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Comic Creator Carlos Clémen

Carlos Clémen

José Llanos, John Coleman, Arturo D'Saa, Billy, Victor Amatos, Big-Boy, Paul Corydon

(13 February 1913 - 8 May 1964, Argentina)   Argentina

Carlos  Clémen


'Urania', adventure serial starring Carlos Clémen's hero Arthuro Moreno.

Carlos Clémen was a pioneer in Argentinian comics, working both as an artist, editor and teacher. During his relatively short career, spanning from the early 1930s through the early 1960s, he left a lasting mark on the industry. As an artist, Clémen produced a great many features and serials, both humorous and realistic, for magazines like Pololo, Figuritas, Billiken, Patoruzito and Supertorieta. As an editor, he was the driving force behind several Argentinian comic books, including Suspenso, Fargo Kid, Trinchera and Corso Pete. He also trained a new generation of artists through his correspondence course in cartooning.

Early life and career
Carlos Alberto Pérez Clémen was born in 1913 in Buenos Aires. He began his career in 1931, at age 18, drawing humorous comic strips for El Purrete magazine by Editorial Liverpool and the three magazines edited by the Sillas brothers at Editorial Florida: Pololo, Mustafá and Barrilete. They mostly consisted of originally British picture stories, but Carlos Clémen provided most of the local material. Already in this early stage of his career, Clémen established an impressive production. In Pololo alone, Clémen drew humor strips with characters like 'La Barra de Pipiolo' (AKA 'Pipiolo'), 'Pulgarín', the gaucho 'Don Cirilo Blanco' and the anthropomorphic puppy 'Carocito'. Mustafá ran the Clémen serial 'El Comisario Piolita y su Ratón' ("Commissioner Piolita and his Mouse") and for Barrilete, the cartoonist made the title feature, 'Barrilete y los Suyos', with characters talking in street slang. Another humor strip from this period was 'Las Graciosas Aventuras de Chiquín'.

By 1933, Clémen began making realistic comics too, starting with the serials 'La Ciudad Perdida' ("The Lost City"), 'El Detective Paul Vernet', 'Los Tentáculos del Pulpo' ("The Tentacles of the Octopus"), 'Dick y los Piratas Amarillos' ("Dick and the Yellow Pirates") and 'La Herencia del Pirata' ("The Pirate's Inheritance"). Nowadays, the magazines Pololo, Mustafá and Barrilete are extremely rare, with only a handful remaining copies known.

Carpincho by Carlos Clemen
'Carpincho'. Translation: "There's a mouse in there who, without failing, always comes out at four o' clock in the afternoon." - "Oh dear! There's only four minutes left!" 

Figuritas
In 1937, Carlos Clémen became a prominent artist in the weekly magazine Figuritas, that tried to compete with the popular children's weekly Billiken. Subtitled "La Revista Argentina del Escolar" ("The Argentinian School Magazine"), it lasted little over ten years, during which Clémen drew comic strips and serials, as well as cartoons and illustrations for educational editorial pages. With humorous features like 'Carpincho' and 'Las Aventures de Pepe Bujía y su Ayudante Cometa' (both signed with "Big Boy"), as well as the serials 'El Imperio Submarino', 'La Estrella Polar', 'El Tesoro del Muerto', 'Urania' and 'Pawnee Bill', Carlos Clémen developed his personal and influential drawing style. A notable Clémen series for Figuritas was 'El Pie del Diablo', which was an ongoing story with an activity element. With its "Great Contest of Lost Objects", readers had to search the panels for something supposedly lost by one of the characters, mark it with a pencil and send it to the sponsor, the commercial firm Cía. Toddy. Every month, a bicycle, five soccer balls and five dolls were raffled off among the contestants.

Other collaborations
From the late 1930s on, Carlos Clémen's activities expanded. With a steady production in different styles and genres, he used several pen names. Besides his own name, his comics were signed with José Llanos, John Coleman, Arturo D'Saa, Billy, Victor Amatos and Big-Boy. For the daily newspaper Notícias Gráficas, he made the comic serial 'Erick Jackson' (1938). Riding on the Argentinian comic magazine boom of the 1940s, Clémen was present in Pif-Paf, Patoruzito, Intervalo and Aventuras. Pif-Paf ran his serial 'El Terror de los Mares' (1942), and for Patoruzito, he wrote and drew the circus strip 'Mitzy y Volatín' (1945). Intervalo and Aventuras ran comic adaptations of novels and films. He additionally made sports cartoons for El Gráfico.


