond with him personally, thankfully, we have connected with his step son Juan Munari Rousselot who has given us a brilliant insight to a phan phav artist. We hope you enjoy this read as you get to know one of the true great Phantom artists.

Chronicle Chamber: Thank you for your time and joining us. First of all, can you please tell us how you are related to Cesar Spadari?

Juan Munari Rousselot: I think that to answer that question I should first tell how Cesar and my Mother (Lila Rousselot) are related.

Cesar's family and my mother's family have known each other for years, my mother met him when she was about 12 years old and he was already a young man, who was taking his first steps in drawing. Years later, after Cesar returned to Argentina from living in Spain where he worked for Editorial Brugera in Barcelona, ​​they met by chance in a restaurant in Buenos Aires.

At that time, Cesar was an art director in a film studio in addition to drawing professionally (I will refer to this in particular later). When they saw each other, they were both overwhelmed, that girl had become a very beautiful young woman who worked at Aerolineas Argentinas. Cesar and Lila began dating and soon after he proposed to her, my mother, who considered herself to young to start a family and had plans to be a stewardess, which she achieved shortly after, politely rejected the proposal.

Years later, while I and she were visiting Barcelona at the house of my uncle Ricardo Rousselot (who is a very prestigious calligrapher and publicist, considered one of the best of the 20th century), my uncle asked my mother Lila that a colleague of Cesar; needed to send a package to Cesar in Buenos Aires and if she could take it, so on. Already in Buenos Aires she called him and he was surprised to hear her after a few years, and they agreed to meet to deliver her shipment. Well, the message was from Cupid because when they reunited, they did not separate again, they were together for more than twenty years, they had a wonderful marriage.

I entered Cesar's life as a boy of about 16 years old, we had an automatic close relationship. He taught me many things, the love for art, for horses (a love that the three of us share: Cesar, my mother and I), the value of friendship and so many other things. As the years passed, our relationship became deeper, so much so that he called me “His Son of the Heart.” He was truly a father to me.

CC: From your privileged position are you able to tell us about his childhood including where he was born etc?

JMR: Cesar was born in Buenos Aires, son of Domingo, an executive in the Dodero shipping company, and Blanca, a housewife. He had a happy childhood, he attended primary school in the Parque Patricios neighborhood, where he was a diligent and very athletic student.

He was a fan of the Boca Juniors club and enjoyed going to watch games at the Boca Juniors field whenever his father's obligations allowed it. When Cesar finished primary school, Domingo, his father, was elected to a position in the north of Argentina, where Cesar, living in a large house next to a mighty river and with sandy beaches, began to get closer to nature, first by taming in the Indian way (that is, without violence, just caresses to get the horse tickled) to his first horse, “Pampa” was the name of the mare, once tamed he began to tour the surroundings on horseback where nature is exuberant in a semi-jungle landscape, and I create unconsciously absorbing those landscapes for my children then pouring this exuberance into drawing the jungles of Bengali.

At the same time, he attended the “Don Bosco” secondary school, a Catholic school, for boys only, and here happens one of the many anecdotes that Cesar told me: He wanted to go to a mixed school, that is, not for boys only; So Cesar, who had an acting streak, began first as an altar boy at Sunday mass, then studying religion at school (all this to the surprise of his parents and especially of Domingo who did not see with sympathy that his son did these things), until finally at a Sunday table (a must in a family of Italian descent); He told his parents that he wanted to enter the Catholic seminary after finishing high school to become a priest; This made Domingo angry and he ordered that on Monday his only son be transferred to a normal school where his head would not be filled with these ideas. Cesar achieved what he wanted to go to a school with female classmates and who was a young man Don Juan achieved his goal.

When he finished school and his father was assigned again to Buenos Aires, Pampa was left behind with his horse and his beloved jungle. But he replaced them with vacations at the ranch of his uncles on his mother's side, “La Palmira” where Cesar, now an expert rider, shared the work of the fields with the gauchos (cowboys in Argentina), where he learned the nobility and love for nature from these tough guys. men, values ​​that would serve as inspiration first for his character: Mayor Laguna and then coincidentally also Phantom, focusing on the values ​​of respect for nature and nobility towards the helpless and oppressed.

CC: Can you tell us about his background with art? Did he study to become an artist?

JMR: Cesar was what I consider an artist who was born with the gift of drawing. At the age of seven, taken by his maternal grandmother, his adventure partner and who always supported him in what in those years in a conservative society like Argentina, being a comic artist was not consideres a profession, he took his first drawing classes.

I consider that he possessed the Gift, making a comparison with the vision and I think it serves to illustrate it: African Americans in their Churches in the southern United States say that they “Got Religion” as if it were revealed to them by a superior being and I believe that Cesar had his “Got his Gift of drawing” at that early age, when Cesar years later and after finishing high school went to the School of Fine Arts, his stay was short because one of his teachers told him “That he didn't need to learn nothing that they could teach him there, he already had all of that naturally, he just needed practice."

