Mario Guevara, Artist
Remembering a Master
We're handing over this month's Robert E. Howard/Conan Zone missive to Solomon Kane artist Mario Guevara. Along with writer Scott Allie and colorist Dave Stewart, Mario helped define Solomon's modern comic-book incarnation at Dark Horse, and Mario will be continuing to illustrate the adventures of Howard's moody hero in our next series, Solomon Kane: Death's Black Riders. Mario's planning to attend this year's San Diego Comic-Con, and while we have no announcements yet, you can be sure that he'll be involved in something at the Dark Horse booth. Keep checking here for announcements!
When Philip Simon, editor of the Conan the Cimmerian series for Dark Horse, wrote to me after I gave my e-mail and art samples to Chris Warner [another Dark Horse editor], he told me about the possible publication of a Solomon Kane series -- another character created by Robert E. Howard -- and that he was interested in having me try out for it. I instantly thought it would be my dream project -- the chance of a lifetime! When he asked me for samples, I thought it was fantastic -- here was my chance. He sent me a short, three-page script and asked me to pencil the sequence.
I knew it would be hard to get the job, but I remembered some words that my father (who lived several years in the United States) used to say: "When someone asks you if you want to work, say yes. When someone asks you if you can do it, say yes. Even if you're not sure if you can do it, you'll figure out a way to pull it off."
I also recalled some other words -- those of the great Alfredo Alcala, who I met at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1997: "In order to work in the U.S., you have to be as honest and considerate as you can if you want to be at the same level as the best in the world, to put yourself in a parallel line with them, so they can see that you're capable of making it."
Keeping in mind that there would be a lot of us fighting for the job and that everyone was very talented, I drew the three pages of the script as fast and as good as I could in two days.
When Philip replied that I had the job, I thought: "Now I'll have to find a way to pull it off!"
It was difficult at the beginning, due to my lack of English and even the small fear of ruining those beautiful, blank art board pages that were being sent from Dark Horse for me to work on. But later, with the help of my translators, Iane Montane and Natalia Montes, plus our writer Scott's big support by drawing page layouts of entire issues of the Solomon comic, things started to turn out well.
Patrick Thorpe, Philip's assistant, provided essential help for me. Dave Stewart worked hard also -- nice and fast -- since we were delayed sometimes by pages having to travel from Mexico up to Milwaukie, Oregon.
All of this wouldn't have been possible without the comprehension and skills of my editor, Philip Simon. When I was working hard to finish the series and Philip sent an image of Mike Mignola's cover to our trade collection -- to summarize everything, I thought, "Now I can peacefully die."
My father also said that people come into the world just to accomplish three things: Plant a tree (I've done it), have a child (I've done it), and write a book (I've drawn one). Now all of it was complete . . . so I'd like to dedicate my work on our first Solomon Kane series to the memory of my father, Jose Guevara Centeno (World War II veteran).
As mentioned above, another great influence on my life and work was the singular talent of Alfredo Alcala. I was fortunate enough to meet my idol a few times. It was my third trip in a row to the San Diego Comic-Con, though, that I spoke with him for the last time. I casually walked by Phillip Yha's table, after I saw that Alfredo Alcala's German friend (who was always with Alcala) was there, too. I walked up close and asked where the master was. The answer was a hand signal, telling me that he was asleep.
Suddenly, someone came out from under the table. He was sleeping right there! He recognized me even though it had been over a year since we'd seen each other, and he asked me that same old question: "How's Saturnino Herran?" I gave him that same old answer: "He passed away, master." "What a shame." Alcala reminded me of his time in the Philippines when they took him to all the art workshops.
I wanted to go outside and smoke a cigarette, so he came with me. He understood Spanish very well but had a bit of a hard time speaking it. "Americans can't pronounce my name very well," I said. And while we were walking outside the building he replied: "When you work in the U.S., you will have to change your name."
"Hmmm . . . what should I call myself?" I asked.
"Well, SEATEEN sounds good," he said -- and then he explained to me what it meant and started laughing loudly. I knew he was just kidding.
I kept smoking my cigarette, and we walked over the railroad tracks and down the street until we found a 7-Eleven type store. I told him I'd buy him something, and the only thing he wanted was a cold bun with sausages in it. I picked the same thing, and I only had money left for one soda, so we shared it. I sat down on the curb, there wasn't sidewalk space around, but I didn't mind. Alfredo kneeled in an unusual position that reminded me of the way my grandfather and the people at our ranch in my hometown would kneel.
We finished our snacks, and I offered him some soda. I asked him to tell me more about the Philippines, so he started talking about his childhood when he lived on an island close to Formosa and it was invaded by the Japanese.
"So you were in the war, master?" I asked.
"I was very young. I just helped a little," he replied, "One day an American man came up to me and asked if I wanted to help my country, and I told him I did. So when the Japanese buried land mines I would watch where they did it, remember the spots, and then run to the Americans and draw the location of each mine. I did that for a while, but one day my mom discovered what I was doing and beat me all the way into the house. I supposed that she hit me because I was putting myself in danger, but I think she only did it because she thought I was being mischievous."
People passed by and looked at us as if we were bums. They didn't know that I was talking with Alfredo Alcala, one of the best Filipino artists and the best inker for John Buscema's Conan work. If they had known that, they would have probably sat down on the ground as I did to listen to what he had to say.
While Alfredo was talking, he was drawing a sketch for me. Someone approached, a very well-dressed blonde guy, and he sat by my side. After that, someone else joined us. The soda didn't seem to finish, and I started smoking another cigarette. When I finished it I stood up, and my butt was numb. I told the master that I had to go.
I went back to the Convention Center, and as I did, I kept looking back at the people who continued sitting and queuing around him. That was the last time I saw Alfredo. He died two years later.
Not many people had that honor of listening to the master while sitting on the street and smoking a cigarette. Those are the kinds of things you never forget. I am sure that when I die, we'll meet again. And with that smile of his, he will ask: "How's Saturnino Herran?"
--Mario Guevara, Penjamo, Mexico