Rafael López Espí is an artist originating from Spain who during the seventies, illustrated some amazing covers for the El Hombre Enmascarado Spanish series and The Phantom series published by Bastei in Germany up into the 1980's.
With just under 300 covers to his credit he has left a huge imprint on the Phantom community especially to the European audience. If he is someone new to you and never heard of him before, we recommend you to look at his collection of covers which can be found here over at Phantomwiki.
Chronicle Chamber: Thank you so much for talking to us and for your time. To start off, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What country and region are you from?
Rafael Lopez Espi: I was born in Barcelona, capital of the Catalonia region in Spain.
CC: Where did you study art?
RLE: Even though I studied at the Artistic Center of Fine Arts of Barcelona and received good grades with an A for grade on 1st year, and valid for the 2nd year. Most of my skills in the painting style was in a self-taught way.
CC: Is there anyone in particular who has inspired you and influenced your work?
RLE: Although being self-taught I was not self-sufficient, so what I learned was always accompanied by admiration of certain works of predecessor artists.
From these, interpretative inspiration arises, with which you are opening the way towards a goal of graphic expression. So there were no influences from anyone, except the spirit transmitted by those who liked my drawings.
CC: What made you want to be an artist?
RLE: In principle, it was not my main objective to be an artist. Being an artist implied a knowledge and a skill that I did not have. It was the admiration of works done by important artists that struck me, and it was then when I began to see it as a great challenge.
CC: Is it true that you were a published artist at the age of 13? Can you tell us how that happened?
RLE: Since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I shared my school period with drawing practices.
After finishing my schooling and my time in Fine Arts, I sought the support of other successful artists, to be introduced to the world of comics. It didn't take long for me to do so and from 1950 on, I was able to see my first works published by the Editorial Symbol of Barcelona, in an almanac celebrating the new year 1954, called “Picolin” and in a comic series called “Disco”.
CC: You have such a long and distinguished career with credits for Commando Comics, Romance comics, Various Marvel characters, Masters of the Universe and published works for Spain, Germany, UK and Sweden publishers. Do you have any series that even today stands as a highlight for you?
RLE: Yes. A special collection entitled “Extra Humans”, composed of 4 episodes in Comic book format, of which I was editor in 2001.
CC: Did you know of the Phantom before you started work on those stories? Did you ever read the comics or newspaper adventures?
RLE: Indeed, since my childhood during the post-civil war in 1940 and the end of World War 2, the comic adventures concept in Spain was imported by some Spanish publishers, which have since disappeared. Among the many topics was that of Ghost, known as "The Masked Man."