Terror – The Horror Comic Art of Jayme Cortez (volume 1) & Macabras – The Horror Comic Art of Jayme Cortez (volume 2)

By Jayme Cortez, with Fabio Moraes & various, translated by Joe Williams (Korero Press)
ISBN: 978-1-912740-22-2 (PB Terror) & 978-1-912740-21-5 (PB Macabras)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Whatever the Season, All Nights Are Dark … 8/10

Please pay careful attention: this art book contains stories and images of an explicit nature, specifically designed for adult consumption. Tomorrow I’ll write about something else – possibly more socially acceptable, with mindless violence and big explosions, so come back then if incredible art, a dedicated career and rectifying oversights is not to your liking.

We comic book guys tend to think we invented and run the medium and art form of graphic narrative, but – gasps in shock! – other countries have been doing the same or similar all along. Moreover, so very much of it is so very good…

Britain and the US have, over decades, employed a select few master craftsmen (and they were mostly men as far as I can see) and I’ve done my bit to point them your way, but until very recently we haven’t seen much of Brazil’s monolithic comics output. That changes here and now with a two-book collection highlighting the breathtakingly prolific career of Jaime Cortez Martins – AKA Jayme Cortez. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal on 8th September 1926 and his life changed at age six when he first saw imported American newspaper strips: particularly Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. Jaime’s first drawing was published when he was 11, and in 1944 he was apprenticed to children’s magazine O Mosquito under its art director Eduardo Texiera Coelho. The prodigy generated numerous groundbreaking strips before – having discovered the rich world of Brazilian comics – he emigrated to São Paulo to find great fame fortune and renown. Celebrated globally except in English-speaking countries, Cortez died in 1987.

For more biographic detail resort to the internet or best yet buy these books where editor/writer-compiler/art historian Fabio Moraes and appreciative guests such as Paul Gravett, and Paulo Montiero offer their own insights in Forewords and Intoductions. What’s really important is what follows: a magnificent treasury of a passionate creator’s output (albeit mostly his horror genre material) encompassing Brazil’s “golden age” of scary stories.

Cortez made himself master of countless artistic techniques and although there are ads and a few comic book stories included, these volumes primarily gather a mindboggling number of painted covers (as many as 4 per week!) in chronological order. Whether in colour or monochrome, these stunning retrospective compendia of gloriously designed and delineated imagery in a wealth of styles incorporate a staggering arsenal of artistic techniques – even photographic – to highlight a stunning and prolific career you and I were utterly unaware of.

Terror – The Horror Comic Art of Jayme Cortez properly opens with a comprehensive biographical essay ‘The Life of a Master Illustrator’ relating that dazzling career and offering candid photos, early works, magazine covers, strips and extracts, original artworks and commercial jobs before the serious stuff begins with his entire covers run for landmark publication O Terror Negro (The Black Terror).

This launched in September 1951 and ran until 1967, with Cortez generating the covers from #2 until the end and also the regular annual editions Almanaque de O Terror Negro. From January 1954 he added Sobrenatural to his commissions list: another 31 covers (plus another Annual) until September 1956 and (from February 1954 to July 1956) 35 more covers for Contos de Terror (Horror Tales), another Almanque and a brace of Frankenstein fronts. Throughout the book are many original art reproductions and dozens of reference photos the artist used as part of his process in bringing ghosts, ghouls, goblins, aliens, psycho-killers, devils, demons and witches to life, and making realistic the demise of countless maidens, wives and sundry other innocents…

Macabras – The Horror Comic Art of Jayme Cortez continues the gruesome gallery of dark delights by including some more of his beguiling strip work and another cartload of intoxicating covers. Following another context-packed biographical essay – ‘A Virtuoso of Illustration’The Portrait of Evil 1961 reprints and deconstructs what is considered Cortez’s signature sequential narrative masterpiece, before The Portrait of Evil 1973 does the same for the improved version the tireless quester produced when he returned to the subject in a more mature and philosophical frame of mind…

From there it’s a return to eye-catching images and bold typography in a welter of covers for his minor magazine efforts, beginning with 62 issues of Seleçóes de Terror (beginning in 1959 and going on until 1967), 28 for Histórias Macabras, 19 for Clássicos de Terror, an even dozen for Histórias Sinestras, as well as Histórias Do Alem (4), Super B?lso (3), Terror Magazine (3), and 10 for indie company Jotaesse.

Also on view are a chapter on the artist’s fascination with Edgar Allen Poe, a photo-essay on Creating a poster (for his other job working in films) and 14 chilling Black and White Illustrations to round out the fright fest.

This long-past-due celebration of a truly unique artistic pioneer is both compelling and shocking, and something no mature-minded devotee of graphic excellence should miss. Moreover, if the subject matter intrigues you, Korero also publish a stunning line of companion volumes of unknown (to you and me) art masters in their “Sex and Horror” collections: thus far highlighting the mastery of Emanuele Tagglietti, Alessandro Biffignandi, Fernando Carcupino, Roberto Molinio…

It’s never too late to be scared witless or stunned by magnificent comic art so let’s open our eyes and get a little international here.
First published in 2023 © Korero Press Limited. All rights reserved.