'Pawnee Bill'.

Estudios Clémen
In 1949, Carlos Clémen embarked on a new phase of his career. Under the banner Estudios Clémen, he set up a correspondence course in cartooning, with its homebase at 346 General Artigas, Buenos Aires. Joining him in his enterprise were his brothers José Clémen and Juan Clémen, both cartoonists as well. Among their students were several future comic artists, some still in their teens, such as José María Del Bó, César Spadari, Francisco Mazza, Rodolfo Zalla and Juan Zanotto. Besides basic drawing skills, Estudios Clémen also offered its students their first publication opportunities.

Self-publishing
In October 1949, Carlos Clémen also ventured into self-publishing, starting with the launch of the weekly magazine Suspenso. It contained adaptations of literary works, foreign comics and local production, often provided by Clémen's most outstanding students. Clémen himself was present under the pen name José Llanos, drawing the western 'Ringo Kid' and the pre-historic adventure serial 'Mhu-Goa'. 'El Mundo Subterráneo' ("The Underground World") was started by Clémen and then continued by José Del Bó. Another early publication by Carlos Clémen was Filmograf, a movie magazine of which only two issues appeared, the first in December 1950 and the second in January 1951.

After these first two excursions in self-publishing, Carlos Clémen grouped his activities under the CLEDA imprint. Between 1957 and 1961, he released nearly twenty titles, many western or war-themed, including Comanche, Corsario, Fargo Kid, Trinchera and Corso Pete. Each issue was filled with complete stories, contributed by artists like Jesús Balbi, Ricardo Villagrán, José Miguel Heredia, Norberto Lombardi, Oscar Novelle and Juan Arancio. Using his pen name John Coleman, Clémen himself drew most of the material for Corso Pete, a monthly comic book of 20 pages, filled with war, crime and interplanetary adventure comics. The title character originated from Clémen's 1949 Suspenso magazine. Clémen also created the 'Torpedos Humanos' feature, which was later continued by Walter Casadei. Also contributing were Julio Schiaffino, José María Clémen and the publisher's son, Carlos Clémen Jr.

Later comic book work
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Carlos Clémen also continued to work extensively for other comic magazines. With scriptwriter Jasca, he made 'Carlitos el Pegador' ("Carlitos the Puncher", 1951) in La Revista del Superhombre. He additionally drew 'Carnac' in the western comic book Poncho Negro by Editorial Sugestiones, and the serials 'La Conquista del Desierto' ("The Conquest of the Desert") and 'Mas Allá de Zanzíbar' ("Beyond Zanzibar") in Billiken. With scriptwriter A. J. Grassi, he made 'Robert Ax, Médico del Siglo XXX' (1954), generally considered Argentina's first science fiction comic. It ran in Supertorieta, published by Editorial Codex, for which Clémen also drew 'Travis y su Circo del Aire' and 'Super Marciano' (1955). The latter was a local version of 'Lars of Mars' (1951), a U.S. superhero created by Jerry Siegel and Murphy Anderson for Ziff-Davis. For another Codex publication, Pimpinela, Clémen made a comic adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' ('El Viaje al Centro de la Tierra', 1955). Carlos Clémen's artwork additionally appeared in Dragón Blanco (1955), the weekly El Tony (1958) and in the Uruguayan magazine Bandera Negra, for which he drew the comic 'Barracuda' (1959) under the pseudonym Paul Corydon.

Death and legacy
Steadily working throughout the early 1960s, Carlos Clémen died from a heart attack in 1961, at the age of only 51. Despite his untimely passing, and with a career spanning three-and-a-half decade, Carlos Clémen remains one of the most influential Argentinian comic creators of his generation. Not only a pioneer in his own right, he also trained a new wave of cartoonists with his Estudios Clémen; with many of his former pupils becoming staples of Argentinian comic art in their own right. Clémen's influence also stretched outside of the country borders. When living in South-America, the U.S. comic artist Al Williamson was greatly impressed with Clémen's art. Carlos Clémen's son, Carlos Clémen Junior (1942), moved to Brazil, where he began a successful career as an art director and graphic artist. His other son, José María Clémen (1945), works in Spain as a book illustrator.


Opening brochure for an Estúdios Clémen division in São Paulo, Brazil. Carlos Clémen is in the center (with moustache), surrounded by some of his students. On his left is José Del Bó, AKA José Delbo. The Brazilian course never got off the ground.

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