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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alberto Saichann

One of unknown soldiers of Starblazer was Argentinean artist Alberto Saichann. He was one of a number of artists in the early issues whose artwork stood out: Enrique Alcatena is the obvious example since his work continued to appear regularly throughout the whole series -- meaning that more people are aware of his work than that of some of the more irregular contributors.

Alberto Saichann's first Starblazer was no. 25, 'Galactic Shootout', a story of space pirates which, frankly, got better artwork than the story deserved. Saichann was back in issue 42 for 'The Immortals' and no. 50 'Moonsplitter', the latter introducing Ray Aspden's Hadron Halley of the Fi-Sci (Fighting Scientists) unit of especially chosen scientists able to develop new weapons on the fly.

Saichann contributed a further 10 stories, his output coming to an end with no. 156, 'The Sygma Warriors' in 1985.

For five years he contributed some of the best artwork the series was to see. Unfortunately, it was also some of the worst served by the printing as he often used a very thin line and there looks to be a lot of line drop-out on some of the printed copies. Despite this the quality did shine through. Saichann artwork is quite distinctive once you get to see it: his backgrounds were very detailed, whether cityscapes or the interiors of starships; he liked using Dutch angles; and, most obviously, liked psychedelic backgrounds of patterned letratone and random letratone letters and numbers were to be found throughout his work. There was just something about his work that grabbed my attention and made me look forward to seeing his work whenever it appeared.

Saichann later contributed to Commando in 1988-91 before his work found an audience in America. He produced the 3-issue The Bronx for Eternity in 1991 and Rio Kid (1991-92) which lasted only 2 of the announced 3 issues. He had better luck with Continuity Comics, drawing Ms. Mystic, Armor and Megalith in 1993. He also drew the final (84th) issue of The 'Nam and Punisher Summer Special no.4 for Marvel.

Other US work has included The Gargoyles (1995), 'The Bronx II: The Actor' in Heavy Metal
(Jan 1996) and Superman: Our Worlds At War Secret Files & Origins (2001). In 2001-04, he inked stories for Looney Tunes for penciller Omar Aranda. His daughter, Pamela, is a tango dancer based in New York and co-founder of ReporTango magazine in 2002 where her father's work has occasionally appeared.

I had an opportunity to contact Alberto some time ago and he told me, with regards to his work for D C Thomson: "In those days I was working with a Spanish agent I'd known through a friend; there was no e-mail at that time. Everything was slow and we used post mail.

"Nowadays I'm basically drawing children's illustrations, painting about 'tango' and my country's tranditions, something I've wanted to do since I was young. I've not produced any comics for the last 8 years; apart from a Superman three years ago, my last work was five chapters of a Punisher for the USA."

It's a shame that Alberto has been lost to comics -- although comics' loss is children's illustration's gain, albeit in Argentina.

(* All the illustrations above come from various issues of Starblazer and are © D. C. Thomson.)

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