CC: Can you tell us about Cesar's initial years in the art and comic industry?

JMR: His first success was when Cesar was 23 years old and won a contest in one of the most important newspapers in Argentina Critica, to draw a daily strip, this was at the beginning of the 1960s, this character based on a soldier in the so-called “Conquest of the Desert”, at the end of the 1800s, portrays the hard life of this officer in a fort at the In the manner of those from the North American Far West that is seen in the movie “Dances with Wolves”, an officer who, together with his partner Sergeant Andrade, must go through life in a war with the Indian whom he sees as closer than his superior officers who are in the capital, empathizing with them, and facing outlaws, tribes that are hostile to them and other adventures.

Then he began to work for Hector German Oesterheld, publishing his character Mayor Laguna and others, where they worked (It is worth pointing out that at their pinnacle, Argentina had the second largest comic production behind the United States), Hugo Pratt the Venetian internationally famous for El Corto Maltes, Francisco Solano Lopez creators with Oesterheld of among other stories: El Eternauta and Amapola Negra.

Cesar drew the famous character Ernie Pike created by Oesterheld and originally drawn by Hugo Pratt, based on the famous American war chronicler Ernest Pyle of World War II. Upon Hugo Pratt's return from Europe in 1964 he would find Cesar again collaborating with Pratt this time in Ediciones Yago where Cesar drew alongside artists such as Hugo Pratt, Arturo del Castillo, Francisco Solano Lopez, etc.

Later, with Pratt installed in Europe, Cesar would create his own magazine at the age of 32 titled Top and its publishing house Cielo Sur, moving the setting from Ernie Pike to the Vietnam War with script by Oesterheld.

You can learn more about this period of Cesar Spadari which is documented in the book “Hugo Pratt, El Tano” by Aldo Pravia, published in 2020.

CC: Can you tell us a bit about Cesar and his work in Europe?

JMR: In the mid 1970s, and with the comics crisis installed in Argentina Cesar decided to emigrate to Barcelona, Spain, ​​where he is hired by Editorial Bruguera after a stay in Spain where he was successful in his professional life but could not adapt to life in a country other than Argentina.

He returned to Buenos Aires, with contacts with European publishers, thanks to what I work as an artist agent for foreign publishers, especially in Germany and the United Kingdom. In fact, he himself did a lot of work for agencies, and placed many of his comics in British and Dutch women's magazines in the late 70s and early 80s.

For the Spanish publisher Bruguera he created several series together with the legendary screenwriter Víctor Mora (Grand Prix, The Call of Africa) and for the collection Joyas Literarias Juveniles he adapted novels such as Towards the Zambesí, Two Years of Vacation and New Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, among others, into comics.

CC: Can you share with us how he became a Phantom artist?

JMR: In the mid 1980s, and prior to a trip to several European countries looking for work for him and the cartoonists who were part of his agency. He learnt that Swedish publishing house Semic was looking for artists to draw The Phantom, led by the editor Ulf Granberg.

Cesar started drawing Phantom in 1987 and did it continuously for more than thirty years and 93 episodes. Winning the award for best story several times in countries like Sweden, Denmark or Finland and being published in countries like: Australia, UK, Italy, India, etc.

Above is Cesar Spadari's trial piece he submitted to Fantomen.

CC: Can you share with us a bit about his studio and the assistants that worked under him?

JMR: Cesar in addition to the agency for other jobs in the UK, Holland or Germany had his specific studio for Phantom where he had collaborators where I can especially highlight Perci Ochoa, another assistant at the agency was Daniel Muller. Both Daniel and Perci have Phantom credits for drawing their own Phantom adventures for Team Fantomen and Frew.

Towards the end of his career he stepped out on his own without assistants and did so for several years until the end.

CC: Can you tell us the process of receiving scripts from Team Fantomen?

JMR: The scripts arrived in English and it was I who personally translated them into Spanish - I worked with him as his translator for twenty years. Here I want to highlight the forgotten role of the translators, if the translation is not carried out in an exact and subtle way, the results will not be good. The translators must adapt to the characteristics of the artist, as well as that of the scriptwriter. I was the only one who knew how to plan the script in the way that César Spadari liked and was most comfortable with and he was a very demanding boss.

CC: What was his process of drawing the stories once he received the translation from you?

JMR: In recent years he sketched (or roughs) and directly inked his stories skipping the pencils stage, be it a brush, pen or a marker with a tip similar to a brush. I suppose by not having assistants and planting the drawing directly added to his natural ability and experience of more than 60 years allowed him to avoid pencil. This can be seen when you personally see his work; His work is really impressive; Hand raised and without any type of hesitation, it is fine, concise, beautiful.

