Alfredo Alcala was born August 23, 1925 in the Philippines. He began his career drawing for other classmates in school which led to early jobs as a sign maker, designing chandeliers and furniture, while he copied the work of Harold Foster's Prince Valiant and Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon until early hours of the morning. He was especially influenced by the line work of Lou Fine in the Golden Age of Comics. Fine's work on The Black Condor and The Dollman really impressed the young artist during the years of World War II in The Philippines.
Later Alfredo studied the masters of illustration and painting including Dean Cornwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Robert Fawcett. But it was his discovery of the great British muralist Frank Brangwyn that perhaps influenced him the most.
In October 1948, Alfredo got his break with the publication of an illustration in Bituin Komiks. By November, he was working for the largest publisher in the Philippines (Ace Publications). Within months, Alfredo's work was gracing the pages of many titles (often published twice a month) and was becoming a legend for working up to 96 hours straight without sleep. But it was the creation of Voltar in 1963 that established his legendary style to the world. Here's what Orvy Jundis writing in the World Encyclopedia of Comics had to say about Voltar:
"In the history of the comic book medium there have been many notable features that have become classics in the field. Most of these strips have been team efforts, with several people doing different facets of the production. Certain individuals do the scripting, breakdowns, penciling, inking, lettering, and publishing. The exceptions to this method, of course, are the underground comix that are generally one-shot affairs slanted towards a specific audience.
Voltar is truly unique in that it was a continuing series geared towards mass readership. It was written, laid-out, penciled, inked, lettered and published by one man, Alfredo P. Alcala. The brush used to ink many Voltar pages was a special fountain-brush invented by Alcala, thus making the series even more noteworthy."
After the publication of Voltar, Alfredo dominated the annual art awards presentation sponsored by the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists. In 1971 a Voltar illustration was exhibited in a fantasy and science-fiction event that was held in the United States. The artwork took first place in the heroic fantasy division. And in 1974 Voltar was featured in The Hannes Bok Memorial Showcase of Fantasy Art, a book that compiled many of the finest works in the field of fantasy."
By 1974, Alfredo's work had been seen in the United States for a few years. In 1976, Alfredo arrived in New York City to make America his permanent home. Here's what former editor of Marvel Comics had to say about Alfredo:
"In the late 1960s, all of us in the comic book field were suddenly knocked out to learn that there were so many talented artists, and indeed an entire comics industry, flourishing in the Philippines. And no one made a bigger, or a more lasting impression on U.S. comic art than Alfredo Alcala."
Alfredo finally settled down in Los Angeles to work for almost every publisher in the American comic book business from DC to Marvel to Dark Horse to Warren. He also illustrated for the United States Army and film and television studios and toy companies and advertising agencies and..... the list is endless.
He was picked to draw the Star Wars and Conan comic strips for newspaper syndication and later also illustrated Stan Lynde's classic Rick O'Shay comic strip when Stan left the strip. Alfredo prolific brush could be seen in many comic books including Conan, Batman, Swamp Thing, The Hulk, and Jack Kirby's classic book, Kamandi. Alfredo also worked for many of the leading animation companies in Los Angeles with brilliant pre-production drawings.
He was also the artist picked to illustrate the history of the making of The State of Liberty for the centennial in a collector's edition book written by Henry Gibson. Years later, when Astronaut Pete Conrad was looking for an illustrator to tell the story of the Apollo 12 mission (Moonshot), Alfredo again got the job.
When not illustrating comic book and animation projects, Alfredo was also a master painter and his oil paintings have been shown all over the world. His copy of a J.C. Leyendecker 1936 cover is truly magnificent with all the classic brush strokes just like the original. And Alfredo was working from a print. Other oils that are original compositions come from his imagination and memories of a simpler life in the Philippines.
Alfredo Alcala passed away on April 8, 2000.
His loss is felt by all who knew him.
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