Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Alberto Breccia Part 3: Perramus

Breccia Introduction
Breccia Part 1: Mort Cinder
Breccia Part 2: El Eternauta to Lovecraft
Breccia Conclusion

All images in this section from Perramus by Alberto Breccia & Juan Sasturain

Artistic achievement aside, the creation and publication of Perramus has to be hailed as an act of courage. It is story about life under dictatorship, begun in 1982 when the military government in Argentina was still in power. The consequences of attracting the attention of the regime would have been plain to Breccia and writer Jan Sasturain - Breccia’s former collaborator Hector Oesterheld had become one of the “disappeared” in 1976*. The first book of Perramus received an award from Amnesty International in 1989.
*See Oesterheld’s Wikipedia entry for details.

Style; though he’s pulled back from the more extreme, abstract drawing style used in the later Lovecraft adaptations (and much of the work in between), the characters in Perramus are relatively stylised, moving towards a much more cartoony look in the later stories. Several real persons appear as characters. The author Jorge Luis Borges, who is a regular cast member, gets a relatively restrained treatment, often based closely on photo reference. Others, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fidel Castro and Frank Sinatra are caricatured a little more freely.

Backgrounds are another matter; here Breccia plays freely with all the tools he’s learned to use in the preceding years. This panel (from page two of the first story) combines watercolour for the sky, plus a collage of various hand-made textures and even a photograph (bottom left). Two important things to note: first, Breccia’s still working with a kind of chiaroscuro - see how you have areas of dead white highlight, with the texture and detail concentrated in the shadow areas? Second, he’s keeping everything very graphic; that is to say, all those bits of texture and splodginess are confined within hard edges. It’s still all about the drawing.

A typical townscape from Perramus; Breccia not only plays off dark against light, but also different types of texture against each other to give the buildings shape.

The organic disorder of the jungle balance against the stark regular lines of the aircraft. I suspect the jungle is a monoprint (oil-based ink on glass?); Breccia’s not afraid to use accident, letting the paint take its own direction (within limits) and riding the edge of chaos to produce an astonishing end result.

Complex as it looks, this is still chiaroscuro; the guy in the chair stands out white against a jumble of blocks of texture. Overall, you can read the background as a street scene with figures, though individual details may be unclear. What’s important is that the foreground figure stands out. Though some of the panels in Perramus can be very busy, Breccia never lets self-expression overwhelm the storytelling.

Perramus is a unique and outstanding piece of work; possibly because of the technical know-how needed, it's never really been imitated. Breccia balances "realistic" drawing, cartooning, expressionism, painting, drawing, order and chaos in a way that had never been done before or has been since.*

*If that statement seems a bit odd coming from someone who is attempting to reproduce the look of Perramus, it's because I consider my own work a mere, pale shadow of Breccia's.

Breccia Introduction
Breccia Part 1: Mort Cinder
Breccia Part 2: El Eternauta to Lovecraft
Breccia Conclusion


Tim Hamilton said...

Thanks for posting his art. So hard to find
the books!

Anonymous said...

wonderful work. Alberto Breccia is a giant, a true genius. My regret is that i can't find Perramus in Italy, and also in the web there is nothing but some rare picture...

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: in Italy, look for vintage issues of Comic Art or l'Eternauta, if I'm not mistaken one of them published Perramus in installments.

Miguel Rosa said...

Thanks for the analysis! Breccia is indeed a master!

LEADi said...

As a huge fan of Breccia, I appreciated this blog post. :) I just wish it were easier to find his stuff. I fell in love with his Mort Cinder work and wish I could get my hands on the books. :/