CC: Did Cesar ever explore the digital form of drawing?

JMR: Oh no!, Cesar is an old school artist, only paper, ink, brush or pen, no digital media. He never tried it. I think that knowing him well he would have never adopted it. And it's not because he didn't often have a limited deadline, he often managed to draw 150 pages in a year. He never asked for an extension on the delivery date and always drew and inked his stories in the traditional way like a true artisan artist.

CC: Did Cesar ever understand how well received his work was received in Australia and Europe?

JMR: Cesar was an extremely humble, low-profile person who did not enjoy talking about himself, his places in the world were his drawing board and the tennis court. He did not believe he was better or worse than anyone, nor did he compete with anyone, only with himself, so that his next story would be better than the previous one.

His words were “Everyone is better at something and not so good at another”. He was his biggest critic, who did not hesitate to tear up and throw away a finished page even though he knew it could be published perfectly but he knew that it was not 100% of what he could give.

Regarding recognition, he knew that his work was good, which is why he kept receiving new scripts, which happened from 1987 until he sadly passed away, but he was very humble and felt embarrassed if someone highlighted his art work over that of another colleague. Furthermore, I am almost certain that he did not give any interviews regarding Phantom in all the years of his profession, nor did he attend exhibitions where his work from his Argentine period was exhibited.

CC: Can you tell us about some of his most favourite stories he drew?

JMR: He enjoyed drawing period stories or those referenced in a historical event. Some of the favourite stories would be: The Secret of Polymos, In Strange Land with the Phantom's origin in Japan’s civil war period, The Assassination of Lincon and I think the complete saga of Kate Sommerset the Pirate Queen would be his favorite stories.

CC: Does Cesar have an ultimate favourite Phantom story?

JMR: The Secret of Polymos: A favorite of César’s, on the one hand it was his second story for Semic, it shows Spadari's deep knowledge of the mythology of Ancient Greece of which he was an avid reader, which was captured in this beautifully drawn story.

CC: What about his most favourite Phantom cover?

JMR: I do think that his favorite covers are the ones she made for the saga of Kate Sommerset the Pirate Queen, since the character was physically inspired by my mother Lila Rousselot or as Cesar called her “His Muse”.

CC: Did he ever meet or communicate with any fellow Phantom creators or Phantom phans?

JMR: Cesar had contact with some colleagues. I must highlight my very appreciated friend Antonio Lemos, who was a friend of César who visited him at his house on one of his trips. I must say that my friendship with Antonio is a legacy for which I am grateful to César. He was also a special friend of Joan Boix. Regarding the fans, Pete Klaus was a dear friend of César.

On a personal note, I am lucky to have met Paul Mason, a fantastic Frew artist of whom I am as much an admirer of him as he was of Spadari. In particular, in his Phantom saga in Vietnam.

Returning to César, since he did not speak English, he surely did not have the possibility of communicating with creators such as the very talented David Bishop, writer of the Kate Sommerset saga, they really formed a very special duo, and surely they would have enjoyed getting to know each other more or fans from around the world who would have tried to communicate with him on repeated occasions.

CC: During the 1990's, Team Fantomen switched from black and white to color stories. Do you know if Cesar preferred drawing for colour or black and white?

JMR: I believe, his work looks particularly good in black and white and the color pages were not his favorites.

CC: What are some Phantom stories that stand out to you, that you would like to share with us?


Kate Sommerset: The Pirate Queen saga:

They are a group of stories resulting from the collaboration between Cesar Spadari and David Bishop. Cesar formed a fantastic duo with David, really drawing all the episodes for César was a real pleasure, they put together a dynamic script, a story that combines many characteristics that make it special; from Romance, the anti-hero of the Pirate Queen, to the son they have in common who is originally a pirate like her mother, to the death of Phantom. Truly a complete captivating saga that can be enjoyed from wherever you are.

[Editors note: Egmont Publishing will have this magnificent saga printed in its annual hardcover book. You can read about it here]

It is also worth noting that as my mother inspired Kate Sommerset, I helped inspired Chris Walker.

The Mystery on Cape Cod:

In this story that takes place in Cape Cod, United States, what is different is the appearance as a character of the brilliant creator of Phantom Lee Falk, the story was created after the visit of Ulf Granberg who was the editor of Fantomen to Lee Falk.

The Assassination of President Lincoln:

The Assassination of President Lincoln is a story like The Baltimore Mystery featuring Edgar A. Poe that Cesar enjoyed drawing because of Spadari's preference for scripts based on historical figures.

In a Strange Land:

This two episode saga was a public favorite especially in Australia, beautifully drawn and especially documented. Cesar had a love for Akira Kurosawa's films and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.

CC: We at Chronicle Chamber appreciate and thank you for your time and teaching us so much about Cesar Spadari.


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