If you’ve been reading Fluit Notes for a significant length of time, then you’ve probably heard me mention the X-Men mega-crossover Age of Apocalypse at least once. It was a formative event for me, drawing me back into comics as a college student after wandering away as a teenager. The Age of Apocalypse re-introduced me to many of the characters that I loved from my youth yet did so in a new, exciting and invigorating environment. I began collecting X-Men comics again. And slowly over time, I spread out to other titles and other companies.
One of the things that I admired about the Age of Apocalypse was the art. AoA introduced me to a new kind of style. It was energetic and fluid. It was simultaneously sharp and graceful. The characters had well-defined, almost triangular features. It was, for lack of a better word, pretty. And I fell in love with it. I came to think of it as the Spanish American style because it was epitomized by Spanish artists like Carlos Pacheco and Salvador Larroca as well as American artists with Spanish names like Joe Madureira and Chris Bachalo.
It wasn’t the only kind of art present in the Age of Apocalypse. The massive story also contained the contributions of American artists like the Kubert brothers and Steve Epting. Yet the Spanish American style came to define the Age of Apocalypse and the X-Men for me. Its practitioners became my new favorites. I followed them from title to title. They’re part of the reason why my comic book interest spread beyond the borders of the X-Men family of titles.
Joe Madureira, the youngest of the four, was actually the first to work for Marvel. Madureira was born in 1974 (something he and I have in common). He was raised in New York City and attended the High School of Arts and Design in Manhattan. He picked up a part-time internship at Marvel Comics which led to artistic opportunities. His first two stories appeared in Marvel Comics Presents in 1991 (a Northstar story in #92 and a Mojo story in #89). By the time he was 17, Madureira was working for Marvel full-time, mostly in the X-Men office. He contributed a two-part story to Excalibur in 1992 (#57-58) and was showcased on the first Deadpool mini-series, “The Circle Chase,” in 1993. In 1994, he was made the regular artist on Uncanny X-Men, the premier title in the comic book industry. His debut was the May issue, #312.
In his first year on the title, Joe Madureira drew the Uncanny half of the X-Men crossover, The Phalanx Covenant. But that was just a warm-up for his second year when he would be one of the artistic anchors for the Age of Apocalypse. Madureira drew the four issue mini-series, The Astonishing X-Men. He re-designed classic X-Men characters such as Changeling (renamed Morph) and Sunfire. And he solidified his place as a star artist.
Chris Bachalo was the second of the group to be drawn into the world of the X-Men. Bachalo is a Canadian by birth though his family moved to California when he was a child. Bachalo entered the comic book field through what would become DC’s Vertigo imprint. He guested on an issue of Sandman (#12 in 1989) and was named the regular penciller on a revival of Shade, the Changing Man. One of his big breaks came when he was picked by Neil Gaiman to be the artist on the Sandman spin-off, “Death: The High Cost of Living.” The mini-series was published in 1993 and brought Bachalo wide acclaim.
“Death” also brought Chris Bachalo to the attention of Marvel Comics. He was hired to draw the debut issue X-Men Unlimited in 1993 and the first three issues of Ghost Rider 2099 in 1994. But that was just the beginning. In 1994, Bachalo was paired with X-Men scribe Scott Lobdell. The two of them created a new team of mutant teenagers, Generation X. The title was an instant hit. It spun out of the Phalanx Covenant crossover (drawn by Joe Madureira, naturally) and was already in place by the time of the next crossover: the Age of Apocalypse. As the regular penciler for Generation X, Bachalo was tapped to draw the AoA version of the same title: Generation Next. He designed the characters not only once, but twice- for the regular title and for the alternate world scenario in the AoA. Bachalo brought a quirky sensibility to Marvel’s mutants and quickly became a fan favorite.
The other two artists, Salvador Larroca and Carlos Pacheco, share similar stories. They were both born in Spain- which is why I starting describing this particular style as Spanish or Spanish American- Larroca in Valencia, 1964 and Pacheco in San Roque, Cadiz, 1961. They both started their careers in their native Spain before coming to the attention of Marvel’s UK office. Pacheco created two teams of Spanish superheroes, Iberia Inc. and Triada Vertice, for Planeta D’Agostini before Marvel UK hired him to work on Motormouth & Killpower and Dark Guard. Larroca also worked for Planeta D’Agostini before moving on to draw Marvel UK’s Dark Angel and Death’s Head II.
Pacheco and Larroca crossed over to American comics in 1994. Pacheco’s first work was a Bishop mini-series for Marvel. Larroca’s first work was also for Marvel, an Incredible Hulk annual and then several issues of Ghost Rider. Once again, their careers followed the same path. They became co-artists on DC’s Flash, drawing several issues a piece of Mark Waid’s Terminal Velocity story (#93-100). After Flash, they both returned to Marvel. Larroca resumed his tenure on Ghost Rider, while also picking up work at the X-office. His first work just so happened to be the Gambit & the X-Ternals mini-series that was part of the Age of Apocalypse. Pacheco’s X-debut also came during the Age of Apocalypse. He drew the two-issue series, X-Universe, which showed what “normal” Marvel characters like Tony Stark, Matt Murdoch and Susan Storm were doing during the AoA.